Someone must clean the mess.

         Wash the blindfolds.
         Stack the chains in a well-labeled box.
         Wipe the floor where the men were tied down in diapers.

Someone must measure the medicine.

         So the swelling in the man’s legs,
         the one standing naked for 54 hours,
         will go down just enough to keep him standing.

Someone must pretend the information is real.

         Pretend the muttered answers
         gargled between sessions of drowning,
         will be honest.

Someone must wash their hands.

         Bent over the sink, scrubbing, scrubbing
         an Arab’s damned, dark blood.
         Again, again, again.

Someone must select the insects.

         Decide which creature will sting
         the body but not chew through
         the wood of the confinement box.

Someone must go home to their daughter.

         Reheat a plate of beans for their 12 year old girl. Try not to see
         the raw wrists, the dislocated shoulder, the tube inserted up the rectum,
         the time of death.

Someone must tuck their baby girl into bed.



Senator Dianne Feinstein released a controversial study this past week of the “Enhanced Interrogation” program used under the Bush administration by the CIA. The report contained numerous sanctioned atrocities and demonstrated that little to no information was procured from torturing detainees. This effort to combat terrorism failed, cost many their lives, and is a violent abuse of power.


America to Eric Garner

Your skin:
      too black,


Your voice
      above silent:
      too loud.

Your voice:
      (I can’t breathe.)
      Stop (your voice),
      stop (I can’t breathe),
      your voice,


Your voice:




Your body
      being: danger.
Your body
      being power:

      must not be.

 Your body:




Your life:
      bloodied brick.
Your life:
Your life
      being power:
      should not be.

Your life




Your death:
      history spiraling.
Your death:
      drops in my barrel.
Your death:

I demand

your death,
your death,
your death

                      murder       murder      MURDER

                    John Crawford III
                    Tyree Woodson
                    McKenzie Cochran
                    Michael Brown
                    Ezell Ford
                    Kaijeme Powell
                    Dante Parker
                    Victor White III
                    Tanisha Anderson
                    Akai Gurley
                    Tamir Rice

      fire to rage.
      my effigy.



                       I burn.

Eric Garner was murdered by a police officer using a prohibited chokehold. A New York grand jury ruled that his killer would not face trial. His murder is one horrific example of the racist police brutality rampant throughout America, as well as of the racism endemic to our “justice” system. Every 28 hours, a Black person is shot by a cop or vigilante in this country. This poem is a letter from a violent, unjust, racist America to Eric Garner.

*Even as a dark, South Asian woman, I know I hold an unbelievable amount of privilege. I can walk down the street, see a white cop, and not fear for my safety. Black individuals have been systemically and historically dehumanized in this country in ways I will never face. I write today as an act of solidarity, as a demonstration that I stand behind the thousands of Black protestors and leaders demanding change. Please, support the voices of Black poets by following the hashtag #BlackPoetsSpeakOut

To Those Who Bomb Us

Our bodies are not steel,
            do not bend and mangle
            on impact.
Our bodies, bone,
            crumble, split, grind.
The silt of too many years
            among ruins.

What is this
            if not loss defined?

Would that our bodies were steel.
Would that they crawled into themselves,
            cradle curled
            around the bullet spray,


Bodies pressed clean
            between the thumbs
            of your machinery.

Is that not what you hoped
            your ammunition rain might bring?

Did you not wish
for hospital curtains drawn closed,
            around the small
            of a slippery cold
the return of organs,
            a ticking clock,
just one day of replacing batteries,
one day of reviving the orchestra,
            motors, gears, jaws,
that we might go home new,
            no worse for the wear
            of all this living
            under your madness?

When you shower
            gutted bombs
            into the sea glass green
            of fields,
when you spit
            blistering gas
            into our homes,
when you invent
            wars to defend
            your hatred,
            your wallets,
            your seething power,

do you not expect
            to become carcass,

            to ignite,


            to end?

For if you do,
            how do you keep
            living, knowing
            what your butcher hands
            have carved?



Throughout the “War on Terror,” Obama has defended bombings in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. During the past few years, it has become increasingly clear that these attacks often lead to more extremism, not less, especially when compounded with the constantly shifting alliances that the administration forges. In each case, there are countless civilian deaths. The recent decision to begin a new assault in Syria has been widely criticized especially given the lack of evidence regarding a true terror threat to the U.S. This poem is in no way a cry against political action in situations of human rights violations; it is a response to the continued violence perpetuated by President Obama and his administration.

On Water

On Water

My mouth is sandstorm
            dry, my hands
            caked in callouses,
            lines deep
            like the emptying river
            beds. Can you sleep
            without the lullaby drum
            of rain? They say
            the ocean is rising,
            say the snow has become salted
            tears, and here, I cannot
            cry, my eyes
            the crusted red of steel.

What have we done?

Where will we stand
            in the Atlantis
            that will become us all?



Today in New York and in cities around the US, thousands of people will march for Climate Justice. By protecting and preserving the earth, we protect and preserve lives. This is a human struggle as much as any other social justice cause. This poem is reflection of the changing climate that leads to both floods and droughts. “To change everything, we need everyone.”

“The Message is, take the stairs.”

“The message is, take the stairs.”

When your partner threatens to kill you,
take the stairs.
When the sting of their fist throbs against your cheek,
take the stairs.
When they tear at your belt, and you say stop, and their mouth leaves scars along your chest,
take the stairs.
When you fear that leaving will take more life from you than staying,
take the stairs.
At least here,
in this stairwell,
there are no cameras,
no one to witness and throw your body across TV screens,
no one to argue over games and suspensions,
no one to tell you to leave.
As if your voice has not been caged and twisted,
has not been scrutinized by a million eyes.
Would your answer even be heard?
At least here,
when your body lies limp at the bottom of the stairs,
when your love looks down at all they have done,
you will hold the choice in your hands,
and the news anchor cannot tell you the lesson
is to never
get caught.




When the video of Ray Rice attacking Janay Palmer was found, every news outlet found it necessary to give their take, offer advice and opinions, and publicize her abuse again and again. Fox & Friends treated the issue almost as a joke, and one host commented, “The message is, take the stairs.” This poem is a response to the callousness with which people have treated domestic violence and particularly violence against women in light of this situation.

Ode to Urban Shield

Ode to Urban Shield

Your t-shirts read
            keep calm and return fire.
Keep calm
and return fire.
Keep calm and return fire,
            under a picture of the American flag.
A mask and the words,
            destruction cometh
            and they shall seek peace
            and there shall be none.

This is your America.
White vans and surveillance,
machine guns and tear gas,
armored cars to protect the streets
from the people.
Homeland Security
whose homes are you securing?

When the mayor of Oakland said
            this is the last time
            her streets flood
            with swat teams
            making games of death,
your spokesperson declared,
            she has no right.

Which side of the guns are your sons on?
Do they face down the nose of a lifted barrel and hold their breaths,
do they keep fingers steady on warm triggers,
do they trust the blood of slain bodies to be darker than their own?

is not natural disaster,
your war on drugs
is bombs in cradles,
but thank God
your surplus tanks
keep the sidewalk safe,
that patted smooth cement
that blood thirsty
bullet hungry

Urban Shield,
why is castration
still in your vocabulary?

is the use of violence
in pursuit of political gain.

If you hold the guns
while they hold the signs,
who are the terrorists really?




Urban Shield is a trade show for law enforcement and emergency crews that is funded by the federal government. It has taken place in Oakland for the past 8 years. This year, the event also drew hundreds of protestors angered by the militarization of the police. For more information, please refer to: