Black & Blue

 

i. Philando Castile (July 6, 2016)

 

In the livestreamed Facebook video

       his fiancee reports from the passenger

seat that “police just shot my boyfriend for no

       apparent reason.” Her 4 year old daughter

 

squirms in the back. Pulled over for a broken

       taillight, Castile told the officer he had

a permit for his concealed weapon,

       & now blood scrawls its inscrutable maps

 

on his white T as he peers emptily

       upward. “Please don’t tell me this, Lord,”

his girlfriend pleads. “Please, officer, don’t tell me

       you just did this to him.” Outside now, officers

 

draw guns, order her to her knees. From where it lies,

her dropped cell catches a uniform-blue sky.

 

 

ii. Alton Sterling (July 5, 2016)

 

The parking lot of the Triple S

       Food Mart in Baton Rouge: Sterling is selling

CDs & DVDs (he was known locally as

       “CD Man”). The grainy but telling

 

cellphone video of the shooting, posted

       online by a witness, shows officers

tackling Sterling onto a car’s hood

       & rolling him to the pavement, where

 

they pin him beneath the car’s front bumper.

       Two gun shots, & the bystander drops his cell,

panning his car’s the zebra skin seats. Three more

       shots fired. The officers’ body cameras “fell

 

off” during the incident, but “the officers feel they

were completely justified,” according to the DA.

 

 

iii. Walter Scott (April 4, 2015)

 

Scott, a 50-year-old forklift operator

        who happened to be studying massage

therapy, was stopped one night for

       a broken brake light. A bystander’s cell footage

 

showed the officer chasing the unarmed

       Scott to a lot behind a pawn shop

where he pulled out his gun & fired,

       from just 15 feet away, eight shots

 

at Scott’s back. According to the coroner’s

       report Scott was struck five times: once in the upper

buttocks, three in the back, & once on an ear.

       The officer, claiming he feared for

 

his life, handcuffed the dying man. Some cops

who don’t see brake lights don’t know when to stop.

 

 

iv. Tamir Rice (November 22, 2014)

 

A caller reported a black male sitting

       on a swing in the park of a Cleveland

recd center, the black male pointing

       a gun at people, though the caller said

 

twice that the gun was “probably fake.” A

       surveillance video showed Rice on

the grounds, pacing the park, waving the replica

       gun when a patrol car sped across the lawn

 

& skidded to a stop. The two officers

       reported that Rice reached toward his

waistband. One officer leaped out of the car

       & in two seconds shot the twelve-year-old Rice

 

from 10 feet away. The toy gun had been lent

to him minutes before by a friend.

 

 

v. Laquan McDonald (October 20, 2014)

 

The grainy dash cam video

       from the police’s cruiser shows the 17- 

year-old McDonald holding a 3-inch knife, shows

       officers confronting McDonald, then

 

shows McDonald walking away after

       several commands to drop the knife. In 15

seconds he was shot 16 times. An officer,

       ten feet away, used the maximum capacity

 

of his semi-automatic, though McDonald

       fell to the ground immediately

after the first shot. The officer had

       been on the scene for less than 30

 

seconds. This is restraint: he didn’t shoot for

the first six seconds after exiting his car.

 

 

vi. Jonathan Ferrell (September 14, 2013)

 

After an accident in North Carolina

       late one fall night, Ferrell, a former

defensive back on Florida

       A&M’s team, stepped out of his car

 

& approached some houses, knocking on doors

       for help. Three officers arrived at the scene

after reports of a possible burglar.

       When Ferrell tried to approach them, one

 

of the officers fired a taser & missed.

       Another then opened fire on Ferrell,

landing no less than ten shots on his

       body. A stranger ringing your bell

 

might not be the most typical of your

nights, but most burglars don’t knock on your door.

 

 

vii. Anonymous & Anonymous (between 1882 & 1930)

 

In 48 years in the states of Florida,

       & Tennessee, & Arkansas,

Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia

       Mississippi, & Louisiana,

 

Alabama, & South Carolina (just

       ten states) 2,500 African

Americans were lynched, an average of almost

       one hanging per week. (Lynch law: punishment

 

without a trial.) Some of the cited reasons:

       trying to vote, being homeless, injuring

livestock, looking suspicious, throwing stones,

       practicing spirituality, being

 

too loud, gambling. Nothing is new. You

know this: nothing’s ever new. We must make things new.

Posted in Uncategorized

Alton Sterling (July 5, 2016)

Alton Sterling (July 5, 2016)

 

The parking lot of the Triple S

       Food Mart in Baton Rouge: Sterling is selling

CDs & DVDs (he was known locally as

       “CD Man”). The grainy but telling

 

cellphone video of the shooting, posted

       online by a witness, shows officers

tackling Sterling onto a car’s hood

       & rolling him to the pavement, where

 

they pin him beneath the car’s front bumper.

