Three Poems – Kirwyn Sutherland


I Know

Shirts I wear get wet,
always sticky never dry.
Dad says its ‘cause your fat.
Only thing Dad knows to say
I cry, like tears ever cut him.

Dad says ‘cause your fat.
I wonder what diet can
dry my eyes. Dad says nothing.
I ask him what diet can
dry my eyes. Dad smacks my face.

I cry, like tears ever cut him.
Dad says ‘cause your fat.
I cry; like tears ever cut him.
shirts I wear get wet.
Dad says ‘cause your fat.

Always sticky never dry
I wonder about diets
Dad says nothing. I
ask about diets
dad smacks my face hard.

Only thing Dad knows to say
Shirts I wear get wet
I cry, always sticky never dry.
Dad says nothing,
like tears

Escaping a police state

I am in the hull of a ship
breathing putrid air I didn't ask for
feeling the wetness of undetermined solids.
watching skin press and bend and burst
and at the height of the sky; a scream

at the bottom of night; a splash.

A body joined the ocean or the dark
Made no difference, no dent

just another minor disturbance to the ledger

less weight for the poachers to trip over.

Below, I am submerged in a bed of bodies

Only my eyes are naked 

Eager to eat thin panels of sun
Finally, light. drips. down.

I wake up.
Confused as to what surface is beneath me  
carefully pressing through air until my hand
is smoothing out violent wrinkles.
A folded copy of Charles Johnson's 
Middle Passage is at the base of my pillow.

The ink on the last opened page Is mixed 
with saliva and blood.

Words read like some incantation gone real bad

some black magic that lulled me to nightmare

when all I wanted to do

was push the slave trade to the center of a spotlight,
not Blackout

not come to the realization that it is impossible

to swim away from a crime in progress.

I guess connecting the dots is an activity 
I always shied away from

I would much rather lay in the center of a hashtag,
bask in the isolation of just 1 filmed death this week

and wait for the next movement to crest then fall

but slavery has become an infinite mural
A moving text painting driven by ancestors yelling 
with no jaw bones to focus the pain.

The volume is haunting me

I begin preparing a room for suffering
 to unfold its wings 

for the skeletons lost in Atlantis 
to tuck their remains

into each fold of gray matter and sing
songs of warning 
until I frighten myself with how much 
my voice sounds like war.

This is not a nightmare.

It is a rite of passage.

A learning of a language I used to know while I 
slow-drag across the Atlantic Ocean.

No land to draw hope from.

just the crashing of waves 

drowning out the memory of sirens.

Science of a Microwave

Quick.  We supposed to be quick.  At the sound of a pulsating beep our acres should 
be fine-tuned, all rich and delectable.  So it seems, until HR finds undone parts, 
pieces of uncooked plantation to sink in the rejection pen.  Quick.  We supposed to 
be quick to be over it, the coils of proverbial ghettoes supposed to conduct American 
dream walkways. Microwaves are Jim Crow suppositions with bloody black bodies 
adorning the uncertainty of emancipation.  That’s why we run fast, jump high. We 
are still unhooking a noose, still escaping a system that promises citizenship quick.  
Why do we fall in love with the trap? ‘Cause easy to find nourishment in hot pockets 
when you never had a wood oven calzone.  When the possibility of evenly distributed 
humanity has never darkened your door there is no hope that the next phase comes 
with wings.

Artist Biography

Kirwyn Sutherland was inspired to write poetry while watching the HBO series Def Poetry Jam. Issues of racial discrimination, apartheid, and survival as a black man discussed in the poetry of Amiri Baraka, Craig muMs Grant, and Black Ice hit home for Kirwyn. Writing poetry became a vehicle for introspection, community building, connecting with people from diverse cultures, and healing. These early writings culminated in a chapbook, self- published March 2013, entitled X: A Mixtape. The majority of the proceeds from this book went to a $500 book scholarship (Delores Sutherland Scholarship) to a freshman student. Kirwyn’s second chapbook, published by Two Pens & Lint June 2014, entitled X: A Mixtape Re-mastered contained a combination of new and old poems on the topics of slavery, racial discrimination, mental health, and biological sciences. Kirwyn has featured at several open mic and slam venues in Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, DC, Delaware and Detroit (Sep 2015). Additionally, he was one of 5 poets to represent Philadelphia at the 2015 National Poetry Slam. The team made the Semi-finals of the competition (top 20 out of 72 teams). Kirwyn has participated in workshop/residencies at Cave Canem, Poet’s House, Pearlstein Art Gallery at Drexel University, Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, and Lincoln University.

He is currently working on his as yet untitled first full length book and a poetic stage play dedicated to the men and women who have died as a result of racism and white supremacy entitled The Unheard


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