Poem of the Week | August 31, 2015

This week we offer a new poem by Sam Cha. Cha received his MFA from UMass Boston, where he was twice the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Prize. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Amethyst Arsenic, apt, Anderbo, Better, decomP, DIAGRAM, Cleaver, Printer’s Devil Review, Memorious, RHINO, and Toad. He’s a poetry editor at Radius and at Off the Coast. He lives and writes in Cambridge, MA.

Author’s note:

Aiyana Brisbon is real. The letter she wrote to the police officer who shot her father is real. And I am a father. I have a daughter. The poem came out more or less the way it is (except for the very end, which gave me no end of trouble) in fifteen minutes flat.

But, for context: I wrote this the day after the announcement of the Ferguson grand jury decision. I felt so–implicated, I guess, is the word. Ashamed. Felt the world was a cruel and carnivorous mouth, felt that my inattention and apathy were part of its muscles and teeth, felt even that sudden realization was evidence of my own complicity–that I should even have to realize; that it should come as a shock. Felt the way to live with this shame was by practicing a kind of disciplined empathy. I’ve discovered that I’m really Aristotelian. I think that poetry should be pretty, sure, but I also think that it should help us be people who care about people; it should help us be better; it should help us be. I wrote this poem to try to be a better person.

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