from Kwame Opoku-Duku’s “3 Poems”

This, from Kwame Opoku-Duku’s “3 Poems” (2016), paints the richest of scenes almost imperceptibly. I didn’t realize in how many ways it works until I copied it down into my journal and started making notes. It begs to be declaimed—the righteous keep moving forward is a truth meant to echo. It is to be your truth, but it comes from the strangest of oracles, [A] 90 yr old woman wearing a tee shirt that read: it is what it is.

3, from "3 Poems" (from Hobart)
Kwame Opoku-Duku


the righteous keep
moving forward
i heard it from
a 90 yr old woman wearing
a tee shirt that read:
it is
it is

A 90 year old woman wearing a t-shirt, telling herself or someone younger that “the righteous keep moving forward,” brings to mind a protest or march. I can’t help but imagine a sunny, hot day in the city with a mass of sweat and humanity getting tired of chanting, tired of dealing with police, trolls, and thugs, needing water and food. And then this 90 year old saying move on, get this done, send this message.

It doesn’t matter if she was at the supermarket, though. She’s 90 and vocal that you don’t stop pushing no matter what.

You don’t stop pushing despite your own doubts, if justice is on the line. (A desire to not harden into a cruel ideologue, an ability to admit guilt and make amends, has to be conceived as moving forward).

The funny thing is what she wears. A tee shirt that read: it is what it is. A friend and me, growing up in Jersey, encountered a large number of frat-boy types who had jobs or roles involving leadership. More than one would say “it is what it is” when something awful or disastrous was happening in order to wash their hands of the matter. Obviously, I think it’s significant that the oracle of this poem wears this slogan. “It is what it is” in the hands of a douchebro is an invocation of privilege, another way of saying “I don’t care unless you force me to.” “It is what it is” upon someone who has survived and perhaps even thrived in adversity is a statement of resolve. The world may change for better or worse, but her willingness to see things through, her character, do not change. “The righteous keep moving forward,” indeed.

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