Poems to Keep: A Poem for Jesse Romero

by Yesika Salgado 

When they found you Jesse, I understood why you ran

who hasn’t been afraid of the cops these days?

who hasn’t panicked at the sight of their guns drawn on sight?

what brown and black boys haven’t been called weapon before being called boy?

how many mothers faces haven’t we met on the 11 o’clock news, tear streaked and tired?


my cousin and I drove down highland park the other day

the police had two brown boys against a fence

I said your name like a prayer, Jesse

you, the new patron saint of who we want to come home


I have loved so many boys like you before

beautiful brown boys with names they trusted their city to hold

their aerosol cans rattling in their pockets or backpacks

they all just wanted to live forever. I know you did too.


your Mami says you were a good boy

and I believe her

the city does too, Jesse

we’ve been saying your name

we’ve been asking for justice

we’ve been holding all the fourteen year old boys closer

kissing them good morning and goodnight


your face

lives somewhere amongst them now


I have a nephew your age

his name is Andrew

the last time I was over,

I listened as he talked about a recent trip

he hugged his mother as she walked by the couch

he let his little sister lean on his lap


I wanted to cry the whole time



is there a word for the grief

you feel

when all the bodies

being murdered

look like the people

you love most?


I don’t know the things I used to know anymore


all I can offer

is this poem

this votive candle

with your name


I’ve been told your mother is still waiting for your body

that the money isn’t enough

that she never planned to bury her son


and my heartbreaks all over again


what is the word for loving someone past

tired and murdered and angry and injustice

and helpless and tired again

so tired again



you must be that word


sweet boy,

you are.






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