The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
instead of your children.
–Audre Lourde, “Power” (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/53918/power-56d233adafeb3)


The policeman walks
his beat, sees “only color,”
and kills a Black child.

The jury deploys
the rhetorical trope, Black
justifies murder,

and sets him “free” to
live without the poetry
of knowing children.


When it’s clear, plane trees,
elegant and tall, decked out
in light and shadows,

gather the stillness.
When it storms,
they, leaning slightly,

branches streaming and
wild, portion out poetry—
knowing as a child.


Three children squabble
and hit each other with
sticks. The rhetoric

of blows and curses,
of driving my will into
your body, obscures

the poetry of
gestures and language through which
we love each other.

Roy Herndon Smith