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 Currently an unpublished writer, she hopes to self-publish her work in the very near future and she is also working on a new podcast, “I’m Not Telling Stories.”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 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?
A knee to the neck
Shot in cold blood
Without answers and without regrets
From drive-by testing to random racially profiled traffic stops
Uncovered mouths, covered eyes
Bird watching for 5 in Central Park
‘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
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”
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, President Emerita of the annual Literary Hill BookFest, a Contributor to Folger Magazine and writes the monthly Literary Hill column. You can reach her at email@example.com.
If you would like to have your poem considered for publication, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. (There is no remuneration.)