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About this poet

Jamaal May is the author of The Big Book of Exit Strategies (Alice James Books, 2016) and Hum (Alice James Books, 2013). He codirects OW! Arts with Tarfia Faizullah and lives in Hamtramck, Michigan.

 

Pomegranate Means Grenade

The heart trembles like a herd of horses.
—Jontae McCrory, age 11

Hold a pomegranate in your palm,
imagine ways to split it, think of the breaking
skin as shrapnel. Remember granada
means pomegranate and granada
means grenade because grenade
takes its name from the fruit;
identify war by what it takes away
from fecund orchards. Jontae,
there will always be one like you:
a child who gets the picked over box
with mostly black crayons. One who wonders
what beautiful has to do with beauty, as he darkens
a sun in the corner of every page,
constructs a house from ashen lines,
sketches stick figures lying face down-
I know how often red is the only color
left to reach for. I fear for you.
You are writing a stampede
into my chest, the same anxiety that shudders
me when I push past marines in high school
hallways, moments after video footage
of young men dropping from helicopters
in night vision goggles. I want you to see in the dark
without covering your face and carry verse
as countermeasure to recruitment videos
and remember the cranes buried inside the poems
painted on banners that hung in Tiananmen Square—
remember because Huang Xiang was exiled
for these. Remember because the poet Huang Xiang
was exiled for this: the calligraphy of revolt.
Always know that you will stand nameless
in front of a tank, always know you will not stand
alone, but there will always be those
who would rather see you pull a pin
from a grenade than pull a pen
from your backpack. Jontae,
they are afraid.

Copyright © 2013 by Jamaal May. From Hum (Alice James Books, 2013). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Copyright © 2013 by Jamaal May. From Hum (Alice James Books, 2013). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Jamaal May

Jamaal May

Jamaal May is the author of The Big Book of Exit Strategies (Alice James Books, 2016) and Hum (Alice James Books, 2013). He codirects OW! Arts with Tarfia Faizullah and lives in Hamtramck, Michigan.

by this poet

poem

In the beginning
there was the war.

The war said let there be war
and there was war.

The war said let there be peace
and there was war.

The people said music and rain
evaporating against fire in the brush
was a kind of music
and so was the beast.

The beast that

poem

I have this, and this isn’t a mouth
           full of the names of odd flowers

I’ve grown in secret.
           I know none of these by name

but have this garden now,
           and pastel somethings bloom

near the others and others.
           I have this trowel, these

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