Houston Poet Laureate Outspoken Bean writes a poem for Ukraine

Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean, Houston’s fifth Poet Laureate / Photo by Lynn Lane

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.

Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean, Houston’s fifth Poet Laureate / Photo by Lynn Lane

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.

Mural by artist Shelbi Nicole. Located 112 Travis Street, Houston / Photo by Catherine Lu

lower cased shells at the capital
by Outspoken Bean, Houston’s Poet Laureate 

lower cased shells
scattered across
Ukraine’s capital. 
bruised broken skin
only braises Ukrainians’ spirit 
lighting ragged 
russian vodka bottles
burned when 
there is 
only round tables 
no position is turned 
strength is found 
through vantage 
surviving a home invasion 
creates new adages
to share 
which is the receipt of 
the living.

heroic to leave 
courageous to stay 
cowardice took trains 
from moscow to Ukraine 
bordered door 
as war knocks
to answer
           is with molotov cocktails 
to answer 
            is with dismantling street signs 
to answer 
            is to court your home’s advantage 
to take it here 
when it was brought 
from there 
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.  

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