Thursday, November 12, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Elliot Frost

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.


Seahorse and Empty
By Elliot Frost

In the time between
Mother’s and Father’s Day 
in quarantine

spent some time online
moving clock hands
and filling pockets
for a baby that can’t exist here.

He asked if I could “make them a nursery”.

I catch his seahorse belly in the Zoom 
like a projector light bobbing awake -
there is something about a pregnant man
that mops up blood I spilled on wrinkled sheets once, in my early 20’s.  
   That September morning the blinds were pulled
   and the coffee was cold as I poured it
   down the drain — there was nothing
   I could fill myself with.
   My belly skin lapped thirsty at a pillow.

I ask him what colors he’d like me to use.

“Yellow” he says, “just make everything yellow” ... and I think about the “Yellow Wallpaper” from that story I read in High School about the woman
with postpartum... “resting” off “hysteria” alone.

“Sure” I say, but I mean “no”.  
I mean,
I want kids.

I think I’d be a good father.

But I’m stuck behind these yellow walls.
The villagers in this virtual town
keep repeating all the same 

Listen as Elliot Frost reads "Seahorse and Empty."

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