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Cento / Public Action 2018

On Friday April 20, 2018, poets and activists gathered in DC's Lafayette Square Park to create a Cento--a group poem composed solely of lines taken from different authors--on the topic of gun violence. Participants were asked to bring a line, exceeding no more than 12 words, that demands an end to the violence and celebrates lives free from the threat posed by guns. The result was the poem below.

The event was covered by ThinkProgress, check out the article here.

Close up of African American's hands writing a line of poetry on a slip of paper.  African American woman standing at a microphone outside, reading a line of poetry from a slip of paper. The stage is outside, at Lafayette Square Park.

Photos by Kristin Adair.


Poetry means refusing the choice to kill or die

For every politician taking money from the NRA – SHAME ON YOU!

I will not shoot myself in the head, and I will not

Because children are learning the M-16 when they should be playing guitar

Bloodshed ceases only when every child belongs
Then, the village thrives

The child received a lollipop for remaining quiet during the lockdown drill.

They will beat their guns into poems and sing out love.

No more bullets, no more guns, instead let LOVE pierce our hearts.

A people so dead, we drink the death of our own

I’m through fighting for peace.
I’ll simply, graciously peace for peace

What makes a man with a gun seem bigger than a man with almonds?

Institutions of learning should be safe havens for our children, not shooting ranges.

My country ‘tis of quivering
child breath
held in a closet

Their thoughts and prayers make nothing
but empty rosaries of bullets

I don’t want to write a memorial poem… and wear shackles of resignation

Our hearts are less fragile than the nothingness that pulls the trigger

The shrapnel in our lungs weighs us down
but makes us stronger

Get down on the grass as if the ground were a shield

Seven seconds, that’s all it takes
for a living black man to be a dead one

Don’t curl your finger around that trigger.
Just curl it: Welcome someone.

Grief challenges greed
How much money from the NRA do you need?

Can you hear us being held at gunpoint? Is it because you’re holding the gun?

Rhythmic pops pique notice questions… panic 
Power taken
Silence as vacuum

I’m gonna lay down my false idols, death

Mama, what will you do about dead kids who
were almost me?

Paola, Gabrielito, Aurora, Armando I stand here for you in love

Is it in vain that we come to sprout on the earth?
Let us at least leave songs.
Let us at least leave flowers.

This world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily.

Books or guns?
Healthcare or guns?
Children or guns?
What to choose?

Here we are,
building graveyards
on the backs of our children

And now a knot of lies
eating at itself to get undone

Tools of Blues
aimed at bodies funded by sun
Black gold still traded for guns