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Safety Pen: A Poem

Albuquerque poet and community organizer Ebony Isis Booth shares her poem in response to #SafetyPinSupport in the days following the US Presidential Election. #BlackPoetsSpeak

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Safety Pen: A Poem / Via

safety pen

by Ebony Isis Booth

how different we are today

now that safety pins

secure personhood and humanity

affixed to lapels in earnest

like nervous prom dates

wielding straight pins like

bayonets near boutonnieres

on the left side


a little medal over your heart

purple and swollen

battered by tears and histamines

accelerated by estate wines and

streaming statistics

run down cheeks

run from exit polls

run up flag poles

to bring down bigotry

like Bree Newsome in Charleston

ten days after hate made

parishioners prey while they prayed

that cat caught nine lives and a trip

to Burger King drive thru

safety pin the America that raised

Dylan Roof

and lowered expectations

of disenfranchised youth

safety pin the America who has grown

bored with its own face

elitist mockery of such

stone chiseled European noses carved

into stolen mountains

if a Kardashian can

let us too cut out the ugly

surgically resurface the office of President

derma-plastics black doesn’t crack

but neither does granite

belay down your forefathers’

newly gentrified countenance

out of spite

a nation about face

who needs noses anyway

safety pin an America

with a plan for my safety

that does not end with awkward

allies calling the police in an

effort to save me

or excuse themselves from the

frayed seams of my black life

and a blue uniform

because in America it still seems as though

we cannot believe

what we refuse to see

show me your safety pin

a subtle gesture with the responsibility

of lighthouses in hurricanes

convince me that your pin will be visible

through the shit storm

we have been here before

survivors of the middle passage

ten thousand leagues under the Atlantic

there are legions of ancestors at my back

and armies of allies with all their tactics

consider the confidence of unified savages

tell me to focus my attention on this tiny beacon

guiding your confusion

the next time

you want me to explain why eye contact

is more effective than an accessory

when it comes to safety

conciliatory gestures are menacing

refuge in the open arms of a well-meaning stranger

with the capacity for only one marooned body at a time

presents a series of new threats unless

your coat can warm me and mine

conversations around the water cooler have

never been safer

I have never been interested

I have always been obligated by my skin

to listen as white Americans struggle to

find comfort in colorful conversation

but now

the safety pin is the solution

while I appreciate the sentiment

narcissism wins again and

spins a narrative about how

my struggle ain’t real

until you see it

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