Sep 082017

Darrel Alejandro Holnes is a poet and playwright. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Dramatic Writing at the City University of New York’s Medgar Evers College and New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. He is the co-author of PRIME: Poetry & Conversations (Sibling Rivalry Press) and his poetry can be found in American Poetry Review, Poetry Magazine, Best American Experimental Writing, Callaloo, and elsewhere in print and online. He is the recipient of scholarships to Cave Canem, Canto Mundo, VCFA Postgraduate Writers Conference, and Bread Loaf Writers Conference. His poem “Praise Song for My Mutilated World” won the 2017 C.P. Cavafy Poetry Prize and he was a recent finalist for the Split This Rock! National Poetry Contest, the Gwendolyn Brooks Centennial Poetry Prize, the Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize, and the Pushcart Prize.


The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
instead of your children
wrote Audre Lorde.
I say this now to the mothers who sent
their children north,
risking their babies’ lives
for a better living
than chasing paper or running
from lumberjacks
on the streets. The difference
between art and design
is being ready to die
for what you desire
others to achieve
through your work,
hours of your life gone forever
making a little, shiny, fragile thing,
I write to the mothers who send
their children north
never knowing if they’ll make it
but hoping that even if they don’t
their creations might mean more than just
the flesh and bone with which they’re made
because they moved, because they desired.
So many are quick to dismiss
desire as too general a word
or this language as too simple
to power the constant thrust
towards betterment we call life,
but poetry is sometimes made of such things,
words used so often we take them for granted
and forget their power is in how they unite
existence despite the distance of complex specificities
between any two living beings. In Spanish the word
for power is the same as the word for can,
one simple word banging the drum rhythm
children’s soles make against the earth,
po-der, po-der, po-der, the power of doing
in each disyllabic step of metric feet
moving us further and further
away from the word being just rhetoric,
into the structure of its design
where we find the power to turn suicide
into sacrifice, the power to turn beasts
into man, and man into martyr or miracle.
This is how we’re different, a desire path
stretching seventeen hundred miles
through an armed border wall, through electric
barbed-wire fence, a surge surmounting
all odds to rise across the northern plain;
knowing this too is poetry.

 Posted by at 5:31 pm

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