Poet Laureate of Cobourg

Take Back the Night: And Still We Shine

I wrote this poem for Cobourg’s Take Back the Night event on September 19, 2019. I also read it at Port Hope’s Take Back the Night event on October 9, 2019.

And Still We Shine
By Jessica Outram

Darkness can remind me:
shallow breaths alert 
memory lurks amid flickering streetlights

centuries of silence
decades of shouting

some voices 
lost in swollen ears

and some voices
raised in digital hands

growing up with eyes of night beasts
burns holes through clenched fists 
wrapped around keys

and still, now
we understand what it feels like to walk in the night

thick shadows roll like smog 
mornings and afternoons
among friends and strangers

sometimes losing to fear
on trails of vanished dignity 
scattering identity like breadcrumbs

lost in the woods 
the way things were and are

we reach to 
let go of this weight
to fly

then remember women in red dresses gone 
beyond the medicine wheels

we mourn for children who trust us
to protect

we grasp lanterns with icicles to beam
into cracks as we whisper

are you still there?
am I still here?

a story I tell myself is about tomorrow
a story without a face

and still sometimes we cry
until we are blind 
because it hurts too much to see

feel our sisters, our mothers, our children 
persisting in a lingering war 

so we march
our footsteps living ghosts 

yet nights still haunt beneath a sky of niceties
and normalcy and neighborhoods with new wreaths on doors

since we know burning 
houses and looted streets

can breed 
behind welcome signs 

yet tonight, together we shine
brighter than ever before

raising up girls and women we love into the sun
we rally to undo ages of sick unbalance

we shine into this night

above homes
around workplaces
beneath the jungles of our lives

inhaling our learned peace
we sing mighty ballads 

one voice
beams hope for granddaughters

who will walk on shimmery
stones of freedom

we are lit from within
impervious to the dark

we take back the night
we shine.