Thursday, November 12, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Aimee Suzara

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.

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We come swimming
By Aimee Suzara

A trilingual poem born in Havana, Cuba

“From a port of this island, about seventy canoes came out, each containing three men, or thereabout, while some came swimming and others on logs…They had fine teeth, eyes, mouth, hands and feet, and beautiful long flowing hair, while many of them were very fair.  Very handsome youths were to be seen among them; all were naked and covered no part…indeed, for a barbarous people, naked and of so little reason, one could not restrain himself, at the sight of them, from thanking God for having created them.” (17th century from Antonio de Morga’s History of the Philippine Islands)

We come in boats
Or we come swimming
We come in boats
Or we come swimming
We come in boats
Or we come swimming                                bangka, take me home

We were born with fins                               we come swimming
We were born with gills                              we come swimming
Ipinanganak namin                                    sa ilalalim ng dagat
                                                                 bangka, take me home

Nacimos con aletas                                   nadando
Nacimos con branquias                               nadando
Ipinanganak namin                                   sa ilalim ng dagat
                                                                  bangka, take me home

Venimos en los botes
O nadando
Venimos en los barcos
O nadando
Venimos en los cuerpos
O nadando                                                  bangka, take me home

Venimos en los botes
Y viviendo
Venimos en los barcos
Y viviendo
Venimos en los cuerpos
Y viviendo
                                                                bangka, balikan tayo
                                                                balikan tayo al mar profundo
                                                                regresemos al mar
                               Sa ilalim ng dagat

bangka, take me home

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