I’m Still Here

By Paz Griot


As the cop cars mar the boulevard,

as crosses burn on our front lawns,

as the white hoods hijack the streets,

as the slave ships contaminate the sea,

we tremble in our project walls.

Gunshots hit the horizon,

blood flies like cayenne pepper,

and we hide with our church hymns

under the floorboards.


Rip off our nooses,

grab your prayer beads,

raise a fist over flooded streets.

They can cut your paycheck,

they can cut your flesh,

they can’t cut your dignity.

See yourself free

here and now,

a Buddha to your people.


Love your paisley eyes,

your cinnamon skin,

love your crescent kink hair,

the gift of your origin.


Love the rhythm in your blood

the story of your spirit,

the drum, the strings,

the henna, the calligraphy,

let the robes fly like paper cranes,

descend on our city,

as we throw off our chains.


Break out of the jail cells.

Prostrate on your prayer rugs.

Light your pujas and red lanterns.

Throw out your skin bleach,

and say I’m still here

and I ain’t going nowhere.


Behind bathhouse walls,

Nazis beat us with steel boots,

churches shock us with shame tubes,

drag us down to the basement

told us AIDS was our judgment.


We loved in the shadows,

took shelter in secrecy,

the dark rooms of society.


As the demagogues mar the temple walls,

as the preachers pray for broken families,

as teenagers take refuge in old razors,

as bartenders run from the police,

a new apotheosis

demands self-acceptance

a new enlightenment

transcends affectation

and social mutilation.


Love the one who found you,

and love yourself

for being found.


from repressive closets

and build a wine cellar

on hallowed ground.


Reach out for your lover’s hand.

Look out to the liars.

Make home in iridescent sand.

Build your life out of truth

and say I’m still here

and I ain’t going nowhere.



Paz Griot is a spoken word poet, visual artist, actor, playwright, and performer originally from New York City. He now lives in Istanbul. He has written and published several poems, performed in countless plays and open mic events, written seven plays and exhibited his paintings, collages, and sculptures in six gallery shows in New York. He is currently writing his eighth play, and is launching a Zen meditation group.