All Lives [Never] Matter[ed] – Audio

I posted this poem days ago. And then a few nights later I read it out loud to a group of fellow “creatives” (they did not have the written poem before them). Days later, they received a printed copy.

Their feedback was that the poem was “powerful”, but that hearing me read it touched them even deeper. I wanted to give everyone the opportunity to hear me. Below is an audio recording, with the poem re-printed below if you want to follow along.

Thank you to all those whose feedback encouraged (and encourages) me to continue to experiment with poetry. Memoir and essay are my “go to” formats, but sometimes what’s inside of me wants to be poetry. When my muse speaks, I obey.

What is this uproar
Of “All Lives Matter”?
As if all of them ever did?
As if those first white-faced arrivals
Cared about the natives
Whose land they stole,
Whose women they raped,
Whose children they infected
With lethal diseases –
As if all lives mattered then.

As if the African people –
Ripped from their continent
Shipped like livestock,
Sold like chattel,
Enslaved to build up
A Republic that failed
To even recognize
Five fifths of their personhood –
As if all lives mattered then.

As if the brown babies
Housed in cages
Crying for their Mamis
Who were carried across the border
To escape worse horrors
With the dream of growing up
In the fantasy of America –
As if all lives mattered then.

Oddly, all lives matter
When they’re in the womb
Before race is revealed,
Before mouths want food
And souls make demands;
Funny how
All lives matter then!

All lives don’t matter
Even when they are
“Essential workers”
When they drive the buses,
Stock the shelves,
Nurse the sick
At their own peril
Without essential gear,
As if all lives matter.

All lives don’t matter
When the plague strikes hard
In nursing homes
(the old and dying),
In private prisons
(criminals),
In meat processing plants
(immigrants)
In black and brown neighborhoods
(no white people there!)
All lives don’t matter!

I dare you to tell me
“All lives matter,”
When taxpayers’ dollars
Go to the 1%
While the working men,
Women and children,
Move into their cars,
Get in line for food.
Do their lives matter?

Don’t get in my face
With “All Lives Matter!”
Don’t question my rage
Or B.L.M. placard,
Don’t act high and mighty
And holier than thou
As if my focus
On these BLACK lives
Makes ME a racist.
(Because what you think
doesn’t matter).

Are you familiar
With emergency triage?
If it’s losing blood
Or CAN’T BREATHE
You tend to it first;
Unless, of course,
You’re a white cop
Taking a knee
On a black man’s neck.
Do you feel me now?
If only all lives mattered!

[Meanwhile, lest we forget…]

Months ago,
When the Amazon blazed
The rainforest cried,
“I CAN’T BREATHE!”
Alarms clamored:
“The Amazon Matters!”
(Not: “All Trees Matter!”
Do you see the difference?)
Focus attention
Where the need is acute.
Because it matters!

And remember this:
If the “lungs of the planet”
Cease to work,
None of this,
Not one of us,
Black, brown or white,
Will matter.

3 comments

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