Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Poems that Speak Out Against Violence and for Embrace - Cheryl Snell

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.


Another Name for Fire
by Cheryl Snell

Mourners fill the church where a boy's broken
mother lights a candle. Its glow ignites,
halting as first steps, radiant as a halo.
The flame stammers above the mother's hands
as she cups heat that will never warm her
again. When sparks fly, they throw shadows
against the walls. They gutter, and the shapes
slump to the floor. The mother tries to call back
the light, to pinch it into being. It's exactly
the wrong thing to do, and the church goes dark,
erasing the ghosts of young men who once
sprawled in the pews, their startled faces lit
in the flicker that just moments before
they hoped they'd never have to see again.

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