Essential Work — and Other Poems


by Raymond Nat Turner

We’ll always need Race car drivers roaring
down streets where children chase balls; like
We’ll always need peaceful protesters pepper
sprayed like cockroaches; And
We’ll always need sleeping seven year-olds shot
while dreaming of dolls, sleepovers, tooth fairies;
We’ll always need children playing with toy guns
in parks executed before becoming “Hulk Hogans”

We’ll always need doors kicked in and our daughters
and sons slaughtered in wee hours -­ even if it is the
Wrong address…
We’ll always need elderly parents whacked for
Accidentally pressing emergency alerts; like
We’ll always need mentally ill loved ones massacred
in our homes…

We’ll always need men rushing pregnant wives to
Hospitals shot for speeding; And fathers of six
Hustling too hard chokehold lynched;
We’ll always need young women who drive and
smoke, stopped and suicided; And mothers wearing
masks wrong wrestled down in subway stations — as
their 4 year-olds watch…

We’ll always need wallets mistaken for guns -­ Glocks
for Tasers; fleeing Black men shot in their backs; And
bridegrooms butchered, night before their weddings…

We’ll always need Tasered hearts skanking
in Reggae rhythms; And broken broomsticks
rammed up mens’ rectums for fun…
We’ll always need bruised, bloodied, disfigured
Faces­eyeballs dangling from sockets;
We’ll always need drugs and guns planted —
Growing into cases, concertina wire, COVID-19…

We’ll always need right hooves raised Testi-lying
To judges and juries of peers on the need for knees
on necks — 56 licks or 41 shots — Served to Protect

Oooh, what a lil’ Movement can do…

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”― Vladimir Ilyich Lenin



Oooh, oooh…

Oooh, oooh…

Oooh, oooh, what a lil’ movement can do for you

Oooh, oooh, what a lil’ movement can do for you—

U.S. killer cops are being fired and arrested—

Because worldwide mighty tens of millions protested!

Quick, fast, and in a hurry—out of desperation—

the Dems are writing reams of toothless legislation—

Legislation’s piling up like pearly bales of cotton—

and everyone’s mouthing, “Capitalism’s rotten…”

Bought and paid for ones don Kente, taking bended knees—

they’re even doin’ ‘splits,’ begging, “Baby, please, please!”

Oooh, oooh, what a lil’ movement can do for you

Oooh, oooh, what a lil’ movement can do for you—

Cop-calling ‘Karens’ getting called out and fired

Unca Ben and Aunt Jemima have finally retired

Slavery’s stars and bars got banned at NASCAR

And Euro drivers rallied behind the one Black star!

Glorious struggle’s gifting us time to cheer and brag—

Mississippi even pulled down the slaver’s rag

suddenly confederate statues are tumbling down—

and young Euros are speaking the most fluent John Brown

Oooh, oooh, what a lil’ movement can do for you

Oooh, oooh, what a lil’ movement can do for you—

rechristening parks, plazas, schools, streets at warp speed

steeled elders mentor warrior youth for the lead…

staunch youth learning world-change ain’t a spectator sport

joining Longshore workers shutting a major world port

Workers kicking racist gun thugs out of labor’s house

as Democratic Party preachers play the church mouse

Not Yankees, Raiders, Warriors—The GOAT—or LeBron

Time for sitting on the sidelines is long, long, long gone…

Oooh, oooh, what a lil’ movement can do for you

Oooh, oooh, what a lil’ movement can do for you—

New generations learning in College Of The Streets—

testing in teargas and other phenomenal feats…

Youth beaten, maced, teargassed, arrested and tortured

don’t pluck bad apples from a whole rotten orchard

growing weary of pleas for peaceful coexistence

Learning the awesome power of active resistance

street heat’s clearly shoutin’ “Normal don’t live here No Mo’—

And now his whole frakkkin’ family has got to go!”

Oooh, oooh…

Oooh, oooh…

Oooh, oooh…

Oooh, oooh…

what a

lil’ movement



for YOU…

It’s capitalism, baby…

Gravediggers feed hungry Hart

Island trenches plain pine boxes;

stacked three-high, they rest side

by side in solidarity.

For now, they share island real

estate with AIDS and1918 Flu fallen.

New York is not new to this.

Ask African Burial Ground

Ancestors—it’s capitalism, baby…

799 died today.

Tasered with temperatures of 103.5

and shortness of breath—

A bus driver, track-worker and a couple

of conductors I know on sight and speak

to, came down with chills. They’ve breathed

welding manganese, steel dust and diesel

fumes decades for New Yorkers—Yet, they

couldn’t be tested—it’s capitalism, baby…

What if they’d whispered Three Little Words?

Pleaded 12 times—instead of 11—like

Eric Garner as the long, white, tatted

arm of the law crushed his windpipe?

What if they’d pleaded, “I can’t Breathe…”

12—or even 13 times—would they’ve been

Tested, treated and alive today?

That’s not MTA’s concern. Bottom line,

liability, lawsuits are—it’s capitalism, baby…

Nurses slash garbage bags open—using them

as PPE/Personal Protection Equipment.

Docs reuse gloves and masks—multiple patients—

in the world’s ‘richest’ country—it’s capitalism, baby…

Hand sanitizer was $15 a bottle yesterday—

$50 today—if you can find it.Ventilators were

$25,000 yesterday—$45,000 today and climbing—

It’s capitalism, baby…

If water is life, hand-washing’s a lifesaver.

Unelected ‘emergency’ management cut

Detroit water off and poisoned pennywise

Flint’s—oh, please—it’s capitalism, baby…

San Francisco hotel rooms sit empty.

The unhoused “shelter in place” below

freeways; in overcrowded shelters and

on cold convention center floors; oh well—

it’s capitalism, baby…

“The Town Crier,” Raymond Nat Turner, is a NYC poet and Artistic Director of the stalwart JazzPoetry Ensemble UpSurge. He currently is Poet-in-Residence at Black Agenda Report. and Co-Chair of the New York Chapter of the National Writers Union (NWU).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: