Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Poems that Speak Out Against Violence and for Embrace - Jennifer Maritza McCauley

If the back & arms you carry riddle with black
spots & marks made by birds who don’t want us here—
I will remind you: There are people who did this before us,
brown & black-spotted, yellow, with rattails,
born from what others did not want & loathed & aimed
to never let belong, & so, we are here today—
the field is wide. We make saliva from root & light.
Our spikelets grow, & do you feel the wind?
       - Joe Jiménez, Smutgrass

Orlando. Dhaka. Istanbul. Baghdad. Medina. Nice. The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the murder of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. This summer, terrible bigotry and violence have rent our global community. The killings must end, and we in the poetry community must contribute in any way we can. As we search for answers to these horrors and for ways to combat hatred and prejudice, we are reminded of poetry’s capacity to respond to violence, to help us regenerate, like spikelets sprouting in a contested field, claiming our public spaces for everyone.

In solidarity with all those targeted at home and abroad, from the LGBT community in the United States to devastated families of Baghdad, Split This Rock is offering its blog as a Virtual Open Mic. Over the next couple of weeks, from July 14 to 28, we are requesting poems in response to and against violence toward marginalized communities. After the Virtual Open Mic closes, we hope to print out and mail all of the poems to Congress and the National Rifle Association.

We are accepting poems through July 28; for more information, read the initial post here.


Old Blood
by Jennifer Maritza McCauley

Before they tell us how to look
at our kilt brothers' bodies:

Tell them we already know how to see 'em.
Tell them we been mournin' bullet-warmed
blood long before they told us: now this is how
you interpret a death

Tell them we grew up learning how to
Tell them we grew up learning how to run.

Tell them we been smearing our brothers'
dark wet stuff on our berry-black cheeks
long before those folks was mewlin' and baby-soft

Tell them our blood belongs
to all of them too.
Tell them to look at our wounds, still
hot and wide-open:

damn it, just
look look look


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