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I came across Santa Cruz County poet laureate Danusha Laméris's "Small Kindnesses" in a Twitter thread of favorite poets by black writers posted by Luther Hughes, founder and Editor-In-Chief of Shade Literary Arts, "a literary organization focused on the empowerment and expansion of literature by queer writers of color."

You can find the poem in her new collection from the University of Pittsburgh Press, Bonfire Opera, available at local bookstores.

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A few notes:

• I know the day after four days of uprisings against police brutality isn't exactly the best time to direct attention to a poem celebrating the unifying hope embedded in small social graces, especially as politicians and pundits rush to anoint angels and condemn demons while the President threatens to impose his own deadly, unholy order. At best it's a corny failure to read the room. But what can I say, except that I was moved!

• Despite the high volume of police brutality in the streets, it is impossible to forget that we're entering our fourth month of a deadly pandemic, and in some places nearing our third month of full lockdown. I cannot recall another time in my life when space has been so heavily policed. Stay 6 feet apart at all times, or 12 feet if you've participated in a protest. Avoid groups over five. If you visit "just one friend" look what will happen. No, you cannot walk by the East Precinct. No, you may not exit downtown to the north, the west, or the east— you may only go south. Stand here please. Walk this way down this aisle, and that way down this aisle. These directions are all given with good, sound intentions—to slow the spread, and to prevent destruction and injury. But it's all unnatural behavior for the friendly human animal. "We have so little of each other, now. So far / from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange," Laméris writes, after offering a heart-melting list of ways that people express kindness to one another other, mostly by making room for the other to pass. So, though it may be a little corny, there's rarely been a better time to read a poem about the pleasures of giving people space.

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