AWP 18 & A Poem

Because this is too urgent, brief recap and a poem: 

This past week I spent about four days attending the AWP (Association of Writer's & Writing Programs) Conference in Tampa, FL. My time there was spent catching up with my writing tribe, attending amazing panels and readings by famous authors and close friends. I gave and received hugs, smiles, laughter and joy. I bought books and had them signed and I even shared some of my own work on a panel about the song in Latinx poetry. 

Overall, it was one of the best times I've had at an AWP Conference and I know that my experience was shaped by all the wonderful POC panels that are finally making their way on to the schedule. AWP has been problematic for authors of color/marginalized & disabled writers for many years. It has traditionally been (as most things are in this country) an institution led and dominated by white able-bodied men (and more recently women). They are taking slow and steady steps to make change and be more inclusive but there are times when problematic writers/poets/programs/organizations still manage to take center stage. 

One of these incidences happened on Saturday night during one of the larger readings featuring amazing poets Layli Long Soldier, Khaled Mattawa...and then there was Mark Doty. Who, based on his bio and his accolades is a "prestigious and important literary figure," but based on what I heard, is a problematic, privileged, elitist white man who wrote a poem about Tamir Rice without ever bothering to say Tamir's name. While he made MANY other problematic (white savior complex) statements throughout his reading, this glaring erasure is the subject of the poem below. (If you'd like to hear more of my thoughts on all of this, or if you were there at the reading and wanna chat, feel free to send me a note via the Contact link at the top of the page)


To "The White Man" Who Read A Poem About Tamir Rice & Never Bothered to Say "The Boy's" Name

I heard you say you boy
I heard you say gun
I heard you say toy
I heard you say park
I heard you say assess
I heard you say the situation
                      You are the situation
                               Situate yourself out of this
I heard you say cop
I heard you say twelve
I heard you say shot
I heard you say this boy
The boy
That boy
I heard you say time
                               Two seconds of time
I heard you say charcoaled
I heard you say sun
I heard you say flower
                      I be the sun
                          He be the flower
                                He be the son
                                      I be the flower
My son

I’ll say it for you:
Tamir Rice
Tamir Rice
Tamir Rice
Tamir Rice
Tamir Rice
Tamir Rice
Tamir Rice
Tamir Rice
Tamir Rice
Tamir Rice
Tamir Rice
Tamir Rice

Whereas a Soldier
will pour her songs
a barrel of water
into the stolen lands
of her people
& till the red earth
with the seeds
of her ancestors
to grow a new country
& whereas an immigrant
will fill the ocean he has crossed
with the nectar of words
his people have lost
to hurricane a new world
You flitter in the sky
a bald eagle
wanting a slice
of the blue sky
above them
wheeking for air
already extinct

Two. Seconds.
The amount of time
it would have taken you