we’re taught to hold hands
when we cross the street
or walk with our mothers in parking lots or
navigate crowds with a friend and
don’t want to end up alone

hold hands with whomever is closest
when the power goes out
when the sirens scream near
when the moving of men marches
silences into the corner

hold hands when
they come calling,
when they threaten,
“this is necessary to
teach you a lesson” or
“this is necessary
to protect you”

hold hands when we stand still,
when we walk, when
we run
when they tell us to
when they tell us
to do anything

hold hands when we
fall from the sky,
with or without parachute
when we leap from tall buildings,
with or without
the ability to fly

hold hands with the ones who
look like us,
talk like us,
believe like us

hands like fragile boxes or bombs,
things that could break or explode

each finger a troop in the human army
each gesture a shield

This poem is reprinted with permission from The Quarry, produced by Split This Rock. Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness is a three-day poetry festival in Washington, DC, which takes place this year from April 19-21. The program includes readings by some of the most significant and artistically vibrant poets writing and performing today, including Elizabeth Acevedo, Sherwin Bitsui, Camille Dungy, Sharon Olds, Sonia Sanchez, and Paul Tran.