Poetry in English
Poem by Charlot Lucien
I Don’t Always Write Poems Like You
The unsteadiness of my pen
The unsteadiness of my penmanship
The unsteadiness of my poem
Is the unsteadiness of my standing on one foot
Because the other one
To kick away
The other guy who wants to other out me
To out of order me
Or ride his cowboy horse
Or drive his eight cylinders
Into my body
See, I don’t always write poems like you
For my poem is written
Standing on one foot
The other one up ready
To kick away the other guy who wants to
Call me OTHER
Who wants to ripe my pages off
Who wants to rape my identity
Or drape it in anonymity.
How many times did I stumble
Saying this poem on one foot?
See, I write poems, but I don’t always write
Steady poems like you.
Poem by Lamos Paul
A Diamond In The Making!
I’ll be my best to help you grow,
But you cannot go with the flow.
In the shadow I’ll let you glow,
Tomorrow has some overflow.
In your present dogs live with rage,
They all refuse to stay in cage,
Endangering the whole village,
But your motto is to engage.
Some other days the sun goes dark,
Melting the road we must embark,
Leaving us to confront the shark.
But you’ll never miss your benchmark.
In your future I see a star,
Erasing well your deepest scar.
No need to drive the fastest car,
To be the newest avatar.
In that journey you’re the driver,
Leading us through the deep river,
So we can come out safer,
To live our best life forever.
In your pathway I see greatness,
Topping all records in Guinness.
You’ll activate the world’s numbness,
To find a cure for its sickness.
My deepest fear lights my fire,
And ignites my deep desire,
To cross town just to admire,
A piece of divine attire.
The world will be blessed with your grace,
Unlike those living in disgrace.
Deep down in town you’ll leave your trace,
You will never betray your race.
Poems by Jean-Dany Joachim
To fail and not delight
in that sweet joy
on this special day
that is mine alone
Oh, not to sense at all
the melodious sound
of those words that yield
Not to see how the page
fills itself quickly
and the ink rushes
from the pen
to miss the happy stroke
of luck forever mine
would be such a misfortune—
but look, here it is, written down!
(Translated from the French by Rhina P. Espaillat)
“Los criminales son ustedes”
They arrive exhausted from their long-delayed trip. Mother and daughter finally walk to customs for their last check. They wait in line, until being called by the first available officer.
The mother hands the two passports to the immigration officer.
The young officer receives the passports in silence.
He poses them in front of him on the counter, before taking a long look at the mother and her seven-year-old daughter. He looks then at the two passports before lifting them in the air for what appears to be a more careful observation. He looks one more time at the family in front of him, and then turns to go inside through a double door behind the counter.
Not a single word to the family.
The mother instinctively grabs her daughter’s hand and holds it with conviction.
The young immigration officer returns with another one, visibly much older.
This new officer speaks first:
What’s your name, he says, addressing the mother?
The mother says her name.
Where are you from?
The mother says her country.
What is the child’s name?
My daughter’s name is… the mother says the full name.
Where is this child from, the officer asks with a much harder voice?
But before the mother could answer, the officer unleashes on her a chain of questions:
For how long has this child been with you?
Where do you come from with her?
How old is the child?
Where are you taking this child?
The daughter, following all this questioning, bursts into tears.
The mother’s head can’t quite make sense of the situation she is in. Her lips start to quiver uncontrollably. No words could come out.
She grabs her daughter next to her and holds her tight with two hands against her chest.
Follow us, Mam, the young officer finally says.
They take mother and child through that same double door behind the counter, as they both pound the mother with more questions. The daughter is screaming at this point, and the mother’s voice in tears is repeating incessantly, “los criminales son ustedes”, “los criminales son ustedes”, “los criminales son ustedes”.
(November 7, 2023)
—Jean Dany Joachim
Poems by Tontongi
Boston’s Vigilant Watchful Eyes
(In the memory of Mel King)
Urban lion, eyes watchful
of our hordes’ woe and pain
your 4x4 truck cruising
the Boston streets, looking
for the coalition of conscience
you called for in this dire time,
I remember you, Mel.
I remember you that day, camera
in hand joining us in the Boston Common
to demand deliverance for the people
of Haiti under Tonton-Macoute reign.
