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    Cover photo by Mickie Winters.

    On Oct. 24, 2018, the day of the Kroger shooting in Jeffersontown, Kiki Petrosino was thinking about going grocery shopping. She wouldn’t have gone to that Kroger, where a white man killed two black people and reportedly told an armed bystander that “whites don’t kill whites.” But she’d been to that Kroger before, and really, if one Kroger isn’t safe, are any? “It literally did hit very close to home,” Petrosino says. “As an African-American in Louisville, when I found out later…that racial comments had been uttered and that it seemed to have been a hate crime, I definitely felt exposed and vulnerable.”

    After the shooting, we asked Petrosino, a poet and the head of the creative writing department at U of L, to write something. At first, she thought of composing a letter to the city, like she had done in 2017, when she addressed the president of her alma mater, UVA, after racist violence overtook Charlottesville, Virginia. But she decided to write a poem instead, one that would address a higher power.

    When she started writing “Psalm,” she didn’t know the shooter had tried to enter a black church before going to the Kroger, though the connection to a holy place seems inextricable from the poem. “Psalm” begins with a proliferation of names for the Divine, incorporating themes from a hymn called “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” which Petrosino says is important to the African-American community and often sung at funerals. The idea of the hymn is that God cares about every little sparrow, so he must care about you too. Petrosino isn’t a highly religious person, but she believes the poem addresses more than just one notion of God. “We have to ask for vision and we have to ask for guidance. And we can ask for that from whatever higher power we happen to believe in,” she says. “We can also ask it from each other, like: What kind of community do we want to live in? How do we want to treat each other? And then we can ask it of ourselves, too.

    “All of those things I mention (in the poem), those names always exist within each of us. So by calling the name of the Divine, you’re also calling it from within yourself, too.”

     

    PSALM
    by Kiki Petrosino
     

    Dear Lord, Dear High Remembrancer
                Dear Providential Love—have mercy.

    Have mercy, thou Surveyor of Wildflowers, Assessor of Royal
                & Exquisite Bee-Realms. Have mercy, Ledger

    Who Tracks Us in the Night, Who Measures Without Speaking
                Our Dark Trespasses. For nothing here survives—

    not the gold-legged deer, browsing the bleached office park at dawn
                nor the minute finch on her branch of long division—

    but thou, thou, thou absorb it, all. O, Gazer, be kind in thy absorbing
                calculus. Won’t be long before thy reckoning curve

    arrives at the junction of our error. How, beneath thy Mineral Eye
                we walk abroad, forgetting thee, Cartographer of Sparrows.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Dylon Jones's picture

    About Dylon Jones

    Dylon Jones is an award-winning poet and essayist based in Louisville, Kentucky, where he serves as web editor of Louisville Magazine.

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