Thursday, August 6, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Jory Mickelson

We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond.  ― Gwendolyn Brooks  

Split This Rock Virtual Open Mic announcement includes a black background with red Split This Rock logo, text that reads "Virtual Open Mic," and an illustration of a hanging lamp sending out rays of light over a laptop.
As we journey through political, economic, and global health crises, we turn to poetry to share truths that unearth underlying causes, illuminate impacts, and insist on transformative change. For many of us, today’s challenges are not new. The struggle of isolation, economic insecurity, inadequate medical care, deadly institutionalized negligence, governmental decisions that put Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, disabled, sick, and other structurally precarious people at greater risk are not new. Today, many more people are experiencing the vulnerability of these unrelenting issues. We recognize this opportunity for a heightened awareness of how our very survival depends on one another.

Poetry can help keep the flame of resilience, solidarity, and resistance alive in us. It can help us process and move through grief, anger, loneliness. Poetry can be a comfort when the most necessary actions are to rest and recover. It can remind us of what’s at stake, that our lives and legacy are worth the fight. As cultural workers, we know that culture shapes our political and social imagination at a foundational level. As poets, we can use poetry to map what is, what has been, and possibly, the way forward, including the reasons not to return to what does not honor and protect our lives, our communities, and our planet.

From late April to mid-May, Split This Rock asked poets to send the words they chant to get out of bed, to raise their fists, to encourage their kin, to remind us, as this crisis does, that “we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” To read all of these poems, visit Split This Rock’s website.

***
Content Advisory: Reference to Sexual Assault

Trixter
By Jory Mickelson

I don’t need a magic           
to tell me how fucked & fractured

this world is, nothing                      
can wrap it into wholeness.

Why is it a crime to             
change shape? Why police

a body that won’t                 
hold still? I have been sand

for men who raked             
their hands along my every

side, been water parted &              
pushed through. Been for them

fire too, lit them                  
quick & been lit, pyre we used

to climb the air, breath       
exultant ladder. I’ve been

stone, broke them               
and didn’t break, refused to be

plowed from the earth.                   
I could be something gentle,

wind maybe or grass, dew 
to meet a hand extended to see

what might actually be       
there: this queer, changeable

body, my trixter shape.                  
Give a man the sun & they’ll

walk away as you sift                      
into ash. Ask for water

& they’ll say your anger      
keeps you in the dark.



Listen as Jory Mickelson reads "Trixter."


Previously published in Indolent Books, What Rough Beast series (October 5, 2018).

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Patsy Asuncion

We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond.  ― Gwendolyn Brooks  

Split This Rock Virtual Open Mic announcement includes a black background with red Split This Rock logo, text that reads "Virtual Open Mic," and an illustration of a hanging lamp sending out rays of light over a laptop.
As we journey through political, economic, and global health crises, we turn to poetry to share truths that unearth underlying causes, illuminate impacts, and insist on transformative change. For many of us, today’s challenges are not new. The struggle of isolation, economic insecurity, inadequate medical care, deadly institutionalized negligence, governmental decisions that put Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, disabled, sick, and other structurally precarious people at greater risk are not new. Today, many more people are experiencing the vulnerability of these unrelenting issues. We recognize this opportunity for a heightened awareness of how our very survival depends on one another.

Poetry can help keep the flame of resilience, solidarity, and resistance alive in us. It can help us process and move through grief, anger, loneliness. Poetry can be a comfort when the most necessary actions are to rest and recover. It can remind us of what’s at stake, that our lives and legacy are worth the fight. As cultural workers, we know that culture shapes our political and social imagination at a foundational level. As poets, we can use poetry to map what is, what has been, and possibly, the way forward, including the reasons not to return to what does not honor and protect our lives, our communities, and our planet.

From late April to mid-May, Split This Rock asked poets to send the words they chant to get out of bed, to raise their fists, to encourage their kin, to remind us, as this crisis does, that “we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” To read all of these poems, visit Split This Rock’s website.

