“A Theory of Forgiveness” by Len Lawson

A Theory of Forgiveness

by Len Lawson


“Black people will forgive you quicker than you can say Orangeburg Massacre.”
– Nikky Finney


Orange [a president…
…and now a vice-president
who just got the taste of segregation
out of his mouth after fifty years
sweeps through South Carolina
with Clyburn at his right hand
and declares the black vote
quicker than spring jessamines
bloom] burg [$550 million
on TV and Internet ads from
the mayor who never got the taste of
stop-and-frisk out of his mouth
sweeps his millions into the hands
of the vice-president who is trying
to upset the president who got
impeached for exhorting funds
away from Ukraine to gain secrets
about the vice-president nipping at
his heels and aching to get back into
a white house he takes credit for yet
while he was in office, down in that
same South Carolina a white boy traveled
from Columbia to Charleston and
dreamed of lynching the vice-president’s
boss while opening fire in a church
Bible study yet the families of his victims
would forgive him quicker than you can say
Mother Emmanuel] Massacre



Len Lawson is author of Chime (Get Fresh, 2019) and the chapbook Before the Night Wakes You (Finishing Line, 2017). He is co-editor of Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race (Muddy Ford, 2017). A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Len has received fellowships from Callaloo, Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and others. His poetry appears in CallalooAfrican American ReviewNinth Letter, Verse Daily, Mississippi Review, and elsewhere. Len is also a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature and Criticism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, earning the 2020 IUP Outstanding Doctoral Student Award. You can find Len on Facebook (Len Lawson), Twitter (@lenvillelaws) and Instagram (@lenville_laws).