Once more, all that is human drowned in the sea

“I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this”

Today was to be about the women in Puerto Rico who changed history, who sparked and sustained a movement against patriarchy, colonialism, injustice, imperialism, racism, misogyny. Today was to be about the women in Puerto Rico who continue to move a nation forward. But 150 women, children, men died – were murdered – off the coast of Libya, and the story that is told cannot stand. The story that is told is so much noise “tragedy”, tragedy, tragedy. Fear: feared drownedfeared deadfeared deadfeared drowned. These reports empty tragedy and fear of all meaning. As activist Helena Maleno has noted, Europe and the United States have militarized the borders into death zones, zones of necropolitics, necrocapitalism, necroborderlands, in which people are killed or abandoned to die. Criminalize all attempts at rescue or support, militarize the spaces between nations, criminalize those who seek rescue or support, fill the waters with sharks, and then, when the refugees and asylum seekers drown, call it a tragedy of monumental proportions. 

And now the surface of the Mediterranean is as it was the week before, as it will be in the weeks ahead, unbrokenand all that is human has drowned in the sea, as we walk in circles, intoning, “Tragedy. Fear. Fear. Tragedy.” The tragedy is in the mirror as is the farce. I had said I wasn’t going to write no more pieces like this … “but the dogs are in the street. The dogs are alive and the terror in our hearts has scarcely diminished.” I had said I wasn’t going to write no more pieces like this. I made a mistake.

Jose Campos Torres
by Gil Scott-Heron

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

I had confessed to myself all along, tracer of life, poetry trends

That awareness, consciousness, poems that screamed of pain and the origins of pain and death had blanketed my tablets

And therefore, my friends, brothers, sisters, in-laws, outlaws, and besides — they already knew

But brother Torres, common ancient bloodline brother Torres is dead

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more words down about people kicking us when we’re down

About racist dogs that attack us and drive us down, drag us down and beat us down

But the dogs are in the street

The dogs are alive and the terror in our hearts has scarcely diminished

It has scarcely brought us the comfort we suspected

The recognition of our terror and the screaming release of that recognition

Has not removed the certainty of that knowledge — how could it

The dogs rabid foaming with the energy of their brutish ignorance

Stride the city streets like robot gunslingers

And spread death as night lamps flash crude reflections from gun butts and police shields

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

But the battlefield has oozed away from the stilted debates of semantics

Beyond the questionable flexibility of primal screaming

The reality of our city, jungle streets and their Gestapos

Has become an attack on home, life, family and philosophy, total

It is beyond the question of the advantages of didactic niggerisms

The motherfucking dogs are in the street

In Houston maybe someone said Mexicans were the new niggers

In LA maybe someone said Chicanos were the new niggers

In Frisco maybe someone said Orientals were the new niggers

Maybe in Philadelphia and North Carolina they decided they didn’t need no new niggers

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

But dogs are in the street

It’s a turn around world where things are all too quickly turned around

It was turned around so that right looked wrong

It was turned around so that up looked down

It was turned around so that those who marched in the streets with bibles and signs of peace became enemies of the state and risk to national security

So that those who questioned the operations of those in authority on the principles of justice, liberty, and equality became the vanguard of a communist attack

It became so you couldn’t call a spade a motherfucking spade

Brother Torres is dead, the Wilmington Ten are still incarcerated

Ed Davis, Ronald Regan, James Hunt, and Frank Rizzo are still alive

And the dogs are in the motherfucking street

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

I made a mistake

(Photo Credit: Miriadna.com) (Video Credit: YouTube)

Sankofa: In Memory of Gil Scott Heron Now Eight Years Gone

Winter in America

Sankofa: In Memory of Gil Scott Heron Now Eight Years Gone

Warn me to battle not monsters, Gil
You gazed into the Abyss
And now you have become it.

I see you shining as I gaze at the Abyss also gazing

And trying not to become what I see.

Your body was dust and into dust it has returned.

Now I can hear the stones singing
Whenever I put my ear to the ground.

Songs of revelation and revolution
Rebirth and regeneration
I too am dust
Your poetry breathing life into me.

Earth

A million people in the streets of Hong Kong hear your songs
Umbrellas and heart
Verses bear spray and ballistic shields
Rubber bullets
And heavy riot sticks
For now their government listens
I mean
Could a million Chinese be wrong?

Trans activists reading the names of the fallen of their community
Telling their stories of hidden violence
Hear your songs.

Strike a pose for the Latinx who died on Rikers Island
Because she couldn’t raise $500 in bail money for a misdemeanor.
Her kindred also found dead on the streets of Texas
And beheaded on courthouse steps in Mexico.

Choiceless families of choice, don’t forget them after Pride month.

Speak no evil?

Larry Kramer already told us that silence equals death
Don’t forget how to act up.

It is good to go back to get what has been forgotten.

Names of kindred on heart shaped Stones
Left on Potter’s Field on a New York island
Or sewn on blankets presented on the National Mall
Now archived in Smithsonian Museums.

Remember the names
The stones
The blankets
And, most importantly the people.

Angry protestors in Tennessee hear your songs
The heads of 24 policemen provided the percussion section
Another officer involved shooting.

Let the earth be my weapon before it becomes my womb
Let me be judged by twelve
Before I am carried out by six.

