David W. Janey

extreme weather

today NASA rocketed the rover robot to the
red planet where there is no water and
maybe once there was life. the surface of Mars
is too radioactive to support human life so whenever
people get there they’ll have to burrow underground
like gophers or groundhogs. why go to Mars?
scientists and thrill seekers say it’s about the quest
for knowledge. we don’t know what we don’t know and
apparently, we’ll spend any amount to find out.
this week we found out people are melting snow in
Texas – where it doesn’t usually snow that much –
so they can follow the governor’s order to boil water
before drinking it, except they can’t because the
power’s out. families are dying in their homes
because they have no heat. the politicians didn’t
plan for extreme weather because owning up to
climate change was inconvenient. it’s too hot on
Mars and too cold in Texas. Houston, we have a
problem prioritizing red rocks over people.

PB & J

I packed my own lunch in middle school until my PB & J
sandwiches started disappearing from my locker.
At first, I thought I must have opened someone else’s
locker, but the mystery was darker than that.
Who would take my lunch, and why? It puzzled me
long enough that by the time I closed the metal door
the halls were clear, and I knew I would certainly be
last in line to enter the cafeteria. I was also the only
boy in the boys room when I discovered my sandwich
in the urinal. For what seemed like hours, I stared at it
hoping maybe it wasn’t my PB & J. But my chips and
chips ahoy cookies were on the floor.
Why would someone take my lunch? Or was it that
“someone took the nigger kid’s lunch”? Was it done
on a dare? Was I imagining it? Was I still imagining it
the fourth or fifth time my brown paper lunch bag went
missing and my PB & J was left for the janitor to fish
out of the urinal.
In my middle school you could either bring or buy your
lunch. I started buying my lunch just to end the saga.
I never solved the mystery of “who” and I’ll never
understand the “why”. I never told
anyone. I’m telling you.

quarter million stolen tomorrows

I didn’t need to die.
I needed more from life.
so far, I’ve died 250,000 times.
this life was not done with me yet.
tomorrow I will die for the first time
again. I have a bright future. tomorrow’s
tomorrow will come too soon. today I’m
frozen in time until they recount the count.
I will die again needlessly. always, I lived for
my loved ones meaningfully. but again, I died
alone. I keep dying. they keep scheduling
press-conference lies. sometimes I wear
a mask. I’m out of PPE. I’m in a hospital.
I’m in hospice. I’m not inevitable. it’s as
global as air. it’s as local as fear. I have
less today than I did when I died. I could
be a lesson to you. you could be alive
tomorrow. you could wear a mask.
once, I was alive tomorrow.
tomorrow is what we
promise our children.
today again we say

parallel universe

imagine a world right beside this one – better than this one – a world only you can see,
a world where Sandra Bland was never profiled, was never pulled from her car and
disrespected, was able to start her new job and change the world, was never
was still alive. imagine.
imagine a world right beside this one – a world where George Floyd had already driven
away before police rolled up, had no handcuffs behind his back, had no knee on his
neck, had his big smile still on his face for his family to see. imagine.
imagine a world right beside this one – a world where Breonna Taylor was not home
when cops no-knocked, was not sleeping in her own bed when bullets rained down, was
not in harm’s way when harm owned the whole damn day. imagine.
imagine a world right beside this one – better than this one – a world only you can see,
a world where Tamir Rice still had his whole life ahead of him, had a right to play in a
park like any white child, had a moment or two to be seen, had thousands more hugs
from his mom,
had a little mercy. imagine.


David W. Janey is a Boston-based African-American poet and essayist. He writes about racial justice, social change, personal memory/growth, and lessons learned from nature. David is a university administrator by day and his writing has appeared in the Solstice Magazine Features Blog, WBUR’s Cognoscenti, Boston University’s BU Today, and Pride and a Paycheck.