581: Red-ish Brown-ish

581: Red-ish Brown-ish

581: Red-ish Brown-ish


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I was asked recently why someone, anyone, should read poetry. And my answer, though I am sure it seemed a bit glib, was that I don’t think anyone SHOULD read poetry. I mean, if you hate poetry, have never come across a poem you like, then you shouldn’t read it. The same goes for music. If you hated music with all your whole body, I wouldn't tell you that you must listen to it. But I can, and often do, make an argument toward the fact that poetry can increase our connection to each other.

Does poetry have its issues? One hundred percent. Does poetry have its limitations? One hundred percent. It’s not going to cure disease or feed the hungry, but it might help us to understand someone else's experience just a little bit better. Or maybe it’ll make us mad and then we’ll have to interrogate why we’re mad, or implicated, or why we feel left out. Like many of the arts, poetry can be the way of recognizing our own beauty and our own flaws.

I remember once being at a poetry reading, and after someone read an incredible poem about the horrors of colonization, they then went on to discuss the irony of writing a poem about colonization in English. They went on to say that their two languages were Spanish and English — both the language of colonizers.

I loved this moment because we were allowed to see the limitations of language while still discussing it through...language, still hearing the poem through...language. More and more the possibilities of what a poem is are changing, the possibilities of what a book is, of what we can do on the page and off the page are expanding. The poem can recognize that the person who writes it is also burdened by history’s noose. The poem can show us its limitations while expanding past them at the same time.

Today’s poem by Trevino L. Brings Plenty does just that. It’s a poem deeply rooted in the body. At the same time it is very aware of the brutal history that runs through the body, like the spinal cord itself.

Red-ish Brown-ish
by Trevino L. Brings Plenty

                        Arms, face, scrotum—dark brown.
                                    The kind of brown to drive
                                                  monsters to exterminate
                                                               bison to starve
                                                                            a people.

Design policy with intentional marketing titles.
           Assimilation; Relocation; Termination.
Enough to talk about a vanishing race
            in front of you as theory and practice.
Enough to throw stats out
            as a summation of cultural identity.

            Erasure thread of empire
                          its subjects uneasy,
                                                           to express you as object.

                                                           And to say it's just conver-
                                        sation. Or playing devil's ad-
                           vocate. Maybe they know
             closed fists in pockets
they change subject.

I use shading—the back of hands
             to gauge who is in the tutelage
                           of systemic beauty.
Adorned, beautiful works so well. 

Ripe for violence, I carry lived stories
            interface beauteous facade.
Have seen coil unravel belly at day's end.
My social media feed curiosity curated
            reinforced by other agenda.
It's barbed threading through digits.
            I work through the other's language,
I feel hypocritical. I dream English language.

"Red-ish Brown-ish" by Trevino L. Brings Plenty. Used by permission of the poet.