We were honored to interview poet and dissident Wendy Trevino on the Arts of Travel Podcast. Wendy was kind enough to share several of her poems. For more with Wendy, check out her book Cruel Fiction, published by Commune Editions.
WHEN YOU HEAR PEOPLE SAY “BURN DOWN THE AMERICAN PLANTATION”
for the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement (RAM)
Look at it this way: “sometimes you have to burn things down
To rebuild.” This is where the QuikTrip that belonged to the man
Who called the cops on Mike Brown used to be. The precinct
That deployed the cops who murdered George Floyd used
To be here. & over here there used to be a Target. & over here
There used to be a CVS. & over here there was a corner store
That sold cans of soda for $1 a pop & white t-shirts for $10 each.
A building where slave traders sold slaves during the Civil War
Once stood here. That used to be the deli where Latasha
Harlins was murdered by Soon Ja Du. That used to be
A Mercedes-Benz dealership. The Wendy’s where Rayshard
Brooks was murdered by cops used to be here. This used
To be the center of the world’s automotive industry. & when
The marches turned into riots the cop cars were parked here
Here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here
We riot & riot & Cuba never comes, not
Venezuela or Bolivia either & at this point
Who wouldn’t take whatever help they could get
In the middle of a pandemic, a year from an uprising
A year into a new counter-insurgency, watching
The Gulf of Mexico burn, losing power
On the coldest 5 days in 40 years, wading
Into the subway station, feeling like fire is legit
The 5th season, waking up to a layer of ash
On everything outside, the air not safe
To breathe, red skies, thinking you can’t
Even count on seeing the sun in the sky anymore
Wondering when you’ll lose your housing, if
Truly everyone will ever have clean water, in a city
Where empty apartments outnumber people
Who can’t afford housing & what the government’s
Position on the broke people imprisoned
Amounts to is “they will either develop
An immunity or die” & there are still prisoners
The public isn’t allowed to know too much about
In Guantanamo Bay, in the USA-occupied
Part of Cuba & Cuba never comes.
I was detained approximately 54 hours, 47 of which I spent in jail.
I spent 47 hours under bright fluorescent lights.
I was cold approximately 43 hours.
I was moved 7 times, to 5 different “tanks.”
I spent no more than 15 hours in a tank near a door with a small rectangle of glass
through which 21 women and then 27 women could see barbed wire and light
then dark outside.
I was fed 6 times—5 “sack lunches” which included 2 slices of stale bread, 2 slices
of slimy bologna, 2 crème cookies soaked in bologna juice, 1 packet of “salad
dressing” (mayo), 1 packet of mustard, 1 packet of a “calcium mix” and 1 orange;
and 1 “hot meal,” which included maybe turkey & definitely beans, a side of
cooked carrots, some sauce, a salad, a cube of cornbread and a cube of cake.
I used a toilet no more than 5 times.
I slept no more than 4 hours.
I was denied birth control.
I heard someone with epilepsy was being denied medication.
I met 2 people with serious illnesses who were denied medication.
I watched 2 people go through withdrawal.
I watched 1 woman use 1 toilet at least 10 times in no more than 2 hours.
I spoke to 1 woman who confessed she was having suicidal thoughts.
I gave 1 back rub.
I received 0 back rubs.
I spoke to 3 people on “the outside:”
I spoke to 3 “trustees.”
I spooned 3 women.
I spooned 1 woman I had known previously.
I saw 2 women volunteer to stay inside longer to make sure 2 more women
wouldn’t be left alone in their respective tanks.
I saw 1 woman refuse release to make sure her friend would have a friend in the
I met 1 woman with an “Abortions Get Babies to Heaven Faster” fanny pack she
likes to wear when she visits Texas.
I saw 5 slices of bologna stick to a white wall.
I heard harmonizing coming from a tank 2 times.
I heard 1 person recite 1 poem to 2 pigs.
I heard I had 1 welt on my back.
I saw at least 5 bruises on each wrist.
I heard 1 woman suggest not admitting injury unless it was severe.
I met 2 women who chose not to report feeling ill for fear of being put in solitary
I met 1 woman who had been released from Santa Rita no more than 2 days
I crushed on 1 woman.
I was 1 of at least 5 women crushing on 1 woman.
I met at least 1 woman in a polyamorous relationship.
I met at least 1 woman who had recently had sex in the woods.
