"Toil the Soil," a poem by Syd Stewart

Poet Syd Stewart divides her time between Las Vegas and L.A., is active in the slam-poetry scene, and founded Better Youth, a group that inspires kids through art. Go here to listen to her interview with KNPR's "State of Nevada" show.



I sleep in hollow hallways

Where echoes of strangers breathe

Nobody listens to broken nightmares

Dreams slumber in urban classrooms

The voices of adolescents unheard

Blood colored streets

Our children write death certificates

Instead of learning Langston / they channel their inner gangster

Limp bodies turned inside out

Shattered from shell shock

Creating functioning illiterates / manufactured crime

Racism refuses to be sublime

Educational equality ain’t never been on time

Black brown child left behind

I labor in vain

Sometimes I can’t remember my name

Weary from storms weathered / the rainbow is enuf

Grasping for air while planting seeds

We search for reasons to keep reaching

Dangerous minds / raisins in the sun

Nobody here but us

Those who toil the soiled soil

We witness life burned to ashes

Dust to dust

Tomorrow’s impossibilities fill courtroom cages

We lose a politician, a lawyer, a nurse, a hairdresser, a mother


A father, a sister, a cousin, a niece

Piece by piece / frayed justice

Nobody here but us

Those who toil the soil

Alice done left wonderland / deuces for superman

Our anthems are operas at funerals

We sit quietly listening for familiar names

Knowing the silent suffering of saints

We press on pushing past body bags

Frost bitten fingertips / gravity grips

Weighs more than one set of shoulders can carry

Our dreams deferred / we wait / because they tarry

We sacrifice for sanity’s secret

We beat the system / everyday

Saving nothing for ourselves

Giving graciously to grief

The thief who we trust

Nobody here but us

Those with dirty fingernails

Digging deep into ditches

Breaking bread / serving meat on dirty dishes

Wishing for water in a well run dry

We keep trying

Shuffling our youth through pipelines

Prisons, penitentiaries and colleges

We keep trying

Untying knots in knowledge

Nobody here

Just us

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