Your Voice is Sacrosanct
New poetry by Jed Myers, Success Akpojotar, henry 7. reneau, jr., KB, and Kimberly Ramos
I hope you are never in the position where you have to choose between your life and your voice.
I am thinking of the poets who have been killed in Myanmar’s brutal military dictatorship. The coup is targeting those who can inspire and inform, and at least 32 writers are currently in jeopardy in detention, according to PEN International. Jed Myers writes about the loss of poet K Za Win, below.
I am thinking of the Colombians risking their lives in their fourth week of protesting. One human rights group has tallied over 40 deaths in the protests that address long-standing inequalities and pandemic-related economic pressures. It is the subject of our current bilingual Open Call.
I’m thinking of the people in Nigeria, who have been leading a movement against police brutality for over six months, despite the violent repression of the Lekki Massacre. The demands from protesters have expanded for justice and against bad governance. Success Akpojotar writes about this moment of courageous history, below.
While there haven’t been recent massacres here in the United States, the state violence is terroristic. Murderous police continue to take Black Americans from this world, whether or not they comply. African Americans face the unjust burden of racist and extrajudicial state actors. The poet henry 7. reneau, jr. writes on the tragedy of this reality, below.
And when there is the opportunity to speak, without fear of harm? We must, and we do. We use our eloquence, our sex, our verve, and our rage to fight any and every power that represses us. Do not miss poetry of resistance by KB and Kimberly Ramos below.
Poets Reading the News
“They Have Come for the Poets”
By Jed Myers
Whatever happens to the jungles
whatever happens to the mountains
whatever happens to the rivers
they don’t care.
—K Za Win, Poet of the Burmese resistance
He was killed March third, one of hundreds so far
since the February coup. Other poets jailed,
three more killed….
And you, in whatever country
you live, have you written poems of love
for the world? You must be aware how dangerous
that makes you.
That you indicate any care
for the green canopy, the tree-dwellers, the endless
water-music of birdcalls and rain—
you declare yourself a liability to the generals
and their investments. Once you’ve claimed allegiance
you’re defending those lives
lived in riverside houses that sway on their poles
in the rain’s surges.
To sing your love
for the forest is to oppose the portfolios
swollen on logging the hills.
roots that are holding the earth from erosion
holds mothers and girls from the traffickers.
your celebrations of seeds saves men
from the hoisting of shrimp boats’ nets at gunpoint,
spares hundreds of hungry boys
from being hauled
into the ranks of the forces lined up
against their own people.
you are as you write your devotions to vines
and ferns, you threaten the holdings of neckties
But you have promised the snipers
your tagged target of flesh—invited
their eyes down the gunsights, eyes itching
to puncture that hazardous heart of yours.
wonder in secret what is it that fills you—
that uncurls out of your mouth, your fingertips…
something these sharpshooters miss.
above the street, fixed on your chest. They miss
your own translucent roots reaching down
through the asphalt into the earth—
what makes you
a fountain. How many will still drink your poems
after your death? The generals will never
solve that equation.
To kill you won’t
wipe you off the world’s books. It might even grow
more of you.
But they’re cringing to kill you,
so we wouldn’t be too surprised by the news
when a bullet opens the husk of you. You’ll leave us
and we’ll make them our prayer flags
under the marksmen’s stares—our banners
of love for the world, like those wings
and leaves of the overstory.
Blood Stream at Lekki Toll Gate
By Success Akpojotor
References: Lekki Massacre
Behavioral Objectives: At the end of this lesson, humans should be able to
define history & explain the meaning of sọrọ sókè
Police Brutality, EndSARS, Bad Governance
the music of history glosses its tomorrow with an upcoming past
conjured by elastic young natives convening to crayon a cartograph
with an upthrust fist & a gape of the mandible like sọrọ sókè
which becomes the new lingua franca of the trigger of Africa
sọrọ sókè Yoruba
speak up English
Men of god had rather modified the water in whiskey tradition
but their whiskey was the blood stream at Lekki Toll Gate & the
necessity was a camouflage Moses to recreate the first plague
history forgets & remembers the meaning of diversity division
that a bullet does not discriminate & here is the newest &
authentic definition of history:
‘history is the study of Photoshopped events.’
