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Jane Kenyon’s “Otherwise”

Otherwise
by Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.
At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Jane Kenyon, “Otherwise,” from Collected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2007).

A. Van Jordan’s “Afterward but not Afterword”

Afterward but not Afterword
by A. Van Jordan

State of Florida v. Patrick Gene Scarborough, David Erwin Beagles, Ollie Odell Stoutamire, William Ted Collinsworth, 1959, case #3445.

Later I lower my head to my father’s chest,

the hollow where I hear his heart stop, if stop

meant speed to a stop, if hearts could gasp like a

mouth when events stun the heart to a stop

for a moment. His eyes fill with anger

then, collecting himself, he rises up to slump

his shoulders back down. The fists. The eyes.

Nothing can raise up, nothing feels essential,

a black body raising up in the south and all…

To a life starting here, ethereal, yet flesh, and all?

And even if you could, what all good would it do?

The damage and all. Black birds flock,

dulcet yet mourning, an uproar of need,

a cry of black but blue is not the sky

in which they gender. My God, if life is not pain,

no birth brought me into this world,

or could life begin here where it ends—

no shelter, no comfort, no ride home—
and must I go on, saying more? Pointing

them out in a court of men? Didn’t

the trees already finger the culprits? Creatures

make a way where there is no way. That way

after I lean into what’s left of me—and must I

(yes, you must) explain, over and over,

how my blood came to rest here—my body,

now labeled evidence, sows what I have yet to say.

About This Poem: “Betty Jean Owens was an African American woman who was raped by four white men—Patrick Gene Scarborough, David Erwin Beagles, Ollie Odell Stoutamire, and William Ted Collinsworth—in Tallahassee, Florida, on May, 1959. The trial was a landmark case, covered at the time by the BBC and international news outlets. This was the first case on record in which a jury of twelve white men found white-male assailants guilty of raping a black woman. Writing this poem, as a man, I can only approximate the emotion in the scene, even for the father as he tries to comfort her.”
A. Van Jordan

Copyright © 2020 by A. Van Jordan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets. Suggested to the Humanities Institute by Pauline Strong.

An Excerpt from Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen, An American Lyric”

Excerpt from Citizen, An American Lyric, a book-length prose poem by Claudia Rankine

The new therapist specializes in trauma counseling. You have only ever spoken on the phone. Her house has a side gate that leads to a back entrance she uses for patients. You walk down a path bordered on both sides with deer grass and rosemary to the gate, which turns out to be locked.
At the front door the bell is a small round disc that you press firmly. When the door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs, Get away from my house. What are you doing in my yard?
It’s as if a wounded Doberman pinscher or a German shepherd has gained the power of speech. And though you back up a few steps, you manage to tell her you have an appointment. You have an appointment? she spits back. Then she pauses. Everything pauses. Oh, she says, followed by, oh, yes, that’s right. I am sorry.
I am so sorry, so, so sorry.

 

Claudia Rankine, Citizen, An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014).

 

Announcing Hostile Terrain 94: Austin Site

Hostile Terrain 94 is an international participatory exhibit commemorating the thousands of people who have died or disappeared attempting to cross the U.S./Mexico border, due to the U.S Border Patrol policy of Prevention Through Deterrence. Organized by the Undocumented Migrant Project, the exhibit grew from the work of anthropologist Jason DeLeon, one of the Humanities Institute’s 2019 Distinguished Visiting Lecturers. Hostile Terrain exhibits will begin launching in late Fall 2020, and continue through Fall 2021. The Humanities Institute plans to participate, with a target date of Spring 2021 for the physical exhibit, and other activities leading up to and following the exhibit.

In advance of the exhibit, the Undocumented Migrant Project is hosting “A Moment of Global Remembrance.” The Project invites members of the public to record themselves reading aloud the name of a person who has died while crossing into the United States through the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. The recording also includes details of the person’s death. While it might be difficult to speak these details aloud, the project provides one way to remember those who have died and to bear witness to the results of U.S. policies.

The Humanities Institute extends an invitation to participate in “A Moment of Global Remembrance.” If you wish to record a video, the Undocumented Migrant Project offers these steps:

  1. Email hostileterrain94@gmail.com with the subject line “HT94 Video Compilation” and include your name and location* in the body of the email. *If you would prefer to keep your identity anonymous this information is optional. We will also accept audio-only recordings.
  2. We will reply to your email with the information that you will record yourself reading out loud along with further instructions.
  3. Send the recording back to hostileterrain94@gmail.com

Please submit all requests for participation by July 11th

For an example of the recording, watch Jason De León and other volunteers on the Global Moment of Remembrance announcement.

Hostile Terrain 94 : Global Moment of Remembrance

Recording the video can be a difficult experience. If you choose to record a video and would like to participate in a discussion about your  experience, the HI invites you to send a copy to Melissa Biggs, the guest curator for the Hostile Terrain 94 Austin site.