Photo of the author in the foreground of a dark and dimly-lit warehouse setting. This image captures the author reading his poem while an aerial performance artist is contorting while suspended from the ceiling with red fabric for ropes.


Fit To Be Tied

the disCOurse features writers sharing their lived experiences and their perspectives on the past with an eye toward informing our present. In this poem and accompanying performance, Stephen Brackett explores the knots—and nots—that can entangle us when we attempt to fly.

Stephen Brackett, with aerial performance by Amber Blais. Cinematography and editing by Daniel Sharkey

I am tired of braided abrasions

Of ligature mark calligraphy 

Tagged across nations

Equations of diasporic spread reduced to

Folklore and dogwhistles

I am impatient with hatred

I’m patient with how it bothers you

I know the hemp forget me knots have

Produced produce from relatives

I know you you know the pain it calls

And I know you don't get it 

Does my clarity induce jealousy

But it is so easy to put words in each other's mouths without discussing the puppet strings

Why does pulling on the thread of trauma make the nots stronger

Justice isn't just a class

To makes the blows softer

But trading blows is the currency

That we all were offered 

The more we struggle

The more we tighten the knots so

Hang on

I’m hung up on how we're strung up

How do we undo the nots and put a bow to alter all of what was done before

Some have-nots are nooses some have-nots are fruits

Some have-nots are on the gallows saying they could never be juiced

Claiming I could never ever be hung out to dry

While getting hitched as sure syrup’s sweetness can cut you when it's crystallized

And skin will spill its sorrow

When it’s abused doesn't matter how it's described 

Through all of the lies

Soon the truth will inhabit the skies

Have you noticed the smell of smoke suddenly 

The aroma, the cologne of collapsing colonies

The trouble of troubled  waters and furrowed brows

Deconsecrated sacred ground

Tearful apologies 

For by-proxy atrocities 

Leaving your history mythology 

Making my lineage laundry

On line to be separated sanitized scoured suspended and sundrenched

Your line has fairytales of erasure the tourniquet becomes clenched 

So tight like a fist it becomes us

So tight is the grip that it numbs us

So tight that our eardrums might rip

From the pressure

So swift is the release is feels almost like pleasure

And the scriptures we seek 

Are knives we keep to sever

A cord and battle scars that we lie about

How bravely we stood in the lion's mouth

Put our hands against the tide 

On the matters of our lives

We didn't run and hide

And find an out

We confronted the other side

I am one of the good ones

We tried

We tried we tried

But it was not enough

With a knot up in our guts

That keeps us on the ground when we need to stand up.


See more compelling videos from the Rainbow Militia in The Colorado Magazine, including a belly dance and an original song. It’s all part of History Colorado’s This Is What Democracy Looks Like initiative.

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