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Esther Iverem

Esther Iverem.
Photo by Sutikare.

Poetry
What Do You Believe In?

By Esther Iverem
SeeingBlack.com Editor

Talk about poetry — click here.

What do you believe in?
Do you believe in your next breath?
That it will be there?
Do you believe in chance or fate, that you
Were born to be here in this time, this moment, this place?
Do you believe that you were born to go gently into this night?
Or do you believe that you were born to fight?

Where do you place your hope?
In generations of the unborn?
In the hungry-belly child of Lagos?
In the fire-eyed child of Mali?
In the eventual victory of morality or karma?
In prophecy that the first shall be last
And the last shall be first?
In prophecies of seven seals,
Armageddon and the anti-Christ?
In Einstein's theory of relativity?
In Marx's theory of surplus value?
In Fanon's faith that we can unchain our brains?
In Lumumba's faith that we can unshackle our land?
In Mandela's faith that even iron bars can part?

What do you believe in?
In antibiotics?
In AZT?
In Ritalin
In ADT?
In your rottweiler named Lucius?
Do you believe in your Tech-9? Your AK?
Your 16 millimeter?

They say John Muhammad believed in his Bushmaster.
And delivered deadly aim and deadly bullets.
Like millions of sheep now following their Bushmaster
Believing him—the international sniper—capable of
Delivering deadly aim with deadly bullets,
Grenades, rockets, cluster bombs and smartbombs.

Do you believe in your SUV? Does it make you feel
Safer, or better or bigger in the arms race on the roads?
Do you believe that its puffs of air poison doesn't matter?
That there is an endless supply of oil
That we can pump and steal and pipe and ship and spill
Until we all die?

Do you believe in an escape?
Nightly through "Joe Millionaire?" "Fear Factor?"
"Survivor?" "The American Idol?" or Monday Night Football?

Do you believe that Whitney and Bobby and Rush Limbaugh
can just say no? That Michael Jackson can come back one more time,
Can go back in time and re-grow his nose,
layers of peeled pigment and his old afro?

Do you believe in the words of June Jordan or Walter Rodney
Or Pablo Neruda, beseeching us, time and time again. to
Come and see the blood in the streets!

Do you believe in the eye-light of the first
And last poet you ever loved.
Is it in your mother's holy ghost prayers
Or her pastor's revelations and hollers.
In Shango's fire and lightening?
In Oya's hurricanes following the path
of slave ships across the ocean.
In Yemanja spewing mercury and garbage
From her bowels in the ocean.

Where do we place our hope?
Why do we place it anywhere outside our selves?
Is it because we believe the hype that we are small
And separate and weak and powerless and stupid.
Connie Chung leans forward and asks,
You don't believe President Bush?
You don't believe President Bush is telling the truth?

How about this: Let's believe we have the power
Of the original Eve and of Mount Meru,
Of Queen Nzinga fierce.
Of Antonio Maceo, mounted on his horse, sword in hand.
Of Toussaint L'Ouverture, Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner.

And is it possible that though I am Black and broke
That I am not trying to carjack you, hustle you,
Take your job or your pride
Could it be that I am not trapped in this dog-eat-dog rat race,
This trick mirror, that makes us stab and shoot and hate each other?
Could it be that I love you?


Love you like that that twinkling of an eye.
Like that great gettin-up morning, that morning
That will raise us from our Hennessy-reefer-
Shake our booty self-medicating and self-hating stupor.

Let's believe that we're not supposed to be silent
Or march, lock-step, media-dazed and Fourth Reich-like,
Into hell for an oil pipeline, for the Bushmaster
Or for his daddy. I got my own daddy
And he still hasn't gotten his due from World War II.

Let's believe that this winter is cold but not as cold
As a nuclear winter, and not as cold as our world will be
If your baby boy, daughter, brother, sister, nephew, niece
Husband, lover, friend or you are taken
And incinerated in this boiler of war without end.

What do you believe in?
Do you believe in your next breath?
That it will be there?
Do you believe in chance or fate, that you
Were born to be here in this time, this moment, this place?
Do you believe that we were all born to go gently into this night?
Or do you believe that you were born to fight?

Copyright © Esther Iverem, 2003

Performed at the March on Washington, on the National Mall, October 25, 2003

To purchase a signed broadsheet of "What Do You Believe In," send $7 to:

Esther Iverem
c/o SeeingBlack.com
P.O Box 55273
Brightwood Station
Washington, DC 20040

Please indicate what your payment is for and include the address where the book(s)
Should be sent. All proceeds will directly benefit the work of Iverem and SeeingBlack.com. Thank you!

 

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