Thursday, 30 July 2020

On streets that I know

by Elise Stuart

Growing up in Minneapolis,
I walked the streets as a kid on my way to school,
where black and white and brown kids
learned together, where we sang
Beatles songs on the steps,
had paper sales by the big trees in front,
stacks of old papers we collected, tied with twine
leaning against tree trunks.

Remember coming home,
running with my friend, Alice,
the day Kennedy was shot.
Every street seemed tilted,
everything felt different that day.
Nothing was ever the same,
as more of our leaders were killed.

Walking down the streets when
I ran from home at 16.
The streets became home for a while,
became part of me.
Then, the cops harassed us as hippies,
just wanting us to be
afraid of them, a tiny bit of what
the black man and woman have had to
live with for hundreds of years.

When I heard of the murder,
the killing of an innocent man,
knee to neck, while three cops watched
and didn’t stop it.
A man handcuffed, made helpless,
suffocated to death.
I know that street.
And I feel again,
that nothing will ever be the same.
That we have seen the cruelty,
the barbarian, at work,
lying and killing,
on video.

If only he could have stopped,
known that this man was
a father, a son, a brother,
like himself.
I grieve for George Floyd’s family
for the cruel and heartless way he lost his life.
Let this loss make me give voice to justice,
without violence,
that is so long
in coming.

* * * * *

Elise Stuart became Poet Laureate of Silver City in 2014-2017, holding numerous poetry workshops for youth in schools around Grant County. Students made poem flags or their original poems, which graced libraries, coffee shops, old folks' homes.
Her first collection of poetry, Another Door Calls, came out in the spring 2017, then she published a memoir My Mother and I, We Talk Cat in the fall of the same year. She continues to write poetry and short stories, host an authors' radio show and work with youth, aware of how vital it is their voices be heard in every community.

1 comment:

  1. i love this so much. Elise has a charming way of weaving her personal reflections of innocence lost, with the current narrative. potent!