Thursday, May 6, 2010

Joseph Ross' "If You Leave Your Shoes"

This is a poem from Joseph Ross, whose work I first discovered as a result of his edited mini-anthology, Cut Loose the Body: An Anthology of Poems on Torture and Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib (2008), and later his own poetry, one poem of which we included in Come Together: Imagine Peace. One of my small disappointments about Split This Rock 2010, which was a great festival and gathering, was that I tended to flow to all the same panels with all the same people--the war/anti-war poets--and that I somehow missed spending time with people like Joseph Ross, who was active in one of the parallel streams of progressive liberationist politics and poetics at Split This Rock, dealing with gay and lesbian poetry. When I mentioned this to poet Sean Thomas Dougherty, he remarked that it was indicative of the fragmentation of the Left--each of us with our affiliative communities. In this poem by Ross, "If You Leave Your Shoes," we see the power of cross-identification, between people who have known what it means to be considered illegal, unworthy of speech and rights.

Joseph Ross's "If You Leave Your Shoes"
A response to Arizona’s law SB 1070

If you leave your shoes
on the front porch
when you run

to the city pool
for swimming lessons,
you might end up

walking across the sand
of the desert in
scorched feet,

bare, like the prophets,
who knew what it was
to burn.

If you leave your lover
to run to the market
for bread and pears

you might return
to find your lover
gone and the bed

covered with knives,
hot and gleaming from
a morning in the sun.

If you leave your country
in the wrong hands,
you might return to

see it drowning in blood,
able to spit
but not to speak.

-Joseph Ross


Used by permission.

Joseph Ross is a poet, working in Washington, D.C., whose poems have been published in many journals and anthologies including Poetic Voices Without Borders 1 and 2, Poet Lore, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Full Moon on K Street. He co-edited Cut Loose the Body: An Anthology of Poems on Torture and Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib for D.C. Poets Against the War. He has given readings in Washington, D.C.’s Miller Cabin Poetry Series and in the Library of Congress’ Poetry-at-Noon Series. He teaches in the College Writing Program at American University in Washington, D.C.

Ross appeared on the panel Gay and Lesbian Poetry in the 40th Year Since Stonewall: History, Craft, Equality during Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010.

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1 comment:

Joseph Ross said...

Thank you for posting this, Phil. For your kind words too, thanks. We have to connect for a longer conversation soon. All the best to you --- Joseph