Thursday, July 9, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Jennifer Lentfer

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.


This body is made
By Jennifer Lentfer
This body is made of resistance.
Its defiance muscle, its beating heart
--as long as it's beating--
is strong.
But not without its softness,
not without its brokenness,
which twinges,
it seems,
rather constantly
during a pandemic,
when this body is at once
utterly safe and contained and under threat and free.

This body is made of resistance.
The virus is not what can ravage it.
This body has tricked oblivion, and
erasure, and again and again
and it will again.
This body is made for its
place, this place,
until it is not.
Covenants with it, with the breath of us, have been
repeatedly broken.
Yet still it stands.

This body breathes and moves
and writes and cooks and
dances and weeps and shouts
and releases
with pleasure and shaking and prayer.

This body is here.
It is mine, ours.
And it will not recede in fear.
This body was forged by resistance.
This body was finally cherished
through resistance.
Let me not forget, this body
was born of love.

Listen as Jennifer Lentfer reads "This body is made."

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