I could write a whole thing here, but I will try to keep this commentary short. This poem has been through a lot of drafts-- even this video is subtly different from the one on the album, and both are different from what I've been performing over the past couple of weeks. Just a couple of quick thoughts (all of which are in addition to the album commentary I already wrote):
Probably the biggest theme on "Post-Post-Race" is the importance of having a more critical, wider perspective on issues of race and racism. Racism isn't just about "bad people being mean to other people because they look different;" it's about history, it's about systems and institutions, and it's about power. This poem is maybe the most direct exploration of that idea on the album.
Especially today, in the context of Trump (and the movement that he represents) it's important to see racism and xenophobia as bigger than one individual's bigotry. We should work to defeat Trump, but we should not labor under the delusion that defeating Trump will be enough. It won't. Electing a Democrat won't be enough either. Even electing a progressive Democrat won't be enough. Defeating racism (and sexism, homophobia, etc.) will take a multi-tiered approach, and I'd argue that step one is affirming that these problems are fundamentally bigger than individual attitudes or actions.
And "bigger" doesn't mean "invincible." It just means that our work is not just the work of changing people's hearts and minds; it's the work of changing our institutions, laws, policies, media, and systems too.
I get that this is a tough thing for some people to wrap their heads around. I also get that this particular poem might be a little tough to stomach as an intro to this concept, and might be better suited as a supplementary tool. So here are a few recommended links/readings:
I'd encourage everyone to read Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow," which might be the most important book of the last decade. I'd also recommend Ta-Nehisi Coates' "The Case for Reparations,"which describes the system that we call "racism" as clearly as you're likely to read anywhere. For all the visual learners out there, here's the NYT's "The Faces of American Power," which lets us just look at the literal faces of people in positions of power in this country; hard to argue with that. Also, be sure to watch "13th" on Netflix! Feel free to add other good resources in the comments.
Squatted against the bedroom door with left leg stretched, wiping sweat from my thigh, I shave hairs to the shape of a passport photo. Into the good skin, steeling along the top end of the picture - a straight incision until blob by seamless blob, over the Stanley knife, a rivering of blood.
Once under the fold, down to the roots, nerve-hand holds for slicing level the parallel lines of a photo. Leaning deeper so the unconscious, deeper so the gore geometric be heaped up, I drop the silvery haft, the leg, lug back the flap.
I hear a cry from some of myself. So this is me. This jameen. This meat for which I war myself. This.
Praise the rain; the seagull dive The curl of plant, the raven talk— Praise the hurt, the house slack The stand of trees, the dignity— Praise the dark, the moon cradle The sky fall, the bear sleep— Praise the mist, the warrior name The earth eclipse, the fired leap— Praise the backwards, upward sky The baby cry, the spirit food— Praise canoe, the fish rush The hole for frog, the upside-down— Praise the day, the cloud cup The mind flat, forget it all—
Praise crazy. Praise sad. Praise the path on which we're led. Praise the roads on earth and water. Praise the eater and the eaten. Praise beginnings; praise the end. Praise the song and praise the singer.
Praise the rain; it brings more rain. Praise the rain; it brings more rain.
"Resting Bitchface, they call you. But there is nothing 'restful' about you..." - Our latest work 'Ode to my Bitchface' is a dance film we made in reaction to the amazing fierceness of Olivia Gatwood's poem of the same name. Beautifully delivered by Olivia in a live performance, we felt like we had to dance the chills out of our bodies as soon as we saw her original video. - Shot & edited by our wonderful friend and collaborator Tim Davis (http://timdavis.me) Poem written and read by Olivia Gatwood (http://www.oliviagatwood.com) Choreography & performance by Rebecca Björling & Rebecca Rosier for We:R Performance Collective Shot at Tegelscenen
and i disappear from oncoming traffic into your lap.
you say some people need coffee, i need this. and i think to myself, it’s simple, really.
i do plenty of things once a day. shower, set my alarm, call my father to tell him i am safe
what is love if not being needed, and unzipping your throat, if not letting the rats underneath the sink live, because it is the middle of winter?
when you say, now you mean here and tomorrow here will be your bedroom floor a gas station parking lot, the dumpster s behind my high school
soon, the velvet of being desired begins to harden and i sculpt a new, doughy mantra to pass the time
i think, it takes three weeks to form a habit which means twenty one days until it is as simple as brushing my teeth. like any girl good at her job, i will teach my tastebuds to cover their ears develop some hack to tame the gag and share it with all of my friends
and, i do, of course i do, but your body becomes immune to the gift i can tell because you stopped flinching and stayed mad even after i was finished i know, i know i got lazy, i’m sorry i can’t bind my mouth into something tighter so the needs mutate into a tumor with a face and teeth and hands
and soon i am swallowing your pillow tending to the rug burn on my palms and knees, i think, twenty one more days until i master the art of separating brain from body until i am the girl in the magician’s box whose upper torso rolls away from her hips with ease and i do, of course i do,
but you know the drill, the need, the immunity, the tumor, the habit, and soon, you want it twice you want it four times you want it in the middle of the night but i am asleep but you want it so i wake up
watch this i learn how to not wake up while its happening i teach myself to lock the door of my dreams and stay there until morning
i detach like a classroom skeleton piece by piece
i share the trick s with the curious girl in geometry.
Life is short, though I keep this from my children. Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways, a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative estimate, though I keep this from my children. For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird. For every loved child, a child broken, bagged, sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world is at least half terrible, and for every kind stranger, there is one who would break you, though I keep this from my children. I am trying to sell them the world. Any decent realtor, walking you through a real shithole, chirps on about good bones: This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful.