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