Love Poems for the Revolution: Building toward Utopia

Room and Augur put together our Utopia issue in a world where dystopia is always happening somewhere, as Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki wrote for Uncanny in 2022. Rewriting the future is critical work. It also happens in the living rooms, public buses, bomb shelters, coffee shops, hospital parking lots, and libraries of the world we inhabit today, from the pens of writers living every flavour of dystopia.

Utopia is not static: we build toward it every day. The through-line between our ravaged world and the liberatory utopias imagined by writerly visionaries is love. Longing for utopia is an act of love. Organizing toward utopia is an act of love. Building toward utopia is an act of love.

In this season of plastic roses and unethically-sourced discount chocolates, Room would like to make a different offering. This collection of love poems comes from writers who hold the present we live in and the utopias we dream of together in their hands and honour the time we spend walking the path from here to there. This Valentine’s Day, spend some time with this suite of revolutionary love poems; loving in a dystopia is a profoundly utopic act.

 


 

INTIFADA INCANTATION: POEM 38 FOR B.B.L.,” by June Jordan 

I SAID I LOVED YOU AND I WANTED
 GENOCIDE TO STOP 
I SAID I LOVED YOU AND I WANTED AFFIRMATIVE 
ACTION AND REACTION 
I SAID I LOVED YOU AND I WANTED MUSIC 
OUT THE WINDOWS 
I SAID I LOVED YOU AND I WANTED 
NOBODY THIRST AND NOBODY 
NOBODY COLD 
I SAID I LOVED YOU AND I WANTED I WANTED 
JUSTICE UNDER MY NOSE
 

We Love What We Have,” by Mosab Abu Toha

We love what we have, no matter how little, 
because if we don’t, everything will be gone. If we don’t, 
we will no longer exist, since there will be nothing here for us.
What’s here is something that we are still
building. It’s something we cannot yet see, 
because we are part
of it.

 

A Litany for Survival,” by Audre Lorde

For those of us 
who were imprinted with fear 
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads 
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk 
for by this weapon 
this illusion of some safety to be found 
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us 
For all of us 
this instant and this triumph 
We were never meant to survive.

 

Love Poems in the Time of Climate Change, Sonnet XVII,” by Craig Santos Perez

I don’t love you as if you were rare earth metals, diamonds,
or reserves of crude oil that propagate war:
I love you as one loves most vulnerable things,
urgently, between the habitat and its loss.

 

Jericho Brown in conversation with the Kenyon Review

Every poem is a love poem. Every poem is a political poem. So say the masters. Every love poem is political. Every political poem must fall in love. 

The political poem has an aim, whether the poet is aware of it or not. When I say I love you, I mean for you to understand that I exist in relation to you. And to your view of me.

 

For My People,” by Margaret Walker

For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way
    from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding,
trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people,
    all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless generations;
Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. 

 

Instructions on Not Giving Up,” by Ada Limón

When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty.

 

If They Should Come for Us,” by Fatimah Asghar 

my people I follow you like constellations
we hear the glass smashing the street
& the nights opening their dark
our names this country’s wood
for the fire my people my people
the long years we’ve survived the long
years yet to come I see you map
my sky the light your lantern long
ahead & I follow I follow

 

Tonight I’ll Dream of Nadia,” by Hala Alyan

When I ask the doctor if she’ll wake up again,
he says inshallah, a gift, a falsehood, and I thank him
for the prayer, for the antimicrobial soap, for
my uncle later that night in the nightclub shouting,
I love my people, and the music moving my hips

 

From “Understory,” by Craig Santos Perez 

what dreams

will echo
inside detention

centers and
cross teething

borders to
soothe the

thousands of
children atop

la bestia?

 

Postcolonial Love Poem,” by Natalie Diaz

I’ve been taught bloodstones can cure a snakebite,
can stop the bleeding—most people forgot this 
when the war ended. The war ended 
depending on which war you mean: those we started, 
before those, millennia ago and onward, 
those which started me

 

ON ANOTHER PANEL ABOUT CLIMATE, THEY ASK ME TO SELL THE FUTURE AND ALL I’VE GOT IS A LOVE POEM” by Ayisha Siddiqa

What if the future is soft and revolution is so kind that there is no end to us in sight. 
Whole cities breathe and bad luck is bested by a promise to the leaves. 
To withstand your own end is difficult. 
The future frolics about, promised to no one, as is her right.

 

Elegy,” by Aracelis Girmay

Perhaps one day you touch the young branch 
of something beautiful. & it grows & grows 
despite your birthdays & the death certificate,
& it one day shades the heads of something beautiful 
or makes itself useful to the nest. Walk out 
of your house, then, believing in this.

 

Love and Strange Horses—Intima’,” by Nathalie Handal

He came towards me. 
It was a quiet afternoon. 
I stood unmoving. 
And we listened to untitled music 
circling the earth like an anthem 
free of its nation.

 

You Are Who I Love,” by Aracelis Girmay

You are who I love, changing policies, standing in line for water, stocking the food pantries, making a meal 

You are who I love, writing letters, calling the senators, you who, with the seconds of your body (with your time here), arrive on buses, on trains, in cars, by foot to stand in the January streets against the cool and brutal offices, saying: YOUR CRUELTY DOES NOT SPEAK FOR ME

Pre-Order Our Next Issue

ROOM 47.1 Utopia
Join Room and Augur Magazine in our wanderings through dozens of different conceptions of utopia. Featuring new poetry by Larissa Lai and an interview with Whitney French.

Currently on Newsstands

ROOM 46.4 FEVER DREAM
From nightmares of forests, birds, compulsions, and the otherworldly, to dreams that bring the comfort of our ancestors, slip into the unconscious with this issue of Room.

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