Selected Poems from Dr. Martina McGowan’s “i am the rage”

As Trasna celebrates National Poetry Month, we pause on the singular event of this past week, the guilty verdict in the killing of George Floyd, and reflect on the power of poets to be agents of change. This week, we proudly present the poetry of Dr. Martina McGowan from her debut collection, ‘i am the rage.’ We celebrate it for its beauty and truth: “I am the rage,/ roiling just beneath the surface/ I am the dream deferred/ Again.” 




Numb to the News


The news has become so repetitious

Almost boring



Unless you are of color


Little girls with their molars coming in

Sleeping on grandma’s sofa



Sleeping with your Boo in the middle of the night

Anticipating your morning shift












Suspect handcuffed

Running backwards

While holding a weapon on two officers



Suspect handcuffed

In the backseat

Of a patrol car

Shoots himself in the head



Traffic stop



These and many more deaths dismissed with a single phrase

“I was in fear of my life”


Perhaps we should pass out cards

to facilitate and streamline the news reporter’s jobs,

And the angst, and the agony that follow


No repentance for crimes


No remorse for loss of lives


Injustices meted out without “evidence”

Not to be too seriously investigated


Presumptive guilt


Presumptive penalty



Snake oil salesman telling us it is all in our imagination

We are blowing things out of proportion


We are wrong about

Brutality doled out by bullies

Seeking to extinguish the brands called “Black” and “Brown”


Seeking to eradicate “others”

To bolster their own insubstantial pride

And reassure them of their moral superiority




You cannot be superior without someone else being inferior


You cannot have a top with no bottom


No up with no down


Upper hand without a lower hand


Excellence without “less than”


Nobility without serfs


Rank without file


Insider without outsider


Us with them


Masters without slaves



Human Enough


With diminishing confidence

We send out our heart-sensors

To try to remember where our children are supposed to be

And at the same time

To touch the God that binds us

To each other


The God that binds us to each other

Tries to break that awkward silence now filling our homes

As we review our day’s journey

And begin to wonder where our children truly are

And if they will return


If they will return unharmed

Once again on this freedom’s eve

In a world that denies the proclamation of their emancipation

Reminding them daily that they are not free

To be

To love

To breathe

To live in peace

To have the time to reflect and contemplate


To reflect on the days that we have lived

And contemplate what the tomorrows may bring

But we already know

Tomorrow will bring the same fear


Tomorrow will bring the same fear

That we are unequal

That we are still 3/5 human

On a good day

And on a bad day

We are not human at all

Never completely whole people

Never entirely free from bondage

Never free from violent assaults on the body and the mind


The violent assaults of the mind and the streets

Force mothers and fathers

To our knees

To hold watch night service within our hearts daily


To daily hold watchnight service in our hearts

To bring our beautiful three-fifths human children home again

Singing songs of sorrow

Songs of oppression

Slave songs

Sometimes we simply rock and moan

We stand, we kneel, we pray

Sometimes in our private prayer closets

But always in our hearts


Always from our hearts

We reach out to the God that keeps us

And binds to each other

Bent low before the One Source

Backs broken in prayer and supplication.


Backs broken in prayer and supplication

Tonight and every night is watch night vigil for my child

Prayerfully asking

On this night

Will my child be human enough

To return to me unharmed



I Am the Rage


I am the rage,

Roiling just beneath the surface

I am the dream deferred



I am the promises kneaded and repeated

But never kept

I am the air between light and dark

Fueling flames that burn,

but can neither be consumed


Satisfy its own abiding hunger


I am the glowing embers you continue to poke and prod

with meanness

That bubbles over onto the streets


I am the ravenous appetite to destroy




I am the ever-present clanking chains

In the belly of the cargo hold

Struggling to love myself

A thing you have taught me to loathe

I am the dismal days and inky skies


I am the niggardly feeling that there is not enough

Will never be enough






To satisfy us all


I am the outrage that flares

Every time you say something foolish


“I thought you were already free.”


I am the disappointment that breathes hot and silent

Every time

I am dismissed



Cast aside

Counted as worthless or meaningless


I am the melody that lies inside every Negro spiritual

That sings praises of diminishing hopes in this life

And a brighter, fairer world in the next


I am the mother who wields the belt that cuts both ways

That beats my children

In hopes that you will spare their lives


I am the salty tears of anxious mothers

Frightened each time her child crosses the threshold

Praying for a return that is not guaranteed

Like payment

Of some impossible garnishee

On the lives we want for them


I am the furthest point from you

Thrashing about in the sea of doom

Gasping for air


I am the dark fiber

That runs through our shared history

That will not allow you to forget

A constant reminder to us both

That I can never go home

Can never find home


I am the rage,

Running unbridled through the streets


I am the fire this time

I am the rapacious thirst

Seeking justice

For all

On these dusky days and obsidian nights


I am the rage

That lives within the powder keg of unfulfilled lives

Awaiting the spark


I am the rage

I am the lost sheep

I am the muted prayer

That we will see each other clearly one day


Martina McGowan, MD is a physician, poet, writer, public speaker, and activist in the fight against social, racial, and sexual injustices. She is the author of “i am the rage,” a poetic exploration of living inside injustice, released February 2021 by SourceBooks. She is a contributor to the anthology, “2020; The Year that Changed America,” and an Associate Editor for “The Elevation Review Magazine.

Email: Blog: MartinaMcGowan.comFB: @MartinaMcGowanMD. Social media handles: @martinamcgowan.

All poems are subject to © Copyright 2020 Martina Green McGowan, MD


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