***

Lonely George is Dead
By Patsy Asuncion

We should bow deeply before the orchid and the snail
…before the monarch butterfly and the magnolia tree.
The feeling of respect for all species will help us
recognize the noblest nature in ourselves.
– Nhat Hanh, 
About Place Journal, May 2019

From filthy bilges of merchant ships
came furry invaders that gorged
their bellies with raw natives,
overran the islands.

Human gods later brought wolfsnails
to “biocontrol” other island creatures
as if using one life to kill another
were sanctified, but

the wolfsnails disobeyed
the human gods and slayed
scores of smaller natives.

Human gods picked favorites
among the living, like chameleons as pets,
that had huge appetites for little natives.

Loss of forest vegetation by human’s
pigs and goats drove native survivors
to the safety of mountain trees, a banishment
of innocence by entitlement.

The last survivor of his tribe, kept alive
in a lab fourteen years, Lonely George
has died, the last Hawaiian tree snail
of Achatinella apexfulva, one of the
first species discovered on the islands.

Three-fourths of snail species in Hawaii
are now extinct, forever dead. Ten remaining
species are expected to join George this decade,
a dooms day assembly line. Human gods may be unconcerned

by yet another foreigner’s death until they realize
tree snails control fungal abundance and diversity,
vital necessities. But, survival of the gods would require
they look away from their own needs first.



Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Katherine Anderson Howell

We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond.  ― Gwendolyn Brooks  

Split This Rock Virtual Open Mic announcement includes a black background with red Split This Rock logo, text that reads "Virtual Open Mic," and an illustration of a hanging lamp sending out rays of light over a laptop.
As we journey through political, economic, and global health crises, we turn to poetry to share truths that unearth underlying causes, illuminate impacts, and insist on transformative change. For many of us, today’s challenges are not new. The struggle of isolation, economic insecurity, inadequate medical care, deadly institutionalized negligence, governmental decisions that put Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, disabled, sick, and other structurally precarious people at greater risk are not new. Today, many more people are experiencing the vulnerability of these unrelenting issues. We recognize this opportunity for a heightened awareness of how our very survival depends on one another.

Poetry can help keep the flame of resilience, solidarity, and resistance alive in us. It can help us process and move through grief, anger, loneliness. Poetry can be a comfort when the most necessary actions are to rest and recover. It can remind us of what’s at stake, that our lives and legacy are worth the fight. As cultural workers, we know that culture shapes our political and social imagination at a foundational level. As poets, we can use poetry to map what is, what has been, and possibly, the way forward, including the reasons not to return to what does not honor and protect our lives, our communities, and our planet.

From late April to mid-May, Split This Rock asked poets to send the words they chant to get out of bed, to raise their fists, to encourage their kin, to remind us, as this crisis does, that “we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” To read all of these poems, visit Split This Rock’s website.

***

Hestia Vs. The Pandemic
By Katherine Anderson Howell

Yes, I sit and eat potato chips 
right out of the bag.
No goddess in the know
would try to clean up this 
state of affairs, this hearth
littered with shipping boxes
and masks.  Look, it isn’t enough 
to say, You were warned.
But you were. Yet here you are, 
in my fireplace, with another 
bad offering. I rule
over feasting, the intact 
household, the state, and
its buildings. What is it
you think a supplication to me
will achieve? What do
you expect for me to do?
Even I have hit pause
on my desmense,
sitting alone with my snacks,
shooing away the would-be
architects of demise. Fine, fine, 
I’ll do something, but it
won’t be what you want.
Don’t look to me to make
the miracle of social distance
go away, for your life
to return to what you once
thought was normal. 
When I wash my hands
free of chip crumbs,
I intend to show you
how to bake your own 
bread, how to dig
a garden, how to sew,
how to build a new domestic
to stretch long, and open and flat, 
so you can still see the sky,
so you remember the goddess
you beg for relief is also
the goddess of welcome.
My temples always public, 
My flames ready to warm all, 
make new households, new rules.


Listen as Katherine Anderson Howell reads “Hestia Vs. The Pandemic.”

