how are you doing?

“How are you doing?” my co-worker asks.

I have mourned a Black woman every day this week. 

Toyin Salau. 

Safiya Satchell

and her child,

her child,

her unborn,


Riah Milton. 

Dominique Fells. 

Iyanna Dior. 

Breonna Taylor. 

I don’t know where I keep finding the capacity to bear pain. I think each new name will end me but none of them do. Instead, they etch themselves into my psyche, reminders I carry with me always (of what? 

my worth,


my value). 

Each name devolves from a person

into a hashtag. 

Life goes on.

No one tells you that’s not a good thing.

I smile and clench my jaw so hard my teeth ache. 

“I am doing okay.” 

“How are you doing?” my co-worker asks.

Strange Fruit in 2020.

They found him hanging in front of city hall,

in a homeless encampment,

in my hometown.

He was 24.

He was 38.

He was 17. 

They are lynching us


8pm curfews and sundown towns.

Black men do not

hang themselves from trees,

but no one except us

seems to care what these

bodies mean.

“One day at a time,” I reply.

“How are you doing?” my boss asks.

I think humor is a trauma response in the Black community. 

Sometimes I laugh at things that aren’t funny and it’s because

if I start crying I don’t think I’ll stop. 

So if I laugh sometimes and nothing’s funny, 

that’s why.

I laugh.

She laughs.

“Maybe we can stop asking that question?”

“How are you doing?” my mom asks.

“I haven’t been sleeping well.”

Police in helicopters fly rotations

over the Town.

Their lights are garish no matter the time

and they fly closer than I think is necessary,

but this feels intentional as well.

I gave up on sleep two nights

ago, loaded a pipe and began

my work day at 5:30am. Part of me worries

about bad habits. The larger part of me says


so I begrudge myself my

bad habits, for now.

“Do you need to talk to someone?” she asks, 


“I started trying to find someone a week ago.” 

If I had known how difficult the process would 

be, I wouldn’t have started when 

I needed help, but admitting this

comforts no one, so I keep it to myself.

“That’s good,” she says.

It’s okay to be sad sometimes

but we don’t want it

turning into something else.”

I laugh.

We are so far past something else. 

“How are you doing?” my ex asks.

I want to unhinge my jaw

and swallow the whole world.

This anger is corrosive, 

I know, 

but the alternative is abject despair

which is unproductive. So.

“You sound more despondent than I remembered.”

I have no defense for this observation

which is asinine, if true.

“I’m okay.”  

It’s a lie, and he knows it, but

he doesn’t argue.

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