Evie Shockley: I’m Evie Shockley, and this is PoetryNow. The poem is in some ways timeless, but at the same time, it is very much part of this moment, because I have reached a new level of frustration with the discourse around immigration and who is a real American. It boggles my mind. It calls for poetry.
* * *
the black people left, and took with them their furious
hurricanes and their fire-breathing rap songs melting
the polar ice caps. they left behind the mining jobs,
but took that nasty black lung disease and the insurance
regulations that loop around everything concerning
health and care, giant holes of text that all the coverage
falls through. the brown people left, and took with
them the pesticides collecting like a sheen on the skins
of fruit. they went packing, and packed off with them
went all the miserable low-paying gigs, the pre-dawn
commutes, the children with expensive special needs
and the hard-up public schools that tried to meet them.
the brown people left, railroaded into carting off those
tests that keep your average bright young student outside
the leagues of ivy-lined classrooms, and also hauled off
their concentrated campuses, their great expectations, their
invasive technology, and the outrageous pay gap between
a company’s c.e.o. and its not-quite-full-time workers. they
took their fragile endangered pandas and species extinction
and got the hell outta dodge. the black people left and took
hiv/aids, the rest of their plagues, and all that deviant
sexuality with them. they took their beat-down matriarchies
and endless teen pregnancies, too. those monster-sized
extended families, the brown people took those. the brown
people boxed up their turbans and suspicious sheet-like
coverings, their terrifying gun violence, cluster bombs,
and drones, and took the whole bloody mess with them,
they took war and religious brow-beating tucked under
their robes. they took theocracy and their cruel, unusual
punishments right back where they came from. finally,
the white people left, as serenely unburdened as when
they arrived, sailing off from plymouth rock with nothing
in their hands but a recipe for cranberry sauce, a bit
of corn seed, and the dream of a better life. there were
only certain kinds of people here, after the exodus, left
to wander the underdeveloped wilderness in search
of buffalo, tobacco, and potable water, following old
migratory patterns that would have been better left alone.
* * *
One of the ways, I think, in my poetry generally, that I try to deal with what feels to me like absurdity, is to sort of explore the illogic of a set of ideas by using illogic in the structure of the poem.
(QUOTING FROM POEM)
the black people left, and took with them their furious / hurricanes and their fire-breathing rap songs melting / the polar ice caps.
Rather than demonize anyone for coming here, we might want to think about how to live here, together.
Katie Klocksin: That was Evie Shockley and her poem “anti-immigration.” I’m Katie Klocksin and this is PoetryNow, a production of the Poetry Foundation. For more about this series, go to poetryfoundation.org/poetrynow.