LETTER TO A PANTHER
BY MATT CLARK
My Dear Brother,
It's after midnight and my house is quiet. Outside, the Santa Ana winds are raging at almost seventy miles per hour. My computer is near the window, giving me a clear view of the violent force of nature as it bends and shakes the trees. Occasionally, the swirling winds slam directly against my windowpane, rattling the vertical blinds. Then, suddenly the winds would calm.
Mark, your change was as sudden as the Santa Ana Winds. You were like Moses coming down from the mountain; however, it was the Ten-Point Program from the Black Panther Party Platform you held in your hand. You said you finally understood that your youth and strength were not your own to squander. You said your purpose was to protect the weaker members of the community. So you set up breakfast programs for children, rescued jaded girls from their pimps, and provided support and transportation for seniors. "All Power to the People!"
Mark! You had become a man, but you were not a father. You would never be a father because the beast was loose and already on your scent. While I lay in my cell that December night, the smell of blood was filling the nostrils of the beast. It was the smell of Panther blood. It was the smell of your blood.
Remember when my greatest ambition was to be a magician? When I told you the flame would not burn, you held out your hand without flinching. I didn't think I was being mean to you. In my distorted thinking I was training you. I was the teacher and you were the student. I was preparing you for life and death situations. Then, when that situation materialized, I wasn't there.
I was escorted home for your funeral, but I didn't cry for you. I was so happy just to be outside the wall. Then, when I saw each family member as we lined up to march into the church I was happy again, and again. Word was passed along the line. "No tears! Don't cry! Don't let them see you cry!" Then our Mother led your fifteen remaining siblings into the church. Each jaw was firmly set, every eye was dry, and on each face the firm resolution was apparent. "Don't let-- them see-- you cry!"
I sit here at my computer and suddenly, without warning they come. Tears held back for thirty-nine years. They rise up from deep inside me to mingle with the sounds of the wind against my windowpane and the jangling sounds of the vertical blinds. I don't hold back. I let them flow. For they are not tears for an injustice done, nor are they tears for a Panther slain; they are tears for you, Mark; the little brother that I miss.
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