Byron Sonnier, The Illuminating Power of Redemption, 2017
Acrylic and India ink on found paper

He is running and it’s not allowed.
               An indoor playground attendant
               watched him til he ran,
til she could squeeze his arm,
fingers leaving brief marks that burn
like misplaced stars,
constellation we could draw on the night sky
of his skin and name
Puer Malus. Her moon face
shines with its borrowed light
and she points to the sign with the rules,
other children running by
in their wild bedhead,
my son’s lines crisp, pick in my purse
to keep it neat.
To love a Black boy. To break
daily and learn
what you already should have known:
I drove with a broken tail-light
for a couple years in college,
to my boyfriend’s apartment on Larpenteur Ave.,
same street Philando was shot
for his not-broken tail-light.
               Turn a country over
               and see how it’s made.
When I was young I was a perfectionist,
spent high school and college
with straight A’s and my fingers
down my throat. It’s scary—
how he will need to be perfect.


Jennifer Manthey