Poem for the Resistance, January 21, 2017

by John James


First with the hands clenched around the sign’s wood,

resist. Your fists themselves are stones to be thrown.

Resist, next, with the heart, that viola humming in your chest.

Resist with the mind. Let reason do its work.

With your eyes. Do not let evil go unseen.

Repeat your resistance: repetition makes it real.

Like a virus, spread. Invade the blood, the lungs.

Resist in the name of science—of objectivity, of truth.

Resist for knowledge itself, for they would take it from you.

Resist for your family, for your mothers, daughters, sons.

Resist for posterity. The future will know where you stood.

Resist, too, for the past: you owe it to those who resisted

so today you could resist. For the fascists, resist,

for they deserve it too. Know this, they will deride you,

but resist their resistance, for that is the reason you resist.

Resist for the disabled. Those who cannot resist in body

resist the more so in their minds. Resist for the voiceless,

the fearful, the disenfranchised. Resist in the name of God,

if in a God you trust. Resist for the Qu’ran, the Bible,

for the Bhagavad Gita. Resist for whatever books you read,

for the right to read or burn them—even if you do not read.

Resist for the blind. They see what happens, too.

Resist for the environment, for clean water and air worth breathing.

Resist for the indigenous, who were here before you.

For women, from whose womb you come.

For teachers, workers, lawyers, engineers.

Resist for power, pleasure. Resist in perpetuity.

Resist your inclination to think you can’t resist.



Created: January 22, 2017

Age: 29

State: Washington, DC


John James is the author of Chthonic, winner of the 2014 CutBank Chapbook Prize. His poems appear or are forthcoming in Boston Review, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, West Branch, Best American Poetry 2017, and elsewhere. He serves as graduate associate to the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University, where he directs the Summer School's Creative Writing Institute.