I remember your joining hands
with Haitian fellows fighting
for better school in their island
for better governance of justice,
and in this land of ours all for a
better covenant under a rainbow sky;
all of us sitting around the table
in your community center, Brenda,
Daniel, Larry, Eddy, Chris, Ben, Chad
seeking your ancestral wisdom.
I remember you, Mel,
telling us that all is possible
when people’s misery is the price
when human wellbeing is at stake.
Emptied of your fighting spirit
the South End will never be the same.
Lamentations For Two Police Killings
(As I was editing a poem dedicated to the killing of Sayed Faisal by Cambridge police on January 4, 2023, came the news of the deadly brutalization of Tyre Nichols on January 10. I thus combine two poems in one and dedicate it to their memory)
Part I. Sayed Faisal
Faisal was here just yesterday
a young man lost in the demons
of normality, submerged
in exhortation from all corners
to conform to one way or another.
There’s demand from the Man,
and his millions of minions
then from the mental enclosure
of his far away native village
deconstructing millennia of lie-telling
mixed with western domination,
and QAnons’ reinvention of facts.
Then very expectedly
come trigger-happy police,
ready-to-please strong arms
of Cantabrigian gentrification
not far from celebrated Charles River
confounding calls for intervention
with the power of life and death
while extolling the virtue of law and order.
Faisal was just yesterday
a young man with dreams
today he is a body in the mortuary;
his family, friends and hundreds of others
alarmingly outraged went to the City Hall
to ask why a life could be so cavalierly taken?
Faisal was crying for help
and was given a death sentence
like lightning in the sky
under everyone’s eyes to see
regardless of pain induced
like a ritual of dehumanization
where even innocence is a commodity.
Family, friends, citizens assembled
on the people’s street, our street,
demanding justice, or just human respect
along with preemptive measures
that Empire knows so well to employ
when under pressure to comply.
The protestors want to protect other lives
from trigger-happy cops hallucinating
a barbarians’ invasion, terrorist threat and all,
submerged in barricading reflexes
to saving God-given neighborhoods
separating Blacks, Browns, all bodies of color
from the deserving ones, along entrenched
parameters of hate and secured paradise.
Today Faisal’s family and friends
even in anguish, in the face
of such a callous deed
joined with hundreds
to call for another way,
to call for the ending
of reification of the Other
and of their use as mere pawns
in domination schemes:
We all must prevent the next killing!
Part II. Tyre Nichols
Evil has no color
it’s the roots, Brother,
the machine behind the well-oiled order,
the structuration of daily routine
the brutal Black officer
as for his counterparts
of all ethnicities and creeds.
Evil has no color
it’s the roots, Brother,
until Multitude says Enough!
When our tears were not yet dry
from the Cambridge killing of Faisal
came the martyrization of Tyre Nichols
and the blow to a whole community
in a vicious cycle of pain and horror.
The ordinariness of the mayhem
the casual attitude and hubris
of five police guardians
the cry of the lonely victim
for his Mama, just a few yards away
that’s madness, Brother!
Memphis, Memphis, Brother,
is the house of the Master
the place where the battle
between Nature and Culture
and misconstruing reality
has taken place for all to see.
“The brutal attack on Tyre Nichols,
at the hands, the fists, the feet, the batons
of police officers”1 beating on this man
could only revolt our conscience.
Memphis, Memphis, Brother
is not just Elvis and the blues;
it’s also the demise of Martin
on a Spring day of 1968.
It’s engrained conduct well programmed,
the internalization of the Code Noir2
it’s a structural thing, Brother.
You too, my Brother
guardian of law and peace
at the forefront to suppress the human spirit
are a dupe of the imposed mirage
getting for your zeal just crumbs
to oppress and in impunity kill
your fellows of the same class or race.
Evil has no color, Brother,
it’s the machinery of oppression.
May one day, O sunny and beautiful day
the collective conscience
rise up and gain the upper hand!
|Quote from MSNBC’s Ali Velshi describing the beating by the five Black police officers.
|French for “The Black Code,” a series of legal articles formulated by Jean-Baptiste Colbert in 1681 and issued by King Louis XIV in 1685 to regulate the slavery regime and the treatment of enslaved people in the colonies controlled by France.