       Two gun shots, & the bystander drops his cell,

panning his car’s the zebra skin seats. Three more

       shots fired. The officers’ body cameras “fell

 

off” during the incident, but “the officers feel they

were completely justified,” according to the DA.

Posted in Uncategorized

What Can We Do About This?

There’s a lot that we can do. One thing I can do is write poems. This will not be the last on this subject:

 

Philando Castile (July 6, 2016)

 

In the livestreamed Facebook video

       his fiancee reports from the passenger

seat that “police just shot my boyfriend for no

       apparent reason.” Her 4 year old daughter

 

squirms in the back. Pulled over for a broken

       taillight, Castile told the officer he had

a permit for his concealed weapon,

       & now blood scrawls its inscrutable maps

 

on his white T as he peers emptily

       upward. “Please don’t tell me this, Lord,”

his girlfriend pleads. “Please, officer, don’t tell me

       you just did this to him.” Outside now, officers

 

draw guns, order her to her knees. From where it lies,

her dropped cell catches a uniform-blue sky.

Posted in Uncategorized

Stellar Bone Music Review in BookTrib

 

JPEG Bone Front Only

Check it out here: http://booktrib.com/2016/05/the-4-unexpected-books-that-were-reading-again-and-again/

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Bone Music reviewed in 7D

Check out the review and the playlist that corresponds to poems in the book!

http://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/stephen-cramers-poems-sound-like-music/Content?oid=3320816

JPEG Bone Front Only

Posted in Uncategorized

The Cover Story

One afternoon in 2014 I ran across an article about how, in the 1950s, Russian hipsters found it difficult to get their hands on banned Western music. No Chuck Berry. No Miles Davis. So they got creative, copying bootleg records onto discarded x-rays. Mind blown. Poem i the works almost immediately. JPEG Bone Front Only

A number of example photographs accompanied the article. Some were records superimposed on x-rays of ribs. Some were etched over a humerus or femur. And one record was carved onto the image of a skull. When I decided to entitle my fifth collection of poetry Bone Music, I knew I had to get the rights to one of those haunting images. Preferably the skull. What better image could one have of creating art in the face of certain death?

So I emailed the author of the article inquiring as to who he had contacted for the rights to reprint the images. He wrote back quickly. Said he couldn’t help. Thank you very much.

I looked at the rights for the photos at the end of the article and emailed two people. Turned out they had rights to some gorgeous images, including a beauty of a record superimposed on a ribcage, but not to the coveted skull.

I kind of gave up. Only weeks later did I decide to try the roulette of Google again. Miraculously I found at the end of another article a photo credit that hadn’t been in the first. It was for a museum in Hungary. I quickly found and clicked on the museum’s site. Within minutes I was staring at not only the image of the skull I’d been looking for, but the name of the photographer as well. Joseph Hadju.

Hadju, it turned out, had passed. The rights to the images lay with the museum.

So I found the name to a curator at the museum and, full of a new hope that this might actually work, emailed her.

No response.

A week later I emailed again. Nothing.

Then, days later, it hit me hard. Of course she wasn’t going to email me back. I had emailed her in English, and she probably spoke Hungarian. How completely selfish of me. So with a few clicks on an online translating tool, I translated my email and, fingers crossed, sent it again.

The next morning—it felt like a miracle—I had a reply in my inbox from the museum. The email was in broken English, but clear enough. Most importantly, I had broken through.

Over the next two weeks I sent a few emails of clarification. The process was painstakingly slow, with a day or more between each reply, but in the end I got permission. We could use the photograph for the cover of the book as long as we sent a couple copies of the finished product to the museum. Easy. Done.

Then it was just a matter of getting the press to agree to use the image.

Well, as you can see, the folks at Trio House have excellent taste.

Check out the book here:

http://www.amazon.com/Bone-Music-Stephen-Cramer/dp/0996586415/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459973237&sr=1-1&keywords=bone+music%2C+cramer

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Bone Music now available online!

Here’s the link for Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Bone-Music-Stephen-Cramer/dp/0996586415/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459870513&sr=1-1&keywords=bone+music%2C+cramer

and here’s an awesome blurb by the awesome David Jauss:

“Stephen Cramer’s Bone Music opens with a stunning meditation on “Dark was the Night, Cold Was the Ground,” the Blind Willie Johnson song that is “touring the cosmos” as part of the spacecraft Voyager’s “aural primer to planet Earth.” Bone Music is itself just such a primer, and like Voyager, its cargo is music, not only the music of the blues and jazz musicians Cramer writes about but the music of his own elegant and gut-wrenching lines. In poem after poem, he transmutes “the absurdity of our glory & our pain” into the kind of harrowing beauty that, like Blind Willie’s voice singing into space, defies the vast silence that surrounds and awaits us all. This is an essential book of poems. You should, you must, read it.”JPEG Bone Front Only

Posted in Uncategorized