Copper. An Anti-Racist Poem

Writing about slavery is like giving up on life. You have to feel the pain in order to be able to put it into words.

Emil-Iulian Sude is 47 years old, and his poetry debuted in 2014. In his childhood he was ashamed to tell others that he wrote poetry, but he remembers how he found in the verses of other authors the states of mind that inhabited him. “I was meticulous. I had to break walls so I could grow, he says. Copper is the title poem of his manuscript. Sude wishes this volume to be an anti-racist one, and he paces himself while working on it so that he doesn’t get swallowed by it. “I document myself and induce that state in which you feel like moaning in pain when you look at the past. It’s like a renunciation of life. Feeling that pain, I empathize and I write.”

This poem is part of a project called The Way of the Land, a journalistic initiative documenting the impact of 500 years of Roma slavery on relationships between Romanians and Roma today.

we didn’t have
only the continuation of emptiness in our chest we had
the traces scribbled on walls
no one asked us if we wanted to be born
if we wanted to die

in our joys even death tamed itself sometimes

we had nothing of our own
we didn’t fear would be taken

to be born or to die we didn’t want
we didn’t have anything we didn’t have

This poem was also published in print in DoR #46, as part of a series curated by Margareta (Magda) Matache, the director of the Roma Program at Harvard and a Roma rights activist. Because healing the wounds of the past has to start with recognition and reconciliation.