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Poem of the Week - November 15th, 2020 - 'in broad dayliGht black moms look grieving' by Roya Marsh

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

This week’s ‘Poem of the Week’ comes courtesy of a rising star in the poetry world, a poet, performer, educator, and activist named Roya Marsh.

Marsh, a queer black woman born and raised in the Bronx, NY, is the poet in residence with Urban Word NYC, a program that ‘champions the voices of NYC youth by providing platforms for critical literacy, youth development, and leadership through free and uncensored writing, college prep, and performance opportunities.’ Her main goal through her work is to ‘work feverishly toward LGBTQIA justice and dismantling white supremacy.’ She’s had work featured on NBC, BET, Def Jam’s All Def Digital, and in Poetry magazine, Huff Post, and Nylon, among other publications.

Her first collection, titled dayliGht, is a beautiful kaleidoscope of free verse poems, many of them structured in unique ways in regard to spacing, punctuation, and capitalization, and the poems themselves deal with heavy but honest subjects: suicide and depression, police brutality, black suppression, white supremacy, white violence, and gun proliferation.

One of the poems from the collection that stood out to me was the one you will find below, this week’s ‘Poem of the Week.’ The poem itself, while pretty straightforward, is a riff on both police brutality towards black people and an observation by Marsh on her own mental state. Throughout many of her poems, she is open about her struggles with her depression and suicide, and she has tried to commit suicide on more than one occasion, with readers charting her journey from her attempts to the present day through her poems. In a few poems before this one, she muses on the fact that she purposefully doesn’t own a gun because she is afraid she would use it on herself, and the poems show how she struggles and eventually is successful with overcoming her depression.

In this specific poem, she links this thought about why she cannot have a gun with her depression and calls back to earlier poems in the collection via the fourth stanza, but it is not necessary to have read her earlier poems to understand what she is trying to say with that stanza itself. Instead of having a gun to protect herself and try to fight back against the world at large, she instead turns to her pen, morphing it into a metaphorical gun and trying to dismantle systemic racism, police brutality, and the overall suppression of black people using the written word. She juxtaposes images and scenes from recorded videos of police brutality with the struggle to overcome the feeling of hopelessness that many black Americans often feel when they view yet another video showing police brutality, and she ends the poem on a hopeful note--she says that, unlike literal bullets fired from a gun, she can wield her pen to fire metaphorical bullets and start to make the world better for those she is defending through her poetry, whether that be black Americans, LGBTQIA Americans, female Americans, or a combination of them all.

Her collection, ‘dayliGht,’ published this year, can be found in our catalog here and purchased either through Amazon here or locally in Milwaukee here.

in broad dayliGht black moms look grieving (a poem in response to Facebook comments)

they have made hell

a home, on earth.

camera captures breath.

concrete captures body.

this is NOTHING


yanking the limbs of breathless,

bleeding bodies behind backs.

i, too, yell commands to the deceased

the hole(y),

they seldom respond accordingly.

that is not a crime--

the yelling or the dying.

the shooting--that is the sin.

my mother says,

if you have a gun,

you’ll shoot a gun.

so, I don’t have a gun

i think…

if you have a pen

you will shoot a pen.

i never thought a bullet

could write this many poems.

they do not sweat

when they grab their gun.

i do not sweat

when I grab my pen.

the difference is in our bullets

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