Turning silence on police shootings into poetry


MARCUS WICKER, Author, “Silencer”: I’m a child
of hip-hop, and grew up with it, especially in the ’90s. I can’t help it. It’s always on in the background, you know,
when I’m riding to the cleaners or on my way to teach. And so, because of that, the cadences and
the rhythms of hip-hop sort of come out naturally in my thought patterns. And so I can’t help that they sort of spill
out onto the page as I’m writing. I think that there’s no better hip-hop group
than A Tribe Called Quest. Always liked Wu-Tang. There are poems where I sample Kendrick Lamar. So, for instance, he’s got a line: What you
want you, a house, you a car, 40 acres and a mule, a piano, a guitar? And so I use that, right? I sample the lyrics. And then I say, what you need you, a bond,
you a tree, 40 acres and a mule, a Monopoly piece? And then the poem goes out from there. I was living in Southern Indiana and teaching. And twice a month, I had this guy dinner. We’d go out. We would get suited and booted. Me, as a college professor. Another guy was a lawyer. There was a cat who was a skateboarder and
another guy who built fences for a living. And so you can imagine like the topics. We just go from one thing to the other. But whenever I brought up gone violence and
gun violence perpetrated against the black body, all the police shootings that I was
seeing in the news, it got very quiet, as if I was being silenced. And so I did the passive-aggressive thing
that you do as a poet. You write a poem about it. I’m going to read to you “Conjecture on the
Stained Glass Image of White Christ at Ebenezer Baptist Church.” The title refers to the famous church in Atlanta,
Georgia, where you can still see the image of a white Jesus at the pulpit in a predominantly
black church. “If in his image made am I, then make me a
miracle. Make my shrine a copper faucet leaking everlasting
Evian to the masses. Make this empty water glass a goblet of long-legged
French wine. Make mine a Prince-purple body bag designed
by Crown Royal for tax collectors to spill over and tithe into just before I rise. “If in his image made am I, then make my vessel
a pearl Coupe de Ville. Make mine the body of a 28-year-old black
woman in a blue patterned maxi dress cruising through Hell on Earth, Texas, again alive. “If in his image made are we, then why the
endless string of effigies? Why so many mortal blasphemes? Why crucify me in H.D. across a scrolling
news ticker, tied to a clothesline of broken necks long as time?” It’s my hope that writing about these things,
sometimes quietly, the absence of those details, the blood and the gore that you see on the
news, that that’ll be something, that that’ll be arresting, and that’ll be enough to move
someone to do something. My name is Marcus Wicker, and this is my Brief
But Spectacular take on beats, rhymes and poetry.

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