Read These Poems Inspired by the Murders of the Cleveland Strangler

FYI.

This story is over 5 years old.

Entertainment

Read These Poems Inspired by the Murders of the Cleveland Strangler

These poems by community worker and artist R. A. Washington explore another side of the deaths investigated in VICE's feature-length documentary, Cleveland Strangler.
November 4, 2015, 12:00am

R. A. Washington is an artist and community worker from Cleveland. Below are a series of photos and poems he wrote inspired by the brutal rape and murder of 11 women in Cleveland's Mount Pleasant neighborhood between 2007 and 2009. The murderer and rapist was a man named Anthony Sowell. He was a registered sex offender who evaded detection by choosing impoverished victims with little agency. VICE's recent Cleveland Strangler documentary takes an in-depth look at the failures of local law enforcement to stop Sowell. Washington's poems below, however, showcase other aspects of the story.

"Fire" examines Sowell's twisted childhood, in which he allegedly raped his nieces on a regular basis. "Cle[a]ve" explores the dysfunctional relationship between Sowell and Lori Frazier, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's niece, who stayed off and on with Sowell during the time that he was killing women and storing their rotting carcasses in his home. And "Think… Just Wit My Hands" brings us inside the mind of the crazed killer. Read them all and check out more stuff from Washington on the site for his DIY Cleveland bookstore, Guide to Kulchur, and his local music project, Cleveland Tapes.

CLE[a]VE

I'm a stranger, don't drive me away.
I'm a stranger, don't drive me away.
If you drive me away, you may need me someday,
I'm a stranger, don't drive me away.
—Traditional

Sowell—

Advertisement

I see em. I see em all the time.
In and out of cars, hookin'.
It's easy to get 'em in. See,
ain't nobody lookin' up after em.
Nobody listens.

I do. Always did.

Lori Frazier—

When he got out, we was together at that house.
I mean, ain't nothin' really off about him,
sometime he stare off
and he was always tryin' to dominate me,
you know?
He be on top and flip me over rough,
but I didn't mind it.

One of his daddy's wives stayed there.
Smelled awful, he say it's 'cause his stepmama
so nasty, then he say that it's Ray's place
next door.
Ain't no one believe he do them things
'till the police start bringing out them girls' bodies.
That's what I was smellin' the whole time.

Sowell—

I ain't know they names. I ain't even know how I met 'em.
They ain't have nobody. Ain't nobody want 'em.

* * *

And we call for they names.
We call out for the love of our black body.
For this evil within black skin.

And we call for they names.
We call out for the lack of protection of our black body
We ashamed of our street body.

And we call for they name:

Tonia Carmichael, Telacia Fortson, Crystal Dozier, Amelda Hunter, Michelle Mason, Leshanda Long, Tishana Culver, Nancy Cobb, Janice Webb, Kim Yvette Smith, Diane Turner, Tonia Carmichael, Telacia Fortson, Crystal Dozier, Amelda Hunter, Michelle Mason, Leshanda Long, Tishana Culver, Nancy Cobb, Janice Webb, Kim Yvette Smith, Diane Turner, Tonia Carmichael, Telacia Fortson, Crystal Dozier, Amelda Hunter, Michelle Mason, Leshanda Long, Tishana Culver, Nancy Cobb, Janice Webb, Kim Yvette Smith, Diane Turner…

FIRE

Junior be watchin' how he get me upstairs.
Junior be whisperin' let him do it.
He ain't gonna do it though.
He ain't nasty like Uncle Anthony.
Junior mad cuz he the older one.
He be whisperin' he should be first.
But Mama Gertrude to blame
cuz she whip us naked
then the boys get all excited
and be whisperin' and
rubbin' they thangs.

Paper gonna ask me my name.
Ain't anybody care what my name was
then, you ain't gonna have it now.
Lawyers try make it seem like Uncle
had it hard, that's why he kill dem women.
He ain't never get beat. He Mama favorite.
Brother start, too. He say ain't no way he ain't,
if they touch me.
That why I keep quiet.
My little sister there, too.
I ain't want nothin' to happen to her.

Advertisement

I start thinkin' fire. 'verytime he hump on me
I thinkin' fire.

Mama die.
We come to that house
that's the last place Mama want us to go.
Uncle come punchin' on me
Junior ain't stop em. Brother ain't stop em.
He like, "You better come upstairs, or I keep hittin' you."
Uncle say "take off your clothes."
I do. He hump me. I hurt some.
Not like when grown ups do it though.
Lawyer gon' ask me "Did I know it was wrong?"
YEAH. I knew. Ain't s'pose to be like that wit' no relative.

I start thinkin' fire. 'verytime he hump on me
I thinkin' fire.

And when I light the house up
and they come take me away,
I ain't want to get out.
I love being in the institution.
I AIN'T WANT OUT.
I was safe inside, ain't nobody can hurt me.
Lawyer askin'
if I learned to trust in there?
I say yeah, 'cause thats what he want.
If I forgive Uncle?
I say yeah.

Think . . . Just Wit' My Hands.

I keep seein' the blue jacket
dem voices tellin' me don't come in dat room.
Dem girls crackheads, dey care 'bout dey kids.
I get em. We be drinkin' and doin' stuff.
Some of 'em remind me of Lori.
Dey be like Lori.
Say dey need your help
and you help 'em and dey leave you.
Dey leave you fo' some otha nigga.
Dem voices tellin' me don't come in dat room.
Dey be like Lori
an' Mama. I'ma punish 'em.

Follow R. A. on Twitter.