Following the February 24th Russian invasion of Ukraine, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner condemned the attacks:
“In Houston, we stand for freedom; for democracy; and for the safety and security of all our residents. We join with cities and countries around the world calling for an immediate end to the violence, to protect human rights, and for the return of peace in Europe.”Sylvester Turner, Mayor of Houston
The city’s buildings have also been lit in the colors of Ukraine’s flag as a symbol of solidarity with the Ukrainian people in Houston:
Local artists – like Dominika Dancewicz, Axiom Quartet, the Russian Cultural Center, and Holly Lyn Walrath – have responded to the war through their art or through fundraising efforts, as have national artists, like poet Ilya Kaminisky.
Houston Arts Journal invited Houston Poet Laureate Emanualee “Outspoken” Bean to write a poem in response to the Russia-Ukraine war. His poem “lower cased shells at the capital” is published below.
A nationally recognized performance poet and educator, Bean was appointed in April 2021 to serve a two-year term as the city’s fifth poet laureate.
He says he believes in the “transformative” power of poetry to create self-reflection, connection, and empathy.
“Outspoken Bean will demonstrate to the state of Texas and the nation that Houston is resilient, and that arts and culture are part of the strength of our resilience,” said Mayor Turner in a statement last April.
Just as poetry has helped Houstonians through the COVID-19 pandemic, now –in this time of heightened international strife – poetry may play another role in offering hope, healing, and strength.
lower cased shells at the capital
by Outspoken Bean, Houston’s Poet Laureate
lower cased shells
bruised broken skin
only braises Ukrainians’ spirit
russian vodka bottles
only round tables
no position is turned
strength is found
surviving a home invasion
creates new adages
which is the receipt of
heroic to leave
courageous to stay
cowardice took trains
from moscow to Ukraine
as war knocks
is with molotov cocktails
is with dismantling street signs
is to court your home’s advantage
to take it here
when it was brought
if resistance finds comfort
reject its advances.
the language of collision
is comedic but not comical
it’s Kyiv slapstick, rocks, and slingshot
starving out goliath tanks
the gigantic are hearts wrapped in
blue and yellow
the tongue of strength says
“I’m not hiding.”
so that their people can.