my god they have cornered me
like an animal
and like an animal i want to lash out
i want to sink my teeth into their flesh until they shout and
let. me. go.
when my fist flies forward
to sink into their face
it hits yours instead.
they cornered me, made me a beast
who cannot tell friend from foe
and in my frenzy i struck you
just as you were reaching
for my hand to pull me up
sit with me
in this fear, in this fury, in this pain
sit with me until it melts into tears
and i am ready to stand up
to walk out past their leers
their spit their stones
help me pull the nails
from my feet, sides, wrists
and i shall use them
to build a house
for all of us
who are trampled into dust
with tender touch we pluck
the nails from each other’s flesh,
the knives from one another’s hearts
hurl them into the ones
who drove them into our skin
no. they will never
be weapons again.
can you smell the flowers blooming round the doorway?
can you hear the laughter ringing through the halls?
i have repurposed the rope
they tried to hang me with
into a swing that children
take turns swinging on.
This poem was written by Avery Arden.
This is a revised version of a poem included in their volume The Kin(g)dom in the Rubble.
It also appears in the anthology There Is Us: Flowers for Ukraine.
About this poem: This piece contemplates how the horrors done to us might be transformed into something life-giving — and in the meantime, God is with us. How do we fight back against our oppressors’ dehumanizing violence? How do we bear good fruit and thrive in a world that would see us quashed?
This poem was inspired by Psalm 73, where the psalmist begs to know why unjust oppressors thrive while the oppressed suffer. So overcome with pain and fear is this psalmist that they risk becoming the animal their oppressors try to dehumanize them into — but God raises them up from that fate. Here are verses 21-23, my translation:
Yes, my heart was warping into a bitter husk,
my insides were all cut up.
I became brutish, I knew nothing anymore —
I lashed out, a wild animal, against You.
Yet even so, I am unceasingly with You!
You hold fast to my right hand!