Joshua Bennett Performs at the White House Poetry Jam: (7 of 8)


Mr. Bennett:
Tamara has never
listened to hip-hop, Never danced to the
rhythm of rain drops, or fallen asleep to a
chorus of chirping crickets. She has been Deaf for as
long as I’ve been alive. And ever since the day I first
turned five, my father has said, “Joshua, nothing is
wrong with Tamara. God just makes some
people different.” And at that moment, those
nine letters felt like hammers, swung gracefully by unholy hands
to shatter my stained-glass innocence into shards that can
never be pieced back together or do anything more than severe the
ties between my sister and I. I waited, was patient numberless
years anticipating the second her ears would open like lotuses
and allow my sunlight sentences to seep into her insides, make
her remember all of those conversations we must have had
in heaven back when God hand picked us to be sibling
souls centuries ago. I still remember
her 20th birthday. Readily recall my awe-struck
11-year-old eyes as I watched Deaf men and women of all
ages dance in unison to the vibrations of speakers booming
so loud that I imagined angels chastising us for disturbing
their worship with such beautiful blasphemy. Until you have seen
a Deaf girl dance, you know nothing of passion. There was a barricade between us
that I never took the time to destroy. Never for even a moment thought
to pick up a book and look up the sign for sister,
for family, good-bye. I will see you again, someday. Remember the face of
your little brother. It is only now I see that I was
never willing to put in the extra effort to
love her properly. So as the only person in my
family who is not fluent in sign language, I’ve decided to
take this time to apologize. Tamara, I am sorry
for my silence. But true love
knows no frequency. And so I will use these hands to
speak volumes that can never be contained from the
boundaries of sound waves. I will shout at the top of my
fingertips until digits dance and relay these mental messages
directly to your soul. I know that there is no poem
that can make up for all the time we have lost, so, please,
if you can, just listen. Thank you. (applause)

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