Poem of a Political Prisoner

Marilyn Buck: For Fear of Being Called

In Peru a demonstration
against a rise in bread prices
is stopped
because of threats to denounce
those who demand bread
as terrorists.

How greatly we fear language
an electric cattle prod
to drive us into corners
where we cower
for fear of being called
terrorists or communists or criminals.

How did we allow those who don’t give
a damn about how we
the 80% live or die
to rob us of our language
to intimidate us into cutting out
our tongues
and binding our limbs into lameness?

How can we be more afraid
to be called terrorists
than to die in the dark
with no one there to speak for us?
Published in ‘Syracuse Peace Letters’, March 1997.

Marilyn Buck is an American communist revolutionary and poet who is imprisoned for – among other things – her participation in the 1979 prison break of Assata Shakur, a leading member of the Black Liberation Army (BLA).

In 1985, Marilyn Buck and six others are convicted in the Resistance Conspiracy case, a series of bombings in protest of United States foreign policy in the Middle East and Central America.

The indictment describes the goal of the conspiracy as being “to influence, change and protest policies and practices of the United States Government concerning various international and domestic matters through the use of violent and illegal means”.

Marilyn Buck receives an 80-year sentence, which she serves in Federal women’s prison in Dublin, California. She writes and publishes many articles and poems.

In 2001 she wins the PEN Prison Writing Program poetry prize and publishes a collection of poems called Rescue the Word.

Ill, she is released on July 15, 2010, less than a month before her death.


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