Two Poems

by Mikaela Curry Issue: Fall 2018 Special Issue on Justice

This poem is in the style of a Golden Shovel, but instead of using a poem, the last word of each line in total comprises a quote from German-born diarist and Holocaust victim, Anne Frank

Anne Frank's America

When it’s time to take a breath and dig in it’s
not dying, can’t be called choking, shouldn’t be difficult
to just clench teeth and grip hands and pull in
- it has already happened jagged days and countless times
could just be the starvation sickness of something else like
missing shoelaces, sewn triangles, inked numbers, these:
hungry archetypes dull-blade carving their desiccated ideals,
open-mouthed feasting with the rancid spittle of once held dreams
which now get stuck at the back of the throat, widespread fear ferments bitter and
bottles itself paper cut complete with labels, division is cherished
balanced by that hazy clarity of anger, serving another round, drowning hopes
drunkenly setting fire to all reason, who can feel the exhalation rise
when the air is this thick, how can any of this be taken within
a body, yet there is only each body, there is never enough of an us,
still marching armies, propaganda arrangements, not a reason, only
the satisfaction of the spectacle that brings them to
a ravenous inhalation, like they are never going to be
coughing out the pulverized fragments of broken glass crushed
by unseen comrades waving from parades still going by
red-faced and out of breath with cheerless smiles and grim
promises for some silent majority sacrifice and contrived reality.

When it’s time for a citizenry to first squander what it's
calling freedom, a hushed conversation will become a
speculative paraphrasing of public opinion which will wonder
at its own distorted perspective even as it dares not ever say I
didn’t quite imagine this specific embodiment but still haven’t
stepped away from the table for long, haven’t forgotten or abandoned
an utter commitment to neutrality, intonation problems is all
it comes down to, think about how to hold the words my
country tis of thee in your mouth without choking, ideals
for a vague foundational ideology, a melodic prayer by which they
design the taste of physical and cultural annihilation to seem
white napkin respectable, catered to be publicly palatable so                     
photos of torches and fires, blood upon soil become an absurd
fixation of those who are resistant to this reconceptualized banquet and
anyhow humanitarian consideration over military voracity is always impractical.

Keep eating dinner, no one expects their own subjugation yet
they find themselves in the dry-mouth systematic recitation of I
pledge allegiance too, squirming as history-drenched clothes cling
to the wearer, with a sour comfort, to another glass lifting to
the tyrannical virulence of money, exhausted repetitions of us versus them
inseparable in nuance and predictability, tasting salad fork familiar because
flavors of persecution always linger, there are so many ways to say I
don’t care, so many times to stay silent, so many ways to be still
while the ashes drift down like snow, find the ones who believe
in the bridge between empathy and action, in escape tunnels carved in
bone, in the moment that knives find tender flesh wedged between spite
and authority, in refusing the plate when it comes served with appetizers of
oppression, in the deep wilderness and reverberating thunder that everything
has weakness, that no one needs to wait to conserve and strengthen, that
this is the single moment, now this is, now this is - there are people
who think that those choking should rescue themselves, they are
unfamiliar with the burden of having to swallow too much, there is a truly
distorted sense of their own satisfaction, but it is never too late to try for a good
upheaval, an overwhelming purge and change of the story to shift at
the hardest and darkest part, and it’s never too late, take heart.

It's difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” – Anne Frank




This poem is an adaptation in the style of a Golden Shovel, but instead of using a poem, the last word of each line in total comprises a quote from murdered human rights activist, Marielle Franco. Please note that the title of this poem is the title of the last event Marielle Franco attended in Rio de Janeiro before her assassination hours later. In English it translates to “Young Black Women Moving (Power) Structures”

Jovens Negras Movendo As Estruturas

for Marielle Franco

with that dark beautiful eloquence, ideas came twisting out of your head how
to weed out the root cause of violence, relentless and brave woman, how many
more bullets stamped policia must end children of the favela, you are more
than bullet hole image of shattered glass; the hallowed echo must

linger, sharp in the question of how do we keep the world, could you die
on the street and bleeding in every space you are absent, like that, for
the continued whisper, I am because we are, this power you threatened, this
curled lip atrocity, of the people who keep this war
disposable, even in execution, occupying every space with your body, to
amplify the subversion, may the lawless militarization of murder and brutality find its end

Mikaela Curry

Mikaela Curry is a published poet, performer, and community organizer living in eastern Kentucky where she founded and currently manages a community poetry organization. She regularly performs spoken word poetry driven by her passion for equity, inclusion, environmental health and social justice. She holds advanced degrees in biological sciences and has worked as an environmental specialist, consultant, conservationist, and researcher. Her poetry has been featured in a variety of publications, and she is currently a featured poet with the Women of Appalachia project.