Friday, April 23, 2010

Charles R. Smith, Jr. - I Speak

I Speak
Charles R. Smith, Jr.

for those who are meek,
for those who cover ears
to silence sirens and shrieks
shouted from mothers
with mascara-stained cheeks
sobbing over souls
slain in the streets
leaving generation gaps,
I speak.

I speak
for those living in silence,
quieted by criminals
with a history of violence,
for those whose lives
were changed by the demise
of loved ones lost
right before their own eyes,
for them,
I speak.

for young eyes that see
bruises branded by daddy’s
fists on mommy,
battering her body
scarring her soul
turning her children’s
warm hearts cold
forcing their faces
to hide and seek
shelter from rage
for them
I speak.

I speak
for the illiterate and weak,
those who slip through the cracks
and fall on the streets
and scratch for salvation
without food, shelter or heat,
for those who are lost,
for them,
I speak.

These words that I say,
these words that I speak
give voice to the silent,
scared and weak.

These words that I speak,
these words that I say
challenge everyone
to listen

©2009 Charles R. Smith, Jr. All rights reserved.

Charles R. Smith, Jr. is a poet, novelist, photographer and winner of the 2010 Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration for My People (where his photos and Langston Hughes' poetry combine to utterly fantastic effect). I first ran into his work when I was looking for sports poetry for a few kids I thought would really connect with, well, sports poetry. His books, forgive me for saying this but it's an accurate description, were a home run.

Also a big hit for me, I Speak is a poem that demands to be read aloud. In fact, I want to do a little experiment. I want to shoo you all out to Charles' website where you can listen to him reading a number of his poems. Then come back and read I Speak again, and, if you're like me, I bet you can hear him reading it aloud in your head. I know I could. And then read it aloud yourself. Feels good, doesn't it? And if there's anyone around you, I bet they listen to the words you speak. Good stuff, indeed, and just one reason I'm thrilled to have Charles R. Smith, Jr. here at GottaBook as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

It's Poetry Friday once again (seems to happen every week!), and the roundup of posts is over at Anastasia Suen's Picture Book of the Day. Enjoy!

Yesterday, Heidi Mordhorst gave us an Earth Day (and every day) poem, Smaller Than I Thought. Tomorrow, Ars Poetica by Georgia Heard! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.


Stella said...

Like always, your postings inspire me above and beyond. Thanks for a great Poetry Friday!

tanita✿davis said...

Last year's 30 Poets/30 Days was amazing. This year, it is truly, truly spectacular. I love Charles R. Smith, and this poem strikes me particularly -- I really could hear him reading it aloud. Very powerful.

Author Amok said...

This poem made me think of a high school poet I heard this week. She read a sestina about being abused in a foster home. Thanks for sharing Smith's poem -- there are kids out there who need it.

Carmela Martino said...

I had a similar reaction, Greg--heard the poem in my head as I read. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Sabrina Rosales said...

this poem is very very powerful. it is my favorite poem for the
30 Poets 30 Days! said...

I am so glad for all of these poems; this one in particular. Thank you, Mr. Smith. Thank you, Greg.

Mary Lee said...

You're right -- we all need to speak this poem out loud and then live it in our lives!

Anonymous said...

That's amazingly powerful and thought-provoking. Thank you both for sharing.


Donna Marie Merritt said...

Keep speaking. Keep writing. It's sad that we need poetry on subjects like this, but we do, and it's a powerful way to get people to listen and to act.