Tag Archives: human rights

Powerful Resistance Poem by Tracy K Smith

The Pulitzer Prize-winning new U.S. Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith, is certainly a timely choice, and a voice for bringing poetry into our world, breaking down barriers and preconceptions. And what an advocate indeed; with the unforgettable found poem below, powerfully earth-conscious and bringing us a clear and stark vision of what exactly is happening to us and our planet as a direct result of corporate capitalist excess and greed. It’s a devastating poem that should give us all pause…and be moved to take whatever actions we have in our power to resist the now-openly-sanctioned ravaging of our selves, our bodies and our world, our only home, our future. What could be more important?? All kudos to Tracy K. Smith!
Note: the formatting of this poem did not properly transfer to this website (perhaps it could be but I didn’t know how to do it). To see the correct formatting intended by the author, please visit this site.

Tracy K. Smith

200 cows more than 600 hilly acres

property would have been even larger
had J not sold 66 acres to DuPont for
waste from its Washington Works factory
where J was employed
did not want to sell
but needed money poor health
mysterious ailments

Not long after the sale cattle began to act
footage shot on a camcorder
grainy intercut with static
Images jump repeat sound accelerates
slows down
quality of a horror movie

the rippling shallow water the white ash
trees shedding their leaves
a large pipe
discharging green water
a skinny red cow
hair missing back humped

a dead black calf in snow its eye
a brilliant chemical blue

a calf’s bisected head
liver heart stomachs kidneys
gall bladder some dark some green

cows with stringy tails malformed hooves
lesions red receded eyes suffering slobbering
staggering like drunks

It don’t look like
anything I’ve been into before

I began rising through the ceiling of each floor in the hospital as though I were being pulled by some force outside my own volition. I continued rising until I passed through the roof itself and found myself in the sky. I began to move much more quickly past the mountain range near the hospital and over the city. I was swept away by some unknown force, and started to move at an enormous speed. Just moving like a thunderbolt through a darkness.

R’s taking on the case I found to be inconceivable

It just felt like the right thing to do
a great
opportunity to use my background for people who
really needed it

R: filed a federal suit
pulled permits
land deeds
a letter that mentioned
a substance at the landfill
perfluorooctanoic acid

a soap-like agent used in

PFOA: was to be incinerated or
sent to chemical waste facilities
not to be flushed into water or sewers

pumped hundreds of thousands of pounds
into the Ohio River
dumped tons of PFOA sludge
into open unlined pits

increased the size of the liver in rats and rabbits
(results replicated in dogs)
caused birth defects in rats
caused cancerous testicular pancreatic and
liver tumors in lab animals
possible DNA damage from exposure
bound to plasma proteins in blood
was found circulating through each organ
high concentrations in the blood of factory workers
children of pregnant employees had eye defects
dust vented from factory chimneys settled well-beyond
the property line
entered the water table
concentration in drinking water 3x international safety limit
study of workers linked exposure with prostate cancer
worth $1 billion in annual profit

(It don’t look like anything I’ve been into before)

Every individual thing glowed with life. Bands of energy were being dispersed from a huge universal heartbeat, faster than a raging river. I found I could move as fast as I could think.

did not make this information public
declined to disclose this finding
considered switching to new compound that appeared less toxic
and stayed in the body for a much shorter duration of time
decided against it
decided it needed to find a landfill for toxic sludge
bought 66 acres from a low-level employee
at the Washington Works facility

(J needed money
had been in poor health
a dead black calf
its eye chemical blue
cows slobbering
staggering like drunks)

I could perceive the Earth, outer space, and humanity from a spacious and indescribable ‘God’s eye view.’ I saw a planet to my left covered with vegetation of many colors no signs of mankind or any familiar shorelines. The waters were living waters, the grass was living, the trees and the animals were more alive than on earth.

D’s first husband had been a chemist
When you
worked at DuPont in this town you could have
everything you wanted
DuPont paid for his education
secured him a mortgage paid a generous salary
even gave him a free supply of PFOA

He explained that the planet we call Earth really has a proper name, has its own energy, is a true living being, was very strong but has been weakened considerably.

which she used
as soap in the family’s dishwasher

I could feel Earth’s desperate situation. Her aura appeared to be very strange, made me wonder if it was radioactivity. It was bleak, faded in color, and its sound was heart wrenching.

her husband came home sick—fever, nausea, diarrhea,
vomiting—‘Teflon flu’

an emergency hysterectomy
a second surgery

I could tell the Doctor everything he did upon my arrival down to the minute details of accompanying the nurse to the basement of the hospital to get the plasma for me; everything he did while also being instructed and shown around in Heaven.

Clients called R to say they had received diagnoses of cancer
or that a family member had died

W who had cancer had died of a heart attack

Two years later W’s wife died of cancer

They knew this stuff was harmful
and they put it in the water anyway

I suspect that Earth may be a place of education.

PFOA detected in:
American blood banks
blood or vital organs of:
Atlantic salmon
gray seals
common cormorants
Alaskan polar bears
brown pelicans
sea turtles
sea eagles
California sea lions
Laysan albatrosses on a wildlife refuge
in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean;>

Viewing the myriad human faces with an indescribable, intimate, and profound love. This love was all around me, it was everywhere, but at the same time it was also me.

We see a situation

that has gone

from Washington Works

All that was important in life was the love we felt.

to statewide

All that was made, said, done, or even thought without love was undone.

to everywhere

it’s global

In my particular case, God took the form of a luminous warm water. It does not mean that a luminous warm water is God. It is just that, for me, it was experiencing the luminous warm water that I felt the most connection with the eternal.

Copyright © 2017 Tracy K. Smith.

Note re This Poem:

“‘Watershed’ is a found poem drawn from two sources: a New York Times Magazine January 6, 2016, article by Nathaniel Rich entitled, ‘The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare,’ and excerpts of the narratives of survivors of near-death experiences as catalogued on http://www.nderf.org.”
—Tracy K. Smith


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Filed under African American poets, Human Rights, Poetry, Poets, women poets, Women's poetry

New Poem on New Verse News Re Egypt’s Systematic Rape Policy

Today, this poem of mine, “Don’t Call It a Coup, Just Sing Tralala,” is up on New Verse News, a wonderful site that publishes poetry which responds to news or current events.


A link from an article in the Telegraph reporting on the systematic use of rape by Egyptian security forces under president Al-Sisi appears over the poem.

I’ve been reading about the horrific abuses perpetrated by the Egyptian police and other “security forces” in Arabic-language news programs for some time, so it’s about time that the human rights organization’s report detailed and documented some of these atrocities, in which women and also men of all ages are routinely subjected to rape and sexual humiliation, often in front of others, including their husbands or other relatives, as a means of suppressing protest. (More articles, if interested.)

The gay community is also targeted for this sexual abuse and humiliation. Men, women, and children are also frequently tortured in other ways as well.

The courts are no longer involved in a “system of justice,” but rather take a list of completely invented and often absurd charges, a common one being terrorism and attacks on security forces, and give these charges to the judge who routinely either prolongs their stay in jail, prevents access to a lawyer, arrests the lawyer and subjects him to the same abuse, or simply gives a “guilty” verdict on the charges with no evidence, legitimate hearing or other due process. Death sentences are issued regularly on these baseless charges and then carried out within a day or two of the judgment. A young student, for example, was executed for a crime alleged to have occurred in the street at a time in which he was incarcerated.

Sisi and his government ordered these abuses to occur, evidenced by the fact that he continually praises the security forces who are never held accountable for anything, and that such widespread and almost inevitable routine abuse cannot occur on that scale without government complicity.

Although I normally post poetry and articles about poetry, this unbearable situation is beyond politics. The U.S. does not call the military takeover a coup, not even after the subsequent installation of Sisi with dictatorial powers that might make even Mubarak squirm just a little. By not calling it a coup, the US is able to continue funding Egypt’s military and security forces. Hence the title of the poem, “Don’t Call It a Coup, Just Sing Tralala.” And look the other way. So much for democracy, support for democracy movements or human rights, so much for women’s rights or gay rights or the right of students to have an education without being summarily pulled out of classes or examinations to be shot in the head, raped, or humiliated.

The repetend, “Pull down your pants!” Is taken from a report (in Arabic, on a “talk show” type program) in which several young (teenaged) men discussed their arrest and the abuse they endured, which left them psychologically traumatized as one could easily see. They reported that upon entering the police station, the first words they were greeted with were “Pull down your pants!” After which they were sexually humiliated and abused in front of others. These were young men going about heir own business. Those words were reported to be the usual “greeting” all arrested people heard at the police station.

If it happened once, it’s horrific. If it happens systematically, the entire government is guilty of crimes against their own people. In fact, my opinion is that the Sisi government, being a police state and military government, needs a war, and has started a war——against the Egyptian people, especially young people, women and gays, and people of the Islamic faith. Does he think he will please the West or the Christian world by this? As long as we look the other way and sing Tralala…

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Filed under Human Rights, Poetry, Publications, Siham Karami poetry