Jamal Michel’s two pieces are part of a larger collection he’s been working on. The title of the collection is “Black Jungle Rose,” and each piece is dedicated to a victim of police brutality or similar racially motivated crime.
She leapt into his lap,
tiny knees cutting into
his ribs, into his heart
where he knew she always was
And she said, “Daddy, my hair, daddy”
Tiny curls, tiny hands on his scruff
and the dust in his eyes couldn’t block
the shine she shone when smiling
He napped after his shift when he got home,
so dusk ran up on them both and that meant
baby girl needed her braids, baby girl
called the shots he answered
Daddy walked her, danced her
to the mirror in their bathroom
and dabbed the Indian Hemp,
and divided her curls in two rows,
two rows of black silk he knew
till dusk slowed its way in,
wanting to see what could rival it
But baby girl had songs to sing
as daddy twisted and wrapped and
joined those strands into locks and bonds,
careful not to get knots in them,
delicately combing and dabbing hemp
Until daddy’s shift came one last time,
so he walked her, danced her to the front door,
carrying baby girl like he carried her hemp scented hair
all the way down to Fruitvale.
“Okay class,” he began, his voice soft,
his hands wide and expansive.
His broad shoulders and erect gait
did not immediately indicate a
penchant for planting.
He walked slowly with dirt,
with earth in one hand and
earnestness in another.
“Let’s make some room,” he said,
and the small crowd parted,
giving him a chance to move.
“When planting seeds,” he said,
“you must be sure to give them
a spacious home,” and he rested
the small mound in its hole.
“You have got to remember to
give it room to grow,” he said,
carefully moving the dirt back,
“to grow, but most importantly,