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Stewart Shaw

We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond.  ― Gwendolyn Brooks  

Split This Rock Virtual Open Mic announcement includes a black background with red Split This Rock logo, text that reads "Virtual Open Mic," and an illustration of a hanging lamp sending out rays of light over a laptop.
As we journey through political, economic, and global health crises, we turn to poetry to share truths that unearth underlying causes, illuminate impacts, and insist on transformative change. For many of us, today’s challenges are not new. The struggle of isolation, economic insecurity, inadequate medical care, deadly institutionalized negligence, governmental decisions that put Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, disabled, sick, and other structurally precarious people at greater risk are not new. Today, many more people are experiencing the vulnerability of these unrelenting issues. We recognize this opportunity for a heightened awareness of how our very survival depends on one another.

Poetry can help keep the flame of resilience, solidarity, and resistance alive in us. It can help us process and move through grief, anger, loneliness. Poetry can be a comfort when the most necessary actions are to rest and recover. It can remind us of what’s at stake, that our lives and legacy are worth the fight. As cultural workers, we know that culture shapes our political and social imagination at a foundational level. As poets, we can use poetry to map what is, what has been, and possibly, the way forward, including the reasons not to return to what does not honor and protect our lives, our communities, and our planet.

From late April to mid-May, Split This Rock asked poets to send the words they chant to get out of bed, to raise their fists, to encourage their kin, to remind us, as this crisis does, that “we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” To read all of these poems, visit Split This Rock’s website.

***

Jumpin' for joy
By Stewart Shaw

If only He could
jump
UP, jump the imposed
Bail for living while black             jump the gap between
Home and WTF, jump
jump bad,                jump
back home, jump
Back into childhood---

The cow jumped over the moon the little
Boy laughed

If only He could                jump
Rope, into a mother’s
Arms,    jump so quick
Nothing could penetrate.  He needs to get
A jump on, get the jump on, be
One jump ahead. If only
He hadn’t gotten                           jumped
On his way to tomorrow. We will 
Listen to hear him           JUMP
The broom- in our dreams
We know his jumping
Is magic

Jump up and down, for joy.  If 
Only He would have
Jumped sooner.  Blk boys
Who have not learned to JUMP
Like frogs :: crickets in the thickets,
Jump between the lines
Single or double dutch 

Get jumped and dumped
Into graves
Shallow enough to let
Memory seep out
Jumping up to splash
Our dreams
While jumping
Over the sky      blk
Boys are often mistaken
For vultures.  Shot 
on sight



Listen as Stewart Shaw reads “Jumpin' for joy.”

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Leonora Simonovis

We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond.  ― Gwendolyn Brooks  

Split This Rock Virtual Open Mic announcement includes a black background with red Split This Rock logo, text that reads "Virtual Open Mic," and an illustration of a hanging lamp sending out rays of light over a laptop.
As we journey through political, economic, and global health crises, we turn to poetry to share truths that unearth underlying causes, illuminate impacts, and insist on transformative change. For many of us, today’s challenges are not new. The struggle of isolation, economic insecurity, inadequate medical care, deadly institutionalized negligence, governmental decisions that put Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, disabled, sick, and other structurally precarious people at greater risk are not new. Today, many more people are experiencing the vulnerability of these unrelenting issues. We recognize this opportunity for a heightened awareness of how our very survival depends on one another.

Poetry can help keep the flame of resilience, solidarity, and resistance alive in us. It can help us process and move through grief, anger, loneliness. Poetry can be a comfort when the most necessary actions are to rest and recover. It can remind us of what’s at stake, that our lives and legacy are worth the fight. As cultural workers, we know that culture shapes our political and social imagination at a foundational level. As poets, we can use poetry to map what is, what has been, and possibly, the way forward, including the reasons not to return to what does not honor and protect our lives, our communities, and our planet.

From late April to mid-May, Split This Rock asked poets to send the words they chant to get out of bed, to raise their fists, to encourage their kin, to remind us, as this crisis does, that “we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” To read all of these poems, visit Split This Rock’s website.

