Thursday, June 25, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Tamiko Beyer

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.


Anchor in the Mud
By Tamiko Beyer

They’ve gone with remediation.
Little bits of change
to refuse real forward. We need strategies

beyond bamboo strips: the enemy
is us, strange warriors
fighting our own bodies’ survival.

The sky breaks. I put on a coat
that burns like sun reflecting off steel.
After months of barely cold, I am comforted

we have come to winter, puff and wool,
burning dust, paint layers. Seasons’
pace now unpredictable, the blue something

electric. We hold our collective
breath long enough to become transparent
on this city built on landfill. We quiver

above a sea happy to take
us back into its arms.
Animal into element.

We shut off the lights, fill the refrigerator
with jars of water. The shoreline that hosted
the eagle this year finally iced over.

The most brittle bushes crushed
under the snow’s weight: twigs encased
in gleaming ice like museum pieces.

If spring comes, we will take bets on what
sprouts again. Green becomes unimaginable
except in the deepest sleep.

Boots and heels both
mine, all sorts of ways to go down.
Come up sweating. Blood and bones poised

to fight, queer defiance. These systems—
our relentless bodies processing
language, food, gesture. Come up

spitting. Defend, attack.
Do not leave money on the table,
solutions to those who hold power, your gender

to others. I keep my ugly
on, my girl close,
I keep the charge full.

Listen as Tamiko Beyer reads "Anchor in the Mud."

Previously published in Other Rooms Press (2017). 

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