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’m sick and tired of being sick and tired
No more turned cheek
No more patience for the obstruction
of black woman’s right to vote
& plant & feed her family
Equality will cost you your luxurious life
If a Black woman can’t vote
If a brown baby can’t be fed
If we all don’t have the same opportunity America promised
Ain’t no mountain boulder enough
to wan off a determined woman
Look at my hands
Each palm holds a history
of the 16 shots that chased me
harm free from a plantation shack
Look at my eyes
Both these are windows
these little lights of mine
Nothing but death can stop me
from marching out a jail cell still a free woman
Nothing but death can stop me from running for Congress
No black jack beating will stop my feet from working
& my heart from swelling
& my mouth from praying
America! you will learn freedom feels like
butter beans, potatoes & cotton seeds
picked by my sturdy hands
Victoria Gray, Anna Divine & Me
In our rightful seats on the house floor
Until my children
& my children’s children
& they babies too
can March & vote
& get back in interest
what was planted
in this blessed land
I ain’t stopping America
I ain’t stopping America
Not even death can take away from my woman’s hands
what I’ve rightfully earned
Copyright © 2019 by Mahogany Browne. Originally featured in Vibe. Used with permission of the author.
Here, poem meets prayer.
We are exceedingly comfortable
with posturing and self-defense
that masquerade as apology.
But what’s needed in this moment
is unmixed confession
of our nation’s sin,
deep and indefensible.
“Now I lay me down to sleep”
must make way for
something more muscular:
sack cloth and ashes,
prayer and fasting,
radical repentance begins
with this unvarnished profession:
You are righteous,
and we are not.
Please heal our nation.
Cleanse our stubborn hearts.
Show each of us what part to play.
Broken as Judah and Jerusalem,
we cry and come bending our will
toward the good
you dream for us still,
no matter our sin,
no matter what skin
Copyright © 2020 by Nikki Grimes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 7, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.