"Situation 5" is a wrenching meditation on racism, prison, and snatching identity from the grip of relentless oppression. The repetition of "brother" echoes through the lines, disappearing, reappearing from "the prison [that] is not a place you enter - it is no place." Vivid imagery weeps, the words weighted down: "another dawn, when the pink sky is the bloodshot of struck, of sleepless, of sorry, of senseless", juxtaposed with historic photos and footage of "the time before" - Jim Crow days, the civil rights era, and more recent injustices. The speaker states "we are all caught hanging - the rope inside us, the tree inside us, its roots our limbs." Having visuals moving across the screen as if the viewer/listener is driving or walking by these scenes too, evoked a spiral of feeling by turns complicit in, detached from, and enmeshed within oppression's persistence.
"Situation 6," available on Rankine's web site, looks at these issues through the lens of younger black men, evoking memories of Trayvon Martin, working and reworking the idea of the guy who "fits the description." Powerful taught on their own, these poems could also be studied in conjunction with discussions of novels like A Lesson Before Dying or To Kill a Mockingbird, or nonfiction books like The New Jim Crow.