Some tragedies are difficult to confront. Claudia Rankine’s poem from Citizen: An American Lyric (2014) titled “February 26, 2012 / In Memory of Trayvon Martin” uses imagery to show a desire to escape from the police brutality that affects the black community in the United States. Specifically, Rankine utilizes images of nature, which evoke a sense of peace that juxtaposes the event that the poem was inspired by. Imagery is a type of descriptive language that appeals to the senses and prompts the reader to create a mental picture inspired by the language.
Rankine’s repeated images of nature echo throughout the poem. In the fourth paragraph, mentions of the sky are woven between mentions of struggle and pain. Rankine writes, “On the tip of a tongue one note following another is another path, another dawn where the pink sky is the bloodshot of struck, sleepless, of sorry, of senseless, shush.” (89). The image of the pink sky falls in the middle of the sentence, which is concluded by a series of words that connote negative emotions. In this line, I was drawn to the image of the sky as it contrasts strongly with the emotions evoked by “struck, sleepless, sorry, senseless, shush” (89). Then, Rankine uses the image of blossoms to juxtapose violence, slavery, and brutality. Following a list of instances of violence and institutional racism, Rankine writes, “a throat slices through and when we open our mouths to speak, blossoms, o blossoms… The sky is the silence of brothers” (90). Rankine’s brutal image of hanging is juxtaposed here by the image of blossoms, which the reader associates with softness.
The effects provided by Rankine’s imagery are significant, as they offer a glimpse into the speaker’s coping mechanisms for grieving Trayvon Martin. By returning to images of blossoms and the sky, Rankine shows a desire to escape from the realities of police brutality.
Rankine, Claudia. “February 26, 2012 / In Memory of Trayvon Martin.” Citizen: An American Lyric, Graywolf Press, 2014.