Black Hoodie (for Trayvon Martin)

Trayvon, the week the jury found
George Zimmerman “Not guilty”
for killing you, I had traveled to Oregon
all the way from Catskills. The morning
of the verdict I hiked into redwood forest
with a man I first met when I was not
much older than you the night you died.
I wanted to walk up to the mountain laurel trail
because I love wild laurel even when it’s not
blossoming. Perhaps you had heard of
enchanted forests when you were a little boy …
the redwood forest was like that,
a greening deepness shawled with moss,
the great-girthed trees seeming to touch sky.
The immense agate of forest shimmered
with blues among leaves lit to emerald,
roots rising up like runes over the trail.
Near a surprise of Indian pipes, where
the shiny laurel leaves began to show,
I spotted a black torso beyond my feet.
Yes, a magical forest … I saw you.
But when my heart recovered its beat,
I drew closer and the torso became
a black hoodie just my size. I knelt
to pull the fallen blackness on, warmly
soft the way your skin must have felt
the evening your heart lost its bountiful
beat. I always did hate Florida’s gated
communities like above ground graves
for the living dead. Trayvon, I wish
you had wandered into an enchanted forest
that would have protected you from being
hunted down. I wish you could have
happily eaten millions of Skittles, traveled
and found a woman who loved your skin
and you as a starry night. After emerging
from redwoods, my old sweetheart and I
heard the verdict on NPR. What runes
or blues can grow back the beauty
of a seventeen year old boy-man cut down?
I shall wear the black hoodie until I die.

—Susan Deer Cloud is a Catskill Mountain Indian. An alumna of Binghamton University and Goddard College, she has received a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, New York State Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellowships, and an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant. Her most recent book is Fox Mountain.