In Blog: Factually Speaking

As National Poetry Month comes to a close, we’re celebrating the power of poetry as a spark for social change. We reached out to staff members and friends of the League to ask which poetry moved them, and today we give you a collection of works that have brought us to our feet…and brought us to tears. We hope these poets inspire you as they have inspired us.

We gently remind you that poetry has power. Some of these poems may present intense or emotionally challenging content. Please explore them carefully.

Abeyance, by Rebecca Foust

Deportation Letter, by Javier Zamora

Don’t Make America Great Again, by Tawana Honeycomb Petty

Dulce et Decorum Est, by Wilfred Owen

Her Kind, by Anne Sexton

In This Place (An American Lyric), by Amanda Gorman

London, by William Blake

Praise Song for the Day, by Elizabeth Alexander

Still I Rise, by Maya Angelou

The Border: A Double Sonnet, by Alberto Rios

The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus

Wolfchild, by Ariana Brown

  • Peter Ruark
    Peter Ruark

    I heard this poem performed this past weekend as part of Shostakovich’s Symphony # 13 “Babi Yar.” He wrote this in response to the Soviet Union’s lack of a memorial to the killings of Ukrainian Jews in Babi Yar.

    By Yevgeni Yevtushenko
    Translated by Benjamin Okopnik, 10/96

    No monument stands over Babi Yar.
    A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.
    I am afraid.
    Today, I am as old
    As the entire Jewish race itself.

    I see myself an ancient Israelite.
    I wander o’er the roads of ancient Egypt
    And here, upon the cross, I perish, tortured
    And even now, I bear the marks of nails.

    It seems to me that Dreyfus is myself.
    The Philistines betrayed me – and now judge.
    I’m in a cage. Surrounded and trapped,
    I’m persecuted, spat on, slandered, and
    The dainty dollies in their Brussels frills
    Squeal, as they stab umbrellas at my face.

    I see myself a boy in Belostok
    Blood spills, and runs upon the floors,
    The chiefs of bar and pub rage unimpeded
    And reek of vodka and of onion, half and half.

    I’m thrown back by a boot, I have no strength left,
    In vain I beg the rabble of pogrom,
    To jeers of “Kill the Jews, and save our Russia!”
    My mother’s being beaten by a clerk.

    O, Russia of my heart, I know that you
    Are international, by inner nature.
    But often those whose hands are steeped in filth
    Abused your purest name, in name of hatred.

    I know the kindness of my native land.
    How vile, that without the slightest quiver
    The antisemites have proclaimed themselves
    The “Union of the Russian People!”

    It seems to me that I am Anna Frank,
    Transparent, as the thinnest branch in April,
    And I’m in love, and have no need of phrases,
    But only that we gaze into each other’s eyes.
    How little one can see, or even sense!
    Leaves are forbidden, so is sky,
    But much is still allowed – very gently
    In darkened rooms each other to embrace.

    -“They come!”

    -“No, fear not – those are sounds
    Of spring itself. She’s coming soon.
    Quickly, your lips!”

    -“They break the door!”

    -“No, river ice is breaking…”

    Wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,
    The trees look sternly, as if passing judgement.
    Here, silently, all screams, and, hat in hand,
    I feel my hair changing shade to gray.

    And I myself, like one long soundless scream
    Above the thousands of thousands interred,
    I’m every old man executed here,
    As I am every child murdered here.

    No fiber of my body will forget this.
    May “Internationale” thunder and ring *3*
    When, for all time, is buried and forgotten
    The last of antisemites on this earth.

    There is no Jewish blood that’s blood of mine,
    But, hated with a passion that’s corrosive
    Am I by antisemites like a Jew.
    And that is why I call myself a Russian!


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