Concrete by Josiah Derby

Josiah Derby

Echoing through these walls are cries of pain.
Reverberating rebar, beating bizarre noises along the concrete
surface, your hand flat upon the wall, you can feel the blood
and tears spilt here. Defined by suffering, or is it anger? Wails
of the jobless, of the hungered, of the addicted, of the mother;
whose body is tired, wired, and required to sustain her child.

You can be anything or anyone, she always told you as a child.
Don’t ever forget your suffering, your hunger, or pain.
Those who survive, can’t help their love/hate of this concrete
jungle. In the deepest darkest parts that mother
the cycle of pain that corrupt these streets. Siren’s wails
become as routine as the pain from sickle cells in your blood.

As routine as the cells they stick you in, like it’s in your blood.
You could see the truth hidden under white masks even as a child,
that uniforms targeted you. Regardless of your innocence, you wailed
back on the cop because he deserved it, for all the pain
they perpetrated on perpetual perps, your sister, brother, mother…
it hurt when white cops dug their knees in your back while facedown on the concrete.

There’s a lot of pain, anger, and suffering soaked into this concrete.
Concrete walls, concrete streets, a concrete prison cell with a lifelong sentence signed in blood.
Your family fought for their freedom, fought for equality, at least that’s what your mother
told you as a child. But, did they really win? It doesn’t feel like it, when as a child
you can feel the mark upon your skin. Akin to your past kindred’s pain.
When young black’s are dying, bearing the weight of racism ever present in the wails

of ignorant people misguided by stereotypes, percolating about predetermined perps you wail
outloud of the suffering of family, friends, and neighbors. You notice how cold the concrete
feels against your skin. And they wonder why a black man’s heart might follow suit, with pain
beat into them so hard, as if it’s what pumps out the heart when it beats, instead of blood.
You can’t even be a good father, because they know you’re already going to abandon the child.
But they don’t know how you spoil your wife, because you had a good mother.
That you know, there’s no more beautiful skin than the ebony of your wife, and your mother.
Before she passed, she told you how your life would change with the wail
out of newborn lungs, teach them to be sweet yet strong, your child;
transform these walls, streets, societal prison bars of concrete,
so that they can live without all this anger in their blood.
And hopefully, one day they can live without this pain.

The pain isn’t gone, but it’s supplanted by pride. Pride that these concrete
walls that were home to you and your blood, and witnessed nights of silent wails;
your mother raised you in these prison walls, now take a sledgehammer to them for your child.

Since birth Josiah has been exposed to a life surrounded by violence and trauma. These experiences he finds most interesting to explore. In his writing he seeks to better understand himself and hopes his writing will connect with readers and let anyone struggling with life know that they aren’t alone.

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