***

Ode to Piojos
By Leonora Simonovis

A nymph slid
from a blade of hair
onto my homework,
little legs pedaling

air. I let it walk
away. The principal
called me sucia, expelled
me until I proved

I was clean. Third worlder
he called me. You should’ve
never come. I went home
thinking New Haven

is a misleading name
for a city. My mother
combed, washed,
and sprayed my scalp.

I felt them running,
their house on fire.
We kill them, yet they
come back. Resilience

has a piojo’s wisdom.
When I went back
to school they checked
my head. Gone

the secretary said.
The principal frowned

not yet


Listen as Leonora Simonovis reads “Ode to Piojos.”

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Mercedes Lawry

We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond.  ― Gwendolyn Brooks  

Split This Rock Virtual Open Mic announcement includes a black background with red Split This Rock logo, text that reads "Virtual Open Mic," and an illustration of a hanging lamp sending out rays of light over a laptop.
As we journey through political, economic, and global health crises, we turn to poetry to share truths that unearth underlying causes, illuminate impacts, and insist on transformative change. For many of us, today’s challenges are not new. The struggle of isolation, economic insecurity, inadequate medical care, deadly institutionalized negligence, governmental decisions that put Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, disabled, sick, and other structurally precarious people at greater risk are not new. Today, many more people are experiencing the vulnerability of these unrelenting issues. We recognize this opportunity for a heightened awareness of how our very survival depends on one another.

Poetry can help keep the flame of resilience, solidarity, and resistance alive in us. It can help us process and move through grief, anger, loneliness. Poetry can be a comfort when the most necessary actions are to rest and recover. It can remind us of what’s at stake, that our lives and legacy are worth the fight. As cultural workers, we know that culture shapes our political and social imagination at a foundational level. As poets, we can use poetry to map what is, what has been, and possibly, the way forward, including the reasons not to return to what does not honor and protect our lives, our communities, and our planet. 

From late April to mid-May, Split This Rock asked poets to send the words they chant to get out of bed, to raise their fists, to encourage their kin, to remind us, as this crisis does, that “we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” To read all of these poems, visit Split This Rock’s website.

***

In the Early Garden with Reason
By Mercedes Lawry


How did that one huge fist
of a cloud form, alone
in the empty sky? What is weather
but a moment in time
surrounded by atmospheric jazz,
a roil of ions, collision and hiss?

I am sometimes in awe
and sometimes puzzled.
There is no telling what will shake you up.
March wrestled itself in
trailing webs of frost.
I take cold comfort in the crocus,
plum and yellow, moon-white,
in the emerging green furls.

How does this stack up against
the scofflaws flapping their greedy hands?
You pay attention or you don’t.
You plant the early peas and the onions,
knowing the slugs are making their way.
You swallow the cold wind and are glad of it.


Listen as Mercedes Lawry reads "In the Early Garden with Reason."

Previously published in Theodate, 2012. 

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Emily K. Michael

We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond.  ― Gwendolyn Brooks  

Split This Rock Virtual Open Mic announcement includes a black background with red Split This Rock logo, text that reads "Virtual Open Mic," and an illustration of a hanging lamp sending out rays of light over a laptop.
As we journey through political, economic, and global health crises, we turn to poetry to share truths that unearth underlying causes, illuminate impacts, and insist on transformative change. For many of us, today’s challenges are not new. The struggle of isolation, economic insecurity, inadequate medical care, deadly institutionalized negligence, governmental decisions that put Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, disabled, sick, and other structurally precarious people at greater risk are not new. Today, many more people are experiencing the vulnerability of these unrelenting issues. We recognize this opportunity for a heightened awareness of how our very survival depends on one another.

Poetry can help keep the flame of resilience, solidarity, and resistance alive in us. It can help us process and move through grief, anger, loneliness. Poetry can be a comfort when the most necessary actions are to rest and recover. It can remind us of what’s at stake, that our lives and legacy are worth the fight. As cultural workers, we know that culture shapes our political and social imagination at a foundational level. As poets, we can use poetry to map what is, what has been, and possibly, the way forward, including the reasons not to return to what does not honor and protect our lives, our communities, and our planet.

