July 10, 2016

Nicole Homer

THE DEAD LINE

The deadline is becoming a ritual:
I am, I guess, a woman who needs to know
when I should stop writing this poem.
It’s a tool, a trick, and

I am, I guess, a woman who needs to know
the dead line drawn around us;
it’s a tool, a trick, and
a chorus of voices, headlines, hashtags.

The dead line drawn around us:
a convenience store. Beyond that point we are liable to die.
A chorus of voices, of headlines, of hashtags:
I know this song; I sang it last week.

A convenience store? Beyond that point we are liable to die?
This week his name was Alton, but
I know this song; I sang it last week
when his name was “dead,” “black,” and “in police custody.”

This week his name was Alton, but
maybe I’m cheating: maybe I’ve written this before,
when his name was “dead,” “black,” and “in police custody.”
How can an editor even begin to tell

if maybe I’m cheating? Maybe I’ve written this before:
the deadline is becoming a ritual.
How can an editor even begin to tell
when I can stop writing this poem?

Poets Respond
July 10, 2016

[download audio]

__________

Nicole Homer: “The call for submissions for Poets Respond states, in part: ‘The deadline for each week is Friday at midnight …’ The impending deadline that pushes the poet to write is as cyclical as the recorded murders of black people by police. This poem is in response to the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge. But it is also in response to every other murder of a black citizen at the hands of police. First, it was #IfIDieInPoliceCustody and now it’s #SayHisName. There will be a new hashtag the next time. The reality is that there is a very real deadline drawn around black bodies and one wrong misstep—or any action perceived as such—means that you have stepped over the deadline and are at risk of being killed. As I sat down to write, I realized that the last several poems I’ve written have been about this subject: the routine violence against black bodies. This keeps repeating and repeating and so it became a pantoum.” (website)