To Karen Sharpe

In numerous interviews, Karen Sharpe, the mother of North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager, has revealed that she refuses to watch the video of her son killing Walter Scott on April 4, 2015.

This poem is addressed to her.

She won’t watch the video

There is gunpowder on her right cheek; it is where

He kisses her, “Mom,” he says, “you are loved like forever and ever and always”

Always is closer for some people than others.

But he was such a good boy.

He is

A good boy.

And she will not watch the video.


She refuses to bear witness to the crumble of a man

And the laughter of her son, she cannot

Bring herself to click the link

And she changes the channel

And she folds her


Covered in chalk outline residue and

This is what it means to grieve while White.

It is denial and dishonor kissing one another in secrecy








First comes the badge

Then comes the weapon

Then comes the White mother who cannot imagine how this happened

There are


Whose tears

Wash off the sins

Of other


Who cannot forgive

Themselves for forgiving their sons

But what is to be forgiven but a lie of a sin;

How old was he when you taught him to walk?

At what age did he learn to run, when he ran, did you chase after him or look

From afar

Were his cheeks always red?

Did he always laugh when he caught up to you—if you played cops and robbers

Was he always the cop

And if he was the robber

Did he hang his head low like shame like

“get back here!” like


Did you know he would be criminal?

When you sung to him songs as sweet as the North Carolina air

Did you know he would be trigger happy one day?

Bullet brazen?


Oh mother of mine, you are

No mother of mine but you are

Mother of man

And this is your burden always for the taking.




For the taking, don’t they?


You will not watch the video

But rest assured it is no better than the film on replay in that 1950s cinema of your skull

Yes, it is worst, much worse,

There is blood

In this cinema, on this film, on this body, on his hands

There is blood

Like clockwork

Like clock in and

Clock out

You will tell yourself

“He is a good boy.”

Until you believe it, again.

And when they tell you he is a bad man

You best believe them.

Black angels

Know your blood now


Than you do

Know that backlight of a brain

What you are looking for

Is sense

But Karen

These people?


Will tell you that

These things never make any


And you best believe them.

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