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

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
      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 
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

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.

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?

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?

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

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 #...

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