I Know You Didn't Mean To Kill Him

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I Know You Didn't Mean To Kill Him by Jasmine Mans

A/N: Jasmine Mans is one of- if not- my favorite poets. You will probably be seeing a lot of her work in this book. This poem is about how young black boys often end up victims to the streets, one way or another. TW: Heavy mentions of murder, violence, and death. Also a lot of references to Kanye (specifically his song "Never Let Me Down" from The College Dropout album). Check comments for annotations explaining the verses.

That wasn't a gun
It was a wallet, my n*gga
The cops done played target practice with a lot of my n*ggas
Poured out liquor for a lot of my n*ggas
So much, they bottled it, built a liquor store
and put a fucking lottery in it
We in a lottery, n*gga
For the lives of a lot of these n*ggas
They pickin' 7's and they scratchin' off a lotta these n*ggas

I done sent birthday cards to parents
with nothin' but apologies in em, like:
I'm sorry, Mr. Rainey,
Sean Bell was gonna marry your daughter
and you know I wanna thank you for the way that she was brought up,
and you know that I was smiling when you seen that car avoid her
And you sent tears from heaven
when you seen that boy get slaughtered

But how can Kanye complain
about what the accident did to his left eye?
Cause they shot that boy in his left eye
Let that shit fly right towards his right eye
He only fly in terms that he just died
Because the nurse cut right through his polo shirt, like:
Motherfuck yo fly, I'm tryin to keep you alive!
I'm gonna be the one who gotta tell your mother you just died
Went to school, became a nurse, to only clean up n*ggas like you?
Scared to have a son, cause he's gonna look like a n*gga like you?
And you wanna know why
educated motherfuckas don't come back to the hood?
Because they sick of explaining n*ggas like you.
Killed your ass, but didn't even leave your Timb boots
You ain't die like a G nigga, you trembled
But I'm the only one who saw that shit
Is this the price you gonna pay for no snitching?
Because it ain't worth it
Monkeys are only servants in this circus.

And I know you didn't mean to kill him.
But sometimes, when you mix Hennessey,
empty brown boys, and Weezy,
Somebody will be made fresh to death

Murder ain't always a decision.
It's fears lust for temptation.
It's being too scared and dangerous for your own damn good
or for your own fucking hood
But I know,
I know black mothers
don't raise their sons to be murderers,
just as much as much as I know
they don't raise them to be murdered.
They would never set them up that way.
This world has given them nothing at all to lose,
and everything to prove
so they stand on the front lines naked,
ready to make a man outta themselves,
with the only tools, click clack, this world
has ever given a n*gga to use.
But I know,
I know black mothers don't breed hate and sin into their first born men,
just as much as I know
she did not choose for him to be a martyr for them.

You can never tell the difference between
the mother of the murdered and the mother of the murderer.
Both shook in solemn, both eyes and memory blue in tint
both lost their grips when they lost their sons
developed a stutter in their palms
One became scared of her shadow,
while the other just became one
Someone's baby became a murderer last night,
and none of us remembered to cry for him
To pray for him
To ask God to take the hate and malice out of his heart
To ask him:
"Boy, where'd you get all that hate from?
All that culture from?
All them damn guns from?"

Glock snapped em back, like an old starter cap
Bullets hit him a minute ago and he watched
as his body kept bouncing
Take that boy to the hospital
That's way too much blood to take him home
Yes, sonny
It really does damn near sound like a hip hop song
And all we gave him was his Miranda rights
and a couple of seconds left to plea for his life,
In front of a God and a world
that he never thought loved him in the first place

A n*gga gotta ask us to have mercy on his soul
When we never even taught him how to pray before
He's gonna have to remember all by himself that he has his daddy's eyes, his nana's smile, and that his grandfather wanted him to have a Muslim name.
One that meant 'brown soldier boy'.

A mother is going to have to find the audacity
to not take down her son's picture when company comes over, on the Eves of Christmas nights.
But even behind Christ, on two crosses
One both on his left and his right,
Were thieves and murders of men.
One of which leaned over and asked him:
"Will you remember me when you reach your kingdom?"
So to the boys,
the boys who've made chalk outlines of so many of my childhood friends:
I know
I know you didn't mean to kill him.
And I love you, and I forgive you.
Because you know, I know a God whose mercy
has already made room in his kingdom
for even sinners like you.

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