detritus

Have you ever heard someone wonder what future archaeologists, whether human or from alien civilization, will make of us? Today, I’d like to challenge you to answer that question in poetic form, exploring a particular object or place from the point of view of some far-off, future scientist? The object or site of study could be anything from a “World’s Best Grandpa” coffee mug to a Pizza Hut, from a Pokemon poster to a cellphone.

today we uncovered a journal bound with twine
we think it belonged to a child of human origin
based on the shape of the scribbled images
and the curious spelling of words that seem to be in the primocommon language

you can view the reports at your leisure
but the object is too fragile to touch

what we noticed may be a clue
from this absent people
the child was frightened
in the place she went to learn
picture after picture shows her
running from tall figures
in blue uniforms
with weapons

it has been hard to find anything on this abundant planet, anything besides bones to account for sentient life
and if this is the where they ended up
perhaps that is for the best –
no species worth its miracles
terrorizes its young

making tomorrow

write a poem that explores a small, defined space – it could be your childhood bedroom, or the box where you keep old photos. It could be the inside of a coin purse or the recesses of an umbrella stand. Any space will do – so long as it is small, definite, and meaningful to you.

the small place
between yesterday and tomorrow
where people who can see futures
whisper to each other
the words to the songs they must sing
to lead the way

the narrow corridor
creaks with every step
people think they can run the path like bulls
but the only way forward is at the pace
of our collective heartbeat
altogether, imperfect, together

the past is turning to dust behind us
we must remember
the future is waiting beyond our anxiety
we must dream
the present is so small
we must fill it with our transformation

(dedicated to michelle, kali, ananda, sha and guppi)

scribble

write a poem of ekphrasis — that is, a poem inspired by a work of art. But I’d also like to challenge you to base your poem on a very particular kind of art – the marginalia of medieval manuscripts.

i looked for us
in your margins
we were not there
we could not fit
i scribbled all over the page
we’re here
we’re here
we’re here

black. liberation.

Our prompt for Day Twenty-Three comes to us from Gloria Gonsalves, who challenges us to write a double elevenie. What’s that? Well, an elevenie is an eleven-word poem of five lines, with each line performing a specific task in the poem. The first line is one word, a noun. The second line is two words that explain what the noun in the first line does, the third line explains where the noun is in three words, the fourth line provides further explanation in four words, and the fifth line concludes with one word that sums up the feeling or result of the first line’s noun being what it is and where it is.

black
covers us
every single inch
both within and beyond.
belonging.

liberation
awaits us
down deep inside
where tomorrow bursts forth.
trust.

georgic prince, purple sea

Your Georgic could be a simple set of instructions on how to grow or care for something, but it could also incorporate larger themes as to how land should be used (or not used), or for what purposes.

to care for the black body
gather on either side and ask for nothing
touch the purple flowers, inhale the lavender
remember that a prince walked on dirt here
as well as clouds and water

remember there was a before
before police and jim crow
before migrating north
before prayers in cotton fields
before songs pressed together from strangers’ tongues
before the ocean was a graveyard
before the betrayal and hunting

tell the cow children how beautiful they are
and tell the stars they cannot distract you
from the beauty of the darkness

remember there will be a then
it is moving even now
a river through the soil
that has never seen the sun

be naked in the field
let your spine be naked in daylight
let everyone know
you love the orbit, the chaos
the green, the rolling and rolling hills
that all want to see the sea
and be the waves

press one cheek to the dirt path
then the other
whisper first and then yell
be unintelligible with your wild
loving
be black, and be of the earth
feed your root system

let the medicine be earth
let your flesh become medicine
for all that’s coming

full of blood

write a poem that incorporates overheard speech.

“she was full of blood”

she was pulsing and messy
lying easily to her masters
pretty faced, and wet between the thighs
she survived

she kept forgetting her name
no one could say it anyway
the rhythm of it, twist of tongue
no one knew what it meant

she was full of blood
when she thought of running she felt heavy
how could she carry all this life
far enough and farther, before sunrise

how black people play monopoly

Today, I challenge you to write a poem that incorporates the vocabulary and imagery of a specific sport or game.

our ancestors built almost everything on the board
but mostly, we never got to buy anything
or build on properties for ourselves
basically, we were sent directly to jail
and we did not pass go
and we never got $200
and we’re trying now
to not be pieces
anymore

how that baby came

write a poem that recounts a creation myth.

