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Poetry on L.A. Riots and Rodney King

Author: Various poets


Sat, 08/03/2013 - 13:10 -- msweird

I remember the blazing terror between the flames

While the National Guard tried to restrain

I remember the fear running through my veins

My first childhood memories were filled with pain

My family always had a fear of the police

But this time they weren’t pulling over behind us

They weren’t driving alongside of us

No. They had their rifles pointed above us

Glaring from the rooftop of an abandoned building, they tried to put me at ease

They smiled at my terrified little face as they waved, but all I saw was their M16s

For 4 days they watched my city burn with neglect

Now I was supposed to believe they were here to protect

I remember the fire

I remember standing outside to watch and weep

I later learned that it all started just a few miles away from my street

April 29, 1992

I knew oppression before I could even tie my own shoe

Even through a child’s lens I remember the anger; I remember the tears

I remember the shouting; I remember my fears

I can still remember the fire, even after 20 years


in the city of angels

by David Riley

el pueblo grande
boils and bubbles
like a brea pit
fear and anger
rise from the pitch
like hungry spirits

incendiary questions:
why’d the cops beat him?
how come they got off?

sacrificial fires are lit
on asphalt altars
the hungry spirits are fed

the night cries
no justice no peace

and when the smoke clears
in the char of morning days later
what is revealed?

only mammoth humanity
stuck in the tar

© 1992-2011 dmriley


Riot Act, April 29, 1992 - Poem by Ai Ogawa

I'm going out and get something. I don't know what. I don't care. Whatever's out there, I'm going to get it. Look in those shop windows at boxes
and boxes of Reeboks and Nikes
to make me fly through the air
like Michael Jordan
like Magic. While I'm up there, I see Spike Lee. Looks like he's flying too
straight through the glass
that separates me
from the virtual reality
I watch everyday on TV. I know the difference between
what it is and what it isn't. Just because I can't touch it
doesn't mean it isn't real. All I have to do is smash the screen,
reach in and take what I want. Break out of prison. South Central homey's newly risen
from the night of living dead,
but this time he lives,
he gets to give the zombies
a taste of their own medicine. Open wide and let me in,
or else I'll set your world on fire,
but you pretend that you don't hear. You haven't heard the word is coming down
like the hammer of the gun
of this black son, locked out of this big house,
while massa looks out the window and sees only smoke. Massa doesn't see anything else,
not because he can't,
but because he won't. He'd rather hear me talking about mo' money,
mo' honeys and gold chains
and see me carrying my favorite things
from looted stores
than admit that underneath my Raider's cap,
the aftermath is staring back
unblinking through the camera's lens,
courtesy of CNN,
my arms loaded with boxes of shoes
that I will sell at the swap meet
to make a few cents on the declining dollar. And if I destroy myself
and my neighborhood
"ain't nobody's business, if I do,"
but the police are knocking hard
at my door
and before I can open it,
they break it down
and drag me in the yard. They take me in to be processed and charged,
to await trial,
while Americans forget
the day the wealth finally trickled down
to the rest of us.


DMU Timestamp: May 12, 2017 15:53

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