From Tyehimba Jess, whose first book of poetry, leadbelly, was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. Wave Books will publish his next book, Olio, in 2016. He is an Associate Professor of English at the College of Staten Island.
My name is Tyehimba Jess. I am a black poet. I have a silence to be rightened. I have a silence after each shooting. I remain a nation unsilenced. I am a poet murdering silence. My name is Eric. My name is Bell. My name is Eleanor. My name is nation. My rights fit any murder description. My remains remained on the asphalt for
four hours while the crowd screamed about my rights. Then, the silence as I was shoved into an SUV and carted to the morgue. My name is poetic: Trayvon, Diallo, Ousmane, sing my blackness in the headlines. My name once held all possibilities, but now flies out from the mouth hauling anger and sorrow. I have a right to be angry. I have a morgue inside my silence. I have an arm against my throat and a bullet in my head. I have a wedding to go to, a graduation to walk, a little brother to chill with, and now I’m a face on a placard in a sea of anger, a newspaper article, I’m a question passed from one generation to the next, a lesson in fear, and all I really want is to go home. My name is murdered. My name is a silent snapshot on the funeral program. The officer remained silent. He was programmed by a nation’s anger, a moaning silence born in the chokehold of a slaveship. Ask if he is a drone cruising the streets of the nation, programmed to murder black. Ask a drone for the poetry of the names of the rightless it has murdered. Ask the silence about your rights. My name is Pearly Golden. My name is Tariq Aziz. My name is Kayla Moore. My name is Aiyanna Stanley Jones. My name is Fazal Wahad. My name is a nation of funerals. The silence after my name is murdered by the sound of the next. My name is Michael Brown. My name is Kimani Gray. Kendric McDade. Mashooq Jan. Mohammad Yaas Khann. The angry drone spotted me while I was coming home from the store, on the way to work, on the way to a wedding, walking down the street. The drone looked down at me from its great height and power and the sky was full of its murder. My murder is a right this nation angers for. My name is a poem. My name is not silence. I am a black poem written into the silence left behind.