Five Poems by Shirley Jones-Luke

There’s No Luxury in Poverty


My family was poor   government cheese free box of food for Thanksgiving   sleeping on a cot until I was in my twenties couldn’t afford a bed    roaches & rats as roommates emergency room visits drained limited funds   doctor or medicine or rent or food going out was a treat movies or dinner   could only have one no pets barely could feed ourselves new clothes only on birthdays or back to school       don’t ask for too much mama didn’t have it like that don’t beg don’t envy what others had even if they rubbed it your face  mama was a proud woman a product of a different era she knew how to make do with what she had we learned from her how to make a dollar out of fifteen centers   even when we went to beg hungry tomorrow held the promise of something better we just had to hold on
© Shirley Jones-Luke

White Knives, Blue Tears & Red Whips


The whips fed on the blood of my forefather’s backs. Soaked it up like needed sustenance, leaving the drops for the soil


We cried into the sea, bodies floating there like black buoys bobbing atop the waves, the ships they leapt from sailing on


The moon revealed escape attempts. Brown bodies shining like dark stars in the light. Hounds at their heels.


Our people fought in wars & were used as shields for white bodies, sacrificing themselves in the hopes of helping their families back home


We have a history of sacrifice & of forgiving. It may gain us a special place in Heaven but for now, we suffer a Hell on Earth
© Shirley Jones-Luke

Urban Boys & The Blues


No, they are not all-American boys,

but black & brown shadows, shaping

their futures, wishing for magic


No, they are not powerless, not broken

by an unjust society, making them targets

because they are black diamonds


They are the descendants of Africa,

the un-American negro, nigger, nigga,

related to former slaves of lost origins


Yes, they walk across the brown soil,

of a never – forgotten people,

angry about what has been denied them


Yes, they are neon signs, bodies

like electric artists, illuminating

their canvases for all to see


These boys, these boys of the diaspora

know they carry more than struggle

in their DNA, they carry freedom
© Shirley Jones-Luke

They Won’t Harm You as Long As You Comply


Black man sits on the sidewalk

arms akimbo, head down

eyes stare straight ahead,

the dog attacks without hesitation

biting into the man’s right arm


Officers run up as the man tries

to fight off the dog, free arm flailing

officer grab the brotha by his throat,

starts a semi-choke hold, bending

his head back


They tell us not to resist, resisting

leads to more bodily harm – even death,

but our wind pipes are squeezed, our

backs kicked in, our legs bitten, our heads

slammed with the butts of guns


They tell us we won’t be harmed if

we comply, history has shown us

that our black bodies are forever in jeopardy,

their words are lies, resistance is all

we have left to save us
© Shirley Jones-Luke

Who Holds Up Black Women?


Black Women hold up the world.

Who holds up Black Women?


We are nurturers, holding babies

at our breasts. Who nurtures us?


We pass down the stories of us,

our forebearers, cherishing their knowledge.


Who will tell our stories?

Who will cherish us?


We are the color of the soil,

deep brown earth. Black midnight.


We are tar and coal, sienna & sepia

branches, growing from mahjong trees.


Who will water our roots? Who will help

us grow? We will wither & die?


We carry our culture on our backs. Our history

Is in our faces. Our voices are our songs.


We sisters of the soil, our blood are the rivers & oceans,

flowing through every country, every continent


We leave a mark on everything we touch

Our bodies are marked by everything that touches us.

©Shirley Jones-Luke

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