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Authors: Amanda Gorman

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BOOK: Call Us What We Carry
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We’ve come so far

We say,

But we have further to go

In physics, we’re taught that

Displacement & distance differ.

Displacement is merely the space between

Where an object starts & where it ends.

A ______________ B

But distance is the total length

Of the path an object takes:


How far Sisyphus pushes that rock

Up its murky mound,

As well as the route it rolls down again.

A poem & how it runs

Through the body before leaving

Us something slightly more than we were.

Simply put, the rise & fall matter,

Conjoined, not canceling,

Expansion, not erasure.

It is only then that we can understand

How our distance from our worst selves

Is centuries & yet

We have not been displaced.


We have gone further than we’ve come.

* * *

A part of ourselves is still barbed

& barbaric, a wired complex of greed.

There is also the element that is

Guided by good,

The way our blood

Is bracketed by veins.

According to legend,

There are two wolves inside us:

One half that must be fought

& one that must be fed.

One that must fall

& one that must never fail.


That wretched summer

We were distempered as dogs,

But to be disturbed is to be moved,

Pushed toward progress.

Our disgust is a measurement

Of distance, a distaste for what was.

It is to grasp that we must never go back.

History is fractured & fractal.

Even when we’ve succumbed,

We have not surrendered.

We might fall.

We might rise,

Distant but undisplaced,

Traveling further than we shift.

What matters most is that

We find each other

In the lit-up space


For my particular grief

Is of so flood-gate and o’er-bearing nature

That it engluts and swallows other sorrows

And it is still itself.

—William Shakespeare,


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You will be told this is not a problem,


You will be told now is not the time

For change to begin,

Told that we cannot win.

But the point of protest isn’t winning;

It’s holding fast to the promise of freedom,

Even when fast victory is not promised.

Meaning, we cannot stand up to police

If we cannot cease policing our imagination,

Convincing our communities that this won’t work,

When the work hasn’t even begun,

That this can wait,

When we’ve already waited out a thousand suns.

By now, we understand

That white supremacy

& the despair it demands

Are as destructive as any disease.

So when you’re told that your rage is reactionary,

Remind yourself that rage is our right.

It teaches us it is time to fight.

In the face of injustice,

Not only is anger natural, but necessary,

Because it helps carry us to our destination.

Our goal is never revenge, just restoration.

Not dominance, just dignity.

Not fear, just freedom.

Just justice.

Whether we prevail is not determined

By all the challenges that are present,

But by all the change that is possible.

& though we are unstoppable,

If we ever feel we might fail,

If we be fatigued & frail,

When our fire can no longer be fueled by fury,

We will always be fortified by this faith,

Found in the anthem, the vow:

Black lives matter,

No matter what.

Black lives are worth living,

Worth defending,

Worth every struggle.

We owe it to the fallen to fight,

But we owe it to ourselves to never stay kneeling

When the day calls us to stand.

Together, we envision a land that is liberated, not lawless.

We create a future that is free, not flawless.

Again & again, over & over,

We will stride up every mountainside,

Magnanimous & modest.

We will be protected & served

By a force that is honored & honest.

This is more than protest.

It’s a promise.


Riots are red

Violence is blue

We’re sick of dying

How ’bout you


That telltale luminescent green vest—

His bike, cruising leisurely a second before,

Skidded     to     a     ha     l     t

Like a DJ’s hand on his turntable.

The hunter had made his mark.

Mark the world & make it his.

Though we had nothing to hide,

We performed our innocence for him,

Placed it on full display like a buffet platter.

Here. Feast your eyes on thi



No, really.

Though we strobed

That we came in peace,

He was already at war.

Because aren’t we all,


We blinked, stunned,

A doe before the rifle.

Didn’t he recognize

Who we were,

Who we was?

A girl just trying to walk home

& live to tell the tale.

In that moment, we desperately want

To snort

To scream

To survive.

We have battled hard to be.


& we mean nothing—

Can keep you safe.

Silence least of all.

Speak with this giant life,

For we might never be granted

That same breath again.

* * *

A nation’s cold pride will kill,

Choke us on the very spot we shadow.

This is also called Chauvin[ism].

Such pain patrols with pattern,

Practiced, cooled, coded, familiar & un-familial.

Would we crave peace

If we knew what it was.

* * *

Our war has changed.

Whoever said we never die

In our dreams obviously

Has never been Black.

