Guante: A Pragmatist’s Guide to Faith (New Live Video)

New piece. This was shot by LineBreakMedia at the 2014 Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Finals, where I served as host. Big shout to TruArtSpeaks for organizing the series and continuing to do incredible work here in the Twin Cities.

As for the piece itself, it’s kind of a song, kind of a poem; I’ve been challenging myself to blur the lines more lately and really re-think my approach to writing and performance. It’s also the second in a series of “Pragmatist’s Guide” poems/songs, the first being “A Pragmatist’s Guide to Revolution.” This one is about legacy, and how even though the obstacles we face are deeply-entrenched products of history, so is our resistance to them; every activist, every survivor, everyone fighting for what they believe in however they want to define that– we are all the products of something bigger than our own perspective. And we can draw encouragement from that; we can draw power from that.

I’m grateful for the chance to get to perform this piece in a number of very appropriate spaces over the past month. Yeah, it’s kind of loud and growly. Might seem too much on video, but this was a very cathartic piece for me to write, and continues to be every time I perform it. Find all of my spoken-word work here. Full transcript below:

This is the art of drawing breath
Of making visible what has been invisible
This is a pragmatist’s guide to faith
This is singing when you don’t know how to pray
Welcome to this space; know that you are not welcome here
We are all trespassers, we are not welcome here
This universe would like nothing more than for you to not exist
And the proof is in the history you live, tell me this:
What are the odds that this planet would appear
In just the right place with the right atmosphere and geology?
What are the odds that life would suddenly spark
In the darkness from the carcass of this planet to a colony?
What are the odds that this anomaly would spread?
What are the odds it would survive and stay ahead
Of volcanic eruptions, meteorites and earthquakes
The first drum, first beat, first rhythm, first break
First time the notes broke to form a system
You could hear the first melody, the first multi-celled organism
What are the odds the first location to harbor life
Would meet another maybe fight or maybe harmonize?
But either way it would evolve,
So what are the odds it would evolve to walk and not crawl
To fly but not fall, to survive every single mass extinction
What are the odds of your existence?
How many generations did it take to make you?
How many plagues, wars and massacres conspired
To uproot your family tree and salt the earth around it
How many ancestors carried your fire?
How many farmers made it through the famine?
How many runaway slaves got away?
How many soldiers conscripted deserted?
How many times did that chain almost break?
How did your great great grandparents meet?
What was the song playing when you were conceived?
Is it inconceivable, the happenstance inherent in
This life you have inherited?
Some see the elegant complexity of bodies
Or the natural beauty of the planet and they say it’s godly
There’s gotta be divine intelligence behind it all
Because the odds that you would make it on your own are so small
But me? I see millennia trying to murder you
I see a thousand generations of pain and fear
I see struggle inscribed into your skeleton
And I see you still here
Ancestor armor, star-crossed survivor
An unwelcome guest in a hostile environment
Defiance is your birthright, fire from the first time
You drew breath, a smile on your face
Welcome to this space; know that you are not welcome here
We are all trespassers, we are not welcome here
So if our drawing breath is blasphemy, sin or treason
Let’s keep drawing breath until there’s nothing left to breathe in
We are the codes that our ancestors still speak in.