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I guess this is the part where I talk about the importance of poetry in relation to resistance, resilience, and reconciliation, right? But I don’t want to. I’m tired of explaining myself. I’m tired of giving resources to white people so they can “understand” racism, white privilege, and why saying, “Black Lives Matter,” doesn’t mean other lives don’t. I’m tired of quietly raising my fist. I’m tired of Trump. I’m tired of whack ass poems that don’t talk about shit. I’m tired of whack ass poems that exploit brown bodies. I’m tired of white gays and their constant need to steal the vernacular of black and brown women. I’m tired of Trump. If you’re offended, then I’m tired of you too. 

Nevertheless, a collection of poems I curated that should help you at least for the day. 


Poem about Police Violence 
by June Jordan

Tell me something 
what you think would happen if 
everytime they kill a black boy 
then we kill a cop 
everytime they kill a black man 
then we kill a cop

you think the accident rate would lower subsequently? 
sometimes the feeling like amaze me baby 
comes back to my mouth and I am quiet 
like Olympian pools from the running 
mountainous snows under the sun

sometimes thinking about the 12th House of the Cosmos 
or the way your ear ensnares the tip 
of my tongue or signs that I have never seen 
like DANGER WOMEN WORKING

I lose consciousness of ugly bestial rapid 
and repetitive affront as when they tell me 
18 cops in order to subdue one man 
18 strangled him to death in the ensuing scuffle 
(don’t you idolize the diction of the powerful: subdue 
and scuffle my oh my) and that the murder 
that the killing of Arthur Miller on a Brooklyn 
street was just a “justifiable accident” again 
(Again)

People been having accidents all over the globe 
so long like that I reckon that the only 
suitable insurance is a gun 
I’m saying war is not to understand or rerun 
war is to be fought and won

sometimes the feeling like amaze me baby 
blots it out/the bestial but 
not too often tell me something 
what you think would happen if 
everytime they kill a black boy 
then we kill a cop 
everytime they kill a black man 
then we kill a cop

you think the accident rate would lower subsequently


My Dad Asks, “How Come Black Folks Just Can’t Write About Flowers”
by Aziza Barnes (Originally published in Winter Tangerine)

bijan been dead 11 months & my blue margin reduced to arterial. there’s a party at my house, a house held by legislation vocabulary & trill. but hell, it’s ours & it sparkle on the corner of view park, a channel of blk electric. danny wants to walk to the ledge up the block, & we an open river of flex: we know what time it is. on the ledge, folk give up neck & dismantle grey navigation for some slice of body. it’s june. it’s what we do.

walk down the middle of our road, & given view park, a lining of dubois’ 10th, a jack n jill feast, & good blk area, it be our road. we own it. I’m sayin’ with money. our milk neighbors, collaborate in the happy task of surveillance. they new. they pivot function. they call the khaki uniforms. i swift. review the architecture of desire spun clean, & I could see how we all look like ghosts.

3 squad cars roll up at my door & it’s a fucking joke cuz exactly no squad cars rolled up to the mcdonald’s bijan was shot at & exactly no squad cars rolled up to find the murders & exactly no one did what could be categorized as they “job,” depending on how you define time spent for money earned for property & it didn’t make me feel like I could see less of the gun in her holster because she was blk & short & a woman, too. she go,

“this your house?”
I say, “yea.” she go,
“can you prove it?”
I say, “it mine.”
she go, “ID?” I say, “it mine.”
she go, “backup,” on the sly
& interview me, going all, “what’s your address– don’t look!”
& hugh say, “I feel wild disrespected.”
& white go, “can you explain that?”
& danny say, “how far the nearest precinct?”
& christian say, “fuck that.”
& white go, “can you explain that?”

I cross my arms. I’m bored & headlights quit being interesting after I called 911 when I was 2 years old because it was the only phone number I knew by heart.


Til the Taste of Free in Our Mouths (Brown Baby Lullaby)
by Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes (Originally published in Split This Rock)

Wake.                  Wake.

These the nights we sing. These the folds,

unborn reverie, ambition marbled mud & shine,

raging anthem born like diamonds out darkest ash & rain

This sky-fist for you, little ones, whose teeth have yet to bud, whose mouths

will sprout, whose tongues will flower sharpest word

This fist for you, our future, our want, our tomorrow-yes,

          Wake.                     Wake, baby, wake, child.

