Thursday, July 23, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Emily K. Michael

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.

From late April to mid-May, Split This Rock asked poets to send 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.


Because I Hired a Friend
By Emily K. Michael

A gentle hand adjusts the lift of my chin,
a soft voice commends my expression.
She steps back and tells me not to worry.

Beside me on the iron bench the dog’s tongue
hangs out. He didn’t want to hop up here—
but with much praise and tapping
of the vacant space at my left, I persuaded him.

Now he leans into my lap. Glossy black
along the crushed grape of my dress,
he nuzzles the fringed scarf in my hands.

The photographer says, Look up.
She scales the ironwork and foregrounds
herself against the summer evening.

I see her silhouette, fighting wind and gravity—
listen for the camera’s capable chirps, and smile.
I know my dog’s nearness, generous and warm.

Listen as Emily K. Michael reads "Because I Hired a Friend."

No comments: