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New Poem by Sherman Alexie is Exactly What We Needed to Hear After Charlottesville

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown August 16th, 2017 Last Updated on: August 16th, 2017

We already know Sherman Alexie has a certain way with words, always seeming to say the right thing to make you laugh, cry and think, dang, why didn't I think of that?

Earlier today he shared a new poem on Facebook which has a lot of people praising him once again with his word wizardry. In the poem, he addresses a lot of what we're seeing, hearing and feeling in America today.

Here's the poem in its entirety:

Hymn

Why do we measure people's capacity
To love by how well they love their progeny?

That kind of love is easy. Encoded.
Any lion can be devoted

To its cubs. Any insect, be it prey
Or predator, worships its own DNA.

Like the wolf, elephant, bear, and bees,
We humans are programmed to love what we conceive.

That's why it's so shocking when a neighbor
Drives his car into a pond and slaughter–

Drowns his children. And that's why we curse
The mother who leaves her kids—her hearth—

And never returns. That kind of betrayal
Rattles our souls. That shit is biblical.

So, yes, we should grieve an ocean
When we encounter a caretaker so broken.

But I'm not going to send you a card
For being a decent parent. It ain't that hard

To love somebody who resembles you.
If you want an ode then join the endless queue

Of people who are good to their next of kin—
Who somehow love people with the same chin

And skin and religion and accent and eyes.
So you love your sibling? Big fucking surprise.

But how much do you love the strange and stranger?
Hey, Caveman, do you see only danger

When you peer into the night? Are you afraid
Of the country that exists outside of your cave?

Hey, Caveman, when are you going to evolve?
Are you still baffled by the way the earth revolves

Around the sun and not the other way around?
Are you terrified by the ever-shifting ground?

Hey, Trump, I know you weren't loved enough
By your sandpaper father, who roughed and roughed

And roughed the world. I have some empathy
For the boy you were. But, damn, your incivility,

Your volcanic hostility, your lists
Of enemies, your moral apocalypse—

All of it makes you dumb and dangerous.
You are the Antichrist we need to antitrust.

Or maybe you're only a minor league
Dictator—temporary, small, and weak.

You've wounded our country. It might heal.
And yet, I think of what you've revealed

About the millions and millions of people
Who worship beneath your tarnished steeple.

Those folks admire your lack of compassion.
They think it's honest and wonderfully old-fashioned.

They call you traditional and Christian.
LOL! You've given them permission

To be callous. They have been rewarded
For being heavily armed and heavily guarded.

You've convinced them that their deadly sins
(Envy, wrath, greed) have transformed into wins.

Of course, I'm also fragile and finite and flawed.
I have yet to fully atone for the pain I've caused.

I'm an atheist who believes in grace if not in God.
I'm a humanist who thinks that we’re all not

Humane enough. I think of someone who loves me—
A friend I love back—and how he didn't believe

How much I grieved the death of Prince and his paisley.
My friend doubted that anyone could grieve so deeply

The death of any stranger, especially a star.
“It doesn't feel real,” he said. If I could play guitar

And sing, I would have turned purple and roared
One hundred Prince songs—every lick and chord—

But I think my friend would have still doubted me.
And now, in the context of this poem, I can see

That my friend’s love was the kind that only burns
In expectation of a fire in return.

He’s no longer my friend. I mourn that loss.
But, in the Trump aftermath, I've measured the costs

And benefits of loving those who don't love
Strangers. After all, I'm often the odd one—

The strangest stranger—in any field or room.
“He was weird” will be carved into my tomb.

But it’s wrong to measure my family and friends
By where their love for me begins or ends.

It’s too easy to keep a domestic score.
This world demands more love than that. More.

So let me ask demanding questions: Will you be
Eyes for the blind? Will you become the feet

For the wounded? Will you protect the poor?
Will you welcome the lost to your shore?

Will you battle the blood-thieves
And rescue the powerless from their teeth?

Who will you be? Who will I become
As we gather in this terrible kingdom?

My friends, I'm not quite sure what I should do.
I'm as angry and afraid and disillusioned as you.

But I do know this: I will resist hate. I will resist.
I will stand and sing my love. I will use my fist

To drum and drum my love. I will write and read poems
That offer the warmth and shelter of any good home.

I will sing for people who might not sing for me.
I will sing for people who are not my family.

I will sing honor songs for the unfamilar and new.
I will visit a different church and pray in a different pew.

I will silently sit and carefully listen to new stories
About other people’s tragedies and glories.

I will not assume my pain and joy are better.
I will not claim my people invented gravity or weather.

And, oh, I know I will still feel my rage and rage and rage
But I won’t act like I’m the only person onstage.

I am one more citizen marching against hatred.
Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.

We will march by the millions. We will tremble and grieve.
We will praise and weep and laugh. We will believe.

We will be courageous with our love. We will risk danger
As we sing and sing and sing to welcome strangers.

©2017, Sherman Alexie


Home » Blog » New Poem by Sherman Alexie is Exactly What We Needed to Hear After Charlottesville

About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.



TAGGED:    racism    sherman alexie  
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LInda K M Ludgate

Again, a brilliant poem by Sherman Alexie. Thank you. To those of you writing your hateful words, why did you read it? . Did you expect praise for Donald Trump. Go to fox news.
We have a first amendment in this country do you even know that? Go to Breitbart news wallow in their “fake news”. But as they are protect by the first amendment , so are all the rest of us.

Sherman Alexie is treasure. He gives a voice to those with no power. Thank God for his voice

Mimi Routh

“Confusion is of the Devil.” I don’t know who said that, but I flash on it when I see headlines. I read the whole poem and found it beautiful with flashes of brilliance. I am alone in the world. I look for resonance in all the people I meet. The Spanish Civil War and the Russian Revolution had people with differing labels at one another’s throats. I am sickened by recent dissension on FaceBook among so-called Natives criticizing other groups of Natives and wannabes and what the hell! And it’s gotten hateful! So I bail. I am aware of the reincarnation implications here. Many people living in Germany were Natives in a past life. My favorite trading post was run by a Jewish couple who must have been Native in another time. I am only a little Cherokee this time around, but don’t attack me on FB for hateful assumptions! I am being as loving as I know how to be. God bless!

Billie Moore

Love this man’s writing.

J. Bear Don't Walk

I WAS a fan & buyer/reader of your works. I am so sick of people attacking The President because they are not LISTENING. They are hearing…what they want. They are seeing…what they want. When they don’t get what they want, violence. BLM is just as culpable as KKK, but no one points them out; only the Caucasian supporters. We need to support the man as he tries to bring this sick country back to wellness. He is human, doing the best he can while being attacked from all sides. Make no mistake. I am not Caucasian. I am a Native, FBI. I am disappointed in this self serving, unrest inciting piece of nonsense. Shame.

Laura Gardiner

Thank you, J. Bear Don’t Walk. I thought that I was the only one who felt that way.

Lori

Full-blood Indian and you support Trump? Maybe you are the one not listening!

Maggie Bugden

Love it.thanks!

Cheri

❣❣❣ thank you!

Joshua Carney

Thank you for your poem! I really enjoyed reading all of this master peace of vocabulary. I pray others will read it and the help the werey.

Craig Apelbaum

Nice poem.

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