Thursday, August 6, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Stewart Shaw

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.


Jumpin' for joy
By Stewart Shaw

If only He could
UP, jump the imposed
Bail for living while black             jump the gap between
Home and WTF, jump
jump bad,                jump
back home, jump
Back into childhood---

The cow jumped over the moon the little
Boy laughed

If only He could                jump
Rope, into a mother’s
Arms,    jump so quick
Nothing could penetrate.  He needs to get
A jump on, get the jump on, be
One jump ahead. If only
He hadn’t gotten                           jumped
On his way to tomorrow. We will 
Listen to hear him           JUMP
The broom- in our dreams
We know his jumping
Is magic

Jump up and down, for joy.  If 
Only He would have
Jumped sooner.  Blk boys
Who have not learned to JUMP
Like frogs :: crickets in the thickets,
Jump between the lines
Single or double dutch 

Get jumped and dumped
Into graves
Shallow enough to let
Memory seep out
Jumping up to splash
Our dreams
While jumping
Over the sky      blk
Boys are often mistaken
For vultures.  Shot 
on sight

Listen as Stewart Shaw reads “Jumpin' for joy.”

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