Two Poems by Malcolm Friend

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


Static, after getting stopped by the cops while flying to stop another metahuman because, well, we all know why any Black superhero would get stopped by the cops
 

It wasn’t so much / the unwarranted frisk / that pissed me off. / Wasn’t the bullshit that I / “fit the description” / because I ain’t never seen / no description / that includes / last seen flying / on a metal saucer / propelled by electromagnetic force. // It wasn’t even that they stopped me. / In Dakota / that’s inevitable / as death / or taxes / or death / at the hands / of some trigger-happy cops — / it wasn’t that I was scared / to die. / I could’ve disarmed them, / easy. // It was that even as Static / I could be stopped — / and not by someone like me, / someone with powers, / but someone with just the power / of a badge / and a gun / and the idea that made him / stronger than me. // It was that somewhere / someone like me / needed to be stopped / and wasn’t / because two men / were too preoccupied / with stopping me. // It was that even with all my powers / I was powerless.

 

Static’s Elegy for Black Bodies
 

Because it could have been me seems too easy. Because it couldn’t have been me, right? Because I save lives every day. Because I stop the bad guys. Because I have superpowers—and not just the ones I use to fight crime but others, too, like posing for pictures next to politicians and getting the key to the city, like my music never too loud, like I never look suspicious, like my mask less threatening than a hoodie.

Because I’m tired of saving lives just to watch my people lose theirs. Because the night sky seems darker with every Black soul that reaches heaven. Because what kind of superhero are you if you can’t protect your own? Because every time a cop arrives after one of my fights I’m afraid they’ll mistake me for the bad guy. Because every time a cop arrives after one of my fights I’m afraid they’ll know I’m not the bad guy but the outcome will be the same.

Because I’m not a superhero, not when I take off my mask. When it’s gone, I’m Virgil. Which is to say I’m nameless. Which is to say it could have been me.


Photo of Malcolm Friend

Photo of Malcolm Friend

Malcolm Friend is a poet and CantoMundo fellow originally from the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. He received his BA from Vanderbilt University, where he was the 2014 recipient of the Merrill Moore Prize for Poetry, and is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also a 2014 recipient of a Talbot International Award for Writing. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as La Respuesta magazine, the Fjords Review’s Black American Edition, Alicante’s Información, fields magazine, The Acentos Review, Pretty Owl Poetry and elsewhere.