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National Poetry Month: Wayne Grant

"The Names They Call Us"


The Names They Call Us

What do you call me and those like me,
a super predator, an ambassador of misery, a
man deaf, dumb, and vicious, a sex-driven,
ignorant threat to humanity?
I’ve dug many graves eternally, lived just
outside of a cave that didn’t welcome me, locked me in
a condition that robs me, constantly, of my pride,
my compassion, my dignity.
Does being forced to choose from nothing define
me? When the only choices will confine me, lock me
into being who you said I’d be. Yet you intend
to identify me, cause I eat welfare cheese and 
butter, I’m a super predator. Cause you pushed me
to survive in a concrete jungle that grows gun and
knives like trees, where gun smoke is the only breeze
Shove me into a place where jobs have long since
escaped, welfare lines breed hate, the only options
are stealing and robbing just to put food on my plate.
I’ve stared long into the mirror of my soul. Yeah,
I’ve become stone cold, in my youth my heart was
touched with a cold hard truth, get eaten alive or
become a brute, cause poverty entangles my humanity
at its roots.
I can’t dispute the realities of hot pursuits
and drive-bys, living so many different lives,
cause it was important not to die that day. Yet,
in many other ways, each time having to trade
bits and pieces of me, so I can find rest, cause
I was unable to sleep. I see, I was an animal,
a cannibal without people to eat, brutal was my
common beat, my theme song, for when I was 
thrown into doing wrong.
Since the day I was born, society enveloped
me with its poverty, injustices, and prejudices,
have made me a product of uncontrollability, then
accuses me of mass criminality, lacking humanity,
exemplifying a reality that you’ve created for me,
people like me. I’ve been left in a desert with
no direction, the paths I’ve found have been full
with devastation, rat infestation, Medicaid cards,
liquor stores, pimps and whores, yet you claim
I am redeemable no more. I applaud, your 
Frankenstein’s monster, forevermore. Life, I never
neglected her—yet I’m called the super predator!

Wayne Grant reading his poem “The Names They Call Us”

Wayne Grant grew up in the South Bronx in a single-parent home. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and writes essays, articles, prose, and poetry. 

Image: Krakograff Textures/Unsplash