After the presidential election saw a Donald Trump victory, 28-year-old Mexican-American poet Elisa Chavez found herself in a state of shock. Before November 8, the hateful words Trump used to win over conservatives filled her with anxiety. She worried about what a Trump Administration would mean for members of her family. For many around the country, Election Day asserted that their worst fears had come true. “After the election, I spent the rest of that week basically catatonic,” she told me in an email. “But when I came out of it I just thought, there are so many amazing people in this country who are still here.” Reminding herself of the resiliency of vulnerable communities resulted in Revenge, a bold poem that is as witty as it is powerful.
From the opening stanzas, Chavez nails it.
Since you mention it, I think I will start that race war.
I could’ve swung either way? But now I’m definitely spending
the next 4 years converting your daughters to lesbianism;
I’m gonna eat all your guns. Swallow them lock stock and barrel
and spit bullet casings onto the dinner table;
I’ll give birth to an army of mixed-race babies.
With fathers from every continent and genders to outnumber the stars,
my legion of multiracial babies will be intersectional as fuck
and your swastikas will not be enough to save you,
because real talk, you didn’t stop the future from coming.
You just delayed our coronation.
The poem is an ode to all those who make the United States a richer country. As some hope to take the US backward, this poem highlights those who will take it into the future. “That’s the worst nightmare of the Trump voter motivated by racial animus and sexism and all the other isms: the Others are out there, and not only are we here, we’re here to thrive,” she added. “That’s why the poem’s titled Revenge – to me, the best revenge is all of us diverse people in America continuing to be ourselves. There is absurdity in the piece too, because to me bias is absurd, and some of the sillier [parts] – an army of multiracial children, gay robots built by Muslim teenagers – are my way of making fun of racism, but also a celebration of the future of America as I see it, America’s true future.”
In the next few years, we could see the rights of women, Muslims, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and those with disabilities severely threatened. As our communities organize, Elisa hopes her poem makes people feel less alone. And on those days when they feel drained, she wants them to know that their mere existence matters. “Just by existing you’re embodying something that a certain segment of this country can’t deal with,” she told me. “Just the idea of us terrifies them.”
The poem was published on the Seattle Review of Books’ website, where Elisa’s currently serving as the January poet in residence. As Quartz reports, Chavez’s poem went viral. Though in 2015 the Washington Post reported that poetry is going extinct, it seems to have found a second life on social media. Poetry’s succinct style lends itself well to Twitter. It’s social media that has helped Chavez spread her message further. Elisa, who started writing poetry a age 4, has received very positive feedback from Revenge.
“People have said this poem saved their lives which is outlandishly humbling,” she said. “I am thrilled that people are identifying with this piece and feeling nourished by it, but i think that to be saved by art, you have to be in a place where you’re open to that – so I think people who are touched by poems and visual art and beautiful films and things like that already have kind of a special quality within themselves.”
Check out Elisa perform the poem below, and read the full text here: