Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.
Copyright © 2015 by Ross Gay. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.
I am sick of writing this poem
but bring the boy. his new name
his same old body. ordinary, black
dead thing. bring him & we will mourn
until we forget what we are mourning
& isn’t that what being black is about?
not the joy of it, but the feeling
you get when you are looking
at your child, turn your head,
then, poof, no more child.
that feeling. that’s black.
think: once, a white girl
was kidnapped & that’s the Trojan war.
later, up the block, Troy got shot
& that was Tuesday. are we not worthy
of a city of ash? of 1000 ships
launched because we are missed?
always, something deserves to be burned.
it’s never the right thing now a days.
I demand a war to bring the dead boy back
no matter what his name is this time.
I at least demand a song. a song will do just fine.
look at what the lord has made.
above Missouri, sweet smoke.
Copyright © 2014 by Danez Smith. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.
she says & it’s the first time
the word doesn’t hurt. I respond
by citing something age-inappropriate
from Aristotle, drawing mostly
from his idea that hands are what make us
human, every gesture the embodiment
of our desire for invention or care & I’m not
sure about that last part but it seemed
like a polite response at the time
& I’m not accustomed to not needing
to fight. If my hands speak with conviction
then blame my stupid mouth for its lack
of weaponry or sweetness. I clap when I’m angry
because it’s the best way to get the heat out.
Pop says that my words are bigger
than my mouth but these hands
can block a punch, build a bookcase,
feed a child & when’s the last time
you saw a song do that?
Copyright © 2014 Joshua Bennett. “You Are So Articulate With Your Hands” was originally published in Smartish Pace. Used with permission of the author.
Which I spell that way because that’s the way it was spelled
on all the clear plastic packets I grew up buying for no more
than two dollars, two fifty max, unless I was at Duane Reade
or some likewise corporatized venue but who buys
the majority of their durags at Duane Reade anyway,
who would actually wage war on the durag’s good name
by spelling it d-e-w hyphen r-a-g, as I recently read
some sad lost souls do in an article in The Guardian,
this isn’t botany. This isn’t a device one might use
to attend to the suburban garden & its unremarkable
flora, drying freshly damp wisteria with black silk
or the much more common nylon-rayon-cotton blend.
I could see d-o hyphen r-a-g. That works for me.
One could argue this version makes more sense
even than the spelling I am accustomed to,
reflective as it is of nothing other than itself.
I have never heard the term ’do used in a sentence
by anyone other than a long-lost colleague
at Princeton who once reached wide-eyed
for my high top fade before a swift rebuke,
marked by my striking his wrist as if some large
though distinctly non-lethal mosquito, surely a top six
proudest moment of anti-colonial choreography
I have dared call mine in this odd, improbable
life I hold to my chest like a weapon. I know.
I know. This wasn’t supposed to be about them.
You make me inordinately beautiful. Let’s talk
about that. Or how I’m 12 years old & the cape
of a white durag billows from beneath my Marlins cap
like a sham poltergeist, flight & failure contained
within a single body, worthy core of any early
2000’s era New York rapper’s coat of arms.
I was lying before. Once, while we sat, quiet
as mourners on the front porch, my father spat
that’s a nice ’do you have there, eyeing the soft mess
of cork-screwed darkness atop his second youngest
son’s aging face, no sign of the good hair he praised
for years to family & co-workers alike. Alas, old friend,
you somehow make me even more opaque, make
me mystery, criminal, dope boy by the corner
of Broadway & 127th compelling respectable
women to reach for smart-phones, call for backup,
smooth, adjustable shadow, like policy
or fire, you blacken everything you touch.
Copyright © 2016 Joshua Bennett. “Owed to the Durag” was originally published in Public Pool. Used with permission of the author.