|Arts & Culture Archive|
Poet Lucie Brock-Broido reads her poem "Of Tookie Williams" from her latest collection "Stay, Illusion." Brock-Broido explained that the subject of her poem is Stanley "Tookie" Williams, one of the leaders of the notorious Los Angeles street gang known as the Crips. Williams was put to death on Dec. 13, 2005, in San Quentin State Prison in California. The poem takes us back to the morning of his execution. Listen to her reading of the poem in the player above for the poet's take on some of the details from the story of Tookie Williams.
Of Tookie Williams
A thousand inmates' spoons for music
In wind from San Quentin to nestle in the next
The kite said,
The Governor, Not if Mr. Williams won't atone.
The vellum of the night.
So enormous was Tookie's arm
The needle couldn't enter it, eleven minutes of poking
Thirty-six to put him down.
Tookie was a big man,
The heart--you know--that simple.
But if I say "simple" for example, I mean
That in the private gardens
Or bled out broad by
The children are only very gently
Me, I am not "mean," I'm told, only
The wind is kicking up now. Lung for lung.
Reprinted with permission from Alfred A. Knopf.
Lucie Brock-Broido is the author of four collections of poetry, including her latest "Stay, Illusion." She is the Director of Poetry in the School of the Arts at Columbia University in New York. Her poem "Of Tookie Williams" is about the death of the former "Crips" gang leader Stanley "Tookie" Williams.
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