Friday, December 19, 2014

What Can One Poem Do? Tell the World With a Selfie

Every gift to Split This Rock enables socially engaged poets and poetry to change lives - sometimes in ways we are not even aware of. 

Starting December 16, we invite you to help us tell a more complete story of what one poem can do by participating in Split This Rock's What Your Gift Can Do Selfie Campaign.

The campaign will continue through December 31. It's simple to participate:  
  • Just complete this statement with an example of how Split This Rock's work has benefitted you or others you know: "Giving to Split This Rock can_____________." 
  • Take a picture of yourself holding up your statement.
  • Then, spread the word on social media by posting your picture to Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram with the hashtag #splitthisrockcan and this link: http://ow.ly/G08vX
If you've contributed already to Split This Rock, we encourage you to use your post to let others know why you give.

Need examples? We asked people at our December 13 Holiday & Birthday Bash to participate and here's what they had to say:


Poem of the Week: Joshua Weiner


Hikmet: Çankiri Prison, 1938

Today is Sunday.
Today, for the first time, they let me go out into the sun.
And I stood there I didn't move,
struck for the first time, the very first time ever:
how far away from me the sky is
                        how blue it is
                        how wide.
I sat down, in respect, in awe, I sat down on the ground,
I leaned my back against the wall.
In this moment, there were no waves to fall into;
in this moment, there was no liberty, and no wife, my wife.
There was only the earth beneath me, the sun above me, and me.
And how I am grateful, I am happy, to have this thing I call my life.   

***
From  The Figure of a Man Being Swallowed by a Fish (Chicago, 2013).

Used with permission.

***
Joshua Weiner is the author of three books of poetry, most recently, The Figure of a Man Being Swallowed by a Fish(Chicago, 2013). He is also the editor of At the Barriers: On the Poetry of Thom Gunn, and the poetry editor of Tikkun magazine. The recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship, he will be a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow in 2015. His poems and essays have appeared in Best American Poetry, The New York Review of Books, The Nation, The American Scholar, Harvard Review, AGNI, The New Republic, and elsewhere. He is professor of English at the University of Maryland,and lives with his family in Washington DC. 

***
Please feel free to share Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this post, including this request. Thanks! 

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.  

***
If you are still planning to submit to our Virtual Open Mic: Poems that Resist Police Brutality and Demand Racial Justice the mic is still hot. Six posts and counting. Thank you who have, and who yet will share this witness with us.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Poems that Resist Police Brutality & Demand Racial Justice - Post #6

We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest -  Poems that Resist Police Brutality & Demand Racial Justice

Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers' sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother's son -- we who believe in freedom cannot rest.
                    - Ella Baker

Even as our hearts break in rage and anguish over the murder of Black and brown people throughout the land by police who are not held accountable, here at Split This Rock we are heartened by the powerful actions in the streets and the visionary leadership of mostly young people of color in this growing movement for justice.

We are also moved by the poets, who continue to speak out, and especially by BlackPoetsSpeakOut.

In solidarity, Split This Rock offers our blog as a Virtual Open Mic, open to all who respond to our call for Poems that Resist Police Brutality and Demand Racial Justice. The poems below were submitted in response to that call.

Please note poems with complex formatting have been posted as jpegs, as this blog has a limited capacity for properly displaying these poems. We apologize if these poems are not accessible to you.

For more information or questions, feel free to email us at info@splitthisrock.org.

If you are moved by any of the poems below, please contact the Department of Justice and your local representatives to demand for police accountability. Visit Ferguson Action Demands for more information.




****



Money, Mississippi 1955
by Myra Sklarew

            Emmett's mother is a pretty-faced thing.
                                                Gwendolyn Brooks

Did the river cry to hold such a boy? Emmett's
hands at the bottom of the river. Emmett's mother
breathing at the top. Her tears. Is
the river swollen over its banks, holding a
nameless boy? A scot free killer, a pretty-face.
An innocent boy's whistle erased. A killed thing.



****



Why I Stopped Smoking
by Neil Silberblatt


Among the warnings on the side
of the pack or carton, next to the dire
but unheeded prophecies to you and your
unborn children, should be this
emblazoned with skull and crossbones.

CAUTION


If you sell these on a street
corner in Staten Island,and they are loose
and you are black,
there is a very real danger of your
being choked to death.
It really is a filthy habit.
Quit now.









****



She Said
by Nahshon Cook

every aspect of our lives
are controlled

Chinese people are like
a Mongolian lark

looking out the window
from behind the bars

of its bamboo cage
at a sparrow in the tree 



****



We protest 
by Persis M. Karim

in the thin, thinning
air of the internet
our fingers beat the outrage
where others beat their chests
the violence of one day
begets the violence of another
when does the reason of love
weigh in and balance the scales?




