Black Lives Matter: Found Poem by Anna Bálint

Livestream

Please sir, don’t tell me he’s dead.
Please sir, don’t tell me he’s gone…just like that

Stay with me
Stay with me, baby

We got pulled over for a busted taillight.
That’s all baby.  A busted taillight.
Stay with me.

A traffic stop.  Nothing but a traffic stop, baby.
Stay with me.

Oh my God, don’t tell me he’s dead.
Please don’t tell me my boyfriend just went like that…
Please don’t tell me he’s gone.
Officer, please don’t tell me you did this to him.
You shot four bullets into him, sir.

Baby, baby, stay with me…

You told him to get his ID, sir
You told him to get his driver’s license.
Please officer, don’t tell me you just did this to him.
You shot four bullets into him, sir.
He was just getting his license and registration, sir.

Stay with me
Stay with me, baby

He’s a good man, sir.
He works in a school.
He’s never been to jail, anything…
He’s not a gang member, anything…
He worked with kids, sir, they loved him, sir…

Baby, baby, stay with me…

Exit the car!
Exit the car!
Keep your hands where they are!
Keep them up!
Move away!  Move away!  Keep moving!  Move away!
Now, get on your knees!
ON YOUR KNEES!

Mommy, Mommy, I’m right here with you, Mommy…

Stay with me.
Stay with me baby.

ON YOUR KNEES!!!

—Anna Bálint


This “found” poem is constructed from the words of Lavish, aka Diamond Reynolds, in the Livestream video she made right after police shot and killed her boyfriend, Philando Castile. Immediately after seeing her video, I tried to post it on Facebook, but at that point it was being blocked and wouldn’t post. This poem burst out of my frustration/anger/grief of wanting her words to be heard…and continue to be heard.


Anna Bálint is the author of Horse Thief, a collection of short fiction spanning cultures and continents that was a finalist for the Pacific Northwest Book Award. Two earlier books of poetry are Out of the Box and spread them crimson sleeves like wings. Her poems, stories, and essays have appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including recently in Riverbabble and Sparrow Trill,  Minerva Rising’s special issue on Race in America. Anna is an alumna of Hedgebrook Writers Retreat, the Jack Straw Writers Program, and has received awards/grants from the Seattle Arts Commission and 4Culture. In 2001, she received a Leading Voice Award in recognition of her creative work with urban youth at El Centro de la Raza. She has taught creative writing for many years and in many places, including in prisons, El Centro de la Raza, Antioch University, and Richard Hugo House. Currently, she is a teaching artist with Path With Art, and at Recovery Café in Seattle, where she founded and leads Safe Place, a weekly writing circle for people in recovery.

Poets Against Hate-Lawrence Matsuda

Just a Short Note to Say Something You Already Know 

 — For Donald’s Daughter, Ivanka Trump

Ivanka, in a different time and place,
you and your children are squeezed into
cattle cars destined for Nazi death camps.
Stars pinned to your coats
and numbers tattooed on your arms.
Religion is your crime, something like
the 120,000 Japanese Americans whose race
incarcerates them during World War II.

If you dodge head shaving,
and starvation, maybe a country
would welcome you.

Angel of death is difficult to slip,
unfortunates are turned away,
chased by verbal brickbats and pitchforks.
You smell freedom’s scent
but only glimpse porthole view
of Lady Liberty’s tantalizing torch.

Doors slam and hands
of kindness withdraw.
You are not among privileged
huddled masses.

Today as a 1% American demographic,
you are safe by an accident of birth.
Others less fortunate, however,
stand on precipices knowing,
“History does not repeat
itself but it rhymes.”*

When Donald promises
a magnificent Great Wall
and spews religious
hatred to cheering crowds,
you must feel a guilty twinge
knowing if this were 1943 Germany,
a chorus of incendiary voices
would echo and push innocents
off slippery cliffs into eternal darkness.
Black hole so forbidding victims
never see their children again
as the self-serving politicians parade
on bandwagons swerving on and off
a broken highway of eight million bones.

—Lawrence Matsuda

*________________________________
Quote attributed to Mark Twain.


Lawrence Matsuda, January 2016—in memory of my parents who were incarcerated during WWII because of their race, and my Hiroshima relatives who were among the first to be incinerated by an atomic bomb.