Grief of All Grievances

I wrote this poem shortly after the dawn of the #blacklivesmatter movement. Though I was - relatively speaking - somewhat aware of the inequality of our American dream, of the privilege I enjoy as a white man, the brutalities and injustices (long endured) that precipitated the #blm movement got me to actively listen and investigate. This piece - along with "Saturday" - was my first piece accepted for publication, by the Evening Street Review

GRIEF OF ALL GRIEVANCES

I am listening.
With ears burning, I am listening.
Burning ember-hot, these bright white ears,
Because somewhere not far and not near,
A whole community is wailing and railing in fury and fear.

They’re out in the streets
On warrior foot on cracked pavement
In front of boarded-up storefronts
And marble towers.
They’re out in the streets,
Laying a last rightful claim.
They’re out in the rough streets
Because it’s where they must be,
Because their homes are not their homes,
Their houses not their houses,
Time not their time,
Their own not their own,
And grief of all grievances,
Their bodies not even their own blessed bodies
In the way certainly mine is mine.

And so I am listening.
Because I know that they are out in the streets
Railing against an animal in their midst.
An animal rabid and thrashing and hundreds of years old
And guilty of a million billion atrocities.
Awful indignities daily like pat-downs and prejudices
And check your pockets and cheek to curb
And hands up and stop and frisk
And no vote no bank notes no hope
No jobs no sky’s the limit,
Just deep and abiding limits
And a thousand acts of hobbling violence daily
As common as daily bread.
Oh forgive us the daily trespasses.

They’re out in the streets
Because beyond all the daily affronts,
The raw and dirty truth is that it’s normal now.
Even after decades of marches
Millions of voices rising,
The rabid animal abides still.
It’s the insult to the injury, and so I am listening.

Because my ears are burning.
Because the white fence I live behind
Near the lush green lawn
And the bright blue sky
And the home I own
And the clothes I roam freely in
And the full life I know
And grief of all grievances
The ripe and fruitful freedom I know:
It’s all my bright and shiny normal.

And so I am listening.
With ears burning, I am listening.
Burning ember-hot, these bright white ears,
Because somewhere not far and not near,
A whole community is wailing and railing in fury and fear.

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