Tori Collins is a native Chicagoan who lives and works in DC. Currently an unpublished writer, she hopes to self-publish her work in the very near future and she is also working on a new podcast, “I’m Not Telling Stories.”
She said that she wrote the poem below “as COVID-19 and the protest defending Black lives after George Floyd’s murder intersected, causing our community to take a closer look at racial inequities.” She performed it recently at a reading at Busboys and Poets (socially distanced, she notes, and her mask went back on as soon as she’d finished!).
This poem first appeared in the August 2020 print issue of the Hill Rag. Since then, Collins has created this very powerful video in which she recites her work over an amazing montage of images.
From Pandemic to Protest Black Lives are lost and we march, counting the cost, amidst a pandemic DuBois calculated the cost of liberty and the receipts from lost Black lives confirm Repression, suppression, oppression still cost more Images of grief disrupts our peace That passes all understanding And we still cannot comprehend, thus, we ask, why? Why does anyone have to die? But the question morphs into why does anyone have to die like this? Alone A knee to the neck Intubated Socially Distanced Shot in cold blood Without answers and without regrets Cardiac Arrested Asphyxiated No charges No convictions From drive-by testing to random racially profiled traffic stops No mask Uncovered mouths, covered eyes Bird watching for 5 in Central Park Death ‘tis the great equalizer as told by Duggard no matter how good or bad your life how wealthy or poor your life how old or young your life Your Life Death will come You’ve checked all the boxes to be counted Socioeconomic status, Race, Zip code These may extend your life but death still comes America, the land of retaliation, cancel culture and the land of hiding in plain sight Still no vaccination in sight We continue to fight We fought for Founding Father’s Freedom We fight for equity in health that has nothing and everything to do with wealth We fight for lives that continue to breathe, for lives that lost the ability to breathe, for lives that cried, “I can’t breathe” We fight or else the Protest becomes the Pandemic.
Find Tori Collins on social media by following IG: @toricoltori @pan2protest
Karen Lyon is the Hill Rag’s Literary Editor and President Emerita of the annual Literary Hill BookFest. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.