Concrete Lips

April 7, 2023

Freedom has walked across this country for decades

Making small indents in the dirt

That prove there is life

Human bodies made up of what has been done to them

Pushed into corners that label their faults

Their insecurities, pieces of them that are tied down

These steps leave no trace of freedom

Just desperation that begs and pleads on its knees

Now bloodied by the rocks they lean on


A dive bar in the desert

Neon lights against brown walls

Smells of sweat, scotch, and distance fill the room

Music sang by people who tell

Who decided freedom could be found

Resting at their feet in shackles


Ghosts dance in the middle of the room

There’s no difference between the ghosts

And the people who have given themselves to the idea

Only to realize lasting freedom comes from us


Freedom is just a word

Painted in gold

It’s the moment before we fall asleep

When it’s dark and silent, free

It’s moments of silence

When we give our ghosts space to dance

And we fight them


Each one labeled: shy girl, black man, white woman, 

black woman, killler, lover, fighter, politician, man

What about human?

What about free people?


They dance with their shackles still on

Fading with every step

They aren’t shackled to each other

They are bound to the earth

To the crime they committed at 17

To the lover lost because he stopped holding our hands

To the music they listened to but never understood

What the musician was escaping from

They didn’t know he was African American

They heard his voice

The way his lyrics fill a room, weightless

The way his lyrics fill a room, concrete dreams

Of freedom spread over his lips


Instead of listening to what he’s saying

And freedom becomes desperation


Kiley Woods is a creative writing student at Eckerd College in Florida. She works as a news editor for the student newspaper, The Current, and as a volunteer reader for the Eckerd Review literary magazine. Her work has been published in Second Story Journal, Pomegranate Lit, Diet Water, Portals Magazine, and elsewhere.

Featured image by Matt Botsford on Unsplash