Social Justice Poetry

violence poems

A Noose Left in the Museum | A Social Justice Poem by Marcelius Braxton

Do you know the story of Mary Turner?
8 months pregnant,
lynched for her protest of another lynching,
that of her husband’s–
whose accusers were willingly
judge, jury, and executioner.

Her voice, silenced by any means,
Means that entailed cutting her unborn child from her body,
watching it fall to the ground,
and crushing its head—after it released a small glimpse of life,
two innocent cries.
Do you hear the cries of the unborn child?

Shot after shot, in the hundreds,
penetrated her flesh into her already deceased body.
Do you smell the residue of gunfire?

Undeniable progress encountered your vestige of hate that day.
It reminds us of Mary Turner.
It reminds us of Jesse Washington, lynched over a bonfire,
castrated while 10,000 men, women, and even children, rejoiced.
It reminds us of black soldiers,
hanging from a tree in uniform
as a display that disdain for blackness trumps service to country.

We are reminded
not just that progress does not eradicate hate–
but that the lives lost through hate
must be remembered in order to progress.

These Hands | A Social Justice Poem by G. Louis Heath

THESE HANDS gripped the machetes
in Rwanda to butcher 800 thousand.

THESE HANDS poisoned and starved
millions, burned to ash in WWII ovens.

THESE HANDS launched rockets into
Aleppo, striking innocents into carrion,

spattered amid shattered concrete and
tangles of rebar, wire, and precious toys.

THESE HANDS did evil work, spewed from
the gut of Hell. They belong to killers who

claim allegiance to noble causes. No soap
can wash THESE HANDS, dirty with denial.

After the Latest Attacks | A Social Justice Poem by John L. Stanizzi

…in just a few days the rumor spread
of the rooms emptied of words
and filled with screams. Swollen eyes.
— By Emilio Zucchi, Translated by Beppe Cavatorta and Brenna Ward.

I’m sitting outside on a cool mid-November evening
the day after the next violence
resting by a little fire I’ve started
smoke mostly
an ember fallen
trying to get up
winter’s blind contour tapestry settled in now
and the trees knuckled and intricate
more tangled and lovely than in summer
I’m watching YouTube
Gerald Stern is reading a poem about a grapefruit
but mostly I’m watching how he turns the page
a kind of excitement or urgency in his fingers
He turns them quickly so that when he says the words
mostly from memory
the next page will be the correct one
an unnecessary reminder that he’s in the right place
The sky is darkening and it is cool and silent
not even the sound of one bird
and the streak along the top of the far hills is pink
(OK I’ll say it)
like a grapefruit
my feeble attempt to make some kind of connection
among all the splintered pieces of everything
hoping that if I can gather together two or three
I may find something like hope
or the reemergence of the sense of the goodness in people
And the burning logs with their square and rectangular demarcations
remind me of burned-out cities seen from the air
an image brought to mind no doubt
because today like every day
the world is on fire
It’s burning everywhere
and poor poor expressionless faces
are lit by flames
concealed a little by smoke
but I can see that it’s not sorrow —
it’s emptiness
as they roam the charred streets searching for the lost

though soon enough this too will be forgotten
The burning bodies and the wild words whispered somewhere
explaining the necessity of this
or the horror of that
or the score of the game
will become memory
a vague recollection no matter how terrible
Then I hear a bird chipping quietly
in a tree gone all black these past few moments
That private little pipe in the dark makes me smile
It brings tears to my eyes
and the fire crackles quietly
and how beautiful this dark is
and there is peace I realize
but you have to go down between the black spaces
between the delineations on the fiery logs
deep down beneath the flares and smoke
The world is burning
and the need to know what comes next comes quickly
Ember on the ground
bigger fires burning everywhere
blazing on the next page
When we turn to it it will be on fire
And the chill November night
cannot quench those flames or the next
The hot red flashes of hatred
thrust up into the blackened sky
Could they be a signal
a call for help
for grace
up in the sky with no stars
the fire hissing
the sound of a distant car
going somewhere I cannot imagine
to do normal things
routine chores
unremarkable tasks
though I fear it could be burning there too

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