Poet Laureate on Current Events

In response to the recent stories of antisemitism and hate speech in Alameda, I’ve written the following poems for the community.

After the speeches and shouts,
The crowd surged and circled the symbol — 
Straps of iron set on the 
Right-angled arms with 
pointy corners, 
Jutting out at the crowd.
There was palpable friction,
A recognition of the jagged object on the pole, 
And the destruction done in its shadow.
The audience paused,
Until one person leapt,
Grabbing and hanging on a limb.
Swaying and pulling until,
The segment snapped off,
And the woman landed safely.
Others followed,
Some helped up by cupped hands,
Until the six pieces,
Two long, four short,
Were held by six people.
They formed a circle,
And pushed the sections into the ground, 
Leaving a few inches protruding.
It was now a cemetery,
With six dark markers,
One per million.
No one knew what to do next,
Until a man stepped forward,
Elderly, tilting,
Shaking his head.
The crowd parted for him.
He leaned over his walker,
Reached in the ground,
And drew out a long piece,
Like Arthur.
He turned to the others,
“This one we keep,
to help us not forget.”
He moved back into the circle,
His hand clutching the shard,
The tremor noticed by all.

It took decades for America to understand Ali,
He with the rhymes and smile,
Shuffle and jab,
He with the odd name, new 
And likewise friends.
The champ had to cover up,
Take the blows,
From our stupidity.
When he lit the torch in L.A.,
Hand shaking near the flame,
We could not deny it —
There was a man standing.
Same with Tommie and John in 1968.
Two Olympians, fit and fleet,
Earning medals in Mexico.
For us they ran and won,
For us they raised their fists,
Black athletes, black gloves, black socks.
They got sent home like children,
For breaking a plate in a store.
Shame on you,
Shame on us —
For mistreating these men,
Who tried to be our teachers.
Today in San Jose,
They are statues,
Tiles and steel,
Forever risen,
Making us look up to them,
As we should have then.
Or better yet,
Stand next to them,
As Peter Norman did in solidarity.
Add now three women to 
the pedestal,
From our time —
Opel, Alicia and Patrisse,
Who stood in the streets,
Then strung together three words of fact —
Black Lives Matter.
Directed at anyone anywhere,
Uniformed or not,
Who acts on arrogance,
Thinking they can hit and hurt.
And the response?
You’d have thought we’d been slapped:
Fools crossing out the first word,
Yanking up signs,
Muttering the same nonsense Rosa heard,
And the kids at the lunch counter.
Stop it, just stop it people.
When someone stands up to you,
Show some courage,
Look ’em in the eye,
And respect the fighter in the ring.