Friday, January 30, 2015

Poem of the Week: Julie Enszer
















Zyklon B

Where should one draw the line?
. . . the line is very clearly Zyklon B.

The painters call before we move into the new house. Ma'am, they say-
I am not old enough to be a ma'am, but I don't correct them-
Ma'am, they say, we smell gas.
I dismiss their concern. I say, Keep painting.
I say, You are already two weeks behind schedule.

Five days after we move in, I wake up sick. I vomit.
Gas filled our house. We open all the windows,
call the utility company. The stove regulator isn't working.
It can't be fixed. We buy a new Frigidaire.

This is what I know of life:
Love fiercely, even recklessly;
Laugh loudly, even raucously;
Risk everything, at least once;
Live openly, without abandon;
Build trust, be honest;
Buy American.

A year later our washing machine breaks.
I want a new German one-small, sleek, stylish.
I tell my wife, It is perfect for the kitchen.
Our washer and dryer are in the kitchen.
My wife says, They built the ovens.
We buy a new Frigidaire.

Degesch, a company affiliated with Degussa,
based in Dusseldorf,
is the world's largest maker of specialty chemicals.
Degussa has an exemplary record
of examining the wartime past,
making restitution to victims. Still
The Memorial Foundation for the Murdered Jews of Europe
rejects a subcontract for Degussa.
Degesch manufactured gas pellets: Zyklon B.

This is what I know of gas:
May you never make a mistake that cannot be corrected.
May you never take an action that cannot be forgotten.

***

From Sisterhood (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013).
Used with permission.
Photo by Stephan Declue.

***

Julie R. Enszer, PhD, is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Women's Studies at the University of Maryland. She is the author of Sisterhood (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013) and Handmade Love (A Midsummer Night's Press, 2010). She is editor oMilk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry (A Midsummer Night's Press, 2011).Milk & Honey was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry. She has her MFA and PhD from the University of Maryland. She is the editor of Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and a regular book reviewer for the Lambda Book Report and Calyx. You can read more of her work at www.JulieREnszer.com.

***

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Poems that Resist Police Brutality & Demand Racial Justice - Post #16

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 offered our blog as a Virtual Open Mic, open to all who responded to our call for Poems that Resist Police Brutality and Demand Racial Justice. The poems below were submitted in response to that call. All of the submitted poems in this and previous posts were delivered to the Department of Justice on January 23, 2015 and the call for submissions is now closed. To see photos of the reading, demonstration and delivery of the poems, visit Split This Rock's Flickr account.

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.




****


Justice for Joy
by Delroi Williams

Full of the self importance given by a number and rank
Enforced by legislation designed to deny the right to reside
In a land built on the sweat of her peers and foreparents
Supported by 500 years of might is right, ignorance rules OK!

            Yuh push she down
            Gag she mouth
            Till blackout! Blackout!
            Blacks out! Blacks out!

Another case warranting closer inspection
Fails the detection of truth. Court codes
Spell remorseless, one more less, no rest
For you people, this place is just a sojourn

            Well jus in case yuh feelseh
            We’d ah let it pass
            Don the mask of silence forget
            Fullness, watch this space

One beautiful race together in joy to overcome the sorrow of a
Brutal depart’yah
A campaign to end the veins of our family being cut any more
To heal the scars of your society’s mad and vain attempt to stop the black
From flowing, every growing, changing this sad cold place into

            Little Jamaica
            Little Barbados
            Little St Kitts
            Little Nigeria
            Little Somalia
            Little Ghana

We still ah come!
Echoes the cries of children deprived of mothers
Mothers deprived of sons, sisters deprived of brothers
Brothers deprived of brothers, sisters, fathers, sons and mothers

We still ah come!

An’ any fool know the rule of law;
A Jamaican woman’s home is fe’she yard
Nuh badda enter widout a welcome
An’ nuh raise yuh voice, muchless yuh han’

Only a pig would ignore this, insist she leave, without due cause
That her resistance was excessive, warranted a dumb death
Another stifled voice on the other side of the waters
But we’ll neva stop beat feet to de riddim
Sing songs of remembrance until we receive Justice for Joy

*Note: Joy Gardner was killed by police, by being bound and gagged, at her home in, London, England, 1983. The Police had tried to serve a a deportation notice, as she had overstayed her visa. When Ms. Gardner resisted the police forcibly gagged and bound her with 13 ft. of tape, leading her to fall into a coma, from which she later died.