of course this is the prompt
on the day i remember
what i forgot
which i would never forget
but my life is so full

a child unwanted and unplanned
and not viable
not a child
not a myth
a bundle of cells
a body-gathering-into-concept of cells

a queer woman’s question of men
a barren woman’s only chance, perhaps
a young woman feeling her age
as the end of a dysfunctional fertility

this was never magic
i did not glow
the only thing i noticed on my own
was the smell of garbage everywhere
as this little one was lost inside me
destroying the tunnel of life with greed

my baby was so american
my baby never was
in a house i never owned
with a man i never married
and i had no degree, no savings
nothing at all really
nothing

and i still have such a full life
and i still refuse to pay the cost
the bills will have to wait for my grief
just like me

the big thank you

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds was the work of many many people and i wanted to properly thank them all. i wrote this book in several places so if i left you out of this list you just tell me and i will get you in here.

Rachel Plattus made my work come to life in the Emergent Strategy Handbook, so I commissioned five pieces from her for this book, they grace the cover pages of each section. she was also an early reader of the book.

Margaret Killjoy thank you for the beautiful layout which allowed all the kinds of things I wanted in the book to have their own place! and Herb Thornby for the cover of my dreams.

the entire team at Allied Media Projects, especially Nandi Comer and Toni Moceri for helping me adult, Monica Kish for keeping me out of jail, Mike Meadow and Jenny Lee for this political home, and Muna Danish for helping me create an online home for this work.

there were several people who took on the early work of reading and responding to the book drafts. some of them ended up sending editing notes that i just put verbatim into the book. others just made corrections in the clay as it spun. here is a list of those readers:

Autumn Brown
Clare Bayard
Celeste Faison
Dani McClain
Deborah Frieze
Hiram Rivera
Jodie Tonita
Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan
Omisade Burney-Scott
Rachel Plattus
Sage Crump
Shira Hassan
Staci Haines and Spenta Kandhawalla
Tunde Olaniran

and thank you Lorna at AK for the copy editss! there are the circle of readers who blurbed this book:

Alta Starr
Ayana Jamieson
Denise Perry
Elissa Perry
Makani Themba
Margaret Wheatley

and then there are the contributors, people i asked to gift me their poetry and reflections.

Adaku Utah
Adela Nieves
Aisha Shillingford
Aja Taylor
Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Allen Frimpong
Anna Martine Whitehead
Andrea Quijada
Ashinda Maxton
Autumn Brown
Ayana Jamieson
Beatriz Beckford
Bilen Birhanu
Brenda Salgado
Celeste Faison
chelsea cleveland
Chris Zizzamia
Chrislene DeJean
Cindy Weisner
Denise Perry
Dani McClain
Dara Cooper
Desiree Evans
Elizabeth Yeampierre
Hannah Sassaman
Harsha Walia
Holiday Simmons
Invincible ill Weaver
Jasmine Burnett
Jayeesha Dutta
Jay-Marie Hill
Jeanette Lee
Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey
Jidan Koon
Joan Morgan
Jodie Tonita
Jozi Zwerdling
Junauda Alma
Karen Joy Fowler
Karissa Lewis
Kasha Ho
Kat Aaron
Kiese Laymon
Laura Luna P
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
Luzviminda Carpenter
Lynnée Denise
Malkia Cyril
Manish Vidaya
Marie Varghese
Megan Swoboda
Mervyn Marcano
Morgan Bassichis
Naima Penniman
Nia Robinson
Nicole Newman
Omisade Burney-Scott
Patrisse Khan-Cullors
Peter Hardie
Prentis Hemphill
Richard Strozzi-Heckler
Sendolo Diaminah
Sham-e-ali Nayeem
Shane Bernardo
Sharon Lungo
Sierra Pickett
Sofia Samatar
Supriya Pillai
Taj James
Tananarive Due
Tawana Petty
Terry Marshall
Toshi Reagon
Tunde Olaniran
Vassi Johri

blackeration

Today, I challenge you to write a poem that incorporates neologisms. What’s that? Well, it’s a made-up word!

blackeration:

to put black all over it

to imbue with black love
or dark magic

to uplift with hands to the heavens
sing the praises of
line dance in the direction of

in the face of pressure, to deny or hide,
to double down on blackness

to never apologize for being born

to slip south and east on a journey

to fill up with the vastness of the known universe

to move beyond construct and into
the familial realm
a territory marked by drum
and shared destiny

to move beyond bondage
deep within

to break the iron around the heart
and love children that may be taken
by violence that is later justified with half truths

and love neighbors who do not love themselves
because they were taught not to

and love strangers because you see in each other
survival rooted in patience and miracle

and love even the gnarled trail behind you
the whip and promise and theft and desire
that gave us blackness