For Philando Castile, his family, and our community

He was no one
to me, but never
no body

Yet in an instant
he became
every body

Every body

Every body

Every body

Does there need
to be war
to be a warrior

Does there need
to be death
to make peace

Look at his face—
not the gun
or the four-year-old

Who now, forever
has to see

Look at the life
in his eyes
the tender life

And the horror of a woman
who will never see

How do you hold
your hands over
a volcano

Make the erupting
stop—god is suffering
more they say

But is it enough

I can’t turn
up the volume
of my skin

Cannot make
it darker and reverse
the night

Or wail the same
cry as those
who loved him

I cannot claim
to ever know the truth
of being in his body

All I know
is that a body
is never no body

And when a heart stops
life is lost

And when hearts stop
lives are lost

Black earth streams red
and then black again
and mountains of grief arise

A body is never
no body

His body was never

Inner Sanctum © Ta-coumba Aiken

Anh-Hoa Thi Nguyen is a poet, artist, activist, and educator. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Mills College. She has been a member of the Asian American Women Artists Association, a member of the Vietnamese Artists Collective, an Artist-in-Residence at de Young Museum, a Writer-in-Residence at Hedgebrook, and a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant recipient.

Art By:

Ta-coumba Aiken is a collaborative artist, educator, and community activist who has participated in the creation of more than three hundred murals and public art sculptures since 1975. His public artworks have given a visual voice to urban, rural, corporate, and nonprofit clients. He says, “I create my art to heal the hearts and souls of people and their communities by evoking a positive spirit.” Ta-coumba lives in Lowertown Saint Paul.