If Riot Means Destruction

By Wesley Rothman


Without the moon we find      our lightness      whiteness     

washed out brightness      coming down on us      a baton of

unconsciousness        unconscienceness      the breakage we

didn’t know we could bring      riot is not reaction      it is

burning down from within      how we burn an other’s body

down quietly          over time        keep the ember humming    

blowing        blowing        blow        until the tongue flares     

sizzled and singeing                 riot is the mind of whiteness     

looting stores propped in the chest         robbing water and

bread to break down      the head and will of an other      the

riot begins with silence      with an attack      a drone strike     

a sniper some mile off      every voice in the street    fist    cry     

every face in the eye           of a camera is not                a riot     

not a threat      a force to stop traffic    bring on the red lights     

shut down the headlights      eager to blind           bring down

the sky      the moon         bring down                   bring down   


Poet's note: Poems work like mirrors. But only if we come to them with willingness, desire to listen and witness. If we come to poetry open to what we will find, we may find the despicable parts of ourselves, of the world. We may find hope, or a way through, or a way to better love another person. We may find our outrage with the world. With ourselves. And we may find, in the same poem, a way to overturn ourselves and the murderous parts of the world. When we approach a poem, we approach ourselves. Thank the universe for #BlackPoetsSpeakOut, for the history of voices speaking out, for the voices in our communities and in our twitter feeds and in our poems. Thank the universe for the voices approaching the nation, approaching those of us who need a mirror. We need to listen and amplify.



Wesley Rothman's poems and criticism have appeared or are forthcoming in American Microreviews and Interviews, Crab Orchard Review,New England Review, Post Road, Poet Lore, and Prairie Schooner, among others. He works widely in publishing, and teaches writing and cultural literatures throughout Boston.

This is the 5th post in the 8-part series featuring poets and writers on theme of OUTRAGE. Here is my brief intro to the project.