News Poem: ‘I have traveled much to go nowhere today’

I have traveled much to go nowhere today


I have traveled much to go nowhere today

The full-blown body crushed out of breath

Vaporizes narrow streets of row homes

Boarded up, ransacked, like factory assembly lines

Curfewed at the night watch

While the shiny high rises of  the downtown renaissance

Light up


We are tainted by the board rooms of high caliber signatories

Streetwise swagger reads eyes as enemy or friend

And our voices spit out I cannot get out of this coffin 

Blood pressure reacts to such toxic swallowings


They say the river that flows through town

is just a backwater. It has a name too, Patapsco,

It is a root, a source but it is just a river

It minds itself alone


Today is the last day in April

It is precious to have an egg for breakfast

Cracked of its weight

Creased in the holy rock face of air pockets

Heated by oil

It feeds everything alone

And finds the air as it evaporates


The weathering of unmatched windows

Is a blurred refuge

Outside it is dry weeds and gravel

As music inside goes silent to find the chord

That will give it a center, a place of jewels.

I felt great pain at the events in Baltimore in April 2015. It was the city that shaped me and my family for generations and lead me out into the world. That in itself is honorable and also a priviledge. However, it is also a tale of two cities: the one I grew up in and the one of a longtime creation of an underclass and in particular of African Americans who have lived in West and East Baltimore for generations from slavery to a free state to what is now apartheid.  Not unlike Detroit, Baltimore has lost its industrial base and its sense of inclusiveness. When I was last in Baltimore, I walked and stayed in West Baltimore and that pain brought forth this poem steeped in the history of a place of shared roots.  — Mary Jane Sullivan


The Colorado Independent‘s News-Stained Poetry Project features poems that are about the news, products of the news, responses to the news. “News stained” is meant as a badge of honor, a reference to the long tradition of the poet as witness. As Carolyn Forché wrote, politics can sometimes be seen as a “contaminant to serious literary work,” something to be avoided. But that way of thinking, she said, “gives the political realm too much and too little scope… It renders the personal too important and not important enough.” News developments, whether or not they are reported, shape our personal lives every day. We don’t often think in the moment about how that is happening and what it means. We should think more about it. Poets think about it. And we want to help encourage them to write more about it.

Please send submissions to tips@www.coloradoindependent.comsubject line “poem,” with a short bio and some mention of where and when the poem was written.

Charles Dickens- A Tale of Two Cities-With Illustrations by H K Browne, 1859”