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
 
Darkness can remind me:
shallow breaths alert
memory lurks amid flickering streetlights
 
centuries of silence
decades of shouting
 
and some voices lost
drowned by muted volume
 
and some voices found
raised by waving chants
 
and still we shine
 
growing up with eyes of night beasts
burning holes through clenched fists
sometimes wrapped around keys
 
we learned more about whistles no one hears than
violence we don’t want to talk about
 
and still, now
we understand what it feels like to walk in the night
 
thick shadows rolling like smog
mornings and afternoons
among friends and strangers
 
and still we shine
 
sometimes losing to fear
on angry trails of vanishing dignity
scattering identity like breadcrumbs
 
lost in the woods
the way things were and are
towering
 
we reach to
let go of this weight once and for all
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 icicle hands to beam
into cracks as we whisper
 
are you still there?
am I still here?
 
and still we shine
 
a story I tell myself is about tomorrow
this work-in-progress
a story without a face
 
and still sometimes we cry
heavy innocence until we are blind
because it hurts too much to see
 
feel our sisters and our mothers and our children
persisting in a lingering war
 
so we march
our footsteps living ghosts
 
and yet nights can 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 here we are together and tonight and still we shine
brighter than ever before
 
lighting up truth
raising up girls and women we love into the sun
 
offering experience
like bottles of wine at a dinner party
 
redefining the circle of life with allies
this story without an ending
 
beginning the year you were born and streaming
united to reclaim nights and rights
 
we rally to undo ages of sick unbalance
assured we have already made a difference
thank god
 
and still
together
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
beaming hope for granddaughters
 
who will walk on shimmering
stones of true freedom
 
a growing collection of gold
gushing from each confident breath
 
we are lit from within
impervious to the dark
 
bold, beautiful, and satisfied
taking back the night
 
claiming a light
 
and still we shine.
 
© By Jessica Outram. September 2019

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