Thursday, August 6, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Jory Mickelson

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.

Content Advisory: Reference to Sexual Assault

By Jory Mickelson

I don’t need a magic           
to tell me how fucked & fractured

this world is, nothing                      
can wrap it into wholeness.

Why is it a crime to             
change shape? Why police

a body that won’t                 
hold still? I have been sand

for men who raked             
their hands along my every

side, been water parted &              
pushed through. Been for them

fire too, lit them                  
quick & been lit, pyre we used

to climb the air, breath       
exultant ladder. I’ve been

stone, broke them               
and didn’t break, refused to be

plowed from the earth.                   
I could be something gentle,

wind maybe or grass, dew 
to meet a hand extended to see

what might actually be       
there: this queer, changeable

body, my trixter shape.                  
Give a man the sun & they’ll

walk away as you sift                      
into ash. Ask for water

& they’ll say your anger      
keeps you in the dark.

Listen as Jory Mickelson reads "Trixter."

Previously published in Indolent Books, What Rough Beast series (October 5, 2018).

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