Doyali Islam: "She Testifies"

"she testifies" was originally published in issue 03 of Canthius. In light of the recent outcome of the Raymond Cormier trial and because it's Black History Month, we have chosen to republish the poem online followed by an audio recording of the poem and a note from the author. An interview with the author is forthcoming this year. 



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A note from the author: 

I began “she testifies” after Tina Fontaine’s body was pulled from the Red River in 2014. In the poem, water itself speaks back on behalf of womxn/girls about the multiple violences done to them, and on behalf of Emmett Till, whose black body was at the centre of a 1955 racially-motivated murder in Mississippi. Water refuses to collude with these killers or to participate in their heinous settler-colonial/patriarchal attempts at silencing: “like glass, I drove her fragments to shore.”

Given this month’s news here in Canada about Raymond Cormier – no #JusticeForTina – and the fact that we’re also at the tail end of that dubiously-labelled month – Black History Month – the poem “she testifies” has been “bobbing up” in my heart and consciousness again. I feel sorrow and anger that this poem is still timely, still necessary – especially with regard to Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Womxn and Girls (#MMIWG).

J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant were arrested for and acquitted of the 1955 murder of Emmett Till. According to a 2005 article in Jackson Free Press, “It was widely known that Bryant and Milam committed the crimes. … In October, [when they] could not be re-tried, they sold their confession to Look magazine for $4000, admitting to killing the boy.” A 1985 Jackson Daily News article quotes Roy Bryant as saying, “He’s been dead 30 years and I can’t see why it can’t stay dead.” 

Keep wringing out the names.

Doyali Islam is an award-winning and Toronto-based poet, as well as a 2017 National Magazine Award finalist for poetry. Read/hear more of her work in Kenyon Review Online, The Fiddlehead, This Magazine, and CBC Radio’s The Sunday Edition. Doyali serves as the new poetry editor of Arc Poetry Magazine and as the new editor of Write: The Magazine of The Writers’ Union of Canada. Interviews on poetics can be found at Doyali’s currently finishing her second full-length poetry manuscript. For updates, follow her on Twitter at @doyali_is.