****




The Evidence
By Camisha L. Jones

There was a gun
There was a cop
There was a Black boy

The Black boy had no gun
The Black boy had
      His skin
      His breath
      His hands
The Black boy had enough

For the cop to be afraid

The Black boy ran
The Black boy ran
The Black boy ran

The cop chased
The cop was not chased

The cop had
      a gun
      a badge
      a car
The cop had fear
It leaned into his car
Ugly words all in its mouth
Strong arms bruising his thinking

About the boy

The cop said
The kid’s hands were thieves
The kid’s hands were violent
The kid’s hands forgot how history stutters new names
At the trigger of white men’s fear

They say that evidence
Doesn’t change
That evidence is fact

They say the boy is dead
And that is a fact
They say the cop had a right to deadly force
And that is another kind of fact

They never say
The boy was afraid
That fear put running in his legs

They say the child with no gun
Rushed toward the cop
And the cop saw the darkest brutality
Growing in the guilt of his skin

They say the kid forgot
What his momma taught him ‘bout
Black boys and police officers
They say the cop had a right to his fear

No one is sure where the boy’s hands were
Some say the boy
Had his hands up
Had his hands over his head
Had his hands in front of him,
Palms up, ready to receive

What we know is
His hands were his hands
His hands had nothing in them
His hands couldn’t hold him to this life
Or innocence

What we know is
The cop was afraid
And the kid was
Breathing
And Black

The cop held his fear
Like the weapon it is
In this land of liberty and amnesia
And the gun
It knew the boy
Like any precious prey
Would run



****





America’s Unconstitutional Grill
by Bob McNeil 

Near the counter,
    One seat away from a guy named Uncle Sam,
    I sat in America’s Unconstitutional Grill,
    Notorious for its discrimination special.
    Recollections took my psyche traveling
    Throughout gripped and whipped generations.                                   
    I remembered Sam’s culture-ramming family
    Capturing my kin
    And reducing them to abused horses
    In a round pen.
My temper went from a semiautomatic pistol
    To a ballistic missile.  
    Around then
    My anger could have leveled
    America’s Unconstitutional Grill. 
Right before my left was going to punch Sam
    So his teeth would meet a dirt heap                                  
    Beneath some table’s feet,                                   
    Noncaucasian children came in.
    They ordered cheeseburgers.
     A sour-cream-demeanoured waitress,
     Wearing a hairnet,
     Said, “The Grill did not get
    The School Budget Tomato Sauce yet.”
Judging from the way
     Their liveliness took a graveyard turn,   
     Noncaucasian children did learn
     Unconcern made their meals burn.     
According to other Noncaucasian patrons,
    There was not much pepper
    In the House and Senate stew.  
    Noncaucasian patrons spat discontent
    Over the cop-frisked pork biscuits 
    Accompanying assorted penal-smelly vittles. 
Seconds from leaving America’s Unconstitutional Grill,
    Despite my refusal to select a speck,
    The waitress tossed me a check. 
    After I tabulated
    Subjugation's cost,
    I told the ashy cashier,
    “Get the damn owners to atone
    And reimburse for every year
    My people spent here.” 



****




Black Lives Matter
by Liliana Hernandez

It’s 2015 and I want to stop counting

The names of all those that we have lost
The travyon martin,
Eric garner,
Tamir rice
In unnecessary murders committed by the police.

I want to stop counting that
There were 593 people killed by police last year
And 108 homicides in DC.

