“A black woman’s travels through Norway” by Debra Stone

March 20, 2018

This poem is part of our #BlackLivesMatter special issue, guest-edited by Katrina Otuonye. Read more at our #BlackLivesMatter2018 tag.

A black woman’s travels through Norway


Sailing north to the Arctic Circle aboard the MS Nordkapp
on the Norwegian Sea always ice cold.
Unnatural like glass.
An orange insulated jumpsuit is required before your life preserver
so if Njord the god of the sea colludes with the trolls
you won’t freeze to death before you drown.
Tomorrow I will be at the Arctic Circle, my mind pictures polar bears.
In the ship’s bar I drink a beer watching TV
there on CNN is the unremarkable suburb of Falcon Heights, Minnesota
not far from where I live
a live broadcast of a black woman smart phone in hand speaking calmly as
a black man, slumped next to her
his white t-shirt stained scarlet in a floral pattern
dying in the car
the cop’s gun still pointed at him through the window.

Heavy is my heart to see another black man die in real time.
          and over
                    and over
                              and over.

Someone asks his mother
did you see the video?
No she says, I want to remember
the kiss I gave my son as he walked out the door.
A mother’s last kiss.

Heavy is my heart.


i don’t want to say any more names
there are too many
          every day
                    every week
                              every month
                                        new names

i can’t remember
it’s an epidemic, who’s working on a cure?
i want to claim political asylum
an exile from my own country.


TromsØ, a coastal city in Norway

No loud music on the streets.
No shots fired.
No policemen with guns.
No spitting.
No gum on the ground.
No food wrappers.
No dog poop.
No plastic bags blowing in the trees.
No tumble weaves of Korean hair rolling
down sidewalks searching for their owners.
Empty store spaces
are filled with potted flowers
pansies, geraniums
blooming in righteous colors.


I walk towards the end of town
stumble upon a street
sky now grey blue like the heron flying overhead
busted out windows in a solitary apartment building
more prison like than a home
scraps of papers dancing on the sidewalks
a man cursing his invisible torturer
a woman’s scarf covered head age undetermined begs for
alms   behind her graffiti art work    a song played a sad melody
through busted out windows with paisley curtains
rusted cars planted in front
where is the love here Norway?


Heavy is my heart.


Debra StoneDebra Stone is a short story writer and poet who lives in Minnesota.

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