Bastards of the Reagan Era witnesses and contemplates the lives of those targeted in the “war on poverty” and the “war on drugs.” With the dawn of mass incarceration, a panic-response to the crack epidemic of the 1980s, came the constant policing of black men — any black men, all black people. In the same administration, we ignored the decimation wreaked by AIDS on the LGBTQ community, declared ketchup a vegetable, sold arms illegally to Iran to support the anti-communist and anti-democratic Contras in Honduras (one of the countries from which terrified children now risk their lives to escape), began the neo-liberal economic schemes that have blighted the inner city and broken the middle class, and closed most of the treatment facilities for the mentally ill. — All policies we are just now seeing must be rolled back in order to save our country.
These poems, however, focus on the depth of the damage wrought on US communities of color, and let us begin to realize how much work, and love, we have to do going forward. — PoMoRed
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Reginald Dwayne Betts‘s powerful poem, “For the City that Nearly Broke Me,” is Poem of the Week. This is the first in a countdown of poems by poets to feature at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2016. Keep an eye out for other poems by festival featured poets as we approach April 14-17!
her breast & talks about the conspiracy
to destroy blacks. This is all a fancy way
to say that someone kirked out, emptied
five or six or seven shots into a still warm body.
No indictment follows Malik’s death,
follows smoke running from a fired pistol.
An old quarrel: crimson against concrete
& the officer’s gun still smoking.
a few heads. This & the stop snitching ads
are the conundrum and damn all that blood.
All those closed eyes imagining Malik’s
killer forever coffled to a series of cells,
& you almost believe them, you do, except
the cognac in your hand is an old habit,
a toast to friends buried before the daybreak
of their old age. You know the truth
of the talking, of the quarrels & how
history lets the blamed go blameless for
the blood that flows black in the street;
& someone is tossing a trash can through
Sal’s window calling that revolution,
while behind us cell doors keep clanking closed,
& Malik’s casket door clanks closed,
& the bodies that roll off the block
& into the prisons and into the ground,
keep rolling, & no one will admit
that this is the way America strangles itself.