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."

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Jennifer Lentfer

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.

***

This body is made
By Jennifer Lentfer
This body is made of resistance.
Its defiance muscle, its beating heart
--as long as it's beating--
is strong.
But not without its softness,
not without its brokenness,
which twinges,
it seems,
rather constantly
during a pandemic,
when this body is at once
utterly safe and contained and under threat and free.

This body is made of resistance.
The virus is not what can ravage it.
This body has tricked oblivion, and
erasure, and again and again
and it will again.
This body is made for its
place, this place,
until it is not.
Covenants with it, with the breath of us, have been
repeatedly broken.
Yet still it stands.

This body breathes and moves
and writes and cooks and
dances and weeps and shouts
and releases
with pleasure and shaking and prayer.

This body is here.
It is mine, ours.
And it will not recede in fear.
This body was forged by resistance.
This body was finally cherished
through resistance.
Let me not forget, this body
was born of love.


Listen as Jennifer Lentfer reads "This body is made."

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Shooooz

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.

***

Oh, Angry America
By Shooooz

I took a walk round the block           today
feeling you

                                                    step for step
behind me –        it surprised me because
I was also seeing you
                                                       in parallel
behind my brother                a block away.

like Satan
you manage to be everywhere

when I quicken my pace I feel you match it
                                                               I imagine
it must be weird for you,                 who wants
so badly to pull ahead                             to find
yourself always a few steps behind
                                                          giving chase
                                                               by choice.

but like Satan
you manage to be everywhere

everywhere, except
                                                            in the lead
where you want to be
                                                                  instead
you paint maps in hot lead             charting a
path to your supremacy
                                                         uncontested
an empty playing field is the only one     you
consider fair.

so like Satan
you manage to be everywhere

and when I beg you to lift those hands off of
me                                                 or my brother
you raise them
                                in a mockery of surrender
                                                               or terror
you beg me
                              with laughter in your voice
not to hurt you         as you curl three fingers
to make a gun of your fist
                      lead ready to scream from flesh
and when I                      look down the barrel
                                        of your pointed finger
and when I            gather my nerve to charge
at you                          you are no longer there
and when I               look up from the ground
I find your steel-eyed stare.

‘cause like Satan
you manage to be everywhere


Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Ayling Dominguez

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.

***

Will You?
By Ayling Dominguez

When he speaks in hyperbole it is legitimate
When I do it is
Unfounded
Exaggerated
Another language
Without basis
He speaks his mind without ever thinking twice
But for me, carelessness is too overpriced
Can’t afford not to crash test every thought
And maybe that’s just the way it is when
Meticulous planning runs in the blood
Same way my mother did in the mud
Waited for rain to obstruct border cameras
Render her a bit harder to see
Migrants got that shit down to a science
Because they know better
Know that for us, it is ill-advised
To roll the dice
That if I did, I’d probably get snake eyes
Even though chances of that are 1/36. 2.7%.
And I’ve only ever scored 90-above
2x the work to get half as far
And since it’s numbers we speak of
Oh, I would like to be counted.
But not the way you do
With two red hands’ ten greedy fingers
I am
too
much to be held
& not up for inspection from atop your high horse or watchtower
My fuller consideration
Requires your dismounting
Climb down
Count with your toes
Look like a fool as you attempt to
adjust, adapt — after all
We’ve always had to
Then again
Maybe I don’t just want to be counted, but counted justly;
Maybe instead
If given the option
I’d ask to be
turned into a tree seed
And planted
But only if
you would stop turning me into money
And only if
you would recognize and do right by Native family
Only if
You would
Adjust, adapt
after all
We’ve always had to


Listen as Ayling Dominguez reads “Will You?

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Marlena Chertock

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.

***

Insomnia in a pandemic
by Marlena Chertock

You’re not sleeping well,
when do you ever. As a kid
at sleepovers, you were the last

to pass out. At one friend’s
birthday party, you laid awake
for hours in the living room

among the sleeping bags,
the snoring impossible
to sleep through.

So you climbed the stairs
quietly to your friend’s bedroom,
took the clock off the wall,

hid it in the bathroom.
The quiet, then, so soothing
you slept through breakfast.

You try not to think
about people dying
alone in their ICU beds,

that doctors wear the same mask
for days, forced to choose
who gets a ventilator,

try not to think about your disabled peers,
older folks, the immunocompromised,
who may be denied treatment.

Then you’re wondering
will you ever see your parents
again? How long will this last?

You just got groceries,
but consider buying more.
Make a list in your head

instead of sleep.
You try to picture the stores
in your neighborhood.

You don’t know if they’ll
all be there when this is over.
In 12-18 months

will they really find a vaccine?
There’s still no vaccine for HIV.
Why should this virus be different?

The speed all our lives changed
keeps you awake, reading the news.
Is a city still a city

with people stuck inside?
No cars honking outside your window,
no smiling at people you pass on the street,

it invites closeness. Stay six feet
apart, maybe further
just to be safe.

If this is ever over,
should the world be the same?



Listen as Marlena Chertock reads "Insomnia in a pandemic."