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About this poet

Tyehimba Jess was born in Detroit, Michigan, and earned a BA from the University of Chicago and an MFA from New York University. He is the author of Olio (Wave Books, 2016), winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and leadbelly (Wave Books, 2005), winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. Jess has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship, and a Whiting Award. He is the poetry and fiction editor of African American Review and an associate professor of English at the College of Staten Island.

Mercy

the war speaks at night
with its lips of shredded children,
with its brow of plastique
and its fighter jet breath,
and then it speaks at daybreak
with the soft slur of money
unfolding leaf upon leaf.
it speaks between the news
programs in the music
of commercials, then sings
in the voices of a national anthem.
it has a dirty coin jingle in its step,
it has a hand of many lost hands,
a palm of missing fingers,
the stump of an arm that it lost
reaching up to heaven, a foot
that digs a trench for its dead.
the war staggers forward,
compelled, inexorable, ticking.
it looks to me
with its one eye of napalm
and one eye of ice,
with its hair of fire
and its nuclear heart,
and yes, it is so human
and so pitiful as it stands there,
waiting for my hand.
it wants to know my answer.
it wants to know how i intend
to show it out of its misery,
and i only want it
to teach me how to kill.

Copyright © 2014 by Tyehimba Jess. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

Copyright © 2014 by Tyehimba Jess. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

Tyehimba Jess

Tyehimba Jess

Tyehimba Jess is the author of Olio (Wave Books, 2016).

by this poet

poem
Carved Marble. Edmonia Lewis, 1875
 
My God is the living God,
God of the impertinent exile.
An outcast who carved me
into an outcast carved
by sheer and stony will
to wander the desert
in search of deliverance
the way a mother hunts
for her wayward child.
God of each eye fixed to heaven,
God of the
poem

John William Boone (1864-1927) world-renowned Ragtime                pianist.

C

my motto for life

                      - merit, not sympathy, wins-

                                              my song against death.

E♭

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