A Public Sphere for Poetry, Nature, and Politics
I am gravely ill. Medical tests indicate that my blood and many of my internal organs now fail to perform necessary functions. My body, enervated, starving, looks and feels terrible. I decline more each day, and I am unlikely to improve, recover, or survive. I must, therefore, be honest and speak, for as poet Audre Lorde tells us, “Your silence will not protect you.”
The result of the last US election continues to be a total catastrophe. Racism, Misogyny, ‘Crony’ Capitalism, Ableism, Heterosexism, Jingoism, Religious Bigotry, and Environmental Destruction create pure hatred that emanates from the highest perches of power and the lowest recesses of daily life. The killing of the most vulnerable will never cease unless and until we resist by any means necessary the know-absolutely-nothing-fascist-minority holding the good hostage. We must make no peace with oppression, and I will do all that I can with my frail body and weakening tongue to counter immoral pipelines and torn up treaties, travel bans and slander, war-mongering, the gutting of civil rights, consumerism, attacks on women’s bodies, and racist deportations and police brutality—at least.
As my death approaches, I will be able to recite from Psalm 26:
I do not sit with the worthless,
Nor do I consort with hypocrites;
I hate the company of evildoers,
And will not sit with the wicked. 
How? Why? As poet Adrienne Rich writes:
My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
So much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
Who, age after age, perversely,
With no extraordinary power,
Reconstitute the world. 
I will resist to my last breath.
 Audre Lorde. “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1984. 41. Print.
 Malcolm X. “3. The founding rally of the OAAU.” By Any Means Necessary. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970, 1992. 59. Print.
 From “21. For Social Justice.” The Book of Common Prayer. New York: Church Publishing Inc., 1979. 260. Print.
 PS 26: 4-5. NSRV.
 Adrienne Rich. “Natural Resources.” The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974-1977. 67. Print.
Copyright 2017 Billy Clem
Billy Clem: “Here I am, 30 January 2017, trying to answer a student’s excellent question about Toni Morrison’s *Nobel Lecture in Literature, 1993.* It’s proof that I am, if unwell, alive, teaching, and fighting the good fight. As Morrison says, “Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.” (Photo: Karyssa Hoehn)