Poem: How Can Black People Write About Flowers at a Time Like This

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Photo by TJ Parker

dear reader, with our heels digging into the good mud at a swamp’s edge, you might tell me something about the dandelion & how it is not a flower itself but a plant made up of several small flowers at its crown & lord knows I have been called by what I look like more than I have been called by what I actually am & I wish to return the favor for the purpose of this exercise. which, too, is an attempt at fashioning something pretty out of seeds refusing to make anything worthwhile of their burial. size me up & skip whatever semantics arrive to the tongue first. say: that boy he look like a hollowed-out
grandfather
clock. he look like a million-dollar god with a two-cent
heaven. like all it takes is one kiss & before morning,
you could scatter his whole mind across a field.

~Hanif Abdurraqib

About This Poem

“I was at a reading shortly after the election, and the poet (who was black) was reading gorgeous poems, which had some consistent and exciting flower imagery. A woman (who was white) behind me—who thought she was whispering to her neighbor—said ‘How can black people write about flowers at a time like this?’ I thought it was so absurd in a way that didn’t make me angry but made me curious. What is the black poet to be writing about ‘at a time like this’ if not to dissect the attractiveness of a flower—that which can arrive beautiful and then slowly die right before our eyes? I thought flowers were the exact thing to write about at a time like this, so I began this series of poems, all with the same title. I thought it was much better to grasp a handful of different flowers, put them in a glass box, and see how many angles I could find in our shared eventual demise.” — Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib is the author of The Crown Ain’t Worth Much (Button Poetry, 2016), his first poetry collection, which was nominated for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. He is also the author of the essay collection They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us (Two Dollar Radio, 2017). He lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Rudy Francisco – Complainers

Exactly this…

Heal the Cracks in the Bell of the World

Heal the Cracks in the Bell of the World

For the community of Newtown, Connecticut,
where twenty students and six educators lost their
lives to a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary
School, December 14, 2012

Now the bells speak with their tongues of bronze.
Now the bells open their mouths of bronze to say:
Listen to the bells a world away. Listen to the bell in the ruins
of a city where children gathered copper shells like beach glass,
and the copper boiled in the foundry, and the bell born
in the foundry says: I was born of bullets, but now I sing
of a world where bullets melt into bells. Listen to the bell
in a city where cannons from the armies of the Great War
sank into molten metal bubbling like a vat of chocolate,
and the many mouths that once spoke the tongue of smoke
form the one mouth of a bell that says: I was born of cannons,
but now I sing of a world where cannons melt into bells.

Listen to the bells in a town with a flagpole on Main Street,
a rooster weathervane keeping watch atop the Meeting House,
the congregation gathering to sing in times of great silence.
Here the bells rock their heads of bronze as if to say:
Melt the bullets into bells, melt the bullets into bells.
Here the bells raise their heavy heads as if to say:
Melt the cannons into bells, melt the cannons into bells.
Here the bells sing of a world where weapons crumble deep
in the earth, and no one remembers where they were buried.
Now the bells pass the word at midnight in the ancient language
of bronze, from bell to bell, like ships smuggling news of liberation
from island to island, the song rippling through the clouds.

Now the bells chime like the muscle beating in every chest,
heal the cracks in the bell of every face listening to the bells.
The chimes heal the cracks in the bell of the moon.
The chimes heal the cracks in the bell of the world.

~Martin Espada

From the Author:

About This Poem

“As the dedication indicates, on December 14, 2012, a gunman killed twenty students and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. I wrote this poem for the National Children’s Day event Within Our Reach, held at the Newtown Congregational Church on June 8, 2013—less than six months after the tragedy. The ‘city where children gathered copper shells like beach glass’ is Tirana, Albania, site of the Bell of Peace; the city ‘where cannons from the armies of the Great War / sank into molten metal’ is Rovereto, Italy, site of the Campana dei Caduti (Bell of the Fallen) or Maria Dolens bell. The ‘town with a flagpole on Main Street’ is, of course, Newtown.”

—Martín Espada

Ode To Alternatives

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

Hey Kevin, I know
I’m always talking,
but look at those
two little boys who
don’t know any better –
they’re using a king
as a pawn, a pawn
as a knight, a queen
as a bishop-and isn’t
not knowing the rules
just beautiful?
Because really,
where’s the joy
in shouldering night
into workday
when we can be carpenters
of unmade things,
flailing our hammers
whichever way we please
in the dark? I’m sorry
I’m talking too much
for this chess game,
but I get nervous.
Are there people out there
who say we’re dangerous?
When the sun echoes
off the thousands
of windshields
locked in the morning commute,
do you sometimes feel
like we’re dressed for a party
we couldn’t ever hope
to be invited to?
Do the idling engines
deafen you?
Kevin, are you sure you want
to trade your knight
for a rook? Why is it
that once we take
our hand off of it,
we can’t take it back?

 

~Keith Leonard, Ramshackle Ode

Elegy

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Photo by TJ Parker

In the water left from the waitress’s rag,
I made James’s face:

pinched salt for the scar,
below the eyebrow,

a fleck of pepper for a freckle,

bent straw for the bridge of the nose.

The trouble with my over-easy eggs
was their thin skins broke

with the touch of a butter knife.

The trouble with my coffee
was it took the cream and changed.

The trouble with me is that I can arrange
three words however I please:

This isn’t it

It isn’t this

Isn’t it this

Isn’t this it

~ Keith Leonard, Ramshackle Ode

Forgiveness

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

for Dad

 
I’m writing you
10 years later
& 2,000 miles
Away from

Our silence

My mouth a cave
That had collapsed

I’m writing
While you
You wear the
Hospital gown &

count failures
Such as the body’s

Inability to rise
I see your fingers

Fumbling in the
Pillbox      as if
Earthquakes are in
Your hands
I think it’s time
For us to   abandon
Our cruelties
For us to speak
So     s    o    f    t

We’re barely
Human.

~Christopher Soto

The formatting of this poem didn’t translate when I posted it, for that go here at Poets.org.

This Page Ripped Out and Rolled into a Ball

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

A rose by any other name   could be Miguel   or Tiffany Could be David or Vashti   Why not Aya   which means beautiful flower  but also verse and miracle   and a bird         that flies away quickly    You see where this is going          That is    you could look at a rose    and call it    You See Where This Is Going   or I Knew This Would Happen    or even   Why Wasn’t I Told I’m told   of a man    who does portraits for money on the beach    He paints them with one arm  the other he left behind in a war   and so he tucks a rose into his cuff   always yellow   and people stare at it   pinned to his shoulder   while he works   Call the rose Panos   because I think that’s his name   or call it     A Chair By The Sea Point from the window   to the garden   and say   Look   a bed of Painter’s Hands   And this is a good place   to remember the rose already has many names   because   language is old and can’t agree with itself   In Albania you say Trëndafil  In Somalia say Kacay
In American poetry  it’s the flower you must never name   And now
you see where this is going   out the window   across water to a rose shaped island   that can’t exist but   you’re counting on to be there   unmapped   unmentioned till now  The green place you imagine hiding   when the world finds out   you’re not who you’ve said

~Brendan Constantine,