February 2018

by Haviland Whiting

Photograph by Aleah Mae

Haviland Whiting is the 2018 Nashville Youth Poet Laureate and a sophomore at Harpeth Hall High School. Learn more at www.southernword.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

photograph by Carla Ciuffo, carlaciuffo.art

 

*lift every voice and sing
till earth and heaven ring
ring with the harmonies of Liberty*

—James Weldon Johnson

Streetlight tends to paint
The night like a waving flag. Sometimes, in the quietest moments, I imagine what it would feel like
If my skin wasn’t so heavy.
If it didn’t follow me
like a lost shadow.

I was told that
this body is a triangular trade tragedy.

I’ve been swallowing white lies Which are defined as trivial, But on July 12th, 2016
A black man was hanged

And I caught my tongue like a 200-year-old Broken promise.

So I’ve been collecting words like “Hope” and “fire.”
Lighting sparks in my belly
Till my skin illuminates the stillness. This light will outshine their

Tiki torches and burning books.

Healing like a violin when the ashes
Lick my skin.
Racism is rarely the sharp toothed boogeyman, The strange fruit monkey
Or the shining armor.
It is the pie-baking neighbor or
The cookout dad who makes the
Best burgers in town.

Racism is the Coachella rap music And dreadlocked celebrities,
But only silence when another bullet George Zimmerman’d its way into His back…four times.

Racism is this … silence
It is quiet like a pen drilled in a welfare office.
Racism is the gentrification that will
Destroy the welfare offices.
This never has been a white or black problem.
It has never been BET vs MTV,
But rather we are a nation
Watching rather than seeing.
If we did, we’d see Puerto Rico with hope extinguished.
We’d see blood on the hands of Syrians,
And that we’ve caused it.
If we did, we’d see that some children
Are too afraid to take the bus to a school
That exploits innocence like mass media manufactured self esteem. The world is not a broken thing,
We are the broken things.

I have seen the future.
And in it, there are still broken people
And the television sets with broken screens. there are also hands clasped together
Like a barricade to hate.
There is also religion and the quiet moments

Of solidarity like the gospel.

I have seen the future, and in it
I wear this skin like the
streetlight, quiet night masterpiece it truly is.

I have seen the future, and in it

We are in love.
In love with the ability to feel something
So human like connectedness.
The solution to racism will never end racism. We, as a nation, must stop focusing
On things ending and instead
Focus on beginning.
Begin love, begin awareness,
Begin caring until your heart rips apart
At the seams.

King said, hate cannot drive out hate; Only love can do that.
So, hate like no one is watching
Love like the World is.

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