The original theme for this month’s Poetry We Admire column was Praise. Ordinarily PWA is comprised of not only a general introduction, but an accompanying introduction tailored for each selected poem, expressing what we admire about it. This is not an ordinary time. People are dying. People continue to die, in the cruelest of ways, for the pettiest of reasons. We have chosen this theme, and these poems, for the voices this country has continued to leave “on read” as Natasha Oladokun writes, lost among the din of job insecurity, of food insecurity, of life insecurity. Nowhere are these intersecting oppressions more apparent than in the lives of Black people in America, a country grown rich off Black and Brown suffering since the time before it was a country.
The Truth is Gay’s poem, confronting poverty and job insecurity in the United States, daring the reader to claim otherwise. The truth is Natasha Oladokun’s poem, staring down this country’s uncountable betrayals of those whose very contributions it depends upon. The truth is Jason B. Crawford’s poem, in protest of the exclusionary pressures that occur at the intersections of class and race in rooms across America, that have been occurring since 1619, and that, despite all efforts, have by no means ceased to exist.
There is a difference between action and performance. We have so much we wish to say about each of these poems. But they are more worthy of your attention than our words; there will be time for praise.
think: once, a white girl
was kidnapped & that’s the Trojan war.
later, up the block, Troy got shot
& that was Tuesday. are we not worthy
of a city of ash? of 1000 ships
launched because we are missed?
always, something deserves to be burned.
by Danez Smith in Poets.org
In your country, where you are from, I don’t know what
your people say to you, when they recognize you for the
first time, looking like all the rest, with your dirty sack of
laundry and your pencil dangling like a spider on your ear.
by Nikki Finney in Blood Orange Review
The choir sings funeral instead of
wedding, sings funeral instead of allegedly, sings funeral instead
of help, sings Black instead of grace, sings Black as knucklebone,
mercy, junebug, sea air.
by Morgan Parker in Poets.org
I’m sorry, I didn’t know my ass wasn’t welcome
here I figured since you invited me, you’d want
all of me to attend
Sure. I get it.
by Jason B. Crawford in Glass
You came down easy in the end
The righteous wrench of two ropes in a grand plié
Briefly, you flew
Corkscrewed, then met the ground
With the clang of toy guns, loose change
A rain of cheers.
by Vanessa Kisuule
Who knew? The Book of Revelation is a documentary
and the sky really is falling and the ocean is filling faster
with the blood of everyone except those who spill it, freely, without guilt.
by Natasha Oladokun
Tell me this didn’t happen.
I dare you.
from “The Truth”
by Ross Gay