Praise Song for Those Who Refuse to Play Favorites, Poesía by Becky Thompson, Feminist Formations

Praise song that refuses to play favorites
~for Chen Chen

In 1918 the flu took my great grandfather,
left five children and his wife Millie
with tired gingham and rusty pocket knives.
In 2020 my friend Maryam whose family
ran from the Taliban waits in Greece,
asylum in limbo,
explains her daughter’s school is shut by Covid,
Arezu, who rhymes in four tongues,
studies palpitations of the heart on the internet,
hop scotches on soggy paths
close to the camp that burned
to the ground last fall.
They say a virus will go after anyone,
but it plays favorites
people in Beirut in checkerboard apartments,
the internist who loaded food
for Dreamers in Florida,
frisked by an unmasked white cop.
In this antisocial distance I want
to sit close, chant for students who dragged
their coffee mugs from dorms back
to childhood bedrooms,
for the nurse who talks
with her kids through a hugless screen;
for the teenager in a tent who texts his mother,
I’m okay, but still no masks here,
they have no masks for us.

This is a shout out, a missive, a love letter, a prayer.

Praise the girl who blew a kiss to her dad
through the pane of a hospital door.
Praise the father who carries his father’s fedora,
blew a shofar, the family lore.
Praise the student who signed up to carry food trays
kimchi and noodles for people shut in.

Praise the dancers who graced Central Park with pliés
Ailey’s hands to the sun, revelation begins.
Praise Darnella as in Frazier who lifted her
cell phone to witness Floyd’s last breath.
Praise his children and
all those whose parents are gone
slavery and prisons the twins that barrel white guns.
This is a land where trouble plays favorites,
knocks on doors beaten down by no jobs.
This is the land where Delaina Yuan and Xiaojie Tan
were killed by a white man,
barely twenty one,
where trouble plays favorites,
unmasks a history of harm,
babies in arms, as their mothers ask why.

May we shout out a missive, a love letter, a prayer.