At Split This Rock we are heartsick at the murder and other violence committed by white supremacist nationalists over the weekend in Charlottesville, VA. We know these actions are of a piece with our nation’s long bloody history of genocide and exploitation. And we know that one of the powerful tools of repression is silencing, in this case insisting that the American story is the story of whiteness.
As ever, poets are rewriting that narrative.
The poets of the Split This Rock community come from the groups white supremacists aim to silence, dominate, or destroy outright: we are queer, we are people of color, we are people with disabilities, we are women, we are people of many faiths and no faith, we are white allies, and we are progressives.
We are powerful visionaries and chroniclers, we are fierce advocates and activists. Split This Rock poets have long offered necessary poetic witness of, and protest against, both the oppression advocated by racist and anti-Semitic neo-Nazis and their ilk and the harm we suffer at the hands of racist institutions.
In this terrible moment, in support of all who seek a world free of hatred and oppression, we offer selected poems from The Quarry, excerpted below, in praise of resistance and social justice movements -- tinged with hurt, hope, and joy -- reminders of our communities’ resilience.
|Photo by Eze Amos: ezeamosphotography.com|
Should you want them as well, The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database is also home to many powerful poems that address themes of racism, violence, police brutality, and the several intersecting injustices that affect our communities and our earth. We offer too the YouTube channels of Split This Rock and the DC Youth Slam Team, where you’ll find performances of striking power and beauty. Please feel free to share all these resources.
Solidarity events are everywhere this week. Find one near you at the website of Indivisible. You can organize your own and register it on their website as well. Bring a poem to read – one offered below or one of your own or any that speaks the grief, power, and resilience you seek and find in speaking out and acting against injustice. Jewish Voice for Peace lists several places to donate on their website.
With poetry on our lips and our fists in the air,
Split This Rock
NOTE: In most cases these are excerpts. To read the full poem and to learn more about the poet, please click on the link below the excerpt.
Vox Populi for the Marooned
By Vincent Toro
We will break nothing when we leave, bind ourselves like cloth around
a fevered chest, float across plazas like a warm sponge over a sore shin,
and become a shameless shore of sin carousing, a flesh tinted mandala
of static bribing the sky with the promise that we will gather here each
day until fear is in need of hospice. And we will come bearing incense
and peach pie. And whenever the wounds of injustice are salted in our
favelas we will gather again in the squares of Tiananmen and Taksim,
of Tahrir and Trafalgar, of Bolivar and Union. Like barnacles or fluorescent
algae, we will gather… we will gather… we will gather…
YOU ARE WHO I LOVE
By Aracelis Girmay
You protecting the river You are who I love
delivering babies, nursing the sick
You with henna on your feet and a gold star in your nose
You taking your medicine, reading the magazines
You looking into the faces of young people as they pass, smiling and saying, Alright! which, they know it, means I see you, Family. I love you. Keep on.
Our Movable Mecca
By Danez Smith
we who were born into conundrum, came into the world as the world was leaving, children of the ozone, the oppressed, the overlooked, of obtuse greed, of oil overlords, of oblong definitions of justice
who asked for water & were given a border, a wall in the ocean, a wall in the air, a wall right down the middle of our bodies, bodies left to sun dry, bodies
told they were barely bodies, bodies emptied of blood & rights, bodies whispered into rumor
who were hungry & were given a cell to hunger in & sometimes saw our own flesh transfigured into prisons, running in circles trying to escape ourselves
Declaration of Inter-Dependence
By Richard Blanco
We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor…
We’re the living who light vigil candles and the cop who didn’t shoot. We’re the inmate with his volunteer teacher diagraming sentences, the Buddhist alongside the stockbroker serving soup at a shelter. We’re the grandfather taking a selfie with his grandson and his husband, the widow’s fifty cents in the collection plate and the golfer’s ten-thousand-dollar pledge for a cure.We hold these truths to be self-evident…
We’re them. They’re you. You’re me. We’re us: a handshake, a smile good morning on the bus, a door held open, a seat we give up on the subway. We tend restrooms or sell art, make huevos rancheros or herbed salmon, run for mayor or restock shelves, work a backhoe or write poems. We’re a poem in progress.http://www.splitthisrock.org/poetry-database/poem/declaration-of-inter-dependence
Ode To What We Make
By Kathy Engel
and praise the longed for moon
casting the night, the heaving rain,
its wet coat, praise each alphabet’s
lonely letter clamoring for light,
resisting the end of memory, the
end of touch, each cell and clot
still alive in any language,
still gorgeous, to be invented,
praise the clumsiness of this
word sharpening its animal teeth
for the love of the cub.
‘I am broken by the revolt exploding inside me’
By Minal Hajratwala
Your rage is the fulcrum of your desire, chimaerae busting out of cages, heart-sparks flying. Your rage gets shit done & it is no joke. Your rage is the luminous gold truth of sunrise, what you sit with long enough to dissolve your fear. Your rage is a checkmate to your compromise. Your rage is heat from a magnifying glass, focused, bursting into flame.
Til the Taste of Free in Our Mouths (Brown Baby
By Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes
Wake baby, wake child, this lullaby will break the cage
You will taste the blood of your brothers in our milk, remembering
their glorious beauty as it warms your throat, you will
not know the cold of the concrete that swallowed them whole.
We are a swarm, a pride, a righteous and thick army
By Ruth Forman
why so afraid to stand up?
someone will tell you
but here is the truth
someone will always tell you
the ones we remember
By Gowri Koneswaran
hold hands when
they come calling,
when they threaten,
"this is necessary to
teach you a lesson" or
"this is necessary
to protect you"
hold hands when we stand still,
when we walk, when
when they tell us to
when they tell us
to do anything
The World We Want Is Us
By Alice Walker
It moves my heart to see your awakened faces;
the look of "aha!"
shining, finally, in
wide open eyes.
Yes, we are the 99%
all of us
refusing to forget
from Say Yes
By Andrea Gibson
‘cause tonight Saturn is on his knees
proposing with all of his ten thousand rings
that whatever song we’ve been singing we sing even more.
The world needs us right now more than it ever has before.
Pull all your strings.
Play every chord.