Spoken-Word Poet Rudy Francisco Performs His Poem “Rifle”

-In honor of
National Poetry Month, our next guest is here
to perform the poem, Rifle, from his book, “HELIUM.” Please welcome back to the show
Rudy Francisco. -[ Cheers and applause ] ♪♪ -And the article says, “The Mexican government
confiscates approximately 30,000
illegal firearms per year. When the guns are taken,
they get dismantled, and the metal is used
to make other types of weapons that will later be utilized
by their military.” In 2012, Pedro Reyes,
an artist from Mexico City, convinced his government
to donate the guns to him, and he turned them
into musical instruments. So, somewhere,
there’s a tambourine, a drum set, a guitar, all made out of things that were
used to take people’s lives, but now they create a sound that puts life back
into people’s bodies, which is to say a weapon
will always be a weapon, but we choose
how we fight the war, and from this I learned that even the most
destructive instruments can still create a melody worth
dancing to, and, sometimes, don’t we also
call that a battle? I wonder how long it took
to convince the first rifle that it can hold a note
instead of a bullet but still fire into a crowd
and make everyone move. When I was six, I was taught
how to throw a punch. In the ’80s, that was
the anti-bullying movement. Uh, the first time one of my
classmates took a “yo mama” joke a little too far,
I remembered my training, so I turned his nose
into a fountain. My fist, five pennies. I closed my eyes, I made a wish, I came home
with bloody knuckles, and it was the first
piece of artwork we hung on the fridge. I remember staring at my hands
the same way you stare at a test when
all your answers are correct. I didn’t know
what class this was, but I did know I was passing, and isn’t that what
masculinity has become? A bunch of dudes
afraid of their own feelings, terrified of any emotion
other than anger, constantly yelling
at the shadows on the wall, but still haven’t realized that we’re the ones standing
in front of the light? We learn how to dodge a jab. We learn how to step in
before we swing. We learn the heart
is the same size as the fist, but we keep forgetting they
don’t have the same functions. We keep telling each other
to man up, but we don’t even know
what that means. We turn our boys
into bayonets. We point them
in the wrong direction. We pull their triggers,
and then we ignore all the damage they’re doing
in the distance. The word “repurpose” —
The word “repurpose” — The word “repurpose” means to take an object
and give it amnesia. It means
to make something forget what it’s been trained to do so you can use it
for a better reason. I am learning that
this body is not a shotgun. I am learning that
this body is not a pistol. I am learning that a man is not
defined by what he can destroy. I am learning that a person
who only knows how to fight can only communicate
in violence, and that shouldn’t be
anyone’s first language. I’m learning the difference
between a garden and a graveyard is only what you choose
to put in the ground. You see, once… Once I came across a picture
of a strange-looking violin. The caption said that
it was made out of a rifle, and I thought to myself,
“You know… …someday that could be me.” -[ Cheers and applause ] -Rudy Francisco! That’s how you do it.
Thank you so much. His book, “HELIUM,”
is in stores now.

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