We must be vigilant as so many states seek to suppress the vote in an attempt to create new, seemingly more subtle voter suppression tactics. Let’s call it the James Crow period. Today’s poem incorporates text from a real Jim Crow-era Literacy Test from Louisiana. We’re sure you’ll be able to tell which is which.
Literacy Test The State of Poesia Literacy Test (This test is to be given to anyone who cannot prove a fifth grade education.) Do what you are told to do in each statement, nothing more, nothing less. Be careful as one wrong answer denotes failure of the test. You have 10 minutes to complete the test. Draw a line around the number or letter of this sentence. Draw a line under the last word in this line. Vote. Cross out the longest word in this line. Draw a line around the shortest word in this line. Write a rhyme to rhyme with the end of this orange. Circle the first, first letter of the alphabet in this line. Cross out the first letter in this line that is the same as the first letter of the name of the first lover you kissed, quizzed, bedizened, jinxed, bejeweled, graffitied, or sculpted. In the space below, write the word “noise” backwards and place a dot over what would be its second letter should it have been written forward. In the space above, scribble the word “doodle” and to the right, doodle the word “scribble”; write captions that capture the irony. Vote. Spell backwards, forwards. Write a spell that would put back the words you regret, and put forward the words caught in your throat. Write “down” on the line provided. ___________ Look up when you do. Write “right” and draw what’s left of your hope. Center your feelings and use only your dirty inktears. Print the word vote upside down, but in the correct order. Elect the correct order, given the downside of the other one up for election. Write a short equation with variable Y showing how people are more important than profits. Print a word that looks the same whether it is printed frontwards or backwards. Print a word that looks different when printed frontwards and backwards. Make the front words positive and the back words negative. Or their opposite. Or synonymy. Or cinnamony. Or punny. Write every other word in this first line and print every third word in same line, (original type smaller and first line ended at comma) but capitalize the fifth word that you write. Write your own line. Re-write your line where every third word is longer than the combined total of the number of letters of the preceding two words. One-letter words do not count. No I statements. No eye statements. No aye statements. Cast your ballot, then take to the streets. Write anger slogans and scolding dictums on posterboard and large sections of butcher paper. Be not afraid of lighting fires under their asses and under their assets. Write a rousing, rallying cry. Use exclamation points! Make it shock and sharp. Underline the important bits. Circle the yelling parts. Repeat as necessary. Vote.
©David Siller – 2021
For the first 100 days of the Biden administration, this website will feature a new poem of What’s Next!? These pieces can be calls to action, calls to attention, or calls to anger. They will light the way and guide the fight. They will get us moving and keep our momentum. They will be filled with hope, with anger, with sorrow. They will get us into good trouble and point out the trouble we need to stop. They will be polished gems, or rough-cut drafts of rage, or in-process pieces searching for peace. They may be haiku or tanka, limericks or lyrics, verses free or fettered.
#100Days100Poems of What’s Next!? wants your poems, your prose, your visual art (photos, drawings, sculptures), your music, your short films and animations. Interpret the theme as broadly as you’d like.
If you would like to submit to this endeavor, please send an email, with your visual art (as .jpg or .pdf) or your poem saved as a word document (.docx) to waxyandpoetic AT gmail DOT com. Include a short bio (2-3 sentences) and social media/website information. All rights remain with the author. Please address any formatting preferences in your email. Waxyandpoetic.com will post submissions time permitting, with at least one per day beginning 20 January 2021. Read, follow, share, submit, live, love, spread light! Don’t forget to use #100Days100Poems !