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Poet reflects on America where ‘an angry man can shoot a teenager’

For Major Jackson, poetry is a vehicle of exploration. His poem "Stand Your Ground" responds to Florida's law that was famously invoked in the killing of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old boy. Jackson gives his Brief But Spectacular take on leaving his mark.

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  • Major Jackson:

    Poetry, and any kind of art-making requires us to be reflective.

    Most people think poetry is a vehicle of expression. I see poetry more as a vehicle of exploration.

    “Stand Your Ground” was written in response to the Florida law that justifies deadly force if one feels as though one’s life is in danger.

    And this created a legal loophole for the killing of a young black man in Florida. But it also opens up and legitimizes assaults based on fear.

    “Stand Your Ground.”

    “America, how often I have applauded your flagpoles. We, as citizens, struggle to find common ground, yet do much to damage the planks of your ark. We have a want problem. More of ourselves problem. Us vs. them in the great race to prosperity. We have as guides Klansmen and eugenicists who proclaim all others as less. It is, I admit, the slapping of your ropes tolling a perfect union.

    “But is the measure of your worth a clang elsewhere? How is it a ripple also runs through me when your wind rises? Your cloth is nation, hauled down or half-mast, like a deferred dream, only earthly because we strive on the path hidden by dead leaves.

    “That an angry man can shoot a teenager is par. Crips, Knights, new tribesmen in new codes should in earnest put away our swords and talk shows. The mysteries we have, an unmitigated burning of sound and fury, not organism of one, but organs. America, I have had enough.”

    My name is Major Jackson, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on leaving my mark.

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