Search View Archive
Critics Page

People’s State of the Union Sonnets


Last year, the big headlines happened far away.
Here, we had droughts, floods, fires, and celebrities.
Our marathons were run, children felt safe,
our bridges held, our planes stayed in the air.
Ebola claimed only a sainted few.
But people are hungry today. People frack.
And some unarmed male people who were black
were killed last year by unindictable white
male people in blue police uniforms.
Then people spoke the three hundred million truths
we must sift through, to find what justice is.
We’re learning BLACK, BLUE, any color LIVES
MATTER, that we’re less different than the same.
Our grandchildren are our wisdom teachers.

—Marilyn Nelson






A shadow hangs where my country should glow.
Despite glories shaped as skyscrapers or sound.
More wars, more prisons, less safe, still low.
Massive cities teeter on shifting ground.
Glittering lights, music tracks hide the craven.
TV, movies, books so we can forget.
Countless worn out, debt-laden & slaving;
Their soul-derived destinies unmet.

Give me NASCAR, lowriders, Hip Hop, the Blues.
Give me Crooklyn, cowboys, cool jazz, cholos.
Give me libraries, gardens of the muse.
Give me songs over sidewalks, mad solos.
                  Big America improperly sized.
                  Give me your true value, realized.

—­Luis J. Rodriguez





Mahogany Browne, David Acevedo, Judith Santoprieto, Nikhil Melnechuk, and Bob Holman perform the 2015 Poetic Address to the Nation, on Feb. 1 at the Bowery Poetry Club.




Marilyn Nelson

Luis J. Rodriguez


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2015

All Issues