Friday, April 13, 2012

Joseph Ross' "In a Summer of Snipers"

Joseph Ross' "In a Summer of Snipers" takes us back to that moment in history when American society seemed that it was splitting down all its seams, with assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, riots and resistance in cities throughout the country, the darkening turn of violence around anti-war protest (which blew up during the Democratic National Convention in August).  Ross takes the symbolic gesture of Black Power made by two athletes at the Olympics in 1968--an act that was deemed controversial--into something beautiful, the upthrusting of hope.
Split This Rock 
Poem of the Week - 
Joseph Ross                                      
In a Summer of Snipers     
for Tommie Smith and John Carlos, 1968 

In a summer of snipers 
some men raised their hands
with fingers pressed 
to triggers
trying to squeeze away 
a generation's hope.
But you lifted your hands 
to conduct a choir
just learning to sing 
anthems of a victory
not yet won. 
The world watched you,
standing shoeless, 
like so many others,
with no protection 
from the earth itself,
its bullets, its boundaries 
real as a waiting noose,
a lynching tree, 
and a gathering crowd.
You raised your hands, 
gloved and black
and held us all 
for just a moment
where no rope 
could reach.

-Joseph Ross        
Used by permission.

Joseph Ross is part of the vibrant literary community in the Washington, D.C. area. His poems appear in many anthologies including Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on FaithReligion and SpiritualityCome Together: Imagine Peace, Full Moon on K Street, and Poetic Voices 1 and 2. His work also appears in a variety of journals including Poet LoreTidal Basin ReviewBeltway Poetry Quarterly,Drumvoices Revue, and Sojourners. He has read at the Library of Congress and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. An early member of D.C. Poets Against the War, he co-edited Cut Loose The Body: An Anthology of Poems on Torture and Fernando Botero's Abu Ghraib. He founded and directs the Writing Center at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C. and has taught writing at American University. He writes regularly at
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