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.
Bringing Disparate Things Together to Create a Shape
by Barbara March
I'm out of touch with your pyramids,
with the horse who shrieks light,
with the red balloon riddled
in the crow's beak as a neon sign
blares the confederate flag at Woody's saloon.
With how black is the crow, how
brown the horse, how red the balloon?
Can I answer in one comfortable kowtow?
Or skip protocol, take the heat, pocket
the Pleiades and Neruda's surrogate
who told how brown men navigated
the pacific by their balls. how
white women rolled on the white
floor of the world and howled at the night.