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Poetry Corner

Edited by Richard Stone

We have two poems this month, both from previously printed writers, both in still-pained response to our country’s racist legacy. The first is by Alfonso Hernandez of Three Rivers and the Porterville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Hernandez is a longtime teacher and supporter of the arts, as well as having an acute social conscience. “Palimpsest” refers to something written over something else that is still partly visible (I had to look it up, too). He says the poem arose after seeing the film Twelve Years a Slave, and then observing someone’s odd behavior in a public shower.

Palimpsest
By Alfonso Hernandez

What dirt do you insist in erasing from your soul

With precious hot water raining an hour when you shower?

What perversions and sins itch your skin

Requiring such scrubbing changing your body

From a Whiteman to a bloody Redman?

If your skin color offends you

Water will not clean your subconscious

You will never forget the crimes of your

English and German ancestors

The exploitation, the whippings, the lacerations

The hangings, the decapitations, the nerve gas

The dissolving of flesh and bones in viscous acid

Of Black, Jewish and Native aboriginals

One day you will run out of such scalding showers

And your body and soul will remain still a palimpsest.

Our second poet is Tim Young, currently housed in San Quentin. He has long fought for his exoneration and continues to write poetry that reflects on the cruelty and inequity of the criminal justice system of our country. Young can be reached at F23374 S.Q.S.P., San Quentin, CA 94974.

Starve the Beast
By Tim Young

Plantation toil, penitentiary moil,

Where slavery ends

The Prison Industrial Complex begins

Check your history

1863 to the 21st century

Wanton misery, no mystery,

Statistics quite frightening

Fraught with disparity…

 

African Americans constitute

12% of the nation,

50% of the prison population.

That’s mass incarceration

Modern day enslavement

Casting a wide net

Landing a big catch:

The poor, the black, the innocent…

 

Forever strange fruit

Courtrooms abound with black youth

Legal lynching ensues

The gavel is a noose

Freedom dismissed

American justice amiss

School to prison pipeline

Lucrative slave ship…

 

Dred Scott was the genesis

The aftermath stupendous

Millions of lost souls

Prison, probation, parole

Civil liberties on hold

Democracy untold

A dream deferred

Martin’s nightmare has emerged…

 

A better world is possible

Prison abolition is logical

Society holds the key

Time to manifest some destiny

Organize, mobilize,

Act in solidarity

Accomplish the feat

Starve the belly of the beast…

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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