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poetry So Much for America

In a time when the murder of African Americans in plain sight terrifies the news, Poet Amaud Jamaul Johnson captures the feeling of capture.

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So Much for America

By Amaud Jamaul Johnson

I was interrogated via helicopter

while taking a shortcut through

a field I was handcuffed leaving

this post office I was placed in

a line up in the middle of the street

I dress nattily I wear sports jackets

I use rubbing alcohol to keep

my sneakers clean My sweat shirts

with the stitched block letters

from certain colleges won’t stop

complete strangers from searching

my crotch I whisper uncontrollably

I smile when nothing’s funny Gun

at my temple Shit stinging my ear

Is that a knife in your hand I thought

protocol was the scruff of your collar

On the curb On your stomach

Cheekbone on the hood The smell

of good wax I’m so aware of my

body Do you think about your body

Look at your hands Show me your

hands I’m returning to Ellison

I’m surrounded Your surrounded

                        But I’m always alone

Amaud Jamaul Johnson is the author of three poetry collections, Imperial Liquor (Pitt Poetry Series, 2020), Darktown Follies (Tupelo Press, 2013), and Red Summer (Tupelo 2006). Born and raised in Compton, California, his honors include a Pushcart Prize, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the Edna Meudt Poetry Award, the Dorset Prize, and fellowships from Stanford, MacDowell, VSC, Bread Loaf, and Cave Canem. He is the Halls Bascom Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.