The annual guessing game
of fireworks or bullet.
The dogs shudder.
I know folks here
who wish they could be treated
as well as dogs. People care
about dogs going missing,
when they starve, what their
names are. We make sure their cages
provide comfort. We hear them
when they scream. We never
stopped wearing collars. You
convince yourself that the ones
with orange around their necks
deserved it. Better than being stripped,
you say, as if they were not.
You’re fully dressed
with an unrestrained throat.
A man with his liberty wrinkled
& unwashed is indeed a naked one,
and indecent exposure is everywhere,
and you tell us that nudity is now
liberty when we ask for shelter
and you ignore the bug bites.
When a white person is here
in this white America, they get
to cancel the colors out and they
are still a person. Dog’s best friend.
I wonder what it’s like to be a man—
not the prefix that follows -handle
or -slaughter—the kind created equal.
I wonder what it’s like to be created
at all, rather than simply carved out,
to live in an America that truly wants
me to live, where the phrase “unalienable
rights” wasn’t a loophole, where
you don’t get to call my family alien
just to take their rights away.
The declaration was an unsigned contract.
I think about how the people who
have lived on this land for millennia,
forced into a system that didn’t
recognize them as citizens until a century ago.
Fifty asterisks are white hot,
and soak in the water while we sink.
I think about everyone who will watch
fireworks through metal bars,
how the sound of a firework flying
sounds like an innocent cry,
how a tear-soaked face can look
like an explosion too, how
the land of second chances didn’t
even give us a first.
I think of the dogs who will flee their homes
because of the holes we will pierce
into the sky tonight—the dogs with a home
they can get away from in the first place.
By Dmitri Derodel
Dmitri Derodel is a poet, songwriter, essayist, aspiring music artist, and 2020 Scholastic Gold Medalist. He’s been writing creatively since elementary school and continues to dedicate most of his free time to honing his craft.