Jericho Brown’s Bullet Points
(You’ll notice this post’s title is from the end of the poem.)
Also, check out this Vox article “The anger behind the protests explained in four charts.”
And if you are a white person wondering how you can help, there are about a million resources out there (for example, google “how can white people help end racism”), but here is one article to start with.
This poem is from Claudia Rankine’s book Citizen. Read it here.
The quotation I chose as a title for this post is from the last section of the poem, when the trauma counselor the speaker has an appointment with viciously orders her to leave when she rings the bell for her appointment. The therapist does not realize that she is there for an appointment, and is afraid of her, because she is black.
This is a poem I wrote in 2016–four years ago–after Philando Castille was killed by a police officer after being asked to reach for his ID. His girlfriend filmed the aftermath of the shooting and put it on Facebook. Read more–including that the officer who shot him was eventually found not guilty of second degree manslaughter and that Castille had been stopped by the police at least 46 other times in his life–here.
If you are a white person who does not understand what is happening across the country, please try to get past being upset about the looting, arson, and vandalism that are part of the protests. Obviously none of these are good things. But white people cannot keep shrugging their shoulders and stopping with that judgement. This opinion piece from the Chicago Tribune points out that nonviolent protests like NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem have been condemned or ignored and is worth reading in full.
I’ll be featuring links and poems about racial justice on my blog for the next two weeks.
if when I read the news that a person whose name I did not know
whose name will now be famous
will be forever spoken with fathomless grief
I am wearing a black dress
if when I say person I mean black man
if when you read person you think or don’t think
if when I keep reading I can’t stop crying
or can’t cry or am unable to keep working
or keep working if I am paralyzed
if I keep working when I see the video
if I watch it or don’t watch it if when
I read the words I am right here with you mommy
I want to vomit
if I am wearing a black dress if
I am a white woman if I have forgotten
the names if you remember the names
if I list words from the news stories police
Minneapolis federal inquiry multiple gunshot
wounds cafeteria supervisor protestors weeping
if you throw rocks riot control snipers
multiple gunshots protestors video sir Dallas
Baton Rouge nephew brother son mother child
if the police stop you comply say sir
if the police say sir weeping
if I list the names or don’t list the names
if the list of names is too long to list
if the list could fill a thousand pages longer
if when this happens I write this will I have done anything
worth doing will I do anything
Here is an original one-line poem for your amusement on a Sunday. (If you want more one-line poems, check out Michael McFee’s The Smallest Talk. The best $6 you’ll spend all year.)
First we shook hands; then we French kissed.
This poem contains what has to be the best simile in all of literature.
WITH SINCEREST REGRETS
Like a white snail the toilet slides into the living room, demanding to be loved.
It is impossible, and we tender our sincerest regrets.
In the book of the heart there is no mention made of plumbing.
And though we have spent our intimacy many times with you, you belong to a rather unfortunate reference, which we would rather not embrace…
The toilet slides out of the living room like a white snail, flushing with grief…
This is one of my favorite poems whose poem itself answers the question that is the poem’s title.
WHAT DO YOU WRITE ABOUT, WHERE DO YOUR IDEAS COME FROM?
Charles Wright, Appalachia
Landscape, of course, the idea of God and language
itself, that pure grace
which is invisible and sure and clear,
fall equinox two hours old,
pine cones dangling and doomed over peach tree and privet,
clouds bulbous and buzzard-traced.
The Big Empty is also a subject of some note,
dark dark and never again,
the missing word and there you have it,
heart and heart beat,
never again and never again,
backdrop of backyard and earth and sky
jury-rigged carefully into place,
wind from the west and then some,
everything up and running hard,
everything under way,
never again never again.
Here’s a poem I retyped by e.e. cummings. A fun poem for this time of year. I used to read this one with high school students. I promise it does have a fun organic logic. Enjoy!
e. e. cummings
a)s w(e loo)k
!p: S a
(r rIvInG .gRrEaPsPhOs)
Jack Gilbert’s “A Brief for the Defense” is a beautiful poem about happiness amidst sorrow. Read it below at The Sun–scroll toward the end of the piece for the poem, or if you have extra time (ha!) read about his life and work, too, and some of his other poems.
Today I offer what may be my favorite poem of all time, Ruth Stone’s “Train Ride.” I’ve posted this poem before, long ago, but it’s so perfect for this moment in history (and all moments) that I have to repost it. Last summer I memorized it at a tiny, lovely place I escaped to for a weekend. Read it aloud if you can, or you can listen to it at an archived Writer’s Almanac below.