****



R-I-O-T
by Colleen J. McElroy

it practically leaves me speechless: this thing that happened in 1920 1930 1940
talking about this thing that happened in 1950 1980 1990 2001 2008 2011 2014

that's what I am talking about
       that's what I am talking about
                that is what I'm talking about
                          that is what I am talking about
                                       that is what I'm talking
                                             about - what I am talking
                                                             that is what I am
                                                                      talking I am
                                                                            about what
                                                                                   talking
                                                                                       dead
                                                                                       boys
                                                                                       black
                                                                                           



****



copywriters
by D. H. Garrett

Poets
Who the fuck do we think we are?
I mean really
Why the fuck do we think our feelings
Somehow trump the need
Of people to go about
Their everyday fucked up lives
In a fucked up system?

Last thing they need is some
Spoken word jerk
Waking them up to the reality of the suffering
The inequality the violence
Shit they know already
And are trying to forget
Which is why they ignore
Us poets and our pumped up
Puffed up posturing declamations
Which is why they ignore
The death of beauty
The death of nature
The death of this or that
Unarmed black man
The death of democracy
The death of all that is good
And the raising up to the highest pinnacle
Of the Richest fucking the poorest
While their most recently purchased
Supermodel looks on with a
Smile on her face and little else

Jesus people don't need to feel more
They need to feel less
People don't need to know more
They need to know less
Which is why I am horrified
Of those little spaces tucked away here and there
Not yet blessed by a corporate logo
For if truth be told
What can't be bought and sold
Ain't worth a poet's piss
And we all know what that's worth
I shake it out here for all to see

Poets get real
Lose those feelings
Embrace the great
Zombie apocalypse
The Company needs
A few good copywriters
Needs a clever slogan or two
To really get us to finally completely stop
Thinking



****



Ferguson Verdict
by Chandramohan S

I
The still born corpse of Justice
Drifts away from the inland of being guilty
To the coast of whether probable cause
Exists to indict the silver stars on the
Red bullets.


II
A fetus of justice
Rescued from the womb of prejudice,
Seriously wounded
After the cops trampled on us midst our eviction
Dies days later in the court house.


III
When the entropy of the writings on the wall
Exceeds the contours of prejudice
It spills on to the streets
Torching vans and barricades
Scripting an uneasy calm
In the language of the unheard.




****



"I know I did my job right."
by Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr. 

Former Officer Darren Wilson
Ferguson, Missouri, Police Force

18-year-old Michael Brown, black,
Saturday, October 13, 2014,
two days from starting college-- --
victim of police culture

reportedly melee of gun struggle    grappling inside cruiser--
four rounds penetrate right arm,
out of vehicle, hands briefly raised--more bullets--Brown hit frontally,
dozen altogether, one entering top of skull,
suggests his head bent forward, enabling apparent fatal strike

Concernless for body of a mother's, of a father's son,
dead teen left lying four hours in August sun, face down on street.
In the old south lynched corpses left hanging days, weeks.
Policeman shrouds corpse with white sheet,
from underneath, blood oozes.
No ambulance, no medical help
Grand Jury    no indictment

"...Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago."



Barack Obama
President of the United States
July 19, 2013

America for African-Americans:
shopping in department store   followed,
crossing street   hear locking click of car doors,
stepping into elevator   purses clutched

For Trayvon Martin, 17-year-old high schooler,
February 26, 2012
visiting father's fiancée, future stepmother,
in Floridian Twin Lakes gated community.
Evening, convenience store for Skittles, iced tea

"Hoodie" sweatshirt,
alone for walk-back in rain
except this car, driver stalking,
neighborhood watch coordinator on cell phone
with Sanford police   profiling

"...there's a real suspicious guy...just walking about...,"
"This guy looks like he's up to no good, on drugs or something."
Ordered not to exit car, he does, altercation

For this black teenager
death by Kel-Tee PF-9 9mm pistol

For this shooter
trial   acquittal--again can possess gun

Staten Island, New York, July 17, 2014
Six police wrestle down black man, Eric Garner,
350 pounds,
unaware of heart problems, asthma.
Father of six, grandfather of two,
suspected selling illegal "loosies," cigarettes.
Summer loose white shirt
screamingly visible under police hands,
stomach ground-pressed, lethal under heavy blue-uniformed bodies,
his chest compressed,
"I can't breathe, I can't breath"   eleven times
officer's thick arm thrown around his neck   chokehold!

