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Ask me what it’s like,
the quest on the streets
for the justice
denied in the courtroom.
Ask me about marching
through the unforgiving sun of high noon,
through the icy layers of rain
that make your clothes
stick to your weary flesh,
about linking arms with strangers
through dirt and sweat
and the merging of fevers.
I might have something
to teach you about that,
about elongated shadows on the pavement
and what a rising dawn tastes like
on a stomach that is empty
save for the words on the picket signs
and the chants you sang through
the night to keep you warm.

Ask me about being third world
and sick and tired.
Because I have seen
the tears-worn lines
on the faces of those
who are resigned
to seeing the end of their lives
before seeing the change
for which they fight,
those who fight anyway
in hopes that such change
will happen
in their children’s lifetimes.
Because I still have their names
branded onto my inner angst,
those who have fallen,
those who have been
brutally silenced,
and once, I carried
the torch for them.

Ask me, and I shall
clear the cobwebs
and blow the dust off
that restlessness I used to know
more than I knew to dismiss
the guilt of putting first
myself and my comforts,
that indignation I used to trust
more than I trusted the system
and the code of being a so-called
well-functioning citizen…

Ask me,
and stoke again
the fire in the blood
that had smeared many a day
into a cause
that once kept me alive.
Because maybe it’s time.
Maybe something is needed now,
something I can give.

“Not a Temporary Home” by photographer Joseph Almar Tupe


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