I wanna know, Lord!

Subtitle: An Angry Elegy for Rayshard Brooks

When Mary had a baby,
with tenderest care,
she laid him in a manger-bed,
a trough where animals fed
and in swaddling dress, bound his newborn flesh.

Did You know, Lord?
Had You planned it, Lord?
That the cradle presaged a coffin
and the restraining, quieting baby-wrap,
a burial cloth, sweat-soaked and blood-stained?

Did You know, Lord?
Had You planned it that way, Lord?

I wanna know, Lord!

Was it all a staged-play to prepare us for the day
when the cradle, the coffin
would be a ship’s belly;
the bed for stacks of bodies,
beaten bloody, naked and chained, starved, pained?
And all to see who,
refusing to die at sea,
would survive the Atlantic journey?
And all to be sold to the highest bidder
to do an animal’s bidding in sun-scorched fields
or in owners’ beds of tortured ease?
And all to make all – South and North and Europe – rich?

Did You know, Lord?
Had You planned it that way, Lord?

I wanna know, Lord!

Was that all to set the stage
(or was it a scaffold?)
for the “from sea to shining sea”
(the good uncrowned with brotherhood)
American killing-fields
is it an amusement park
where bull’s eye-tattooed black bodies,
are made to run back and forth
in shooting galleries
(otherwise called streets and alleys),
then to be brought-down to earth
as a panacea for white-fear of color
(or is white the color of fear)?

Did You know, Lord?
Had You planned it that way, Lord?

I wanna know, Lord!

Because every time someone who looks like me dies,
my soul sighs,
my spirit cries;
and I wonder why and worry:
When will another be added to the number?
(For, so far, Lord, surely, You know, there’s always another!)

And then someone will say,
“S/he’s in a better place away from this veil of worldly fears and tears.”

(Tho’ sometimes I wonder, Lord,
when Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead,
did Lazarus exclaim, “Thank you, Jesus!”
for, in heaven, he had found it no better there, so,
“Might as well take a second shot in tryin’ my luck down here”?)

And then someone will offer more “thoughts and prayers,”
yet do little or nothing to make it so that more
black mothers and
black fathers and
black children
need not, need never join that long line,
running back farther than the eye can see
(Can You see it, Lord?),
of those who, a-sorrowed, drink from a bottomless well of tears.

Did You know, Lord?
Had You planned it that way, Lord?

I wanna know, Lord!
I wanna know, Lord!

For, Lord, despite my faith in You
and Your Divine Design,
my heart dwells in a grievous, angry dungeon dark
where faint’s the light of hope
save that I,
for now,
am alive to ask.

© 2020 PRA

3 thoughts on “I wanna know, Lord!

  1. Dear Paul,

    I read this as a psalm of anguish, as much as any in the Bible, and I believe your anguish, and that of all other Black people in the face of attack and annihilation at the hands of police, white vigilantes, and what we facilely refer to as the “justice system,” is holy ground. As I read your words, the only thing that seems right to do is to fall on my knees and try to comprehend, even dimly, the depth and the perpetuity of the pain from which they scream. For me or any other member of the white community to deign to do or say anything other than to try to kneel beside you would, I believe, be blasphemy against the holiness of the pain you articulate. And so I make an effort to kneel with you and wait for understanding of your words and of my own complicity in your anguish, and also for the answer you so achingly seek.

    With love,



    1. Karen, Paul,

      This one tore me into little pieces. I couldn’t even find words yesterday!! Paul speaks for so many of us and we are thankful that he still has words left to write!!

      Much love to you both!!


  2. Alright, my beloved sisters, I have experienced once again instantaneous tears – which occurs whene’er something external (in this case, your understanding of the movement of my soul) touches something (my spirit) internal. In short, what I’ve experienced via your responses is communion. Whene’er that happens, I weep. These are tears of release and relief when my heart cries, “You see me!” Hence, really, there are only two words: Thank you. And two additional words: Love you. And three words in Portuguese that speak volumes for me, especially in these times: A luta continua (the struggle continues).

    More love, most love to you, always and in all ways,


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