Category Archives: Poetry

Body Peace

My body is not the enemy.

I will not pull my hair when I see yours or ask my curls to straighten up and act right.
I will not scratch my eyes out because they are not blue or green.
I will not cut off my nose to spite my face because it does not make the point.
I will not hold or change my tongue because others prefer the sound of your voice.

I will not pretend that I am not a safe place to be,
That I am somehow better off dead to myself.
I will not give up on her so easily.
I need not add to the casualties of this war.

I will not pinch my skin and wish that I could trade places with you.
I will not take your side.

My body is not the enemy.

I will not mount a defense.
I will draw no color lines.
Because this is not my battle.
I do not wrestle with flesh and blood.

Instead, I will go inside the temple, this house of praise
And rejoice
Yes, rejoice
That the war is over
That I have made peace with my body, having no desire to fight over yours.

 

Howard Thurman’s When the Song of the Angels is Stilled

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flocks,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among the people,

To make music in the heart.

Somebody’s got to dream

With the world and all its ways

Leaders and people misbehave

Somebody’s got to be in a daze

Somebody’s got to dream.

 

With the world and all its violence

Screaming, shouting, fighting the silence

Somebody’s got to provide guidance

Somebody’s got to dream.

 

With the world and its pride

Pretending, lying, trying to hide

Somebody’s got to go to the other side

Somebody’s got to dream.

 

With the world and its plans

Oppressing, distressing people and land

Somebody’s got to call on the Upper Hand

Somebody’s got to dream.

 

With the world and its deaths

 Killing until barely the soul is left

Somebody’s got to give the future breath

Somebody’s got to dream. 

June Jordan’s In Memoriam: Martin Luther King Jr.

index
I
honey people murder mercy U.S.A.
the milkland turn to monsters teach
to kill to violate pull down destroy
the weakly freedom growing fruit
from being born
America
tomorrow yesterday rip rape
exacerbate despoil disfigure
crazy running threat the
deadly thrall
appall belief dispel
the wildlife burn the breast
the onward tongue
the outward hand
deform the normal rainy
riot sunshine shelter wreck
of darkness derogate
delimit blank
explode deprive
assassinate and batten up
like bullets fatten up
the raving greed
reactivate a springtime
terrorizing
death by men by more
than you or I can
STOP
II
They sleep who know a regulated place
or pulse or tide or changing sky
according to some universal
stage direction obvious
like shorewashed shells
we share an afternoon of mourning
in between no next predictable
except for wild reversal hearse rehearsal
bleach the blacklong lunging
ritual of fright insanity and more
deplorable abortion
more and
more

June Jordan, “In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr.” from Directed By Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan(Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by The June M. Jordan Literary Trust. Reprinted with the permission of The June M. Jordan Literary Trust, www.junejordan.com.

Source: The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (1997)

Trayvon Martin: Blackness and Halloween Costumes

Trayvon Martin.  Most Americans know his name and the story of his death.  But, now his name is strangely associated with Halloween.  Apparently, some persons think that it is acceptable to dress like a dead child and in blackface, no less.  I cannot even begin to describe the callousness of those who think it good fun to mock the tragic death of another and to suggest that one can represent a socially colored black person by painting their face black.

Rants on social media simply don’t cut it and a law can’t fix this.  Another conference will not make sense of it.  This is a matter for the heart and it is at the core of our humanity.  We must reconcile these truths, these choices to deeply offend.

And I don’t want to hear, “It wasn’t me.”  Or, “This was their poor decision.  We can’t blame everyone.”  No, I do blame all of  us.  What have we done or left unsaid if this is a choice?  What are we really afraid of?  And why does the taking of this child’s life not invoke fear in all of us?

And I don’t want to hear that Halloween has passed, that it’s old news now, that the matter is finished because the Facebook account has been closed and he has changed his profile picture.  This does not mean that the work is finished– because we don’t see it any more.  No.

And don’t let the fact that Trayvon Martin died three years ago imply that what happened to him is in the past.  Clearly, it is not; his life and his death now made present in the form of a costume.

Raven McGill offers words for us to reflect on at a National Poetry Slam.