Washington, DC

Street art from Washington, DC, USA.

One People, One Community

Artist: Aniekan Udofia | Good Hope Road, Anacostia, Washington, DC

Artist: Aniekan Udofia | Good Hope Road, Anacostia, Washington, DC

On A Classroom Discussion of Frederick Douglass’s “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July”

A poem by Joseph Ross, 2016
dedicated to K.A and M.T.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

He sat on the edge
of the classroom, having learned

the safety of edges. Before him,
American Literature, a stone

of a book, lies open to
a lion’s page. Douglass’ questions,

a low growl, quiet for now
but their teeth are poised to sing

an attack, to devour anything
the color of complacency.

Last night as his human eyes
stalked this speech, this student

caged the words in his own notes,
furiously underlining and writing

like the skin of our century
hunting down the answers

to Douglass’ questions that live
to haunt his country.

Today, those questions claw at this
free student, stunned by their teeth.

As the discussion begins, the lion’s
words lunge off the page.

Everyone in the room panics
and scatters into brilliance. Some are

unprepared for the animal precision
of this nineteenth century

man the slave breakers
could not break. But this student’s

pulse thrums with post-slaughter
adrenaline. Never before has he

seen words rise up and fight
like the predators they are.

Read the inspiration for this poem, Frederick Douglass’s Independence Day Speech at Rochester (5 July 1852). It can be found on the TeachingAmericanHistory.org website.

Joseph Ross is the author of three books of poetry: Ache (forthcoming 2017), Gospel of Dust (2013), and Meeting Bone Man (2012). His poetry has appeared in a wide variety of publications including The Los Angeles Times, Poet Lore, Tidal Basin Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Sojourners. He recently served as the 23rd Poet-in-Residence for the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society, just outside Washington, D.C. He teaches English and Creative Writing at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. and writes regularly at www.JosephRoss.net. Follow on twitter @JosephRoss27.

“Harlem” Hughes & Woodson

SAPS14174

Artist: G. Byron Peck | 2007 | Shaw Community Mural feat. Langston Hughes & Carter Woodson | Washington, DC

On A Classroom Discussion of Langston Hughes’s “Harlem”  |  “Or does it explode?”

A poem by Joseph Ross, 2016
dedicated to Drew

Reprinted with permission from the author.

We held Hughes’ question in our hands
with the danger it deserved.

Then talked our way through the brown
sweet of a raisin, the yellow

disgust of a moist wound.
We held our noses to guard

against the assault of decomposition,
the stench of failed flesh turned

the color of no.
We nearly smiled at the morning

pastry, the candied version
of our country’s sin.

We wondered about the dead
weight, the way it lies and drags

down every hopeful shoulder.
But when faced with the threat

in this final question, you see
it for the terror it is.

Read the original poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes on the Poetry Foundation website.

Joseph Ross is the author of three books of poetry: Ache (forthcoming 2017), Gospel of Dust (2013), and Meeting Bone Man (2012). His poetry has appeared in a wide variety of publications including The Los Angeles Times, Poet Lore, Tidal Basin Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Sojourners. He recently served as the 23rd Poet-in-Residence for the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society, just outside Washington, D.C. He teaches English and Creative Writing at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. and writes regularly at www.JosephRoss.net. Follow on twitter @JosephRoss27.

Caress and a Pinch

Artist: Unknown  |  Location: Washington, DC

Artist: Unknown | Location: Washington, DC

A stencil collage from the walls of Washington, DC.

Caress and a Pinch

A poem by M. Higgins

Straps of leather
Buckles of steel
A caress and a pinch
A sigh and a squeal

It is a costume
A ruse
A display of love
Delivered by a leather glove

Tomorrow we start anew
In our blouses, our skirts
Uncomfortable pairs of shoes
Anticipation keeps us alert

Day ends
Evening begins
We don our costumes
To act once again

 

Left to Our Own Devices

graffitti, mural, street art, wasington, DC

Artist: Rashad Cuffec | Location: Washington, DC

Left to Our Own Devices

A micro-story by T.F. Higgins
Scene: Run-of-the-mill dystopian wasteland
When: Post-mass debilitation

We did it to ourselves. That’s no surprise. Rampant tumors. Visible ones that distorted craniums and ruined our god-given symmetry. Entire towns were thrust into chaos by dementia. A new type of merit-based society emerged, one where deft shoelace manipulation could earn you the mayorship. Our saving grace? Mass infertility.

The big book was right. The meek shan’t have a choice but to inherit this world. The device-less, uneducated, impoverished, and distended awoke to realize that those at the helm had lost their grip on reality. Lost leaders who absconded to their hand-held virtual world. There in the playful sociological conversion lurked the real and present sickness.

They had access to everything at their fingertips. The first cyborg revolution. 6 out of the 7 billion of our species. They uploaded everything from the mundane to the beautiful and unwittingly downloaded their disease. Left to their own devices, they leapt to their electro-magnetic demise.

Words Wrought

Washington, DC Street Art

Artist: Aniekan Udofia | Location: Florida Ave NW & 4th St. NW, Washington, DC

Artist Profile: Aniekan Udofia

Words Wrought

A poem by M. Higgins

Thoughts trapped
Mental magma welling up
Creative consciousness
Below the surface
Straining to erupt

High pressure
Thoughts collide
Concentration breakdown
Expression a must
How to begin
Thoughts trapped
Stumped again

A burst of energy
Thoughts flowing
Simple inspiration
Pen in hand
Words follow words
A hint of land

An island forms
Thoughts flow
The island grows
Slowly forming mass
An island of thought
In a sea of chaos
Words wrought

Toxic Inspections Department

Irvine Alley, Washington, DC, USA

Irvine Alley, Washington, DC, USA


Artist: Shepard Fairey  |  Location: Washington, DC  |  Song: KRS-One “Disaster Kit”


Without a doubt, Shepard Fairey is one of the most brazen, recognizable, and prolific street artists in the world. This picture represents a small portion of a mural in Washington, DC that no longer exists. While I am happy to have photographed it before it’s ultimate demise, I regret that I did not do so before weather and vandals took their toll. The entire mural was impressive but I think this portion of it is the coolest. Poetry and dissent go hand in hand. What say you, poets?