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Poets demonstrate and reflect: Black Lives Matter

The recent acts of police brutality and incomprehensible judicial responses to the killing of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice have left us dismayed and outraged. Yet we are grateful for the poets who are standing up and speaking out all around the country and the world to affirm life and condemn the wanton racism that is at the root of these murders. Our poets continue to model humanity, expose the inanities of social injustice, and prod us to rise up against evil. We offer Rita Dove’s 2013 poem, “Trayvon, Redux,” as a reflection piece.

Trayvon, Redux

by Rita Dove

It is difficult / to get the news from
poems / yet men die miserably
every day / for lack / of what is
found there. / Hear me out / for I
too am concerned / and every
man / who wants to die at peace in
his bed / besides.

William Carlos Williams, “Asphodel, that Greeny Flower”

Move along, you don’t belong here.
This is what you’re thinking. Thinking
drives you nuts these days, all that
talk about rights and law abidance when
you can’t even walk your own neighborhood
in peace and quiet, get your black ass gone.
You’re thinking again. Then what?
Matlock’s on TV and here you are,
vigilant, weary, exposed to the elements
on a wet winter’s evening in Florida
when all’s not right but no one sees it.
Where are they – the law, the enforcers
blind as a bunch of lazy bats can be,
holsters dangling from coat hooks above their desks
as they jaw the news between donuts?

Hey! It tastes good, shoving your voice
down a throat thinking only of sweetness.
Go on, choke on that. Did you say something?
Are you thinking again? Stop! – and
get your ass gone, your blackness,
that casual little red riding hood
I’m just on my way home attitude
as if this street was his to walk on.
Do you do hear me talking to you? Boy.
How dare he smile, jiggling his goodies
in that tiny shiny bag, his black paw crinkling it,
how dare he tinkle their laughter at you.

Here’s a fine basket of riddles:
If a mouth shoots off and no one’s around
to hear it, who can say which came first –
push or shove, bang or whimper?
Which is news fit to write home about?

JMU students protest the brutalization of black bodies (2014)

JMU students protest the brutalization of black bodies. | Photo copyright 2014 by Hannah Vaughn. All rights reserved.

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