- This is a protest poem for the Jena 6 incident and its ramifications. I am not one to write overtly political poems, but I've wanted to write this for a long time.
- It was much easier to write than last night's poem.
- I feel a great sense of relief that this poem is in the world. The piece is meant to start dialogue, so feedback is appreciate about the poem itself or the issues it raises, as long as the comments are given in the spirit of sharing and healing.
- I don't claim to have any answers.
- The lines are not breaking correctly in Blogger.
Whew! Sorry for the long explanation.
“I can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If the protests at the school do not stop, with the stroke of my pen I can make your lives disappear.”
~ Jena, Louisiana District Attorney J. Reed Walters as he addressed Jena High School students in an assembly last fall.
Because of the stroke your pen, we are here:
the people you sought to abort from history
with a thick white rope.
My friend, we’d like a word with you.
Every day the past tightens around our necks
and its low, constant hum is a new Jena tree
taking root somewhere else.
This is more than a prank. A beating.
It is the geometry of hate, the tip of a scale,
a reminder that inalienable rights are, indeed, alienable,
and that equality, justice, respect, and opportunity
are still not available to all under the law.
We may have come on different ships
but we’re all in the same boat.
My friend, the boat is sinking.
Because of the stroke your pen, we are here
to bring you the bodies
that swung and hung exclamation points
against a terrible wind.
So this is a poem for those who think it’s funny to drop a noose from a branch.
This is for those who claim they have our best interest at heart but don’t,
and this is for those who do.
This is for those who thought the unmaking of flesh would be our undoing.
This is for those who were flimflammed, swindled, railroaded, bamboozled, duped, set-up, double crossed, hoodwinked, and flat out lied-to.
This is for the 40 acres. The mule.
For the women we never looked at and the girls we never raped.
For those in the wrong place at the wrong time,
which was always. Which was never.
For the nameless, homeless, stranded souls who cannot be identified by DNA testing.
For the more than 4,700 people lynched in America.
We ask how many more lives will be thrown away because nothing was done?
And for those who say we should just forget the whole thing,
we say NO. Hell no. Not this time.
May memory grant you mercy
because we won’t give you anything—
not our dignity or our shame
not even the last word,
because by the stroke your pen, we are here.