Friday, June 12, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Shirley Jones Luke

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.


Black on Black on Black
By Shirley Jones Luke

An onyx sun rises in an overcast sky 

over a Black Sea, waves flapping like Black tea

onto a shore of Black sand, sparkling 

like jewels, scattered by Black feet 

marching towards Black cities

of dark steel & stone, black spears 

stabbing & dropping Black tears, 

raising fears of a Black nation backlash, 

rioting on shadowy streets, a blackout 

in the hood, trees become torches, 

light ‘em up, Black hands raised, Black fists 

pumping, so much trauma, too much drama 

in the hood, where chalk outlines symbolize 

lost lives, from those bearing blue, beating 

down Blackness like it’s a threat & not a blessing, 

bless this Blackness, let it spread like oil across 

a white sheet, becoming a Black body, raising 

the black velvet of night, as fire light glows 

against buildings, smoke caresses the stars, 

illuminating our Black brilliance.

Listen as Shirley Jones Luke reads "Black on Black on Black."

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