Generations: A Choice to Learn
By James Coburn

The sun scorches,
but there is no degradation
of skin by the sun.
Only men degrade skin
hunting for pigment possession
as they degrade themselves.
Ships cross the Atlantic,
but not all hands are on deck;
they are chained below.
Children weep for their parents.
No one hears.
Slave master uses a whip,
but cannot tame who is born free.
Field hands build the country
but the economy propped by slavery
is a nail in a wooden coffin,
a bullet chasing feet on the run.
Bullets of fear
rooted in slavery linger, trigger.
The civil rights movement
did not stop in the 1960s,
not in the new millennium.
It comes back to your face.
How did you learn to believe
your experience is the brushstroke
of time when you colored canvas
for your convenience?
Experience crosses centuries. Listen.
Freedom moves.
Oppression, I hear the whispers today.
Oppression, I see the hypocrisy in governments.
Oppression, you are draped by indifference.
Ignorance with splintered wings torn from limbs.
How it simmers.
My experience was fostered early by white flight.
Move from doubt, not away from one another.
Step inside what others have lived
and you will understand choice.
A choice to be straight — never offered.
Could you choose?
Understand behaviors, genetics, stitches
binding words. Some binding wounds
with unconditional love.
Some binding words that will bleed
spoken in church to a 3-year-old
holding a rose on Mother’s Day.
Promises made, broken for some.
This lantern call in night,
people who do not know us
stand in judgment as experts
of who we are, knowing nothing,
raping with words.

Forgotten: A Barren Land
James Coburn

Broken strings once in tune to life,
A mother’s arms and a father’s security
lost in seconds
to be caged in an empty Walmart shell.
Children’s human rights abandoned
by a government.
A family sought for refuge.
Some reunited.
Others unaccounted for in their lost world.
This is their American dream;
An American nightmare rearranging
childhood vision.
A journey of spilled neurons,
lost connection with life
feels the broad sweep of the oppressor
in a strange world.
Where did all the love go?
A child’s human rights forced in a cage.
Damage done.

(Editor’s note: NonDoc publishes poetry, short prose, visual art and other artistic ideas pitched by creatives in Oklahoma and around the world. All submissions are encouraged, and new creatives are constantly being sought. Submit your work for publication by contacting

James Coburn is an Oklahoma poet, photographer and journalist. His first book of poetry, "Words of Rain," was a 2015 finalist for the Oklahoma Book Awards. His work has appeared numerous anthologies. A long­time journalist for The Edmond Sun, Coburn is a 2013 inductee of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.