Cleveland, Ohio, Saturday, November 23, 2014.
Saturday we think of as a boy's day,
his playground day, impromptu baseball, football,
boisterous tag, bring a favorite toy,
12-year-old Tamir Rice, his pellet gun,
points at others, to him innocent, boyish fun --
reason for hone warming, "man with gun at park--
probably fake."

Tamir sees patrol car speed to halt by shelter,
two blue uniformed men leap out,
one a 15-year veteran,
other ruled incompetent by previous department,
seconds he points gun--police tradition-
ten feet   the rookie shoots,
lightning pain in boy's intestines,
hospital Sunday following, boy having fun on the playground    dead.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Poems that Resist Police Brutality & Demand Racial Justice - Post #5

We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest 

Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers' sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother's son -- we who believe in freedom cannot rest.
                    - Ella Baker

Even as our hearts break in rage and anguish over the murder of Black and brown people throughout the land by police who are not held accountable, here at Split This Rock we are heartened by the powerful actions in the streets and the visionary leadership of mostly young people of color in this growing movement for justice.

We are also moved by the poets, who continue to speak out, and especially by BlackPoetsSpeakOut.

In solidarity, Split This Rock offers our blog as a Virtual Open Mic, open to all who respond to our call for Poems that Resist Police Brutality and Demand Racial Justice. The poems below were submitted in response to that call.

Please note poems with complex formatting have been posted as jpegs, as this blog has a limited capacity for properly displaying these poems. We apologize if these poems are not accessible to you.

For more information or questions, feel free to email us at info@splitthisrock.org.

If you are moved by any of the poems below, please contact the Department of Justice and your local representatives to demand police accountability. Visit Ferguson Action Demands for more information.




****



I Select My Jury Before Justice Appears
by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

You made things up. How you felt. Who you were.
Beyond the cities & the caves you sent me to look
for your body. You hid yourself, disguised your taste,
your voice. In our mouths you planted longing & hunger.
We walk around repeating your hands.
We can say who is wrong & who is nothing.
We polish the sidewalks with our forgetting,
play the lotto, bum noise from the dead, turn
our mothers & fathers into obelisks.
We won’t abandon the orphans of history,
or the worship of their shivering.
Lift our workhorses & smear our senses
with dogma. You made things up.
How we felt.
And now emptiness is the feeling we trust best.
We walk around mourning our germs.
You unmade the houses
we tended, the unfinished children, the lonely flat tv.
There was a chance to shatter. The detour
of loving then dying
too devastating to follow.
The gavel, the injury of a cross.
And we look up to what?
The alchemy of perpetual discontent.
To ask for what?

*First published by THRUSH Poetry Journal, 2012


****



The Standard Script Given to the Grieving Mother
Whose Black Child Has Been Murdered by Police
by B. Sharise Moore

1.      Dress as you would for Sunday morning communion.
      Black women appear least aggressive with heads bowed,
      while kneeling.
      Black rage does not photograph well.

2.      Quote I Corinthians, every grandmother’s go to book.  
      Call on Jesus.
      Even as your stomach knots, restricts to a rawness that numbs,
      convince them that this is His will
      and that His will shall be done.

3.      Plead for the peace your child was unworthy of while alive.
      Pause deliberately.
      Denounce. Distance yourself from the riotous fires
      that have done more to honor him than this law has.

4.      Quote an out of context syllogism,
      preferably “I Have a Dream.”
      After all, you are grieving
      and no one has studied it anyway.

5.      Tell them they must vote.
      This will not happen if they simply vote
      …more.
      Often.
      They can move Forward with their Obamas and Holders
      on their shoulders. Tell them he cannot really speak about your child;
      he is not the President of Black America.

6.      Make it plain you’ve raised all of your children to be color blind.
      In church.
      You are Christians in spite of your dead son’s
      Kindergarten suspension.


7.      Call for faith in a system that has failed you for 400 hundred years.
      Tell them justice must run the same course
      as the too many bullets that splintered your child’s temple,
      opened up his abdomen like some twisted Cracker Jack prize.

8.      Mention the good police.
      Not all bad. Not all vigilante.
      Not all trigger happy. Not all racist.
      Yet all more alive and well than your child.

9.      Be respectable. Remind them of Black on Black crime.
      Tell them the police kill them because they kill themselves.
      Tell them that they are responsible for the smashed skulls
      of their own daughters and sons
      with their sagging pants, poverty,
      and murderous rhymes that malign collective progress.

