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
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
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