Dear Kobe By Kevin Powell

Kevin Powell | Jan 11th, 2022 | poetry | No Comments


Dear Kobe,

Their eyes were watching
for you the way
they watch for Jesus Shuttlesworth
and Malcolm X and Nipsey Hussle
over on Slauson and Crenshaw
They came in cars
on planes by bus by grit
They got there by foot
They were in wheelchairs
Their sandpaper palms gripped canes and walkers
They were slouching Baby Boomers
salt-and-pepper-haired Gen Xers
tattoo-faced Millennials
They be Beyoncé
and Jimmy Kimmel
and 7-feet ballers who crush the ground
like jolly green giants
They marched from all over
with purple and yellow gold
steamed to their chests
they marched through
the musty scents of Downtown Los Angeles
the way 20th century Europeans
marched from freedom ships to Ellis Island
the way 21st century immigrants march
from Mexico into the barbed-wire borders
of the promised land
the way chocolate-legged country dwellers
marched from Mississippi
to the salty beaches and sleepy ‘hoods of California
a massive army of humanity hemmed up
block after block
looking for the Staples Center
looking for that angel in America
who got a city of billions
‘round the world saying
your name, Kobe
The lines of flesh speed text
as police and arena workers
shoo people to move like
you moved on that basketball court
a Black Mamba
but also an African ballet dancer
who broke a-loose the chains
of plantations and copied and pasted Beethoven and basketball
with Biggie and Beverly Hills
as your body leaped and lunged
into the open mouths of nameless ancestors
who done seen some things
and them ancestors blew Michael Jordan
and Dr. J
and your daddy and your momma
and Philadelphia and Japan and Italy
and the holy ghost of Dizzy
and Coltrane into your veins
just means
the people marching to be like you, Kobe
and they be
White Black Latinx Asian Native American Pacific Islander
Christian Jewish Muslim Atheist Agnostic
This gender That gender No gender
They be Kendrick’s cool hip-hop they be Sinatra’s cool jazz
They be lakers matching jellybeans
with Amy Winehouse and Marilyn Monroe
as you Kobe and you Gianna wax poetic
with John Lennon and Marvin Gaye about love love love
They be a rainbow coalition
of thousands
marching over
your mid-range jumpers and 360-degree dunks
as they scrape field hollers and spirituals and your blues
from their veins, Kobe
Wearing number 8
Wearing number 24
Wearing Gianna’s number 2
Street hustlers selling tee shirts posters
clipped and chipped memories of you
putting an entire nation on your shoulders
winning 5 championships
teaching us the magic of the mamba mentality
telling us to keep shooting
even when the odds are slanted
like that cloudy hillside in heaven
you be heaven to us, Kobe
‘cuz you never gave up
That’s why they come to you
like you are a saint a king
a political leader
a self-help guru
a storyteller
They come to you
you could
chest-pass a basketball
through the smashed windows
of centuries of dreams denied
They come to you because
you crumbled in front of us
and got back up
and confessed
and apologized
and sculpted yourself
into a husband
a lover
a father
a girls’ dad
Vanessa Bryant’s multi-lingual soulmate
her tears her words
the biblical permission
we need to release
your joyful angel’s wings
into the healing arms of the Pacific Ocean

Poet Bio

Kevin Powell is a poet, journalist, civil and human rights activist, and author of 14 books. His 15th
book will be a new collection of poetry (coming late 2022), and his 16th book (coming late 2023)
will be a biography of Tupac Shakur. Kevin lives in New York City, the borough of Brooklyn.
Follow him on Instagram, @kevinpowellinbrooklyn, and Twitter, @kevin_powell

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