Water

Thirsty people seeking asylum hear your songs
So do the the Samaritans on trial for leaving them water in the desert
Facing 20 years in prison for acts of federal felony compassion.

For compassion’s sake they chant “No More Death”
A deadlocked jury still can’t decide between the spirit of the law
And the laws letters.

The dying continues:
The body of a six year old girl from India is found in the desert.

How did she get there?

And, who have we become?

Japanese Americans say history is repeating itself.
Interment camps reopening
With the same justification
National insecurity.

Mr. Sulu, we are still a long way from the Starship Enterprise
Our four-year mission is just to get an Orange Man’s foot
Out of America’s assAnd to boldly get back to
Where we were before.

It wasn’t good; but it was better
And better is good
Shout out Barack Obama
I understand you better now.

“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got‘
Til it’s gone.”

To those out there who still know how to throw a rock,
Light a fire
And make a gas mask out of
A wet handkerchief and human saliva I say:

Teach the children
They won’t find these skills on YouTube
Or Instagram.

Presenté, keepers of our memories.

Can you dust off your light sabers one more time
In this inelegant age of random blasters?
As the dying continues.

See no evil

Laura Engram defending white nationalisst on Fox News
While American war criminals are considered for presidential pardons.

But no one yet found guilty of polluting the drinking water in Flint Michigan.No one guilty of the deaths in our border prison camps.

5200 ICE detainees are quarantined with suspected cases of Mumps and Chicken Pox

The Hieleras becoming hot zones.

Fire

And just who blew up the oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman anyway?
Are we being prepared for an October surprise in June?

Who will harvest that bitter fruit come September?

Men set themselves on fire in Washington D.C.
And I think of Buddhist Monks in Vietnam in 1963
And lately Monks and nuns witnessing for Tibet
Middle Path adherents taking the belief in the impermanent
To an extreme
You only get to do that once!
Burn baby burn.

Air

I hold up this candle next to your sun, Gil.
All of the songs you sang still work.
Which means how we are living here in America doesn’t.

Justice is blind still holding the scales of Libra.
But she is standing on an inclined plane
The pan that represents me and mine
Always the lighter of the two.

Once the question was:
Are there two separate and unequal justice systems in America?

Now the question is:
How many unequal Justice systems does America have?

Or, Is that just me being optimistic?

Avoiding the question
Is there a justice system at all?

Pardon my chagrin
Pardon my skepticism
Pardon me while I have to explain to young black men
That there is no pardon for playing with toy guns in a city parks.

Or selling loose cigarette to make ends meet.

Pardon me while I tell women that rape can be used as a tool of war Without an international outcry.

Or if I say Excusez-moi — will you think me more educated and therefore less of a target?

Na!

Camo-hiding Huxtable affectations do not work better then
A Kevlar vest
A helmet
And a good gas mask.
You could ask Sandra Bland
I mean, if she were alive.

Pardon me when I question that our answer to gun violenceis not reporting the shooter’s name on the news.

Hear no evil.

Pardon me when no matter how hard we try to prevent copy cat killings The killing continues.

I guess the non-copy cats must think they have come up with an amazingly original idea!

Pardon my invective.

Pardon my anger.

And pardon me for taking a bite out of you, Gil
To write this poem
There are no new ideas
Just ideas that are well stolen
From the past that is prologue.

Or, call it Sankofa looking back as I fly forward through time.

I feel so lost.

I’m just reaching back to help me on my journey forward.

May justice stand on a firm foundation.

May there be a level playing field to calibrate the scales of justice.

Take your thumb off of the scales
And keep your foot off of the earth’s neck
So we can all breathe again.

Hear no evil.

Why do I forget what I should remember
And remember what I should forget?

Hermann Hesse said that if I listened to the blending of all the outcries
I would hear OM the word of words.

I’m not that good yet.

But I can still hear you, Gil
In the rocks and stones and from the Abyss.
When I put my ear to the ground.

(Image Credit 1: OkayPlayer) (Image Credit 2: Berea College)

Neoliberals: stop co-opting our symbols!

Neoliberals: stop co-opting our symbols! 

Next thing you know they will be emulating the Last Poets, the progenitors of Gil Scott Heron. 

The Revolution Will Not Be Broadcast on Social Media; and, will not be represented by yellow stars on the arms of antivaxxers

The revolution will not have very fine people on both sides.

The revolution will not be delivered by Amazon Smile 24 hours later; and, it will not be a part of your monthly cyclic preorder.

The revolution will not be fought on a flat earth; by neonazis with flat tops; while the flat tax is lower on people who own most of America; who came to Washington not to drain the swamp but to infest it.

The revolution will not be broadcast on social media; or underwritten by Sackler family opiate money — because why shake your head when it’s easier to just nod.

The revolution will not be broadcast on social media.

This Is Us, Veep, and Game of Thrones will no longer be so goddamn relevant when the Walking Dead fill the streets covered with mutated childhood diseases Jonas Salk can’t even begin to cure.

The revolution will not be broadcast on social media.

The revolution will not be broadcast 

will not be broadcast 

will not be broadcast 

The revolution might not even happen at all.

(Image Credit: Sound Cloud / Jessy James LaFleur)