Published on Academy of American Poets (

freedom terrors

“The Plurality of Abolitionism,” Groundings Podcast, Joy James: “what’s the plan? how long is the dreaming going to last? … i don’t trust dreams that don’t allow the possibility of nightmares.” 

“Alain and Esthetics” from Writings of Dissent (1941-1945), ed. By Daniel Maximin, translated by Keith L. Walker, Suzanne Césaire: “What is the role of poetry? Like music, it helps us to move beyond ourselves, and it goes yet further. It leads us into ‘a new time,’ into a new world. The true and real poem, which shows us the human in terror, in terror, and in horror even, …” 

Sylvia Rivera She was More than Stonewall Documentary, Life Documentary of Mother Sylvia Rivera, CT Trans History and Archives (Youtube), Sylvia Rivera: “They [incarcerated queer and trans people] write to S.T.A.R. because we’re trying to do something for them. … But, do you [cis gay and lesbian “activists” at the 1973 Christopher Street Liberation March, before the question became pride, before march became parade] try to do anything for them? no, you all tell me go and hide my tail between my legs. I will not prolong or put up with this shit. … I tell these stories of my life because I know that my children and, in the later years, my transgender community will understand—we have to stand up for ourselves—we saved their lives—we were the frontlines of the so-called 1969 rebellion of the Stonewall. I don’t know how long I’m going to be around, but I want it to be told the way I feel it.”

“An Open Letter from Original Black Panther Party Members to Black (Hip-Hop) Artists Who Have an Interest in Our Community” originally posted to and quoted in “Revolution is Illegal: Revisiting the Panther 21 at 50,” Spectre Journal, by Orisanmi Burton, Original Black Panther Party Members: “much of our history in people’s struggle has been kept away from you and seemingly unavailable to your generation as you reinvent what was done in the past.” 

“The BPP and the Case of the New York 21,” Annette T. Rubinstein & Robert Rhodes, Lili Solomon, Janet Townsend, report reads: “By 1 a.m. that same day—Wednesday, April 1, 1969—an obliging jury had indicted the 12 who had been arrested, and 7 more named by the D.A. on a 12-count indictment for conspiring to murder New York City policemen and to dynamite five mid-town department stores, a police precinct, six railroad rights-of-way, and the New York Botanical Gardens (or as—The Black Panther newspaper—put it, ‘6,000 tulip bulbs’).” 

“Revolution is Illegal: Revisiting the Panther 21 at 50,” Spectre Journal, Orisanmi Burton: “Amidst raucous cheers from the audience, the jury foreman uttered ‘not guilty’ 156 times.” 

“3. We Are All Lindeners (For Bauxite Workers and Their Families),” originally titled “The Violence of the State Demands that we Stand Up and Answer the Question: How Will We Organize to Live,” from “Four Letters in Defense of Workers & Families” in The Point is to Change the World, ed. By Alissa Trotz, Andaiye, Jocelyn Bacchus, Karen de Souza, Joy Marcus, Alissa Trotz: “How will we organize to live?”

by tending to the seeds sewn                    amongst the 6,000 tulips
covered                                                          beneath layers of conspiracy 
what the emperor’s magistrates of          fascist’s troops of           
                                                           master’s overseers of the grounds 

dreamed they’d bury in the tombs           

pen them into sentences / no legalese / no alternative grammar 
                                                                            / could free them from

                                                                         the threat of panthers in the garden 
wz never about bombs, bt the threat of life liberated from the planter’s estate// 
the persistence & proliferation of  serpents to keep out those 
                                    who might nurture the dormant seeds in the clearing

a genius & his collaborator snuck into this raided sanctuary in the clearing
propped up a pulpit        dug a moat in     
call it the undercommons           peddle snake oil from this perch

they promise flight , dreams of salvation to come                             
                                            w/o nightmares w/o the rupture of night terror’s 
so long as u pledge yourself to refusal               they call it living other/wise,
the response is non/sense,              lack there of
they ask u to emulate the flight path of an ostrich, 

bury ur head in the shifting sands, or live forever on the run;
                                                                  the gospel according to fugitive planning
sans&                             if it were the gospel according to Black study then
y rename the railroad? y re-route history? the song goes

ain’t gon’ let nobody turn me ‘round, marchin’ on to freedom land       how 
did freedom become synonym of eternal fugitive?              
wht do you think u’re doing anyway? 

do u try to do anything? other/wise non/sense
                                 have u ever opened up your g(r)a(n)ted commons to 

the exiles that tended this garden under siege before you sought this refuge

            all this terror, all this terror, horror before, a new time 

in wait                                         underground the seeds still dormant 
                                         the tortured hands that 1st sewed them toiling still
                                                        the breath of life to come after


Copyright © 2021 by dee(dee) c. ardan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“‘freedom terrors’ is one take on an answer to the signal questions related to these extra/state violences and acts of terror: a) what happens when We raise political consciousness to the tenor of historical terrors? b) what is the relationship between terror and liberation? ‘freedom terrors’ is part of this freak’s embrace, beyond aesthetic gesture, of those elders and ancestors written out of history as mad for em/bracing the terrors between them and liberation rather than be led into any double-tongued, snake oil sellers’ metropole of dream commons.”
dee(dee) c. ardan


dee(dee) c. ardan

dee(dee) c. ardan (she/they) is a Black transvesdyke and Pan-African surrealist poet.

Date Published: 2021-06-30

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