In Remembrance of Black Love

by Laraya Billups
Laraya Billups

you move like ocean tides
graceful yet immersive,
flowing between living and dying.
I float within your sea,
and I will continue to drift, even if you’re gone.
even when you are gone.
I refuse to breathe until you get home,
until I hear you drop your keys at the front door like you always do,
and I hear the stairs slightly creak under your weight.
you hang your coat, along with the fears you have subconsciously carried all day.
you lie in my arms,
and I will shield you from the troubles surrounding you.

in my mind, I strap a bulletproof vest to your chest,
an extra layer to protect my sanity.
we fight against fear disguised as normalcy.
I prepare myself for that fatal phone call and a trip to the morgue to ID your body,
long nights of wishing you could come home and laugh again.
it repeats daily, weekly, and monthly.
as the news carefully dictates your narrative,
judges your past and your present,
and I am all that remains of your future.
I am forced to love differently,
to know my love as a passenger who may never reach his destination.
love is not bliss.
love is risk.

we dream of forever, but blue lights steal your humanity.
we never know the unconditional power of “I love you”
until it’s stripped from our vocabulary.
black love is endearing,
engaging in life with a high probability of injury,
the fantasy that we could survive while everything exists to destroy us.
black women grieve the souls of our men,
conjuring their ghosts just to remember their smile.

our love story exists in multiple translations, beyond the finality of the grave.
I stand for you in front of cameras and white, clueless gazes,
the courage of a black woman becomes a target
for residence hidden beneath white sheets.
someone grieve the melanin queen.
black lost lives will not be confined to black body bags,
an entire existence is not wiped away without resistance.
killers will never know freedom.
instead, they’ll see you in my eyes.
your melanin in my melanin
we’re connected in death and the cruelty of life.

when I wake in the middle of the night,
I turn to watch you breathe.
holding on to your exhales, swimming in your sea.
preserve the breath of my brothers and sisters.
we are screaming we can’t breathe
the noose will not be the end of our quest.
black death will be acknowledged.
when melanin kisses are threatened by gunshot wounds,
I speak for the dead.
I will tell our love story haunted by the bullet.

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