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.
by Catherine Kyle
You pick up your gun to do violence,
malice clenching its five nails into atrium,
into ventricle. Pumping fervent, scarlet
hatred into every vein. You are a network
of violence. A canopy for rage. You move
with heavy feet toward what offends your
eye. However, this is not your day. This
immune response will not have it. You
stumble on a briar. Vines nautilus your leg.
Enormous leaves shuffle down and lift
away your rifle. Its gleam ascends into the
green as if a silver bird. Your face drains
with terror now. A luminous angel approaches.
Its face shifting from man to woman to elder
to child to light. Its face shifting skin and
hair to reflect all those taken. Its face shifting
to reflect those you would seek to take.
The angel approaches on silent feet. And we
are behind it, singing. And we are behind it,
holding hands, singing, Never again.