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Poems for the Week of 2017 Inauguration Day

America changes today. We've been bracing ourselves for it since November. Today, for us here in DC, here at Split This Rock, the air is heavy with emotion--grief, sadness, anger--and with an urgent call for action, to organize, to remember and claim the power we wield when we are in solidarity with one another.

We change today. Silence and passivity are not options, never have been. We must do better to speak with one voice for one another, the earth, the principles to which we are most committed.

Today for Poem of the Week, we offer not just one poem, but a gorgeous tapestry of six: as fuel, courage, affirmation to help us all move forward. Our hearts are full of gratitude for all the poets who offered their work to be considered for this historic Friday. Their voices have helped to hold us up this week and we hope they'll do the same for you.

Below we highlight six dynamic poems, from Richard Blanco, Kathy Engel, Aracelis Girmay, Linda Hogan, Dunya Mikhail, and Danez Smith. May they give you strength! Share them widely but provide attribution as described on our website for all poems in The Quarry.

And if you're in DC and need more poetry of resistance, join us on Saturday, January 21 for a Poetry Speak Out from 7-9:30 pm at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. Details available on the event's Facebook page.

 


From Declaration of Inter-Dependence
By Richard Blanco

We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor...

 

We're the living who light vigil candles and the cop who didn't shoot. We're the inmate with his volunteer teacher diagraming sentences, the Buddhist alongside the stockbroker serving soup at a shelter. We're the grandfather taking a selfie with his grandson and his husband, the widow's fifty cents in the collection plate and the golfer's ten-thousand-dollar pledge for a cure.

We hold these truths to be self-evident...

 

We're them. They're you. You're me. We're us: a handshake, a smile good morning on the bus, a door held open, a seat we give up on the subway. We tend restrooms or sell art, make huevos rancheros or herbed salmon, run for mayor or restock shelves, work a backhoe or write poems. We're a poem in progress.


[Read the entire poem at Split This Rock's website.]
Photo by Nico Tucci

 


From Ode To What We Make
By Kathy Engel

Praise the words and what
defies words, the mamas and
fathers, all the beloveds
who hold and steer us,
walk, crawl or leap with us,
ghost us, as we again, still -
whoever, however, wherever -
lumber, stomp, whisper, yell,
reaching up out of mud, in our
ancient infancy, into verse
from blackened earth

[Read the entire poem at Split This Rock's website.]

 


From YOU ARE WHO I LOVE
By Aracelis Girmay

You looking into the faces of young people as they pass, smiling and saying,
Alright! which, they know it, means I see you, Family. I love you. Keep on.

You dancing in the kitchen, on the sidewalk, in the subway waiting for the train because Stevie Wonder, Héctor Lavoe, La Lupe

You stirring the pot of beans, you, washing your father's feet

You are who I love, you
reciting Darwish, then June

Feeding your heart, teaching your parents how to do The Dougie, counting to 10, reading your patients' charts

You are who I love, changing policies, standing in line for water, stocking the food pantries, making a meal


[Read the entire poem at Split This Rock's website.]
Photo by Sheila Griffin.

 


From Eagle Feather Prayer
By Linda Hogan

I thank the eagle and Old Mother for this prayer
I send to earth and sky
and the sacred waters. I thank Old Mother
and the golden eagle, the two who taught me to pray
without words. They instilled the part of me
unnamed by anatomy books
They gave to those parts
Their own perfect names
and so I stand here now
facing you and the rest of creation
also with secret names.

[Read the entire poem at Split This Rock's website.]

 


From Ama-ar-gi
By Dunya Mikhail

Our clay tablets are cracked

Scattered, like us, are the Sumerian letters

"Freedom" is inscribed in this way:

Ama-ar-gi

 

This, then, is how the map grew borders

The birds don't know it yet

they leave their droppings wherever they want

their songs, like exiles, might pass by anywhere

 

There are no borders in Paradise

neither spoils nor victors

there are no victors at all

Paradise is Ama-ar-gi

 

[Read the entire poem at Split This Rock's website.]

 


From Our Moveable Mecca
By Danez Smith


        we who citizens of our own funk, who know immigrant means family late to the feast, who know ain't nobody free until we all free, who know shouldn't be no price on a good life, who dream while waking, dream with our hands

        we who build a temple of doors, a church of windows & roads, who say "my body is not a catalog of wreckage, my body is a portal to tomorrow," who call on the power of ancestors past and ancestors not yet born, now call forward every god in us to plant our new seeds


our moveable mecca

where our bodies are the buildings

our land of fresh water & empathy

where there is enough of enough


[Read the entire poem at Split This Rock's website.]
Photo by: Paul Baker Prindle.