Bending

we are stalks that will bend
and bend and bend…

Jamaal May: A Brief History of Hostility:
That’s the old wisdom of the grasslands,
of the soft skinned trees – to bend
before the wind, not to be broken –
to bow down. It’s easier to bend.

I can’t blame the grass. It’s what I’d do,
my coward soul creeping, seeking comfort
in a full belly, a soft blanket, a lover’s arms.
I’d curl my anger into my own abdomen,
I’d whisper my rebellion
into my pillow, I’d carve my own skin.

It’s hard to stand upright.
It’s hard to be a bright light,
a song sung full-lunged,
a shining blade. It’s hard
to straighten the bent back,

to grow glorious.

Anmol is hosting at dVersetonight, and celebrating Black History Month. He asks us to take inspiration from some poets of colour. I’ve chosen some lines from one of his featured poems – Jamaal May’s A Brief History of Hostility. 

When I was younger, I thought that if war or oppression came, I’d be a hero, standing up for what is right. As I get older, I realise how difficult that is, how easy it is to justify not standing up, not noticing oppression, turning away. But, of course, when you do that, you are siding with oppression.

11 thoughts on “Bending

  1. I found it easier to stand up for what is right when I was younger, but I’m finding it more difficult too. Your poem is stunning, Sarah. I love the way you compare what appears to be apathy to the ‘old wisdom of the grasslands,’ and ‘the soft skinned trees’. That’s why we must stand glorious together, to hold each other upright and sing songs full-lunged.

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  2. Powerful words, yours and hers. It is said, “No man will ever know how long a shadow he may have until he gets up off his knees.”

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  3. This is powerful, wonderful and impacts the heart of the reader in such an important way. It applies to oppression (I recently watched 13th on netflix and was APPALLED at the racist history in the US. Canada has it too of course, especially with regard to First Nations and how those beautiful people are treated. But 13th was an eye-opener.) Your poem could also apply to the climate crisis, in which oppressors are filling their pockets no matter the cost to the planet and ALL of its human and non-human beings. I read this with awe at your talent. It is hard to be a song sung full-lunged. But we need loud singers now. In Canada, there are blockades across the country, and here in my small village, in support of the Wet’suwet’en people. The government is trying to ram a pipeline through their land. Arresting them ON THEIR OWN LAND. As always Money rules.

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  4. The acknowledgement and empathy in your words speak of the need to stand tall against our own complicity at times. It is indeed easier to bend, and it takes a certain courage to know and work against it as well. Powerful writing, Sarah!

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