I met at least 1 woman who had recently had sex in a dressing room.
I met 1 woman who suggested we start a website to replace the #OO camp.
I met 3 women who were still in high school.
I had at least 5 pigs completely ignore me.
I heard at least 5 pigs lie at least 5 times.
I heard 1 pig compare the impact of the people the pigs had to process on “the
system” to 400 marbles going down a drain 3 times.
I heard 1 woman praying.
I saw one appeal to “the Virgin” scratched into the wall of a tank.
I heard 2 women were put in solitary confinement.
I heard 1 woman was put in solitary confinement for scratching a word into the
wall of a tank.
I saw “OCCUPY” scratched into the wall of a tank.
I heard 1 woman was placed in solitary confinement for banging on the door of a
tank to get a pig’s attention.
I saw at least 2 women kick the door of a tank at least 5 times in a row.
I saw 1 woman be forced into a tank.
I heard 1 pair of cuffs.
I heard 1 pig tell 1 woman if she had a problem with not getting a phone call she
should call her lawyer.
I heard 1 pig say, “This isn’t about the constitution…If I don’t like your face…”
I heard 1 man banging on the door of his tank.
I heard 1 pig tell 1 trustee not to answer my question.
I met 2 women who requested that NLG contact their employers to let them know
they would not be making it to work.
I met 2 women who were worried their arrest would lead to them losing their job.
I met 1 woman who lost her job as a union organizer when she was a “no show”
after being arrested at a demonstration.
I met 1 woman who works as a union organizer.
I met 1 woman who works in San Francisco’s Financial District.
I met 1 woman who can “crack” a house.
I met 1 woman with family in Spain.
I met 1 woman who teaches elementary.
I met 1 woman who said the games the pigs were playing with us were the same
ones she plays with her kids.
I met 1 woman who teaches yoga.
I met 2 women who worried their car would be towed.
I met 1 woman who worried her boyfriend would forget to pay her parking ticket.
I met 1 woman whose boyfriend runs a comic book store.
I met 1 woman whose mother had bailed out Huey Newton.
I met at least 2 women who were afraid they wouldn’t be able to get into a college
I met at least 3 women who were menstruating.
Bridesmaids came up 1 time.
I was 1 of at least 2 women who had seen Bridesmaids.
Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci” came up 1 time.
I heard 1 woman sing, “One big room / full of bad bitches.”
Aquaman came up 1 time.
I saw at least 5 drops of fresh blood on the floor in the hall.
I saw at least 7 spots of dried blood on the wall of a tank.
I heard the riddle “What is brown and sticky?” 2 times.
I saw at least 15 wads of wet toilet paper stick to the air vents of 3 tanks.
I watched 4 women throw wads of wet toilet paper at the air vents of 3 tanks.
I heard 1 woman admit she was waiting to be released to take a “victory poop.”
Khali came up at least 5 times.
“The 99%” came up 1 time.
I heard 1 pig call herself part of the 99%.
I heard 1 pig say the system had crashed, that we’d be inside at least 48 more
hours, after we’d been detained 52.
I heard 1 pig threaten a mentally ill man.
I heard 1 pig make fun of a woman praying.
Dante’s Inferno came up 1 time.
“Why am I being detained?” was chanted at least 10 ten times.
“Phone call!” was chanted at least 20 times.
“From Oakland to Greece, no pads no peace!” was chanted at least 10 times.
The Diva Cup came up 2 times.
I heard 1 woman call the inmates who worked at the jail “trustees.”
I saw 13 people I’d previously met inside.
I saw 3 people without shoes.
I saw 2 people in “protective custody.”
I saw 2 bologna faces.
one thing i’ve learned / come to a provisional conclusion about: when it comes to fighting, there are people who will help you fight & there are people who will not & there are people
who will stand in the way. find the people who will help / be loud
& clear so they know where you are–focus on them, be encouraged by them, encourage them, work with them. don’t worry
about the people who won’t help. they will be of no help even if they are on your side. waste as little energy as possible fighting people who stand in the way, which is to say don’t talk
don’t argue, just get them out of the way of the fight you came for.
tl;dr: you don’t need or want
the people who you know
aren’t “with you” to be
with you. really, you don’t.
For more of Wendy Trevino’s Poetry, please read her latest collection Cruel Fiction: https://communeeditions.com/cruel-fiction-wendy-trevino/