Its time to stop counting and to start demanding accountability
We have taken to the streets, closed traffic on the 14th st bridge, blocked trains in Baltimore, paraded on the streets of all the major cities in this nation
Stating Black Lives matter

This is our time to stand up
to count every voice to say
why black lives matter
because we are here today to change this world
we are going to fight to get guns off of our street, drugs out of our community,
we are going to fight to hold all citizens accountable for murder, including the police,
we will stand up to the NRA and say more guns are not the answer.
We will stand up to our city officials and demand affordable housing and homes for all our homeless that are on the city streets
And we will demand from all businesses that living wage jobs are available to all DC residents.
This is our time to stand up and make our voice heard
Because its 2015, and I’m done with counting the names of the lives we have lost.

It’s 2015, and we will love all our young black and brown brothers and sisters, and we will create communities of courage that we are all proud to live in. 
It’s 2015, and its time to make our voices heard.




****



(Untitled)
by J.M.

“This movie can’t be about race.” - Danez Smith
It can’t be about the Black teen with dreams and aspirations born in the wrong neighborhood.
It can’t be about the sexy Latina who is never going to become a doctor because she is just a sex image.
It can’t be about African American children growing up without their fathers.
It can’t be about Black people and Latinos fighting over streets and white people living in gated communities.
It can’t be about family problems because of an interracial relationship.




****



(Untitled)
by Jai-Anna Carter

“I want a scene where a cop car gets pooped on by a Pterodactyl, a scene where the corner store turns into a battle ground.” - Danez Smith

Why should my brother be shot down at the local corner store, whether by police or an unmindful being. Every life counts. Put your guns away & save your bullets for nourishment, make this a memorable one, go to the corner store & offer advice, something to save a life, even the binge drinker will listen, the cashier with five kids making ends meet will listen, the young boy who is surrounded by gangs will listen, just my brother will listen, that young boy who could be you, giving advice one day.




****



(Untitled)
by Anonymous

We are who we see
Thick hips, long legs
Long hair, manicured feet
Strong Black woman on the outside
Weak little girls on the inside

The Big Screen depicts skewed views
Society accepts what is viewed
The stereotypes of loud, ignorant
half-clothed women
As for aspiration, they haven’t a clue

We are more than what you see on the big screen
We can better influence our young
Better roles in Hollywood is a start
But it all starts at home
Let’s start building better black women from the inside out.



****


(Untitled)
by Colin

Why do people judge by the color of people’s skin? Why not judge by their compassion & life?

Why kill them because of their skin? Why kill them for things worth killing them for; killing,
stealing & other stuff.

A man once told me “Let freedom ring!”

so let it ring.












Sunday, January 25, 2015

Poems that Resist Police Brutality & Demand Racial Justice - Post #15

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 offered our blog as a Virtual Open Mic, open to all who responded to our call for Poems that Resist Police Brutality and Demand Racial Justice. The poems below were submitted in response to that call. All of the submitted poems in this and previous posts were delivered to the Department of Justice on January 23, 2015 and the call for submissions is now closed. To see photos of the reading, demonstration and delivery of the poems, visit Split This Rock's Flickr account.

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.






****


Amber Alert (in the wake of the missing of Relisha Rudd- knowing she isn’t the only one - taken in March 2014 from the DC general shelter)
by Liliana Hernandez

Amber alert warnings on the highway
When a rich white girl has gone missing
But where are the signs for the poor black girl from foster care
That has run away from her twelfth placement

Where is the search party for the girl
Who was taken by her boyfriend, who became her pimp,
and now she was moved to another state,
to sell her body, with nothing in return
and no one is looking for her.

Where is the search party for the boy
Who left prison after completing his time
And walks aimlessly in his old neighborhood
With nowhere to go
Except back to the life that took him
So far away 

Where is the search party for the young transgender woman
Who had to flee her home
After being outed
And is now living on the streets
Wondering where to go.

Where are the amber alerts for these youth
Who have no home to go to
Where are the people who care for them
Why are strangers not gathering by the hundreds
to search and find them a home?
         What will it take for there to amber alerts for young black children 
To call the public
To act on behalf of these youth who have no home to go
Who have been forced out of their homes
Who have been kicked out of their group homes
Who have been discharged from jail cells
and into the country roads of small towns
  where they are missing
Because no one is looking for them.

…where are the amber alerts for young black boys and girls?

When are we going to start looking for them and give these children a home.