10.  Repeat:
      “This is not about race.”                          
      “This is not about race.”
      “This is not about race.”

      Repeat as you watch yet another mother fold her tears in her already bulging purse.
      Watch while she strains to push her child back inside the safety of her womb.
      Stare as she leans over a son who looks oddly like your own:
      Dead and stiff and  indicted and tried more than his murderer.

11.  Repeat:
      “This is not about race.”
      “This is not about race.”
      “This is not about race.”

      Remind them of Black on Black crime.
      Of Black on Black Crime.  
      Of Black on Black crime.

12.  Convince her it is necessary
      that she believes it too. 



****



Of storms and tears
by Aimee Suzara 
For Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner
and the Philippines after another storm
"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love." ~ Rumi
There is a sacredness in tears.
The water nearly drowns us:
typhoon a regular disaster
in places the world ritually abandons
resilience taken for granted
like poverty and like starvation
and one storm hits before the other
has even taken toll
And here
Black men and boys are messengers
become our accidental angels
looking over
destroyed altars;
we mourn their
destroyed bodies
The river which encased
Emmett Till, returned him
to his source, becomes our

metaphorical vessel
for these sacred tears
There is too much cliche
in the repeated obliteration
of black lives by
white hands and
white systems
we want to erase these hasty
superfluous repetitions of death

We all want to turn off the noise
turn back the storms
to drown in our own tears
to be oblivious to our own
overwhelming grief
But there is unspeakable love:
we use our ten thousand tongues
let the tides loose and truths
be storm surge
in this kind of surrender
to our humanity
this kind of a torrent
is less of a tragedy
and more of a relief.




****



I go black
by Persis M. Karim

I go black in 
black times 
Gaza and Ferguson 
torque my soul
too tight to know
what kind of bombs
will quell what we know
what we know is not 
real
in the language of dismissal
what we know is not
unless justified 
in black nights
and black days
of Gaza and Ferguson



****



A Lunch Conversation in China With a Local
by Nahshon Cook

1)
Him: Are you on Jesus' team?
Me: What do you mean?
Him: Do you believe in Jesus?
Me: I believe in his teachings, yes.
Him: Do you go to church?
Me: No, not often.
Him: I don't believe in anything.
Me: Are you okay with that?
Him: Not Jesus, not Buddha... No need.
Me: You're lucky.
Him: No, it doesn't make sense.
Me: Ok.
Him: Why do you read Jesus' book?
Me: It helps my heart love better.
Him: You're a mutant.
Me: Maybe. I don't know.
Him: We're the same person.
Me: Yes.

2)
Him: You know Tibet?
Me: Yes, I’d like to go there.
Him: Hmm, no. Not yet.
        Tibet’s not liberated
        like Hong Kong.
        But, almost. Soon.
Me: OK.
Him: China’s like a father,
        Tibet’s his lost son.
        The father went out,
        found his son
        and is bringing him back home.
Me: And what do you think about that?
Him: I have no idea.



****



Grand Jury
by Dylan Bargteil

Michael Brown lays dead in the street.

            was there any particular reason
            when the police officer gives you
            an order that you did not obey
            get out of the street

Michael Brown lays dead in the street.

            did the thought ever come to your mind
            maybe he was doing it for public safety
            for your own safety, why were you not
            even on the side walk? it was not safe

Michael Brown lays dead in the street.

            why didn’t you do that?
            i thought it was strange
            you didn’t seem concerned
            i would expect
            just seems strange
            is it typical?

Michael Brown lays dead in the street.

            an act of defiance
            they are being defiant
            to show strength
            or something

Michael Brown lays dead




****



from understory
by Craig Perez

(to my wife, nālani
and our 7-month old daughter, kai)


kai cries
from teething—

how do
new parents

comfort a
child in

pain, bullied
in school,

shot by
a drunk

APEC agent?
#justicefor

-kollinelderts—
nālani gently

massages kai's
gums with

her fingers—
how do

we wipe
away tear-

gas and
blood? provide

shelter from
snipers? disarm

occupying armies?

nālani sings
to kai

a song
about the

Hawaiian alphabet—
what dreams

will echo
inside detention

centers and
cross teething

borders to
soothe the

thousands of
children atop

la bestia?
#unaccompanied—

nālani rubs
kai's back

warm with
coconut oil—

how do
we hold

violence at
arm's length

when raising
[our] hands

up is
no longer

a universal
sign of

surrender? #black
livesmatter

kai finally
falls asleep

in nālani's
cradling arms,

skin to
skin against

the news—
when do

we tell
our daughter

there's no
safe place

for us
to breathe #...