Thursday, September 3, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – adrienne danyelle oliver

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.


:food stamp line
By adrienne danyelle oliver

HEART breaks in this place. I wait in line where the footprints tell me

exactly six feet behind the person in front of me

I can’t take my eyes off the cheap suit that greets me

I knows good suits

not because I can afford them but because I used to work

for folks who could

Cheap suit gives me paper, pen 

a clipboard to press on

to make sure the social goes through

white, pink, and yellow

Waiting for my number

to be called

I read a book

(ideas between shiny covers

holding pages bound by thread and industrial glue) 

supposedly to save my life

I sit  here

because Words cannot feed me as much as chewing

Good intentions and ideas cannot comfort me as much as

fullness in my belly


when my number is called

a strained smile greets me

I wonder what it feels like to be graced with a living smile--

a parting of lips and a dancing of teeth--rather than this ghost of one

strained smile leads me to a cubicle

does not ask about my day

make small talk about the weather

I walk behind her in silence

comforted(?) by the assumption that she is doing fine. Like I am

really not. Both our bodies occupying the space 

of 99%. That good government salary barely enough

to pay her rent 

We both walked into this building

carrying a weighted breath 

Listen as adrienne danyelle oliver reads ":food stamp line."

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