Poetry! Joshua Bennett Performing ‘Tamara’s Opus’

From the White House Poetry Jam! Transcription and description by Anna.

Joshua Bennett is a young Black man. While is poem his entirely in spoken English, he Signs some of the lines, and I have highlighted those lines with asterisks on either side.

Tamara has never listened to hip hop.
Never danced to the rhythm of raindrops or fallen asleep to a chorus of chirping crickets. She has been Deaf
for as long as I’ve been alive.
And ever since the day I first turned five my father has said:
Nothing is wrong with Tamara.
**God just makes
some people

And at that moment
those nine letters felt like hammers
swung gracefully by unholy hands to shatter my stained glass innocence
into shards that can never be pieced back together
or do anything more than sever the ties between my sister and I. I waited,
was patient numberless years anticipating the second her ears would open like lotuses and allow my sunlight senses to seep into her insides
make her remember
all of those conversations we must have had in heaven back when God handpicked us to be sibling souls centuries ago.
I still remember
her 20th birthday.
Readily recall my awe-struck 11 year old eyes as I watched Deaf men and women of all ages dance in unison to the vibration of speakers booming so loud
that I imagined angels chastising us for disturbing their worship with such beautiful blasphemy.
Until you have seen **a Deaf girl dance, you know
of passion.**
There was a barricade between us that I never took the time to destroy never even for a moment thought to look up the sign for **sister**, for **family**, for **goodbye. I will see you again someday.**
remember the face
of your little brother.

It is only now I see
that I was never willing to put in the extra effort to love her properly.
So as the only person in my family who is not fluent in sign language
I’ve decided to take this time to apologize.

**I am sorry
for my silence.**

For true love knows no frequency, and so
I will use these hands to speak volumes that can never be contained within the boundaries of sound waves
I will shout at the top of my fingertips until digits dance and relay these mental messages directly to your soul.

I know
that there is no poem
that can make up for all the time we have lost so
if you can,
**just listen.**

About s.e. smith

s.e. smith is a recalcitrant, grumpy person with disabilities who enjoys riling people up, talking about language, tearing apart poor science reporting, and chasing cats around the house with squeaky mice in hand. Ou personal website can be found at this ain't livin'.

4 thoughts on “Poetry! Joshua Bennett Performing ‘Tamara’s Opus’

  1. Wow. That was really amazing. I do wonder about the use of the last line’s imagery. Why “listen” and not “watch”? Unless that was meant to highlight something that I didn’t catch? or perhaps (though I’d be surprised) the sign for “listen” is used in a congruent way that hearing folks use it to mean “pay attention”?

    I feel like I’ve seen other linked perfomances from the Whitehouse that have also been pretty astounding.

Comments are closed.