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About this Poem 

"To write, but what? How? After a feverish penciled attempt with deep ideas, a poem-agenda of sorts, I stood up and walked away. What about the actual people shot dead? To know them, this was the key—I wanted to know them, the poem longed to know them. Too often we forget them in a rush to 'say something.' All of them? Yes, yes. I had to include all of them, otherwise the poem could not be attained, humanity, the core of the poem, had to be the inner goal. After a new draft and new lens, a larger question came into view, 'Can we take a leap into a new way of living with each other?' First, and most necessary, still, was to take a full moment and truly acknowledge the people on their last day."
—Juan Felipe Herrera

@ the Crossroads—A Sudden American Poem

 

       RIP Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Dallas police
       officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith,
       Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa
—and all 
       their families. And to all those injured.

 

                                                Let us celebrate the lives of all

As we reflect & pray & meditate on their brutal deaths

Let us celebrate those who marched at night who spoke of peace

& chanted Black Lives Matter

Let us celebrate the officers dressed in Blues ready to protect 

Let us know the departed as we did not know them before—their faces,

Bodies, names—what they loved, their words, the stories they often spoke

Before we return to the usual business of our days, let us know their lives intimately

Let us take this moment & impossible as this may sound—let us find 

The beauty in their lives in the midst of their sudden & never imagined vanishing


Let us consider the Dallas shooter—what made him

                                                           what happened in Afghanistan

                                           what
            flames burned inside


(Who was that man in Baton Rouge with a red shirt selling CDs in the parking lot

Who was that man in Minnesota toppled on the car seat with a perforated arm 

& a continent-shaped flood of blood on his white T who was

That man prone & gone by the night pillar of El Centro College in Dallas)


This could be the first step 

            in the new evaluation of our society    This could be

                the first step of all of our lives

Copyright © 2016 by Juan Felipe Herrera. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Juan Felipe Herrera. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera is the Poet Laureate of the United States. He served on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets from 2011 to 2016.

by this poet

poem

You said:

What you wrote (at this moment—here)
was being written by someone somewhere else
at the same time (this is the question) some
country some town on stilts—in a broken
concentration bus or a polished make-believe desk
a cheap jungled-up clinic an empty one no supplies
for

2
poem
longtime hermano Bob          tells me
one of the monks in brown directs us to the deep sink
made of two sinks the hose & the silver table where all 
the spoons & metal tongs are clean
wait at the entrance for directions the monk gave me
but he is in there & points me to another sink
made of two
poem

for Phil Levine, RIP

They are writing about you Phil—you know
good stuff—the prizes     Detroit and that
poem where you said in past lives you
were a wild sun-crested fox being chased
by “ladies and gentlemen on horseback”—
you said

2

collected in

collection
To celebrate former Academy of American Poets Chancellor Juan Felipe H...