Sometimes the whole dusk pulls us down.

Sometimes in the thick

Of night we say our name

Again & again & again

Until it loses all its meaning,

Until its syllables are just

Another dead thing.

This is a rehearsal of sorts.

We stand still,

If just to insist

That we still


Hoodied by a nightmare,

We resurrect ourselves.

* * *

Union of unwilling martyrs.

Death is no equalizer,

Death equals nothing,

Makes a 0 of a life.

That is the machinery of this country.

As the regular sprang back,

So did the violence,

Normal in its abnormality,

Completely unshuttered.

& so we were un-shuddering,

Our shoulders no longer recalling

How to ripple

After seeing our bodies

Ripped apart.

R. I. P.

Ravaged In Pandemic.

Rifled Innocent People.

Razed Irreplaceable Persons.

Look alive, everyone.

* * *

To ask a question

Is to put our hand up

& ready ourselves for the end.

An answer is an assault,

It can knock you dead.

Can we tell you something?
we ask.

cracks the response.

O how our beloveds are besieged.

Despite how hard we’ve prayed,

Anyone becomes prey

When they do not

Turn & run.

Nowadays, living

Is a dying art.

* * *

We were brought here

& all we got was this lousy T-shirt,

This drowsy, free hurt.

Taste our tired, unbroken rage.

Nothing we have witnessed

This lifetime surprises us.

Disbelief is a luxury

We never possessed,

A pause that never was.

How many times have we wheezed

A dread to last all night long.

The truth is, one nation under guns.

* * *

This republic was bred shady.

Country of guns & germs & steal-

ing land & life.

O say can we see

The blood we stand on,

Shining below us

Like a blood-slick star.

What we might’ve been if only we’d tried.

What we might become, if only we’d listen.

* * *

Scars & stripes.

Schools scared to death,

School drills of death.

The truth is, one education under desks,

Stooped low from bullets.

Soon comes the sharp plunge

When we must

Ask where our children

Shall live

& how.

& if.

Who else shall we let perish.

* * *

Again, language matters.

Children have been taught—

America: without her, democracy fails.

But the truth is:

America without her democracy fails.

We thought our country would burn.

We thought our country would learn.


How to sing

Our name,




Ash is alkaline, meaning basic.

All too true.

Perhaps to burn is the most basic

Purification there is.

Time said:
You must transform to survive

We said:
Not over our dead body.

What can we call a country that destroys

Itself just because it can?

A nation that would char

Rather than change?

Our only word for this is


* * *

There is more than one hue of haunting.

We want to believe that

What we care for can keep.

We want to believe.

The truth is, we are one nation, under ghosts.

The truth is, we are one nation, under fraud.

Tell us, honestly:

Will we ever be who we say.

* * *

The world still terrifies us.

We’re told to write what we know.

We write what we’re afraid of.

Only then is our fear

Made small by what we love.

Every second, what we feel

For our people & our planet

Almost brings us to our knees,

A compassion that nearly destroys

Us with its massiveness.

There is no love for or in this world

That doesn’t feel both bright & unbearable,


* * *

We built this place,

Knowing it could lead,

Knowing it might not last,

Knowing it might lose.

Our people,

We take thee to have & to scold,

To love & to change,

In sickness & in health,

Till breath do us part.

How do we pronounce you,

Land & Strife?

Our hands must not lay

Down what they’ve begun.

* * *

Young, our country seems,

& stumbling, but striking,

Like a lion learning its legs.

One nation, blunder-pawed.

What we have not done delicately,

At least let us do decently & deliberately,

For there is still a promise here

We have promised here of all.

* * *

Some days we believe

In nothing

But belief. But

It is enough to carry us forward.

We believe we can transform

Without war or wariness.

We are stubborn, not simple.

Strategic, like a general who sees

They may not win this battle.

We’re optimistic, not because we have hope,

But because only by being optimistic can hope

Be ours to have.

* * *

Grief depends on love.

What we cherish most shall leave.

But what we’ve changed can last,

Chartered & chosen.

We imagine us

& all we’ll make of one another:

Our faces wet & shimmering

Like an open wound,

Dazed by the flare

Of our new-made selves.

The truth is: one world, wonder-awed,

Raw with revelation.

May such a prayer,

A people,

A peace,

A promise,

Be ours.

Be right

& radiant

& real.

BOOK: Call Us What We Carry
10.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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