Friday, August 16, 2013

Poem of the Week: Tyehimba Jess

Tyehimba Jess

Mercy


the war speaks at night
with its lips of shredded children,
with its brow of plastique
and its fighter jet breath,
and then it speaks at daybreak
with the soft slur of money
unfolding leaf upon leaf.
it speaks between the news
programs in the music
of commercials, then sings
in the voices of a national anthem.
it has a dirty coin jingle in its step,
it has a hand of many lost hands,
a palm of missing fingers,
the stump of an arm that it lost
reaching up to heaven, a foot
that digs a trench for its dead.
the war staggers forward,
compelled, inexorable, ticking.
it looks to me
with its one eye of napalm
and one eye of ice,
with its hair of fire
and its nuclear heart,
and yes, it is so human
and so pitiful as it stands there,
waiting for my hand.
it wants to know my answer.
it wants to know how i intend
to show it out of its misery,
and i only want it
to teach me how to kill.


-Tyehimba Jess
Used by permission.

Tyehimba Jess' first book of poetry, leadbelly, was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. A Cave Canem Alumni, he received a 2004 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, was a 2004-2005 Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and won a 2006 Whiting Award. He exhibited his poetry at the 2011 TedX Nashville Conference. He is Assistant Professor of English at College of Staten Island.    

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

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

4 comments:

Joan Braun said...

Powerful poem. Can you tell me more about the photo that accompanies it? I have some guesses, but I am not sure.

Helen Lehndorf said...

This poem gave me tingles. I would so love to hear it read by the poet!

Caroline Glen said...

I don't go with the title and don't go with the last two lines.
Brillian poem (to me) otherwise.

Caroline Glen

Joan Braun said...

I think the photo is of Tyehimba Jess himself, a fine one, can't find any photo credits