Wake your umber velvet eyelids and cry the sun with us,

these arms around you free

these streets we march, sore grave shaking ground

garnet flooded madness, we mourn

we rake the gravel for teeth so we may have something to bury

we sift the sand for remedy, we ghost-seers carrying our cinnamon dead

we stir the news, history, like an oracle shimmering violent

catching names in our throats before they vanish under starless storm & urge

we vex the spire, trouble the sway

          Wake baby, wake child, this lullaby will break the cage

You will taste the blood of your brothers in our milk, remembering

their glorious beauty as it warms your throat, you will

not know the cold of the concrete that swallowed them whole.

We are a swarm, a pride, a righteous and thick army

          Wake,           wake.

You will see G-d in the faces of your sisters, you will remember

how they fought five hundred years under an archive of scars, you will

hear their steps when you run, when you

march to the beat of the thundering lung

gasping for air, you will know this fight

to breathe beneath your darkest skin

& you will see & you will raze the reddest fields

gather the pulp of every fruit let it whisper your ear up

sculpt a dream, a name, a vow

Til, baby, til, child,

Til the Taste of Free in Our Mouths


A Black Woman’s Burden 
by Isabella X (Originally published in Lambda Literary)

“Sisters there is a hole in my heart that is bearing your shapes
over and over as I read only the headlines of this morning’s
newspaper.” – Audre Lorde

Sisters there are bruises on my body
And bullets in my brain
And knives in my back
And burn marks
All over
In the shapes of our names
Chosen and
Dead
As I read only the headlines
Of forgotten news articles
For us forgotten girls.
One day we will all live past our girlhood.
One day they will give us our flowers before we are dead.


Poem (Let Us Live)
by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza (Originally published in Pen America)

I’m tired of abstraction.
No one says what they mean
and people die from it.
Where did this world come from?
Not nowhere.
Not nothing.
The dead trans women
you glance over
for a few seconds on facebook
while deciding if the story is worth sharing
all came from somewhere.
Their bodies are not flowers
for you to whisper
to people you’ll never know.
There were words that did this.
There were hands
and guns
and teeth
and flesh
and hair
and blood
and men
and women
and laws
and policies
and police
and witnesses
that did this.
How long can I keep tricking you
into thinking what I’m doing
is poetry
and not me begging you
             to let us live?


If They Should Come for Us
by Fatimah Asghar (Originally published in Poetry)

these are my people & I find
them on the street & shadow
through any wild all wild
my people my people
a dance of strangers in my blood
the old woman’s sari dissolving to wind
bindi a new moon on her forehead
I claim her my kin & sew
the star of her to my breast
the toddler dangling from stroller
hair a fountain of dandelion seed
at the bakery I claim them too
the sikh uncle at the airport
who apologizes for the pat
down the muslim man who abandons
his car at the traffic light drops
to his knees at the call of the azan
& the muslim man who sips
good whiskey at the start of maghrib
the lone khala at the park
pairing her kurta with crocs
my people my people I can’t be lost
when I see you my compass
is brown & gold & blood
my compass a muslim teenager
snapback & high-tops gracing
the subway platform
mashallah I claim them all
my country is made
in my people’s image
if they come for you they
come for me too in the dead
of winter a flock of
aunties step out on the sand
their dupattas turn to ocean
a colony of uncles grind their palms
& a thousand jasmines bell the air
my people I follow you like constellations
we hear the glass smashing the street
& the nights opening their dark
our names this country’s wood
for the fire my people my people
the long years we’ve survived the long
years yet to come I see you map
my sky the light your lantern long
ahead & I follow I follow


Supremacy 
by Ariana Brown (Originally published in Muzzle Magazine)

 

   I want to talk about white women.
 
I want to talk about fifth grade
& dominic jackson garcia, the afrolatino boy
                                  whose holy mouth chose the white girl instead.
 
black boys          shared hot cheetos with me,
                                  held hands with them, more concerned
                                  with aspen & kaedee than my glossy neck.
                                  wanted to swallow a white
                                  girl’s smile, fold it in their pockets
                                  to keep them warm.
 
I, frozen on the black-
top, red-handed, embarrassment.
 
               I’m ready to talk
about white women.
                 how the lyft driver,
black man,          blames his black girlfriend
                                  for his inability to pay rent.
how he                                  breaks open his saliva
                                   to drown my body,
says,                        “I’m just gonna get me a white woman.
                                   no offense.”
 
