Friday, July 29, 2016

Poems that Speak Out Against Violence and for Embrace - Natalie Solmer

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. 


All Day I’m Glued To This World
by Natalie Solmer

can’t look away from its screens—the blood
running out of the man’s body while the lover

watches, records and prays and knows
she could be one second from next, knows

her child could be next. My child, age six, this night
will ask, Is this happening to white people?

(And then I try to explain racism.

I finally go running down 25th, the air so wet
with each hot breath maybe I’ll be left

with something to transcend. Transcend the cop’s gun
fixed, trembling as the camera lens stays fixed, trembles.

A black man cannot reach, cannot hold a toy gun,
cannot sit next to a man with a toy truck, cannot

not incite terror in some imaginations. My son
will refuse to sleep this night, saying, I’m scared for daddy,

those bad cops would kill him. (his dad- 6’3”, dark skinned, muscular)
and scared for himself, Would they shoot someone

who’s mixed with black? What age do they shoot? (not usually
mixed. Tamir Rice. No toy guns that look real. Your orange nerf

guns are OK, I think) He says, Tell me more of these stories.
Are there more stories? (That’s enough now)

Back to that afternoon and our street, a street often
washed in siren. I’ve jogged a mile from our apartment

and see my neighbors—three college age boys who sometimes
smoke marijuana and cigarettes on the balcony, who remind me

of the old days, hanging with my (mostly white) college boys—
but these boys—one dark skinned, one light, one mixed—

they are running toward me in street clothes, not athletic shorts.
One cradles a pizza box. I smile, Hey! They half-wave. Serious.

As we sprint past each other, the traffic swishing, the sun hid,
I can’t bear to ask, What are you running from? Where are your mothers?

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