From late April to mid-May, Split This Rock asked poets to send the words  they chant to get out of bed, to raise their fists, to encourage their kin, to remind us, as this crisis does, that “we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” To read all of these poems, visit Split This Rock’s website.

***

Because I Hired a Friend
By Emily K. Michael

A gentle hand adjusts the lift of my chin,
a soft voice commends my expression.
She steps back and tells me not to worry.

Beside me on the iron bench the dog’s tongue
hangs out. He didn’t want to hop up here—
but with much praise and tapping
of the vacant space at my left, I persuaded him.

Now he leans into my lap. Glossy black
along the crushed grape of my dress,
he nuzzles the fringed scarf in my hands.

The photographer says, Look up.
She scales the ironwork and foregrounds
herself against the summer evening.

I see her silhouette, fighting wind and gravity—
listen for the camera’s capable chirps, and smile.
I know my dog’s nearness, generous and warm.



Listen as Emily K. Michael reads "Because I Hired a Friend."

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Olatunde Osinaike

We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond.  ― Gwendolyn Brooks  

Split This Rock Virtual Open Mic announcement includes a black background with red Split This Rock logo, text that reads "Virtual Open Mic," and an illustration of a hanging lamp sending out rays of light over a laptop.
As we journey through political, economic, and global health crises, we turn to poetry to share truths that unearth underlying causes, illuminate impacts, and insist on transformative change. For many of us, today’s challenges are not new. The struggle of isolation, economic insecurity, inadequate medical care, deadly institutionalized negligence, governmental decisions that put Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, disabled, sick, and other structurally precarious people at greater risk are not new. Today, many more people are experiencing the vulnerability of these unrelenting issues. We recognize this opportunity for a heightened awareness of how our very survival depends on one another.

Poetry can help keep the flame of resilience, solidarity, and resistance alive in us. It can help us process and move through grief, anger, loneliness. Poetry can be a comfort when the most necessary actions are to rest and recover. It can remind us of what’s at stake, that our lives and legacy are worth the fight. As cultural workers, we know that culture shapes our political and social imagination at a foundational level. As poets, we can use poetry to map what is, what has been, and possibly, the way forward, including the reasons not to return to what does not honor and protect our lives, our communities, and our planet.

From late April to mid-May, Split This Rock asked poets to send the words they chant to get out of bed, to raise their fists, to encourage their kin, to remind us, as this crisis does, that “we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” To read all of these poems, visit Split This Rock’s website.

***

Nevertheless
By Olatunde Osinaike

"When I walk into church, I only see pictures of white angels. Why?"―Eartha Kitt

I want to take this time to focus on the timeless, as certain ones take
up arms to remove the lifetimes of those like me. My favorite word
above: a dove that sounds like I forgive myself, like a red redacted,
like a gospel according to the camaraderie I can make cousins out of.

There is no new ecclesiastical under the sun. No shortage of my people
sporting basketball shorts beneath true religion jeans. We reincarnate
every morning in these precincts with the good news delivered more
than once already. The protests of messengers sent down, the blaze

after the crossfire, a chosen people who are either a jaywalk away
from the love of our lives or our lives left to love. I have found that
the self can be its own exodus, be a black sitcom or an intercessor
for the one who waits but never goes. When I say my favorite word,

I think of how often our joy can become a win-win, how the pores of
a mother can cup holy water. Some say the world is still becoming,
but no, our angels are arrived. They are in the streets where peace
is sold separately and critique is still, policed. They stay in the cut

and on exhibit, like a glass-stained window meant to color the light.
Know we have everything in common. Nobody move. I want to
capture this moment where we are one with the unease that stomachs
us like a morning rush. How we might fill in the blank with our story,

our chalices kept next to our paper plates, our fried and our black-eyed,
our dressing, our Lawry’s, our fridge tetris, and most of all, our seconds. 





Listen as Olatunde Osinaike reads "Nevertheless."