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.
by Richard Krawiec
A mother stretches her child on cold bricks between two lines of rails under gray skies to change her diaper while some man snaps a photo with his phone, and behind them black-jacketed policemen stand in a blur of No to keep the others off the tracks. At another border, a woman places her infant on a scatter of prickly straw beneath a thin patch of shade cast by one small tree in a landscape of heat-white skies. Her back is turned away from the dog, bloated by death, lying atop a scatter of empty water bottles. On a rain-damp crinkle of Fall leaves, a mother takes her last diaper, washed in a puddle, wrung out as best as two human hands can twist moisture from cloth in the rain. Her baby’s skin, bomb-flare red, is cratered with pus-yellow ulcers. She must coo to choke her crying as she wraps, gently as possible, her child’s inflamed skin with this slap of dampness, necessary torture to allow them to join the human train again.