Demonstration in Somerville High School in 2022 against the police killings of Sayed Faisal & Tyre Nichols. —photo courtesy Melissa McWhinney
It was quite a spectacle to see Joe Biden, the president of the United States, condemning with such emotional outburst the killing of a Black man, Tyre Nichols, by five Memphis cops. Barack Obama showed the same verbal effusion after the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012, going as far as saying that Trayvon could have been his son—while he didn’t exert as much effort to force his Justice Department to do something about the injustice of the killing. Looking at it through a structural lens, both men sound just like mere hypocrites.
Why, despite many explosions of anger and condemnation against police killing of Black and Brown people, does it continue at such a pace? Is it, as some African-Americans, like Nikole Hannah-Jones, think, because of the direct link between the slaveholderx’s habit of sending posses to capture fugitive enslaved laborers and the current configuration of the police as guardians of the capitalist order?
These killings don’t stay within the confines of the victims’ immediate environment. They injure entire communities which bear witness. In a June 2020 statement following the murder of George Floyd, the American Medical Association (AMA) underlined the tremendous impact police violence has on the physical and mental well-being of ethnic minorities: “Police brutality in the midst of public health crises does nothing to prevent crime, it creates demoralizing conditions in an already tense period. It aggravates the psychological damage and has an obvious impact on the people around. [...] Police brutality is a stark reflection of our American heritage of racism,” they said.
We must use humanist standard to measure what is acceptable in a free and democratic society governed by the rule of law and ethics. The US must find a way of making the killing of Black men and women (or any human being, for that matter) unacceptable and condemnable.
May the present poem be a gauge of my solidarity with the victims of police brutality, the suffering communities that endure it, and the struggle to end it.
How Could Your Eyes Stay Dry?
(Dedicated to the Palestinian poet, activist and scholar Refaat Alareer who died on December 7, 2023, from an Israeli air strike that killed his brother, his sister and four nieces.)
How could you see
so much distress and pain
the plight of the displaced
the horror on children’s faces
and not be moved by the heartless
acts committed right under our gaze?
How could you see the miles
of blight, rubble, and smoke
on Gaza’s desolate landscape,
the blood dried by the sun
the count of twenty thousand souls
perished in a matter of weeks
and not ask your God to say a word?
How could you see the despair,
the disparity of military might
the human beings made easy prey
by super-armed IDF lurking around
and Uncle’s acquiescence and silence1
and still have no tears in your eyes?
How could your eyes stay dry
seeing October 7, its depravity, and all
that comes after to avenge the dead
and yet have no tears in your eyes?
How, after Abu Ghraib,2
could proud men be still displayed
nude on the street pavement
the world as unwilling spectator
of murderous power play in action?
How have your eyes stayed dry, tell me
what would make your humanity rise?
How could you not see empathy
as part of the liberating conscience,
part of that cry for another ethos,
that one which makes it a relief to see
the youths’ refusal to inherit this war?
Picasso’s painting “Guernica” repainted in the colors of Palestine by Spanish students. —posted by Hakina Lebbar on Facebook on 12/10/2023
From the inner and far-flung cities
they refuse to take the bait for total
annihilation of the Other; they march
to the streets of Boston, Beirut,
Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, New York,
London, Amsterdam or Cairo, and cry out
for another way to uphold Right;
they call for an end to the slaughter,
they demand the initiation of mercy
in the equation for the betterment of life,
calling for ceasefire or for simple decency.
Glorious are those who refuse to be part
of this war that kills the poets, the artists,
the teachers only to be replaced by poetry,
the arts, the curiosity to go beyond,
beyond life’s compressing constraints
—we shall all cry for Gaza!
—Tontongi Boston, December, 2023
|IDF=Israeli Defense Force.
|Abu Ghraib is a prison (and town) in Iraq that was used by US occupation forces to detain Iraqi insurgents after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. The revelations in March 2004 of physical, sexual and psychological abuses of the detainees by US troops caused a huge scandal and widespread international condemnation.
Protesters greeting Joe Biden in Boston on December 5, 2023, denouncing his unconditional support for the Israeli war on the Palestinians.
Poem by Refaat Alareer
If I must die
If I must die,
you must live
to tell my story
to sell my things
to buy a piece of cloth
and some strings,
(make it white with a long tail)
so that a child, somewhere in Gaza
while looking heaven in the eye
awaiting his dad who left in a blaze—
and bid no one farewell
not even to his flesh
not even to himself—
sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up above
and thinks for a moment an angel is there
bringing back love
If I must die
let it bring hope
let it be a tale