two hours of anti-racist audio from Poet Staley

For the last four years I’ve been producing a radio show for KTAL-LP called MONSOON DOWN THE RADIO. Here’s my most recent episode. I learned a tremendous amount about America’s Original Sin of racism and white privilege while researching and producing this radio program. During this program I will be reading passages from Jason Reynold’s & Ibram X. Kendi’s  Stamped: Racism, Anti-racism, and You. Also I will be sharing poetry from Jericho Brown and Allison Joseph.

 

 

BLACK LIVES MATTER – 3 POEMS & A NOTE TO THE READER

Home, Sweet

turn left on Rosa Parks
right on MLK
Taco Bell’s on the left

All of my heroes are dying.

The birds are fighting crazy today.
The plaited woodpecker sprays bark
from his frenzied beak,
house finches squabble and flap
over seed, and the doves
joust the dog’s bowl for a drink.

There is a pound of volcanic rock
in my stomach.

For Vivian Malone Jones,
just to register for class,
It took National Guard bayonets
to prod Alabama’s governor aside
and now, she’s dead and
what business do I have missing her?
She never sat in Sports Illustrated
afloat a tide of white shoulders.

This week five churches in Alabama
were razed to the ground and
it was raining the day of the boycott
and now
that voice is runoff,
somewhere in the darkness,
somewhere
deep in the cording.

 

from Lost On My Own Street, Pski’s Porch, 2016

~

50 Miles Outside Montgomery

Bald eagles have “hands” as wingtips
and spread open their fingers
like a businessman in a black suit
with black gloves who is starving.

His call is weak, flat, stuttering,
like he’s being told to wait.
Don’t get mad at me
I’m just quoting the bird book.

I’m not anti-eagle exactly,
there was one on the moon after all
with magnets for claws.

Clouds undress the sun
so I look at the red dirt
beside this newly painted road.
What shade of red
is watered-down Confederate blood?

50 miles outside Montgomery
on these shores of Lake Martin
you’re either an organ pipe dirt dauber
who eats little spiders with triangles
on their backs, or you’re the little spider
with a triangle on his back.

Hank Williams Sr. fished these same
lonesome sunsets
in a green aluminum boat.
Soon as stars spread
messy on the waves
he was crying for shore.

My dad says pine trees are grass
and I think he’s lying.
The radio says lichen is fungus
and algae combined like a mule
locked for life to rocks and trunks.

A black speck above the green crown
grows as it approaches our floats.
A bald eagle, white head, black breast,
white tail, huge black wings,
the sky cradled in his fingers.
He passes too quickly to capture.

 

from Lost On My Own Street, Pski’s Porch, 2016

~

White Flight

 

At TJ Max, a black baby behind us

pulled impulse items from the rack, 

and tossed them to the floor.

Before the cashier could notice 

my mom alerted the mother

who became infuriated 

anyone should dare mention 

what their eyes had plainly seen.

This was Montgomery in the 1980’s.

A strange period of payback

played out whenever possible.

My mom wore her lips tight

as we hurried to our Oldsmobile.

(All our cars were white 

as my father thought white kept us cool 

and didn’t show dirt.)

Waiting to pull onto Vaughn Road 

we felt a jolt, a colossal warship  

rammed against our tail. 

The woman smiled, mom perspired.

We lurched into traffic, 

they whipped out with us, 

my mom’s forearms trembled,

we sped, and they sped with us. 

No car phones back then,

we were all alone.  Her eyes 

more on the rear view

than straight ahead; the exact act

that had gotten us into this mess. 

From side streets they swarmed,

a mutinous armada of moving trucks

and curb feelers cackling wildly— 

we ran a red light, they ran it too, 

the baby, thousands of them,  

in tow to our neighborhood. 

But we can’t go home, I cried,

if they know where we live

they’ll ruin everything. 

I was just a kid, but my mom,

she should have seen this coming.

 

from The Summer of Lukewarm Love, Grandma Moses Press, 2006 (out of print)

~

I was born privileged and white in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1975. I moved to Southern New Mexico in 2001 to become a poet. People would ask me what it was like growing up in Alabama. I would say, “well, I never saw Black folks ripped from their homes and lynched in their front yards. The racism I observed was polite, fit for the dinner table.” Now I understand the reason I never saw Black folks ripped from their homes and lynched in their front yards growing up was because I never went to the black part of town.

 

6.21.20

Las Cruces, NM