Michael Bearden: Two Poems

It is a great pleasure to share the work of a young man who I have mentored since his Sophomore year. I am proud to see that his poems capture his serious, yet hopeful spirit. Michael Bearden has been a lead member of The Modern Poets and Composer’s Club (MPC), the Loyola High School club I moderate, that brings budding poets, MC’s, DJ’s, and music producers together to make music, make folks dance, and also, make them think. 

The MPC is the Loyola student group I have involved in the event, un::fade::able – The Requiem for Sandra Bland. Their commitment to social justice, namely the justice needed to shed light on issues revolved around Black Lives Matter, has been monumental in my life as an educator. It is one thing to make a crowd dance, but is more profound to help them think, and help them learn. Michael, in his last year as the co-president of the MPC club, has led student art forums and DJ classes for middle schoolers. 

The selected poems you are about to read were written in my African American Poetry class this Spring semester. These poems capture the legacy of those who have been slain at the hands of those meant to protect (“not wanting/ To be another sudden move/ That flash of gold the last thing I ever see”), as well as the the complexity of growing up with one’s particular name. In one poem, the speaker admits: “Often it’s/hard to accept that my/big bright brain is blemished,” as they try to decipher the possibilities for one’s names, and/or nicknames.

Here is a youth growing up in an unsettling era, and instead of giving up or giving into the vices we adults assume onto youth (video games, drugs, bad attitudes, entitlement, instant gratification, social media aggrandizement, or antisocial detachment), the speaker’s vulnerable stance is a honest statement that there is room for error, and for change. “It’s ok to be wrong,” the poem concludes, and it is not complacent voice of youth, but a wise triumph, reminiscent of the old adage that grants serenity. 

In his deeds, and now his shared words, Michael has become a hero to many, but especially to his teacher who cannot wait to see the grace he unleashes on the world. I hope you enjoy these as much as I have.

— F. Douglas Brown, author of ICON and Zero To Three


Badges Bop

after Noname

I was a good kid, in the eyes of most people
To them I’m just another miscreant
Out a little too late
Plopping me on the curb
All my mind can do is race
Be cool dude – just be cool

I picture your smile, like it was yesterday.

I remember hearing the cries of Eric Garner
Watching men slouch from bullets everyday on news
Boom, I can’t breathe— who cares
I’m unarmed— doesn’t matter
The rain don’t feel like rain
Been way too common lately

I picture your smile, like it was yesterday.

I remember bitter hatred in the air
Fearing for my life, not wanting
To be another sudden move
That flash of gold the last thing I ever see
My beautiful temple
Crashing into a pile of fear and despair

I picture your smile, like it was yesterday.


Imperfect Me: Michael. Mike. Mikey


The sharp taste of “not knowing”
          Cannot come out of
          My mouth.
          Sour stench of “incorrect”
          Will never be found on me.
          At least that’s what
          I hope to be the case
          But it’s time to realize
          Wrong is ok.


They all get it
          Wise guy
          Trying not to
          Like I’m wagging
          My tail for teacher.
          Sometimes it’s better
          For me
          Mind should be without fear
          I should be free


Understand no foul stench exists
          Sharp taste fades away
          That is the case
          Often it’s
          hard to accept that my
          big bright brain is blemished
          The time might have
          already come
          It’s ok to be wrong.

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