Relisha Rudd we will never stop looking for you. 




****




The Blood on Blue
by Bob McNeil

You have the right to remain silent
Until cruel cops harass you to speak.
You are warned that anything you say
Can and will be taken down and
Used as evidence against you, but  
That excludes the Nazis in blue uniforms.

Some damn cops should be dropped.
Some damn cops should be dropped.

Nazis in blue hunt people of color.
Nazis in blue close doors to justice.
Nazis in blue say we resist arrest.
Nazis in blue think they’re thick whips
And we’re naked backs waiting for pain.
Their badges are for spilling our blood.
Their uniforms are for filling our graves.

Some damn cops should be dropped.
Some damn cops should be dropped.


Nazis in blue, we won’t disremember the names
Of those you wrongfully killed or maimed.
Nazis in blue, we won’t disremember the names
Of those you wrongfully killed or maimed.
Nazis in blue, we won’t disremember the names
Of those you wrongfully killed or maimed.

Some damn cops should be dropped.
Some damn cops should be dropped.

Look at the blood on blue,
Look at the blood on blue,
Look at the blood on blue.



****

 



Simile
by Joshua Weiner

I could feel his hand coming over my hand.
It’s not a haunting, it’s just something that happened,
like a five-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan.

Did he have a gun?  It was still the unknown.
His power a paragon sharpened on a touchstone
to cut down a five-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan.

Let me see your hands!  He does a stutter step,
his hand in his waistband; I keep it on my right hip.
I just want a normal life, that’s it.  That’s it.

Night hangs upon the eyes that see the darker man.
Rain swells the tongue; speech is jargon.
Just like a five-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan,
I felt like a five-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan.




****




No Justice, No Peace of Mind
by S. Renee Mitchell

Hands up
Hands up
Don’t shoot

Behind these words of protest
Is the heart of a skinny, young boy
Scared of the boogeyman called Officer Friendly

Secrecy shrouds the circumstances
Questions of guilt are circumstantial
The full context yet unexplained
A time delay releasing the officer’s name
So, this child adds up what is left in the void of information
And comes up with this:

A white cop assassinated a recent high school graduate
For hours, his teenaged body lay in the neighborhood street
Til the festering agony of powerlessness that ran so deep
In this impoverished and mostly black community
Could not be soothed by hurled obscenities, candlelight vigils
Or agitated graffiti defacing government property

Those who were there
Say the outrage of normally peaceful protestors
Was stoked by an outsized, aggressive police presence
Which showed up in riot gear, with snarling dogs and rubber bullets
A dysfunctional daily existence stoked by persistent oppression
Ultimately gave way to a dysfunctional form of aggression

“You fu*@king animals,” one uniformed cop is quoted on camera
Was it any wonder nonviolence lost its reasoning with chaos that day
Embedded black nationalists simply refused to see its relevancy
And Mike Mike’s death – evidenced by pictures all the world would see
Offered agitators a reason to release evidence of their questionable morality
A perfect excuse for disaffected black youth to kick a bully when he’s down
Brazen looting became a twisted tribute to the troubled memory of Michael Brown

“A riot is the language of the unheard”
Noted Martin Luther King Jr. in his day
Here is the urban translation of modern-day juniors:
“Don’t nobody hear us until we do stuff like this”

Once again, a few blacks behaving badly
Represented all the blacks in that town who did not
And lazy looters made evening news
Instead of the questionable behavior of the cops
Cause on this soil, individuality is a given
Only if your pale skin classifies as white
When one face of color acts like a thug or an ingrate,
It is simply more convenient to assume they are all alike

“No justice, no peace “
“No justice, no peace”
This child’s voice joins adult shouts in the air
But the pavement’s chalk letters
‘I’m just another black boy ‘
Hint of a nagging and unsettling fear

A mother can tell sadness shrouds his bravado
Generations of grief pool behind his eyes
Cause almost every black child suspects that he is a target
And “justice for all” is an American lie

“I saw George Zimmerman get away with it
Now, it’s another case …”

With each step he takes into the night
He weaves in and out of the noise
Car horns blow
People shout
Whistles scream
But when morning comes, what will it all really mean?

