Still, I Rise

Still, I rise above the hot zones
that spread across America, like the heatwave
in the eighties when thirty-two deaths a day
from an act of God was a national tragedy.

Still, I rise over the roofs of nursing homes
where grandparents died alone; the factories
of death where meat cutters, shoulder-to-shoulder,
fell on the floor of assembly lines; a hospital
where a man gasps for air, a woman snores
comfortably in her bed, and a boy plays with a toy
gun to the drone of hacks on television arguing
about the pros and cons of a lie and unmasked
resisters cough in the faces of passersby.

Still, I rise every morning before the sun
has graced the leaves of live oaks with diamonds,
to jog in a park where my father, who hasn’t flown
a kite in over fifty years has built with yarn, bamboo,
glue, and tissue paper a bajie as strong as his desire
to savor the tartness of tangerines before breakfast;
the aroma of mint from a garden he started a year
ago, the turpentine of Julie mangoes from a tree
he planted at the birth of his first grand who huddles
around his thin frame and waits for the moment
when the cord will come alive in his hands,
and the kite will soar above pines shading
families that celebrate the miracles of green
near a lake where anhingas, perched on dead logs,
stretch their wings to dry their feathers—
ready to brave another flight into the sun.

About the Poem

NPR asked listeners to use Maya Angelou’s “Still, I Rise” to write a poem about how the pandemic has changed us. Here is my poem.

About the Author

Geoffrey Philp is the author of five books of poetry, two novels, two collections of short stories, and three children’s books. His poems and short stories have been published in The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse, sx salon, World Literature Today, The Johannesburg Review of Books, The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories, Bearden’s Odyssey Poets Respond to the Art of Romare Bearden, Rattle: Poets Respond, and Crab Orchard Review. A recipient of the Luminary Award from the Consulate of Jamaica (2015) and a former chair for the 2019 OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry, Philp’s work is featured on The Poetry Rail at The Betsy–an homage to 12 writers that shaped Miami culture. He is currently working on a graphic novel for children, “My Name is Marcus.”

3 thoughts on “Still, I Rise”

  1. Strong, powerful words speaking to the global sting of the pandemic yet rooting the narrative in the cultural nuances of a Caribbean speaker paying homage to his/her family heritage, one grounded in positive vibes.

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