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Shooting for the Sky

By Purvi Shah

“The Florida criminal justice system has sent two clear messages today. One is that if women who are victims of domestic violence try to protect themselves, the Stand Your Ground law will not apply to them…the second is that if you are Black, the system will treat you differently.” -– Florida Congresswoman Corinne Brown

“I tell everybody: Reach for heaven, and if you get the stars, you’re doing pretty good. That’s exactly what I intend to do.” -– Marissa Alexander

Under sky massaged by sun, from a comfortable chair, I watch

the rain stroke a myrtle tree. Naked
rain, my father says. Naked,

my mother says, because the rain
                             is unashamed to streak

brassy sky. Across every horizon, we,
like rain, dream to be ourselves – star

remnant, euphoric tears, full-bellied shine along a greater light.

                             In this world, we have but one sky – a holster of glass

and limited grounds, where a gunshot’s
                             meaning hinges
on who takes the stand.

Recall: this teen boy – and this teen boy – and this teen boy delivered
                                                                                                                                                       to sky
too soon.               Recall:

a woman caring for her young, caring
                                                                                                                                         for herself, and in a warning

shot, parceled to prison. The guilty shot reached not any man but saved
            the skin of her recent birthed belly: Marissa who fired not against
humanity but against oppression, who believed women too

could stand on just ground. Marissa, you say, you          continue
                                                                to believe – we are still a nation – hopefully

in our hearts
…Today                  I dream, Marissa, that you                                       will emerge

to watch

                                 the rain naked under a Florida sun, hold
in your hands children able to battle bullets

in every skin as we praise     unshackled
sky, prayers         liberated as rain, a day

when women will not need to be swallowed
by the earth, swallowed by the rain, when we

will not be swallowed
by a bullet, swallowed

by jury.                Survival

is more than instinct – it is soul
                                prerogative – a silver

spoon in a girl’s underwear.

          Praise: a day
when we need not

think of survival – when we just
live, a day without warning, a day

when each breath is                                   celebration, a day

when the ground, the rain, the sky, and we meet – brazen
                                                                                             & brilliant.

Added: Monday, February 20, 2017  /  Shah’s poem was awarded Second Place in the 2017 Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest, sponsored by Split This Rock. Sheila Black lent her generous acumen as judge for the contest.
Purvi Shah
Photo by Willi Wong.

Purvi Shah inspires change as a non-profit consultant on gender, economics, and racial equity. She won the inaugural SONY South Asian Social Service Excellence Award for her leadership fighting violence against women. Her award-winning poetry book, Terrain Tracks (New Rivers Press, 2006), plumbs migrations and belongings while her chaplet, Dark Lip of the Beloved: Sound Your Fiery God-Praise (Belladonna, 2016), explores women and being. Miracle Marks (Curbstone Press), her new poetry collection on women and the sacred, is forthcoming in Fall 2019. During the 10th anniversary of 9/11, she directed Together We Are New York, a community-based poetry project to highlight Asian American voices and experiences. She currently serves as a board member of The Poetry Project. Her favorite art practices are her sparkly eyeshadow and raucous laughter. Discover more at Purvo's twitter @PurviPoets or at her website

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