“The Group” by Morgan Vo

The Group

eating someone else’s skin is not the biggest problem
helicopters and cops keep coming on their land
with cigarettes and bottled water as peace offerings
one guy showed up in green army jackets
wearing a lot of layers ready to attack
but no, that’s not how we do it
when we find out more of his stories
we start to get a sour feeling
the difference between an alcoholism of money and one of less
we wanted to get here early to put flowers on the table
but got here late and the flowers they’re not happy
we overlap small feelings with time collapsing
how would we classify our relationships to past and present?
we respect the self with its wounds as they are
as moments when we enter
as moments going back and changing places
we make a point to know who’s gone before us
just as we have to find out who guides us now

— Oct. 2, 2018; lines lifted from the group’s check-in session that night. That was the first session following Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony in the Senate. Going around the table, people were generally upset and expressed gratitude for the work we had read that week (primarily Diane Burns’ Riding the One-Eyed Ford). I remember Suzanne saying the lines about the flowers. I also remember Adjua noting that Blasey Ford’s whiteness potentially allowed her to be valorized in ways that a black person might not be; this critique stood out among the general narrative of the room, and I felt glad to be pulled to a wider view of the situation. The 1981 group handled differences of opinion very well. Later on when we talked about Lorenzo Thomas’ The Bathers, most of the room was gushing over the work, with the exception being Ian who expressed sincere concern over the racist language that some of the poems utilized. It led towards one of our main interrogations that night—can racist language be used redemptively or expansively?—and I remember feeling really impressed because people could express opposing and idiosyncratic viewpoints, and the group was always so supportive of that and willing to listen, willing to engage.

Morgan Vo

Morgan Vo is a poet and singer. Born in the Tidewater area in 1989, he studied at the Cooper Union and the St. Mark’s Poetry Project, and lives now in Brooklyn, NY.