Friday, July 29, 2016

Poems that Speak Out Against Violence and for Embrace - Amoja Sumler

If the back & arms you carry riddle with black
spots & marks made by birds who don’t want us here—
I will remind you: There are people who did this before us,
brown & black-spotted, yellow, with rattails,
born from what others did not want & loathed & aimed
to never let belong, & so, we are here today—
the field is wide. We make saliva from root & light.
Our spikelets grow, & do you feel the wind?
       - Joe Jiménez, Smutgrass

Orlando. Dhaka. Istanbul. Baghdad. Medina. Nice. The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the murder of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. This summer, terrible bigotry and violence have rent our global community. The killings must end, and we in the poetry community must contribute in any way we can. As we search for answers to these horrors and for ways to combat hatred and prejudice, we are reminded of poetry’s capacity to respond to violence, to help us regenerate, like spikelets sprouting in a contested field, claiming our public spaces for everyone.

In solidarity with all those targeted at home and abroad, from the LGBT community in the United States to devastated families of Baghdad, Split This Rock is offering its blog as a Virtual Open Mic. Over the next couple of weeks, from July 14 to 28, we are requesting poems in response to and against violence toward marginalized communities. After the Virtual Open Mic closes, we hope to print out and mail all of the poems to Congress and the National Rifle Association. 


by Amoja Sumler

Ours is a people
so magical

They can turn from skin
to hashtag

in less than the time
it takes for a police cam to fall.

When this happens
(and it will)
(and it does)
(there it goes again)

see to your smile.

but quietly

This is a bully beyond slaying.

Do not go sacrifice.
Do not go fists and hammers.

Do not go mouthful of demand and salt.

We must go quietly.
We must Go.

See to your senses.

Wave at the sun.
Wave at your sons.
Wave at brown curly hair.
Stare at the majesty of your daughters.
Kiss them both (if they consent).

But you must relent.
for a hashtag could never hold this much
And they are holding one for you.

Hot and ready, like fast food.

This is how they slay.
They'll call it 'justice'.
Lemons for lemonade.

There will be a video.

There's always a video.

Do not watch it.
We know how Lethal Weapon ends.

if you have the tears.

And love
and love
and love
even while you hate

even as you are breaking
even as they justify
even as they deny

Do not go empty
even as they pour us like blood.

Ours is a people
so magical
we still believe.

We hope
pretty as autumn leaves
deep in the falling.

is a people so magical
that some could sing through slavery.

Bravery is Black joy
Black love is Black joy
and she is all ours.
Watch us wear her
like a superpower.

Do not go wanting
drink and be filled.

Drink till it spills
from your cheeks.
Drink until the kill

it is coming.

Make peace with certainty
so that when you and the violence meet
you will not go meek.
Look into the cameras
Show them the threat of your impotency
There may be some slight discomfort
but it will all be over soon.

Like a magic trick.
It's happened again
another hashtag is ready.

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