poetry

For the Students, My Teachers, February 14th, 2018 (and Every Day After). {poetry}

 

I haven’t cared about you,
or the dangers that point and shoot
into the blank pages of our futures.
I’ve watched politicians bow their heads
and purse their lips,
clasp their fat fingers
and allow you to die.

I’ve almost joined you twice,
three times maybe.
At 19, I stood frozen in the street
as bullets sounded past my face
too quick for sight.
At 25, there was the angry young officer in the march
with his “excessive show of force,” as they say,
and at 29, there was the robber who entered the shop
where I sold rosemary and lavender,
intimately acquainting me to Death
in the form of a barrel he placed against
my chest.

And yet.
I have too often chosen silence
as these shootings multiply like
cancer cells across our country.
When she arrives, my helplessness
dons the mask of a dim-eyed nihilist.
“Let’s finish ourselves off. Berserkers all,” she says.
“Dumping and slashing,
raping and stealing,
extracting and slaughtering.
We love our guns more than we love our children.
We love our guns more than we love ourselves.
We are a defiled, perverse people,
and we shrug, defiling.”

Terror as usual has torn our will,
stuffed us full of tyrants’ lies,
illumined our fears
in funhouse mirrors of our own reflections.

I am implicated.

We continue to fail our children.

And then you say Never Again.
You say Watershed.
You call BS with a shaved head.
Demand answers,
demand conscience.

You rise and strike and assemble and multiply.

Under your words, you chant Destiny.
You chant Heart.
Under your words, you chant Redemption.

You chant Now. Alive. Eternal. Forever in the Moment.

This is the response to terror
they don’t want us to have.

This is the Great Red Bird,
scorch-born and rising
into the clear blue air.

Yours are the tears
that rinse fear from our souls,
that boycott the bus,
and put the sack of groceries down
to stand in front of the tank in Tiananmen.
Your pain nourishes the body to
pick up the phone
and lace the boots.

Your tears spring from the same waters
that helped gather the mothers of La Plaza de Mayo to demand reunion
or funerals for their disappeared children.
These waters formed Black Lives Matter
and Standing Rock
and the One Billion Rising Revolution
who celebrate the growing global power of women
on the same day you were birthed through fire.

You remind us that amidst the swirling uncertainty
of the continuation of life on our blue-green planet
And the dangers to our own lives, our children’s, neighbors’, teachers’, friends’,
Never Again will we swallow despair
and call it apathy.
Never Again will we allow our power to be taken from us.
Never Again will we entertain this tyranny
that wears a thousand divisive masks
but is always a scared and greed-scarred child-man
hiding behind a curtain.

As Maya said, And still I rise.”

As Marianne said, We are powerful beyond measure.”

As Thay said, “Love in Action.”

As Bob said, “None but ourselves can free our minds.”

As you say, echoing Audre, We must be the change.”

As we say, as we let our tears fall with yours,
and the fires in our bellies animate our limbs to action,
We are with you.
We are with you.
We are with you.

***

Kate Temple-West is a writer, dreamer, and community organizer who lives in NYC and the Hudson Valley. She’s currently at work on her first novel. You can follow her on Facebook, where she writes about the little synchronicities and everyday magic that come from forging a self-made path. She also writes about her community, Children’s Magical Garden on NYC’s Lower East Side, that’s a bit of real-life Sesame Street juxtaposed against the challenges of urban community gardens.

***

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