Sometimes the role of poetry is to help us name grief, injustice, dismemberment, so that we can participate in honoring our fullest selves, the resistance work of collective repair. Poems this week by Alex Quintanilla and Christopher Martinez, “Customs Declaration” and “On the Night my White Friend Got Arrested” do not shy away from naming violences both quiet and grand, and in this way manage to reclaim some power from the forces that would have us believe it is better to suffer in silence, “I know the contents of my body”.
Read more from 'This Work Will Take Dancing' here.
I know the contents of my body.
I am bringing earth, sand, ashes, and stones.
I have stayed on a wish farm.
I am carrying astrocytes and the seeds of stars.
I am transporting a nocturnal ocean without shores.
I bring no animals except the ravenous one.
I do not harbor dead things for more than 3 hours.
I know the evidence of my journey unwraps itself in my bones.
I acknowledge, to the full extent of the law, the loneliness that drives me here.
On the night my white friend got arrested,
she called because the officer was kind
enough to permit a courtesy, to reach someone
and save her car
before the tow truck came.
When Antonio and I arrive,
the officer’s tone now
dissatisfied, as if he’d expected
a throng of young, blonde college girls;
a pornographer’s plot.
Don’t move your hands
too quickly, let me see your I.D.
And I am 15 again, a young body mashed
into the metal of high school lockers
by an officer for being out of place, for being
where I am supposed to be.
Arms bent back like weeds before the pull,
a combination lock burying its shine
into my chest like a slow bullet,
a badge and metal and my last name
are a mixed drink at a cocktail party,
that entertains everybody
except me. I’m used to this.
He leans over to my friend in the backseat,
smiling. She’s used to this too, I guess—
always being a lamb in the eyes of America.
You know these guys? He asks her, of
lambs who befriend tigers,
and I am writing myself as the beast again.