Poem on the Murders


Phliando Castile was an African-American Nutrition Services Department supervisor at a Montessori School in suburban Minnesota. He was shot dead by police on July 6 after being stopped for a broken tail light. His girlfriend, Diamond Lavish Reynolds, immediately began narrating his murder on her phone (sent out via Facebook) as she sat beside him while he was dying in the car. Her four year old daughter, also in the car, witnessed everything.

This is for you, Diamond Lavish Reynolds,

before your name disappears among so many

others, before your voice

is forgotten, before you wake up

one morning, still just 24, your child

beside you, and find only the goneness

on the other side of the bed.This is for you

on the morning you wake and wonder

what you are going to do now

with your life, how you are going to talk

to the four-year-old child who saw the cop

fire the gun at Philando, the child you called

your “angel,” your first consolation.

This is for you when the news has stopped talking

about what happened, when the news has passed on

to other deaths.This is for you

in this country of guns, of cruelty, of dismissal;

for you, Diamond

Lavish Reynolds, on some humid morning

in August, as you push the blankets

away, your child

curled in sleep, so small,

and walk into the bathroom and look for the first

time in weeks carefully

at your face in the mirror, ask yourself how

you are going to live

now with only this absence,

one of your eyes consumed with grief, the other

with outrage.How can we hold this

with you, how can we make your tears not

another deleted narrative?

Anita Barrows is a poet, translator, and psychologist in Berkeley, California. She is a professor at The Wright Institute and maintains a private practice.

4 thoughts on “Poem on the Murders

  1. Last night 3 teens were ambushed by a gunman and 1 was killed. The week before a girl playing on the street was killed by a stay bullet. Both victims were African American and both lives matter, Just a thought that it is not just the few bad apples in the police department. If this carnage is left out of the discussion, then all of your words are empty

  2. Phil Castile, for no one called him Philando, he was known by all as Phil, was the manager of the cafeteria services at J.J. Hill Montessori Middle School in St. Paul. He was not a cafeteria worker and Tikkun has dishonored him by referring to him that way. A cafeteria worker carries not-so-subtly connotations of low level work, like working in the dish room. He managed the whole cafeteria operation: food orders, food prep, staffing, operations management.
    If someone (of which race I do not know) is going to honor Phil Castile with a poem, get his name right, call him what everyone in his life called him. No need to dress up his name with the stiff, formal Phillando. He was Phil, a great cafeteria MANAGER named Phil.
    Honor the real Phil, not the one the poet didn’t bother to properly research to write her poem.

    • I am very sorry not to have had this information, and I thank you for correcting me. I was going on the information I was able to get from several independent media news sources and I did not have access to any sources who knew Phil Castile. I will ask Tikkun to publish Phil Castile’s real occupation and the name people knew him by, and I thank you.

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