Links to a few poems for this week (and the week before that, and the week before that, and…) plus a list of suggestions from Black Lives Matter activists for what white people like me can do, to do more than just feel stuck in feeling this is all awful and not knowing what else to do. Black lives matter. Black voices matter, and should be heard. Listening/reading is a place to start. These are powerful poems. Would that they weren’t so topical (or in the case of the Gwendolyn Brooks poem—which was written in the 1970s—so perpetually topical).

Bullet Points” by Jericho Brown

I will not shoot myself
In the head, and I will not shoot myself
In the back, and I will not hang myself
With a trashbag, and if I do,
I promise you, I will not do it
In a police car while handcuffed
Or in the jail cell of a town
I only know the name of
Because I have to drive through it
To get home. […]

Read the rest of “Bullet Points

• • •

The Boy Died In My Alley” by Gwendolyn Brooks

“You heard a shot?” Policeman said.
Shots I hear and Shots I hear.
I never see the Dead.

The Shot that killed him yes I heard
as I heard the Thousand shots before;
careening tinnily down the nights
across my years and arteries.

Read the rest of “The Boy Died In My Alley

• • •

From “summer, somewhere” by Danez Smith

somewhere, a sun. below, boys brown / as rye plays the dozens & ball, jump // in the air & stay there. boys become new / moons, gum-dark on all sides, beg bruise //  -blue water to fly, at least tide, at least / spit back a father or two. I won’t get started. // history is what it is. it knows what it did. / bad dog. bad blood. bad day to be a boy // color of a July well spent.
Read the rest of From summer, somewhere

• • •

What To Tell My Sons After Trayvon Martin, After Michael Brown, After Medgar Evers, After, After, After, After and Before…” by Anastacia Tolbert. In the link (to a short podcast) you can hear Tolbert read the poem and an interview with her afterwards.

Hey sons, don’t walk in public, don’t walk in public wearing a hoodie, or jeans, or t-shirts, or red, or blue, or ball caps. Wear a yellow polo shirt and designer khakis. Be like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I don’t know where we’ll find the money for the khakis or the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air polo shirt, but that’s what you need to do.

Read the rest of “What To Tell My Sons After Trayvon Martin

• • •

Cordon Negro” by Essex Hemphill

I’m dying twice as fast
as any other American
between eighteen and thirty-five
This disturbs me,
but I try not to show it in public.

Each morning I open my eyes is a miracle.
The blessing of opening them
is temporary on any given day
I could be taken out.
I could go off.
I could forget to be careful.

Read the rest of”Cordon Negro

• • •

And I found this Washington Post compendium of suggestions “This is what white people can do to support #BlackLivesMatter” from Black Lives Matter activists helpful in trying to overcome that ‘what can I do?’ feeling and in reminding me that it’s really important for me to do so.

“Stop saying ‘all lives matter’”

Understand why you can’t say that. Whatever people need to do to understand why that’s not OK, they need to do that. What we’re saying right now is that all lives will actually matter when black lives matter — and black lives don’t matter right now. So we need to say black lives matter to change that. We need to change that individually, we need to change that within our communities and we need to change that systemically. — Robbie Clark, organizer with Black Lives Matter Bay Area

Read the rest of “This is what white people can do to support #BlackLivesMatter