top of page

2021 Poetry Contest Winner: "The Stain" by Bernardo Wade

The Stain

reminds me to slow down, to grip the wheel with two hands, to glance behind me

endlessly, to remember that the moonlit road

slicing through the limestone ridge is a shadow

slit by my headlights. & the rearview mirror

reflects nothing. People say, “leave the past

behind you,” but for Rayshard Brooks, who just last night, not 100 miles from here,

fell asleep before he finished his order in a drive-thru, the past is where he lives. How should I look him in the eye, when I know

he shouldn’t be here, sitting in the backseat,

telling me to bust a U-ey at the storage facility with the confederate flag, telling me he wants to see

the flames dance all over that Wendy’s, then he wants

to go home. God dammit. Is it possible to not be scared

of the dark? Can we pretend he wasn’t left broken

over the knee of last night? The stars don’t smile

in Georgia, where the mountains rise like fists

trading blows with the bright parts of the sky—

how does such a silence whisper itself alive?

It’s only barbeque sauce on your sleeve, he says,

give that pedal some gas, let’s go find nowhere

to rest. Let’s pretend nothing is chasing us.


Bernardo Wade is a writer/artist from New Orleans. He tries at poems & rides his bike around Bloomington, IN, because IU funds his present period of studying with others. He currently serves as Associate Editor of Indiana Review, is a Watering Hole Fellow, and moonlights as an equity and justice advocate. He has words in or forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Black Warrior Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, New Orleans Review, Southern Humanities Review, Salt Hill Journal, Yemassee, the minnesota review, and others.


bottom of page