Friday, December 12, 2014

Poems that Resist Police Brutality & Demand Racial Justice - Post #4

We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest 

Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers' sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother's son -- we who believe in freedom cannot rest.
                    - Ella Baker

Even as our hearts break in rage and anguish over the murder of Black and brown people throughout the land by police who are not held accountable, here at Split This Rock we are heartened by the powerful actions in the streets and the visionary leadership of mostly young people of color in this growing movement for justice.

We are also moved by the poets, who continue to speak out, and especially by BlackPoetsSpeakOut.

In solidarity, Split This Rock offers our blog as a Virtual Open Mic, open to all who respond to our call for Poems that Resist Police Brutality and Demand Racial Justice. The poems below were submitted in response to that call.

Please note poems with complex formatting have been posted as jpegs, as this blog has a limited capacity for properly displaying these poems. We apologize if these poems are not accessible to you.

For more information or questions, feel free to email us at

If you are moved by any of the poems below, please contact the Department of Justice and your local representatives to demand police accountability. Visit Ferguson Action Demands for more information.


another lynching
by Persis M. Karim

the body, a rotten
black or brown
blackened and
thrown down
on the trash-heap.
not throat, not hands
not heart, not legs
deserve to stand.
and when they
move, hold them.
don't let one rotten
apple spoil
the whole bunch.


A Prayer
by Nahshon Cook

tonight i went
and prayed

with my feet 
around capitol hill

in peaceful protest
of the recent killings

of Black men
by acquitted White

male police officers
with the thought being

if for some reason 
a bad-apple cop

got his hands on me
and took me out,

i will have died
like i lived: working

to try'n help
heal the hurt.



GRAND jury 
by Persis M. Karim

what makes a grand jury so 
grand when each and every 
verdict seems to indicate 
smallness, erasure-
a sense that the grandiosity
of an institution is 
made smaller and smaller
until it makes those 
perpetrating the crime
feel entitled to a bigness
that shrinks righteousness 
to the margins of the streets
where the voices hushed
by the grand jury 
refuse to be heard? 


by Rachel Eliza Griffiths 

Next to the throne where we are waiting
for your judgment I stand behind your hardback chair.
I don’t tie you to its broken arms. Your arms, already wooden.
I don’t offer you the torture of patience. I don’t offer you
confession. Freedom. You could only give me
what you gave the scholars. A chamber of vapors
you named History.
I give you water. You do not see my blood in it.
We have not tasted pleasure for centuries.
I swivel a tambourine like a word through air
when you insist that I am useless. The music of bells
salvages the wreck of your splendor.
We nod in time to airless trumpets. I watch the scales
of love tilt. I touch your hip & you like that.
You like my bones to want you.
In a solo you know the harmonies that make me
shiver. My lips cold with song & blood.
Are those your lips? Are you smiling?
God & Justice sit at a near table, peel
oranges. Eat chicken & drink wine. Play
tonk & bullshit. War. Their burning scales
& blindfolds pushed back. A bucket
of ears sits atop the bible. A capuchin
studies the players’ hands & takes coins beneath
the table as they move toward each other
like amiable battleships. A radio screeches.
Below us cities unfurl their white flags
& the earth heaves with melting.
I have polished you with my hair. I shine you
with my leather rag of syllables. It’s all I am.
I give you fruit after tasting each seed
for knowledge. Here is a book about war, I say
& you smile, taking it from my bloody hands.
In the government of dreams you are behind
on your paperwork. So you are like democracy.
You offer me your seat. I have been standing
here for over two hundred years. By your side,
against you. Even when you left me
for another woman. The smell of me
singed the sky & the harvest ate
my ashes. I wait for your orders.
I’m starving. Mushroom, nimbus,
tornado, tsunami. Fire. Fire. Fire.
I hold a sterling tray of faces
waiting for you
to make up your mind. 


*First published by Tongue, Issue One (2011)


I am not a poet
by Leslie Scott-Jones

I am not a poet
I am a writer
I would like to wax poetically about the things I see
But I am not a poet
I am a writer
I don’t write in quick verse and complicated rhymes
When I turn a phrase it’s hidden between the lines
Lines that characters say to each other in conversation.

I am a writer of love stories
I am a writer of relationships
It has been my therapy
Trying to figure out my own existence through harsh words and power games
through love triangles that fed the flames of my passion and my desire.
I hope you will forgive me if I pause for a moment,
you see I’ve had a hard time writing about love recently

I try to write about two people who care for each other
And all I can see is pain
I sit down to pen a monologue confessing true feelings
And inside I am numb.

I am numb from Ferguson
From Brooklyn
From Cleveland, Baltimore, St. Louis, Los Angeles and New Orleans
I am numb from New York to Las Vegas from Gainesville to Denver
You see I am not a poet
So I don’t know how to plead for the life of my black son, or yours
in a way that will heal our souls or quench our anger.
I am not a poet, I am a writer
So all I can say, in the plainest terms, with a tear stained face
all I can pull out of my lungs is a distress call today.
Raymond, Ervin, Tamon, Mike, Trayvon
Alonzo, Kenneth, Malissa and Kyam
All these brothers and sisters that look like my daughter and my son, that look like me.

I am not a poet, so this won’t win any awards.
It won’t be praised, although it may receive some scorn.
I am a writer so I pledge right now, that things I write will matter.
I will tell stories of how great our Kings and Queens are and sing them to your bones.
That is how I can use my voice, as a writer.
How will you use yours?

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