Poetry

“tell him we are yesterday” by Robert Gibbons

Our poetry editor, Joe Pan, has selected a poem by Robert Gibbons for his series that brings original poetry to the screens of Hyperallergic readers.

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Dread Scott performing "On the Impossibility of Freedom in a County Founded on Slavery and Genocide" under the Manhattan Bridge, October 2014 (photo by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)
Dread Scott performing “On the Impossibility of Freedom in a County Founded on Slavery and Genocide” under the Manhattan Bridge, October 2014 (photo by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

tell him we are yesterday

“I say who will name this Renaissance; who go tug the elbow of Langston Hughes; tell him we are yesterday again to McKay and Cullen and Hurston Walker and Baldwin; we doin’ it again.”
—Ruth Forman, Renaissance

we are under the experience
of a renaissance
a look back to move forward, a call of our being
to sankofa, a shift, a brother and

the time unfavorable, the moon mops
the floor with the blood
our ancestors know this must be, so the way
will be clear for generations, their fear
and trembling, limitations unhinging
a march, a call, a demonstration, open
the dusty books, when we thought it
acceptable, but this struggle
is in motion, in perpetuity, under the influence

of the renaissance, a penance and a
prayer, water hoses and dogs and Charles Moore
and citizen councils are still here, the doors
barred and locked and chained with
changed names and generational curses

the influences are fear, as it shifts
with the sunrises and inequality
in droplets, the signs of executive order
and disobedience, keeping us far from
the goal, this renaissance, still fighting
still to ignite the dream dreamers savor
left behind in the foot holes and strong holds
of power, with guard and police
and suspension of disbelief, the markets
of justice, graver, markers of James Chaney
and Ruby Bridges, all the world in stitches
tell them we are yesterday again

to explore we go back, to the ciphers, the
pipelines crude and rude and bait them
and rate them on a Pew scale, and tell them they
made it, and we really have not cannot tend the ivy
the ceiling, the towers, the power
brokers funding the plantation

the renaissance has not patience but rations
and pockets of redistribution, the pollution of street
corners becomes mourner’s benches, teddy
bears and libations, the flame inflames the tree stumps
and rump of a back street, a hood
a flood of mistrust, and musty dance halls the only
place to feel at peace

tell them we are yesterday again, we are porters
then barterers then carters
carriers of the hate and decision of a dead president
that led with executive order, fought
alongside them

yesterday again while porters sleep
on the backs of Plessy versus
Ferguson, Dred and Coretta
not all are free, until all are free
come the judgment

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Robert Gibbons is a poet-performer living in New York City. His first collection of poetry, Close to the Tree, was published by Three Rooms Press in 2012. Other credits include the Black Earth Institute, Turtle Island Quarterly, Paragram, Deep Water Literary, Suisun Valley Review, Fruita Pulp, and Killer Whale Journal. Information regarding his collection can be found at www.threeroomspress.com.

To submit poetry to Hyperallergic, email 3–5 poems to Joe Pan: poetry at hyperallergic dot com.

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