When Death is So Near

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Ruthie Johnson -When Death is So Near3

I can’t seem to turn off the news
Tune out the screens
It’s everywhere
brown bodies
black lives

the debating between who’s humanity
is actually seen
this time the body fell,
not so far from me

it’s on the street that I drive to work
or home sometimes, from my friends
I’ve stopped at that gas station before

these people are not in a place far away
where the tears burn someone else’s eyes
and I can tune out the screams on tv
I may have seen them at the grocery store
there’s no mute button for reality

so I’m caught in this between
my body
where I recognize
that same deep color in my own eyes
black lives
brown lives

we share the same demise
that my soul is deconstructed before my body is recognized
the fault must be mine that I want to survive

but to criminalize white bodies?
that’d be the crime
I know their fear is worth more than mine

and death is never as near
when you’re recognized
for who you are—human

i don’t get Burger King
and a bullet proof vest
the only bullets are put through my chest
each time I hear the acquittal

I won’t be treated the same
if I’m shoved to the ground
so say my name

When death is so near
you hear us say
Black Lives Matter
as a reminder
our fear counts too

When death is so near
you hear us say
brown lives matter
it’s a reminder we’re still here
those left behind

When death is so near we must repeat
like that old hymn refrain
a call and response
that reminds
victory isn’t lost

Black Lives Matter.
Black Lives Matter.
Black Lives Matter.

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Ruthie Johnson
I’m a kid at heart who found a great job in higher ed doing what I love— crossing cultures & teaching others how to be Jesus through their ethnic identity. I have a Master's in Communication Studies and focus on critical race theory, postcolonial theory/theology & identity studies (yah, I’m a nerd). I believe in God’s multiethnic kingdom (for the now and the not yet). I believe that it takes collaboration from people of all tribes, nations and languages to work towards shalom & reconciliation. When I’m not hanging out with students, I write, read, cook and art. Join me as I navigate the blurry lines of multi-ethnicity and try to find a little Jesus in the midst of it.
Ruthie Johnson
Ruthie Johnson

Latest posts by Ruthie Johnson (see all)

Ruthie Johnson
  • So powerful, Ruthie … thank you for adding your voice!

  • I am very grateful to read this. Thank you for these powerful words.

  • Thanks for words that encourage me to leave that mute button alone so that I can hear the uncomfortable sounds and stories that make up “reality” on our broken planet.

  • pastordt

    YES! Thank you, Ruthie. Glad you’re here, grateful for the beautiful and powerful way you speak truth.

  • Oh man, this line sends chills up my spine: “My soul is deconstructed before my body is recognized.”

  • Ganise C.

    A talented spinning of words.

    I’m with you. Our Black lives matter.

  • Mary Ruth Hatley Sadler

    Beautiful and heart rending.

  • Love this. Poetry has been speaking to my soul in the last few months and this captures the cry of many of us brown and black people