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In Two Seconds: Tamir Rice 2002-2014

by Mark Doty

the boy’s face
climbed back down the twelve-year tunnel

of its becoming,  a charcoal sunflower
swallowing itself. Who has eyes to see,

or ears to hear? If you could see
what happens fastest, unmaking

the human irreplaceable, a star
falling into complete gravitational

darkness from all points of itself, all this:

the held loved body into which entered
milk and music,  honeying the cells of him:

who sang to him, stroked the nap
of the scalp, kissed the flesh-knot

after the cord completed its work
of fueling into him the long history

of those whose suffering
was made more bearable

by the as-yet-unknown of him,

playing alone in some unthinkable
future city, a Cleveland,

whatever that might be.
Two seconds. To elapse:

the arc of joy in the conception bed,
the labor of hands repeated until

the hands no longer required attention,
so that as the woman folded

her hopes for him sank into the fabric
of his shirts and underpants. Down

they go, swirling down into the maw
of a greater dark. Treasure box,

comic books, pocket knife, bell from a lost cat’s collar,
why even begin to enumerate them

when behind every tributary
poured into him comes rushing backward

all he hasn’t been yet. Everything
that boy could have thought or made,

sung or theorized, built on the quavering
but continuous structure

that had preceded him sank into
an absence in the shape of a boy

playing with a plastic gun in a city park
in Ohio, in the middle of the afternoon.

When I say two seconds, I don’t mean the time
it took him to die. I mean the lapse between

the instant the cruiser braked to a halt
on the grass, between that moment

and the one in which the officer fired his weapon.
The two seconds taken to assess the situation.

I believe it is part of the work
of poetry to try on at least
the moment and skin of another,

for this hour I respectfully decline.

I refuse it. May that officer
be visited every night of his life
by an enormity collapsing in front of him

into an incomprehensible bloom,
and the voice that howls out of it.

If this is no poem then…

But that voice –- erased boy,
beloved of time, who did nothing
to no one and became

nothing because of it –- I know that voice
is one of the things we call poetry.
It isn’t only to his killer he’s speaking.


In Two Seconds: Tamir Rice, 2002-2014″ previously appeared in vol. 44, no. 3 of American Poetry Review. Copyright © 2015 by Mark Doty. Used with permission of the author.


Author Biography

Mark Doty is the author of several collections of poetry, including Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which received the 2008 National Book Award. He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2011 to 2016.

Photo by Miki Jourdan via flickr (cc-by-nc-nd)

New Publications from SLU Faculty and Staff

Stephanie Luce has two new articles out: one in LaborNotes on workers and housing, and another in Portside on how unions are organizing for racial justice.
Gladys Palma de Shrynemakers is co-hosting Next Gen Assessment: A Series for Educators Transitioning Online for the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU). This is an ongoing series of blog posts complemented by brief video discussions designed to help educators exchange information about assessment challenges and emerging best practices in digital delivery.
Incoming Assistant Professor of Labor Studies Joel Suarez discusses two recent books about anti-immigrant sentiment in an article entitled “The Nativist Tradition” in Dissent magazine.
David Unger has authored a piece on police unions and the Black Lives Matter movement for the fall issue of New Labor Forum, which has been released early due to its timeliness. Read it here.

New Labor Forum Highlights: July 2020

The New Labor Forum has a monthly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.

Well in advance of the fall 2020 issue of  New Labor Forum , we are releasing an important article by David Unger on the relationship of organized labor to police and carceral work. In “ Which Side Are We On: Can Labor Support #BlackLivesMatter and Police Unions ,” Unger asks whether the highly unionized workforce of nearly 2 million people employed by the carceral state have a right to union representation. And if so, should there be limits placed on their ability to collectively bargain and lobby? And furthermore, do police unions deserve a place within the AFL-CIO, given the role they have sometimes played in strike-breaking as well as controlling and even attacking protests by labor and its allies?  Subscribe now to  New Labor Forum   to join conversations like this and support the work of the journal.

We also include here a cutting-edge talk by Maurice Weeks, of the Action Center on Race and the Economy, presented at a recent forum hosted by NLF publisher, the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. Weeks discusses #DefundPolice and its challenge to the structural power of police departments. He also reveals the extent to which police departments dominate municipal budgets, citing L.A., Detroit, and Tulsa, where policing accounts for 52%, 36%, and 30% respectively of those cities’ total expenditures. And, extending the discussion of labor’s role in the fight for racial justice, April Simms, Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, examines the impact on black families and communities of ceaseless police killings of unarmed black citizens. She also makes a plea for unions “to do the uncomfortable but necessary work of fighting the white supremacy that is choking us.” We end with a heart-rending poem by Mark Doty, commemorating 12-year-old Tamir Rice, murdered at the hands of the police.

Table of Contents
  1. Which Side Are We On: Can Labor Support #BlackLivesMatter and Police Unions? / David Unger, New Labor Forum
  2. Black Workers and the Triple Pandemic / with Maurice BP-Weeks, June 24, 2020, CUNY SLU forum
  3. “We need you to fight for us to breathe” / April Sims, The Stand
  4. In Two Seconds: Tamir Rice 2002-2014 / Mark Doty, American Poetry Review, vol. 44 no. 03

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Getting Involved In the Movement for Social Justice

If you are looking for ways to develop or deepen your involvement in racial justice, below you’ll find a collection of resources to help get you started, whether it be by donating, marching, signing a petition or writing your local and federal elected officials.

Articles and Resources

Photo by Johnny Silvercloud via flickr (cc-by-sa)

News Round-up

A quick round-up at the end of a short week. Stay warm out there, folks!

  • Major west coast ports partially shut-down this week thanks to a 9-month contract dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and port ownership, Pacific Maritime Association, over the issue of overtime. If a resolution isn’t reached, we could be seeing a total shutdown of the ports, the first since 2002.
  • How much is too much for adjunct pay? SEIU is fighting for $15k per course and the labor and academic world are abuzz
  • In what the Polish government has called an illegal action, 5,400 coal-workers at Jatzrebska Spolka Weglowa SA are continuing their two-week strike, demanding the dismissal of Chief Executive Officer Jaroslaw Zagorowski.
  • How can farming promote racial justice? Radical Farmers Use Fresh Food to Fight Racial Injustice and the New Jim Crow

Photo by salehi hassan via flickr (CC-BY-NC).

A conversation about workers, communities and social justice

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