“It’s crazy out here, though …”
“You didn’t have to shoot him down …”
“I am just 14 …”
“What if that was me?”

“Am I next, “ he wonders aloud
“Am I next?”



****




My Son
by Melissa Polite

My son know this -- you did not die in vain
I was calling for you to come home
You were my way of telling the world,
it’s time for a change

No, my son you did not die in vain
When you took those bullets and lost your
breath, I felt all of your pain
But my son it was never in vain

Your mother will cry for you
Your father will mourn for you
But your brother will get up and march
for what was done to you
So it was never in vain, the pain you were caused

The world will now know a change is needed
All from a bullet wound that wouldn’t stop bleeding
From a man that was forced to stop breathing
Yes, my son I call you home
But your death was not in vain
It was my way of showing the world it’s time for a change.



****




  
Why? Why not..
by  Kaitlynn E. Hennagan

“This movie can’t be dismissed,” - Danez Smith
at least not yet
The real question is why?
Hmmm.
I wonder why this authors
takes such strong opinion
Is the author angry?
Is the author vain?
Or maybe…
No!
Too many questions
I’m just so confused
Why?
Why not?
All these powerful hesitations
opinions
and quotations.
Why must the author have so much
aggression?

I don’t know
Just please stop asking
It’s too overwhelming.
I can’t take it.
Why.

Is it because of anger,
desperation,
Inspiration? So,
Why…
Why not?
I don’t know why:
You tell me.




****





Black Boy Be Great
by SaShay Butler

Black boy be great
Black boy be everything they tell you,
you ain’t.
Who is they anyway?
Lurking, watching, twatching.
Stop clocking him.
His time here isn’t measured
by tweets or every 28 hours his body remains whole.
while unwelcomed bullets tests his transparency.
he doesn’t have time to be
watching over his shoulder
to see nothingness.
Black and ostentatious;
You walk by me while I
model the emotions on my sleeve.
I can’t publicly grieve for the Black boy
society needs the black boy--
besides, who’s going to be the foundation?
The soil, the sun, the epitome of fire,
and everything that keeps us warm.
Who warns the Black Mother
that there are people who will take away
her global warming,
diminish his worth to a penny.
Her reason for working dead end jobs
to provide her son with a sufficient start..
Who will march… for all?
To see their sons rise in the morning.




****




I Hurt, I Bleed.
by Latoya Jeeter

I hurt,
Not for what bandwagons on the social-less media;
Not for what broadcasts on biased radio stations with presidented symbolism of contracted oppression
Not for  the guilty until proven innocent or the ones waiting in lock-up
But for the voice of screenshots and fragmented angels with low passion- aggression.

I bleed,
Not for the joys of deceit or the love of repetition
Not for the soundless patient with a 100% recovery rate
Not for the time that people say are so short but yet continue to edit to a shorter time that’s controlled
Sometimes, I don’t know what “I” *insert verb here* not for… or what for not…
But once the pen drops, the ink dries, the soul lifts up or that little black boy
dies…
            I hurt,  
            I bleed.



****



Let Us Be Free
by Anonymous

“This movie is about a neighborhood of royal folks-- children of slaves and immigrants and addicts and exiles” - Danez Smith
Thank you for making us think that our way of life did not matter
From the way we talk, to the way we dress, we tried our best
We straightened our hair, we learned how to effectively communicate
We got degrees all over our walls, and even changed our names
Only to disrespect ourselves and the proud legacy that came
before us.
So when judgment day came for you to say, “Depart from me,
I know you not.”
We looked into the mirror that said, “You will glitter like gold.” 





****



(Untitled)
by Anonymous

A little boy in the corner of the room.
A different race, a different believe, a different point of view.
as the room gets smaller, everyone groups, that little boy is growing larger.
As that little room can not shrink any more that little different boy is not so little anymore.
Finally, being noticed by few.
But as those few grow, the not so little boys view is suddenly stopped by
one or two not wanting this boy’s opinion to spread.
We must let those views and opinions of the little different boy

be seen and heard. 




****