On July 9th, the Houston Chronicle ran a story entitled, “In a violent week, Americans turns to Poetry.” It’s not just Americans who seek solace in poetry, of course, but the essence of the article resonated for me, and frankly gave me a way to approach this preface, something I’ve been struggling with. I can’t shake the feeling that writing about Diode’s new site design, or our book contests, seems vulgar when there’s so much else to say. The thing is I don’t have the ability to say anything at this moment. Perhaps you are struggling in the same way. I want to say something about violence, about racism, something clear. I want to say something disarming, compelling, beautiful. But I can’t. Not yet. Maybe never. Saying anything else feels frivolous. And this speaks to the heart of the Houston Chronicle piece. The article reported that Twitter users were sharing poetry in the wake of violence, and reprinted some of the poems that have been shared. When we are shocked mute, stunned into silence or incoherence, poetry can give voice to our outrage, our despair, our horror; it can speak our grief, our exhaustion, our heartbreak. It speaks to us and for us until we can add our own voices loudly, than louder still, to its overarching refrain: enough.
Enough. Enough. Enough.
I am grateful that we turn to poetry, and that poetry turns back to us. I am grateful that Diode allows us, me, Law Alsobrook and Jeff Lodge to share these poems with you. We hope you find solace in them. We hope they speak to you, and that they help you speak.
And finally, I leave this with you. This poem appeared in Diode 8.1. Thank you Bob Hicok for speaking to me, for me.
Woke to this on Google: another black man
cop-shot. He was already on the ground.
I didn’t read why because there’s always
a reason. He had a gun gun or a toy gun
or a hand that looked like it might have once
been or held a gun. He was on crack or PCP
or vitamins. He was too big, too powerful,
too feral for three cops, six cops, X cops
to control. It was dark and he was dark.
It was sunny and he was dark. Every time
a cop kills a black man—whether the cop
is brown or black or white—the killing
is white. I am killing these men and want me
to stop. If you’re listening to yourself
write this poem, know the world
knows who we are. I’ll spread my hand
across your heart, our heart, so you’ll feel
it’s a friend asking, How do you want to live?
But please—don’t keep looking like me
and saying this is justice. This is hunting.