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racism-is-systemic

Systemic Racism
Source: Common Dreams

 

My Poetry Corner October 2016 features the poem “The Body Politic” by Nicholas Damion Alexander, poet and teacher of English and Philosophy from the Caribbean island of Jamaica.

Alexander’s work first caught my attention with “My Mother’s Salt” published in the anthology of 100 Calabash Poets, So Much Things To Say (Akashic Books, 2014). In the first of four stanzas, we learn that the poet is of mixed ethnicity – union of a black mother and white father that brought diversity to their lives.

My mother cooked with salt,
flavoring our lives
with the spice of her choice…
A white grain from the sea
that added new worlds of taste
to children made of mixed spices.

But the union of the poet’s parents did not endure. In “The Love of a Father,” Alexander confesses that, with the passage of time, he has come to love his father more. (In the excerpt below, her refers to the poet’s mother.)

Though he stayed out late at nights
Drinking and smoking, accusing
Her-of-god-knows what on his return.
Though he said I was not his son
Because I defended her honor.
Though he still loves drinking
And smoking and staying out late,
Gambling; never thinking to save a cent.

Alexander’s poems published on Poem Hunter and on his blog reveal his deep connection with the forces of Nature, the land, and the struggles of the Jamaican people. In “Coldfront,” he reflects on the consequences of strong cold winds descending on Jamaica from the north.

raging down on our little island paradise
like slavery
Snapping winds like the curl
of cruel whips lashing our ancestors’ backs
oppress us now – Romans to Christ
And then, rain rain rain!
Like the rising waters of the Middle Passage
drowning us now in a sudden surge of frigidity
like the greed of imperialism’s rage.

The featured poem, “The Body Politic,” especially resonated with me. Alexander comments on our futile search for salvation through our religious leaders. I couldn’t help but think of we-the-American-people who continue to place our trust in the empty promises – “truth from lies” – made by our political leaders. During our 2016 presidential elections, we hold onto the belief that our preferred candidate will somehow solve our problems of “old ceaseless ends,” such as our systemic racism and our endless War on Terror.

thinking that somehow meaning
will unfold from nonsense
like truth from lies.

That something will emerge
from nothing
like genesis.

That new beginnings will commence
from old ceaseless ends.

Our salvation lies within our reach, Alexander notes.

To read the complete featured poem and learn more about Nicholas Damion Alexander and his work, go to my Poetry Corner October 2016.

 

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