Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


In the Middle of the Burning

notice now pictures of awful things on top our head
the freight that barricades this view, how enough
how the law batter down the dogged tide we make
the world shoring its dark scars between seasons
as though to hold it together only by a flame
is here a voice to please enough the blunt
borderlessness of this grief turning our heads to rubble
the lunacy of nothing so limning as death in the streets
in these vibrating hours where the corners talk back
need I simply run my tongue along the granite sky and live

to know how lost the millionth life somewhere today
the swift shape of roads new names combust, the sum
of anthems flooding the world with the eye’s sudden and narrow
saltwater and streets ziplined with screams at the pitch of cooking pots
then tear gas, then pepper spray, then militarized lies unzipping
body bags, oh, our many many there, our alive and just born,
and that is how to say let’s fuck it up, we the beat and we the loud
tuning forks and the help arriving empty-handed
propping the hot news of new times on our head

days like these pleat whatever the hollow year must offer
between the not-yet-dead and those just waking up
it will not be the vanished thing that we remember
it will be what we exchanged close to midnight
like smugglers high-wiring the city, hoarding the thoughts
of ours we interrupted midway to discovering the velocity
of the burning world below
of our language in the lateness of our stuck and reckless love

where the forces who claim they love us
level our lives to crust—the centuries-wide dance
of swapped shackles for knees
their batons and miscellany
thrown at our whole lives demanding our mothers
raise from their separate rooms, separate graves, today
to save who and me? I open the book to a naked page
where nothing clatter my heart, what head
what teeth cling to broadside, roll alias after
alias with a pen at their dull tribunes and shrines
imagine our heirlooms of shot nerves make a life
given to placards and synergies and elegies, but more

last things: where letters here where snow in May
where the millennium unstitches the quartered earth
in June, how many today to the viral fire
the frosted rich and their forts, but not
the fulsome rage of my people unpeaced
mute boots with somber looks appear
a fearsome autumn ending spring, though we still hear

I dare not sing

another song to dig a hole this time for the lineages
of magnolias where the offspring bring a hand to cover
our mouth, our heaping lives, who sit who burn who drop
three feet to the tar, who eat and demolish the thing
that takes our head, the thing that is no more
the place that never was except a burning learned

just once and not again when the darker working’s race

Credit


Copyright © 2020 by Canisia Lubrin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 3, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem


“This poem contemplates the early days of the 2020 Black Lives Matter uprisings following the death of George Floyd during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. I had been speaking with a poet friend about what it means to be (poets) committed to the difficult subjects of the state of the world and to be called upon to make sense of things. When, most of those tumultuous days, everything seemed too overwhelming for language and I assumed everyone else was living in the same difficult world, the inevitable questions about the further clarified inequities of this world led me to this poem. In the midst of all the continuing disillusionments, increased surveillance of our lives, and highly organized attempts to co-opt and curtail demands for a better world are the things that require us to continue to extend the generosity of ourselves in every direction.”
Canisia Lubrin

Author


Canisia Lubrin

Canisia Lubrin’s most recent book is The Dyzgraphxst (McClelland & Stewart, 2020). A writer, critic, editor and teacher born in St. Lucia, Lubrin lives and writes in Whitby, Ontario.

Date Published: 2020-09-03

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/middle-burning