The Plight of Small Humans in a Vast Cosmos
By henry 7. reneau, jr.
If you don’t want to inflame via images of the behavior
then you have to stop the behavior.
—Maggie Nelson, “The Art of Cruelty”
Amerikkka has trouble
identifying Black during the day. We be
a lot too arrogant,
& a little too fuckin’ wise (justifies the splayed
chalk-outlined body &
the po-lice chief
lies into the microphones,
that is repeated by the media-
labeled us criminal, law-
breaking thugs, or
demons) a post-racial meta-
phor communist radical militant outside agitator,
as a politically correct nicety
that kills from the inside out.
But we have our own given names
that sound nothing like
thug or demon
extensive furtive movements or
in racial profiled
while everyone watches)
The accumulated cell-phones,
brandished to looky-lou
what body cams seem to never catch.
The police choke-hold &
handcuffed the prone body
been shot eight times,
across the social media. The post-Citizen Picnic
of crowd amassed
after the child made to be still
& like it,
crossed out/ over, or Lord no!!!
gone to a better place?
from where he,
never really were or wanted to be,
& the internal investigation
ruled “justifiable” as dying while Black.
But you’ll find us
on the jobs no one else wants to do,
our statures hunched downward,
the weighted gravity of Diaspora square pegs
forced to fit Eurocentric round holes, &
the open-mouthed coal of our dissent,
like a car crashed mangle of metal
around our telephone pole smolder of umbrage. You’ll find us
at the flashpoint of
po-lice manhandled &
riot, our upraised fists still pugilistic as sass;
an affinity for disobedience with a rock in one hand,
a T.V., a pair of status-brand sneakers,
or Molotov Cocktail, in the other. You’ll find us
against the odds
(a generalization of stereotype) on the corner of
Hope St. & Chance,
a fifteen clip heater in one hand &
a penitentiary twenty pop in the other.
You’ll find us in your Nigger lease work farms,
the jail house, prison or
You’ll find us cooling on metal gurneys
in your morgues,
an historical passenger
in someone else’s landscape. You’ll find us
at another funeral,
wearing a T-shirt
bearing the graduation picture of the deceased. Our cell-phones
at 90 degrees to our grief, texting a hash tag: #blacklivesmatter,
one to the other:
Amerikkka has trouble
identifying Black during the day,
because we are as many as they can think of,
plus one more;
so they watch very closely at night.
Must Be All That Cat You’re Eating
By Kimberly Ramos
girl with a cat in her belly;
must be why i’m always mewling,
something only slightly
louder than satin.
i cut off all my hair, and like sampson,
lost my power over men.
half-savage, dollface, little moon
what do you want this time,
the vampire teeth
or the baby’s breath? you’re not
from around here,
are you. exotic, i am. bird of brilliant
plumage. eat me, eat me.
my bones, your delicacy. yellow fever,
my kiss can cure it.
monk of secrets. the silence in the humid air.
the mosquito whining by your ear.
to be consumed
is a rotten sort of power. what sunbird
thanks its captor?
the cat in my belly is clawing
at my throat.
she is hungry and you are too close.
Sexting at the Gynecologist
A camera is what makes it porn right? I google as everyone
in the reception area wonders what husband is waiting for his wife.
Between my legs is a national treasure or at least what gives
republicans wet dreams during seasons of political theatre in Texas. Can I carry
that energy into a pose that reads digital exchange of chemistry? The tiny
bathroom mirror says yes. My lover opens the text as some other kind of camera
enters the canal that never wanted this. The same way republicans
never want their donors to think they care about trans people. If I blur
the silhouette, is it still considered erotica? I think so,
said the nurse answering a separate question about my womb. If cameras
create the crime then I declare my pants untenable by white people
unless they’re doing routine checkups in a doctor’s office. At least here,
the lobby thinks I’m offering moral support. And in a way, tea and a backrub
says everything okay just as much as my lover, eyes spangled
when I show her what Dan Patrick hates.