Smashing Bottles


by Len Lawson

We weren’t in a gang. We weren’t thieves or drug
dealers. We weren’t even gifted or artistic. We were
blameless in our pursuit of play. None of us ever even
wondered how the bottles got there—never to threaten
the integrity and innocence of our game. We could have
staked out the woods and caught those drunken hunters
red-handed. Then, maybe one of us would have gotten
shot by a hunting rifle—right between the eyes of our
black faces in the chilly darkness. And maybe those
hunters would have scrambled to the spot to find
another dead black boy in the wilderness. And maybe
they would have left him there in his blood to stain the
woods with his innocence. And maybe we would have
found him and brought him to his mama and family.
And maybe the news would travel to that spot the next
day. And maybe we’d’ve told them our story: that we
were looking for drunk hunters in the woods to stop
littering our Mother Nature. Maybe the killer would
have been found. Maybe he’d’ve been questioned—
maybe arrested, maybe indicted, maybe arraigned and
sent to trial. And maybe—just maybe—the drunken
hunting white bastard would have gone to jail for
manslaughter—or even murder if he saw us in the
woods that night before shooting. Then, we could have
smashed those bottles in the streets for a cause—maybe
would have gone to jail, maybe would have been shot
and killed by police in those streets. But we weren’t
activists. We were black babies, and we just wanted to


Len Lawson has been shortlisted for the 2015 Berfrois Poetry Prize.

About the Author:

Len Lawson has an M.A. in English from National University near San Diego, CA. He teaches writing at Morris College in Sumter, SC. Len is a member of The Watering Hole Collective (, an online community dedicated to poets of color, and he has been a blogger for the South Carolina Writers Workshop ( His poems have appeared or will appear in Rolling Thunder, The Southern Tablet, Control, NYSAI Press and Pamplemousse.

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