The Paris Review originally published this in their 2019 Summer Issue (#229). As summer is coming up again, it seems like time for a reprise. If you’d like to hear some of Cornelius’ original blues/jazz compositions, they are part of the Community of Writers’ Anthology Launch.
The Second Amendment
Driving out to Long Island over the Williamsburg Bridge
I spot the young white men on the rooftop.
There’s a bottleneck as the ribbons of feeder lanes
Merge, and the boys on the roof laugh, one of them
Cradles a mock rifle, another cocks his thumb and forefinger
Into a pistol—the way of cowboys and Indians, the way of kids,
Wishes whistling, aimed and fired—the driver with the hijab,
The driver with the dreads, the driver with the darkest skin?
Burst water balloon, hacked limb, fucked-up puppet, cut free.
The boys are not quite ready. This is not the day after the dress
Rehearsal, the day someone regrets putting on a bright hat,
Or zigs instead of zags, or wisely detours the parade
Or street fair, then wishes they could drive the afternoon back
To its tame beginning and choose again. This is the day we will
Ride, spotless, through their blank mercy.