Peter Balakian and Layli Long Soldier
October 17, 2017
Seminar 5:30 PM | Lannan Center (New North 408)
Reading 8:00 PM | Copley Formal Lounge
Driving Route 20 to Syracuse past pastures of cows and falling silos
you feel the desert stillness near the refineries at the Syrian border.
Walking in fog on Mecox Bay, the long lines of squawking birds on shore,
you’re walking along Flinders Street Station, the flaring yellow stone and walls
of windows where your uncle landed after he fled a Turkish prison.
You walked all day along the Yarra, crossing the sculptural bridges with their
the hollow sound of the didgeridoo like the flutes of Anatolia.
One road is paved with coins, another with razor blades and ripped condoms.
Walking the boardwalk in January past Atlantic City Hall, the rusted Deco
ticket sign, the waves black into white,
you smell the grilled ćevapi in the Baščaršija of Sarajevo,
and that street took you to the Jewish cemetery where the weeds grew over
the slabs and a mausoleum stood intact.
There was a trail of carnelian you followed in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem
and picking up those stones now, you’re walking in the salt marsh on the
the day undercut by the flatness of the sky, the wide view of the Atlantic, the
—Layli Long Soldier
Here, the sentence will be respected.
I will compose each sentence with care by minding what the rules of writing dictate.
For example, all sentences will begin with capital letters.
Likewise, the history of the sentence will be honored by ending each one with appropriate punctuation such as a period or question mark, thus bringing the idea to (momentary) completion.
You may like to know, I do not consider this a “creative piece.”
In other words, I do not regard this as a poem of great imagination or a work of fiction.
Also, historical events will not be dramatized for an interesting read.
Therefore, I feel most responsible to the orderly sentence; conveyor of thought.
That said, I will begin:
You may or may not have heard about the Dakota 38.
If this is the first time you’ve heard of it, you might wonder, “What is the Dakota 38?”
The Dakota 38 refers to thirty-eight Dakota men who were executed by hanging, under orders from President Abraham Lincoln.
To date, this is the largest “legal” mass execution in U.S. history.
The hanging took place on December 26th, 1862—the day after Christmas.
This was the same week that President Lincoln signed The Emancipation Proclamation.
In the preceding sentence, I italicize “same week” for emphasis.
There was a movie titled Lincoln about the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.
The signing of The Emancipation Proclamation was included in the film Lincoln; the hanging of the Dakota 38 was not.
In any case, you might be asking, “Why were thirty-eight Dakota men hung?”
As a side note, the past tense of hang is hung, but when referring to the capital punishment of hanging, the correct tense is hanged.
So it’s possible that you’re asking, “Why were thirty-eight Dakota men hanged?”
They were hanged for The Sioux Uprising.
I want to tell you about The Sioux Uprising, but I don’t know where to begin.
From WHEREAS (Graywolf Press, 2017)
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