Lateef McLeod


Listen to the audio version.

Oh no, it's me again
Strolling down in my wheelchair
You don't want to talk to me
So you plot a course to avoid me
And I understand
Really, I do
'Cause you have
better things to do
Going to Berkeley
And you don't have time to talk to me
Especially since I have to type each word on my talker
And wheelchairs remind you of hospitals
And I drool
And only retards drool
So you walk away
Fast as you can
Wondering how I can get into UC Berkeley
And I wonder the same about you

* * *


Listen to the audio version read by Sean Mahoney.

I am not suppose to be here
In this body,
speaking to you.
My mere presence
of erratic moving limbs
and drooling smile
used to be scrubbed
off the public pavement.

Ugly laws used to be
on many U.S. cities law books
beginning in San Francisco in 1867
stating that “any person who is
diseased, maimed, mutilated,
or in any way deformed
so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object,
or an improper person to be allowed
in or on the streets, highways, thoroughfares, or public places.”
Any person who looked like me
was deemed disgusting
and was locked away
from the eyes of the upstanding citizens.

I am too pretty for some Ugly Laws,
Too smooth to be shut in.
Too smart and eclectic
For any box you put me in.
My swagger is too bold
To be swept up in these public streets.

You can stare at me all you want.
No cop will buss in my head
and carry me away to an institution.
No doctor will diagnose me
a helpless invalid with a incurable disease.
No angry mob with clubs and torches
trying to run me out of town.
Whatever you do,
my roots are rigid
like a hundred year old tree.
I will stay right here
to glare at your ugly face too.

* * *


Listen to the audio version read by Sean Mahoney.

Was it his big, dark head
that drooped on his prison garbed chest
that gave you comfort?
Or was it his once firm, hands
which swayed weightlessly from dangling arms
that put a grin on your face?

Was it the way he apologized,
for the loss your father, brother, son
but still proclaimed his innocence,
still looked you in your eye and said
“I am not the one”.
But still you smiled,
as they strapped him on the table
and stuck that needle of death in his vein.

Was it the fact that other people believed him
like those pesky protesters outside the prison,
and the Pope,
and the NAACP president,
and thousand of people world wide
who wanted to halt this process
make sure you had the right guy?

Was it the fact that this process had been halted
three or four times before?
Most of the witnesses recanted their story
and the two who didn’t, well…
one is dead
and the other
may be the one who shot your family member.
But this does not phase you.
You know you got the right guy.

So what if all the evidence against him is shaky at best.
You got the whole Georgia police force behind you.
this will set precedent.
You cannot let one of them shoot a police officer
it is bad policy.
Much like when one of them
stole a hen seventy years ago
a tree will soon have a strange hanging fruit.

People will cry out for justice
especially his family.
because they too lost
a father, brother, son.
But you will still smile
for you know
justice will be like it should be
in the good old South.


*First published in Something Close to Beautiful (Inglis House, 2005).


Lateef McLeod earned a BA in English from UC Berkeley and a MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. He published his first poetry book A Declaration Of A Body Of Love in 2010 chronicling his life as a black man with a disability. He currently is writing a novel tentatively entitled The Third Eye Is Crying. McLeod was in the 2007 annual theater performance of Sins Invalid and also their artist-in-residence performance in 2011 entitled Residence Alien. He blogs at .