Avis à la population (25) Two new poems

Fanny Howe
10.06.2020
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‘Social distancing’ is what Corona experts advise, but ‘social nearness’ is what we aim for with our literary events. Passa Porta wants to keep connecting authors with their readers. Over the coming weeks, we will therefore be asking writers, from home and beyond, for a personal “Public Message”.

The American poet Fanny Howe was supposed to discuss her new book Night Philosophy (Divided Publishing) at Passa Porta next week. The 79-year-old poet was forced to stay at home because of the pandemic so we had to postpone our event. Howe’s poetry emerges from the US civil rights movement and she is considered to be one of America’s most outstanding literary voices. Among her fans are writers like Chris Kraus and Ariana Reines but also Oprah, who calls her “one of America’s most dazzling poets.”

Since we can’t receive Fanny Howe in Brussels anytime soon we are very pleased to publish new poems instead. Two poems that deal with living with a pandemic as well as the recent uprising against police violence in the US.


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A Message to Carry on Your Person

No intubation, nothing blue or white, nothing plastic or metal, please,
No siren, no admission, no litter on wheels,
No being pushed back by a cop and landing on my skull,
No science fiction, no science, no testing my blood, no fever, no intrusion
Into my neck or chest, no medical personnel, no health worker, no screen
With my child’s face on it, no monitor beeping,
No people screaming, no separation from the trees, no walls, no calls,
No subjectivity, no trying to pray, no wanting, no memory,
No waking to a man on his face calling, Mama I’m through because she’s already.
Get that car off his face.
Put your hand back, Mama, pull him along.
No officer, no torture, no sadism, no biology, no history, no failure,
No train, no trail, no hands, no nothing.


Red Warning

Don’t come over. Don’t come in.
Don’t breathe out until I’ve turned the other way.
Take a walk but cover your mouth. Sneeze into the cloth.
Make sure you see someone every day but stay away
If their nose is showing.
“Seems like a plot to lock us all up.”
Bring two shovels wherever you go. For you and the other
You used to know. Dig it? Go for it.
Don’t eat anything without spraying it first. Poison is okay
In these emergencies. Don’t trust friends with open faces
And don’t take the elevator more than one floor up.
Even alone on the platform, the code is written.
Lock your children in their rooms,
Tell them a little red cake is coming and not to bite!
Its roses are thorn.
And you can only see it on a screen.

Fanny Howe, June 2020

Fanny Howe
10.06.2020