Thursday, November 12, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Janlori Goldman

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.


Where Should the Birds Fly After the Last Sky?
By Janlori Goldman

                        Mahmoud Darwish, 1941-2008

On the road to Nablus I think of you,
             your wrecked heart blooming

on rocky hills, a horse’s shadow alone
             in a field. Anemones spread

in resolute red— in warning or welcome
             it’s too early to say.

A candy store pocked with bullet holes
             churns with cement mixers,

makeshift machines coating almonds
             in sweet liquid. The shopkeeper says,

Taste this after all you see. In a season
             of unripe things, I bite into green almonds,

taxi to the mountain top to watch the village
             long in the valley. Gusts of pigeons

blow against stone— all I have been taught
             smacks against the rockface.

As a child in synagogue I fit a quarter
             into a cardboard slot to plant a tree

in Israel, millions of coins
             now tangled roots reaching

for each other in the underworld
             that knows nothing of walls.

Listen as Janlori Goldman reads "Where Should the Birds Fly After the Last Sky?"

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