                   I want to talk about white women.
the ones               who step in front of me in line,
                                   who follow me in stores,
                                   who grab my
                                                                    hair                                 shoulders                        arm
 
                                   “what-a-great-tattoo-I’ve-always-wanted-a-dreamcatcher”
                                   “I-love-your-hair-how-did-you-get-it-like-that”
                                   “I’m-touching-you-to-prove-I’m-not-uncomfortable”
 
                   I want to talk about white supremacy.
 
                   supreme, meaning:
                   ​superior to all others.
                                   as in: diana ross and the supremes.
                                   ​as in: moonwalk so supreme
make yours look earthly.                               I’m extraterrestrial.
                                                                                                       got two moons for feet & heaven say
                               my name a galaxy.
 
is this what you meant                                     when you said I’m too angry?
                                                                                       too sure about the limits
                                                                                       of this world,
that                                                                              I spoke about pain
                                   like a thousand sharecropping grandmothers,
that                                                                              I exaggerated,
that                                                                              I wasn’t                          nice                 
 
the way white women make you feel?
 
                               supreme, meaning:
                               ​strongest, most important, or most powerful
 
                                                so I flash my teeth, catch
                                                light in my mouth, grow
                                                my hair thick as a plague.
don’t speak
when I’m speaking.
 
                                                white men apologize to me now.
men of color                                  call me difficult. I roll my eyes, hold my heart
                                                                              like the gift it is, hold the hearts of my sisters.
 
                               ​supreme, meaning:
                               involving death.
                                                ​as in: supreme sacrifice.
                                                              black women everywhere
                                                              you thought we weren’t –
                                                              germany: holocaust
                                                ​              mexico: conquest
                                                              slavery global economy
                                                               – the worldwide girlchildren of empire.
 
they                    ain’t got numbers bold enough to count the ones we’ve lost.
 
                               ​supreme, last definition:
                               ​a rich cream sauce.
                                            ​my mother buys
                                            ​sauce packets for 17 cents at the grocery.
                                            ​says,
they’re                            no good
                                            ​for you. says,
they’re                            all salt.
they’re                            all lot & his wife, city on fire:
 
                               ​rosewood: burning
                               ​because of a white woman’s expression.
 
the hair like woven silk,
skin shining like fresh milk, crosses
                                                 my path like an ancient warning.
 
                              in what version of the story
                                                do black women win?

 


Happiness Theorem 
by Muriel Leung (Originally published in jellyfish magazine)

The plan is to erect a delicious sounding word connoting both joy and pleasure in its ringing. It relies on fashioning first an unstable box that contains within it a goose egg and some troubled verses. The relationship between these disparate objects is symbiotic in that all rely equally on the other in order to survive if to survive means to make meaning. This is a commendable skill in the schematic rendering of fear operations in the world. To survive at present is no longer birthright but a learned process one acquires through rigorous schooling. Uncertainty opens the attic door to pirating ghosts. Uncertainty lines the bed with metallic devices spliced into brain activity. In its earlier forms uncertainty was a marked derivative of joy making. Time wears on. The connection grows prickly. Joy, more interested in transmogrification in its penchant for contortions and peculiarities, suggests a natural inclination towards uncertainty. The issue is not their likeness but where their tails split. At some point uncertainty subjugates joy and for that reason joy’s genetic composition is eternally altered. One does not inherit joy in the same way as their parent. This is to say we all must wear happiness like a disorder we cannot shake.


The Resistance of the Angler Fish 
by Jess X. Chen (Originally Published in The Offing)

The resistance
of the angler fish

is to end
a billion years
of darkness

by crowning itself
with its own star.


Six Months After Contemplating Suicide
by Erika L. Sánchez (Originally published in Poetry)

Admit it —
you wanted the end 

with a serpentine
greed. How to negotiate

that strangling
mist, the fibrous

whisper?

To cease to exist
and to die

are two different things entirely.

But you knew this,
didn’t you?

Some days you knelt on coins
in those yellow hours. 

You lit a flame

to your shadow
and ate

scorpions with your naked fingers.

So touched by the sadness of hair
in a dirty sink.

The malevolent smell
of soap.

When instead of swallowing a fistful
of white pills,

you decided to shower,

the palm trees
nodded in agreement,

a choir
of crickets singing 

behind your swollen eyes.

The masked bird
turned to you 

with a shred of paper hanging
from its beak.

At dusk,
hair wet and fragrant,

you cupped a goat’s face

and kissed
his trembling horns. 

The ghost? 

It fell prostrate,
passed through you 

like a swift
and generous storm.



by Luther Hughes

 

 


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