Jamaal May “there are birds here” prep reading for Ta-Nehisi Coates tomorrow

Monday April 3, 2017 – “there are birds here” Jamaal May

Ta-Nehisi Coates on campus tomorrow:  5:00 pm for a group of invited students in intimate conversation,  6:30 in our field house for a wider public gathering.  Gathering with what expectations?  To listen to a man whose voice, written or spoken, awakens hope that paying attention in hard times matters.  To listen to a man whose voice requires attention in the present tense, requires the courage to pay attention.  I am thrilled that I can be there listening.

To prepare, I turned to Detroit poet, Jamaal May,  a Detroit voice that awakens hope that paying attention in hard times matters, whose voice requires attention in the present tense, requires the courage to pay attention.  Every poem does best when read aloud, with pauses.   Today’s, perhaps, especially so by the 3rd or 4th reading.

Have a blest day.

john sj

 

There Are Birds Here

By Jamaal May

For Detroit
There are birds here,
so many birds here
is what I was trying to say
when they said those birds were metaphors
for what is trapped
between buildings
and buildings. No.
The birds are here
to root around for bread
the girl’s hands tear
and toss like confetti. No,
I don’t mean the bread is torn like cotton,
I said confetti, and no
not the confetti
a tank can make of a building.
I mean the confetti
a boy can’t stop smiling about
and no his smile isn’t much
like a skeleton at all. And no
his neighborhood is not like a war zone.
I am trying to say
his neighborhood
is as tattered and feathered
as anything else,
as shadow pierced by sun
and light parted
by shadow-dance as anything else,
but they won’t stop saying
how lovely the ruins,
how ruined the lovely
children must be in that birdless city.

Jamaal May, “There Are Birds Here” from The Big Book of Exit Strategies. Copyright © 2016 by Jamaal May. Reprinted by permission of Alice James Books.

 

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