Two Guns in the Sky for Daniel Harris: Raymond Antrobus' powerful poem on race, disability and police violence
'When Daniel Harris stepped out of his car the policeman was waiting.'
The Raymond Antrobus poem, Two Guns in the Sky for Daniel Harris, is an elegiac work dedicated to Daniel Harris, an American deaf man who was fatally shot by a North Carolina law enforcement officer who didn't understand Daniel's use of sign language. The poem speaks to society's ignorance of language, culture and race.
The poem begins:
"When Daniel Harris stepped out of his car
the policeman was waiting. Gun raised.
I use the past tense though this is irrelevant
in Daniel's language, which is sign."
Antrobus performs the full piece in the video above.
Antrobus is a poet, author and spoken word performer of British and Jamaican heritage. The author's debut poetry collection, The Perseverance, is a work that explores the poet's diagnosis with deafness as a child, his mixed heritage as well as his father's alcoholism and later decline into dementia and death.
The Perseverance is the first book of poetry ever to win the U.K.-based Rathbone Folio Prize ― an annual £30,000 prize awarded to the best work of literature in any category — and was shortlisted for the 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize.
Antrobus spoke to CBC Radio's Writers & Company host Eleanor Wachtel in a 2019 interview, where he talked about his Jamaican heritage, his complicated relationship with his late father and his experience growing up deaf ― a diagnosis he received when he was six years old.
Antrobus's conversation with Wachtel will air on CBC Radio on Sunday, June 16 at 3 p.m. ET & AT, 3:30 p.m. NT, 5 p.m. PT, MT & CT.