As I was going through the poems in my soon to be released chapbook, Paradox and Illusion, I was struck by the significance of the poem below. It carries weight because of what’s happening in the U.S. right now. We have lost George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many other black lives to racial injustice and racism’s inherent, unequal treatment of our fellow human beings. I’m standing up to ally myself with those brothers and sisters who have suffered too long under the thumb of racism.
Paradox and illusion define this coast
built by the subduction of Juan de Fuca plate.
This is the birthplace of mountainous rock
where magnetic reversals align
themselves against the pole’s forces.
We struggle to define history.
While we walk, I analogize history
as struggle: a beating against the coast
of our beings, our internal forces
dragged down by sinking plates,
morphosed dense material fighting to align
and not to align, like this rock.
Walking a rhythmic heel-toe, I rock
back and forth between geologic history
and my own. My body aligns
itself with the waves along this coast.
I try to think about tectonic plates,
avoid all reference to internal forces.
But these are not to be denied, these forces
that push against what I want to know, that rock
my belief, leaving me with an empty plate,
making me face my history, our history,
unable any longer simply to coast
on an ignorance of what does not align.
And then I see it. There is a line
beyond which we have crossed. It forces
collisions and collapse. We cannot coast
safely past this rough rock.
It is made of habit and history,
the stuff of which we have filled our plates.
This story is dark with lithograph plates
that do not equally align.
We have printed an orogenic history
full of anticlines and stratified forces.
This shifting sandstone is the rock
that built our coast.
We must leave the coast, trudge the uplifted plate
where a horseshoe of rock moves solidly along a line.
We must attend these forces and shape our own history.
This sestina is from my new collection, Paradox and Illusion. It was first published in Raven Chronicles Vol VII #2.