Leija Farr, the 17-year-old who was recently named Seattle’s first youth poet, understands the responsibility of the title. “I have the ability to put messages out there, help people,” she says. “I self-heal with poems.”
Farr is taking up the challenge. In her poem “GUN,” published here for the first time, Farr addresses American gun culture and tells me she sees police shootings as an epidemic. “I’m always hurt when I hear about my fellow black men getting shot,” she says. “It’s so common that it’s not a shock anymore.”
Farr wants to use her poetry to influence the conversation on race relations and gun policy in America.
“It can happen to my family members, it can happen to someone that I’m close to,” Farr said in response to the shootings of two young black stepbrothers by police last month in the nearby city of Olympia. Minorities are disproportionately represented in Washington’s court, jail and prison populations, according to a report on race and Washington’s criminal justice system.
What inspired this poem? “Just the normalcy with which I see people acting with respect to weapons,” says Farr. “It shouldn’t be something that people should look at as normal.”
G-U-N. Letters carved across your black ashed fingers. What started as a toy from daddy’s bottom drawer but it was not enough. One shot was not enough to satisfy your gun high, you realized your nose loved the smell of this lethal smoke fuming from bullet holes. Because you saw rappers molest imaginary pistols in songs and misuse bullets and spray homicidal rainbows on pavement.
You decided to put the most focus on this small silhouette that housed in pockets, looked beautiful to you because it is silver painted but as soon as it’s penetrated fades to an evil black.
Wanted to use guns as self-defense, you wear weak in school so you would hold it and pray with eyes tightly closed it molded into your skin. And you loved the way people ran when you hit lead into crying pigment, you didn’t listen when they told you guns were no fun.
You just repeatedly raped it and made handguns forcefully cum bullets, you blasted big caves in faces, letting dented metal secrete through the peak of the gun hole like liquid let your index inject into rifles despite seeing babies you see sprayed.
Left the taste of sour from the gunpowder you fed to innocent mouths and overtime you curved burns onto knuckles but just chuckled. This was funny to you. That you were holding something so deadly you see the police beat black and blue everyday, you see music videos portrayed with glamorized shell cases street corners turn from normal days to loud bangs, when your were little tried to cover ears with hands smeared with gun art and now it’s become you.
You’ve become the one with the fast reaction to pick up this gun and blast, never really caring how scary this weapon you were holding was. But your eardrums need to hear the sound POP,POP,POP,POP, a sensation for some reason you loved. In movies you see it’s cool so you think it’s cool to make bodies crawl and lay on them your horrific art of stroking bodies red, and in this time in your life you felt dead and like nobody so you wondered,”why can’t everybody else be.
Your fingers swallowed tears strolled down cheeks as you shot this glock, you couldn’t stop because you were drunk of this generation’s lies, you were drunk off bars emcee’s feed to you, you were drunk off TV's meaning of a thug, took shots of the evil liquid life gives you then eyes became tipsy and would see whatever blurry visions the media gave to you.
You shot so many times that overtime your hands couldn’t feel it anymore. Numb to what runs out the gun’s mouth and is dug into innocent flesh. Your body has become one with this machine because you can’t seem to walk away.
You can’t seem to walk into places and not strike it with violent rage can’t communicate with your mouth, so you reload your only focus and hope and shoot it. You’re wondering why the gun never answers your cries? Because guns are not your friends. It doesn’t care who’s dead it’s brain is just a blank structure that shoots whatever, it just cares it’s getting fame from every person that plays with it.
That it’s shape is being bedazzled in ads and dressed to impress in lyrics. Made to fit many hands and yours slipped in and gripped it as you fired intestines with what you thought your only life was.
And I feel sorry for you, because to you that gun may seem like it’s on your side until somebody takes out and turns it on you.
Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion with a focus on race and politics. She lives in Brooklyn.