Thursday, May 28, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Cheyenne Marcelus

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.

We asked poets to give us 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: suicide-related language

Opening the Space
By Cheyenne Marcelus

I bruised my shins and scraped my elbows trying to dance in this tight space;
I bruised my forehead on the ceiling fan when I tried to fly;
I slit my wrist on the door trying to escape;
I carpet burned my knees praying for deliverance.
Every break in my skin served
as a reminder that I was just
too big.

There was no room to toss and turn in my sleep;
I lay awake rubbing my fingertips against the ceiling,
it was low enough to touch.
I thought I'd hurt myself if I ever
stood tall.

But I grew tired of slouching.

So I took a sledgehammer to the walls
and opened the space;
I opened a window and let the light in;
I broke out,
I read,
I traveled,
I danced wildly across the continents
and prayed in tongues.
I left home
and came back without conventions;
A tight grip on loose morals,
forsaking traditions.
Arms stretched so wide
I put pressure on the walls,
opening the space that confined me.

Every break in my skin eventually closed,
opening me up to the universe.

Listen as Cheyenne Marcelus reads "Opening the Space."

Previously published in the self-published poetry collection Good Me: A Poetic Journey to Self-Acceptance and Self-Preservation.

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