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Poetry Corner: Dasan Ahanu, 'Can I'

ED GORDON, host:

Earlier in the program, we heard about the alarming incidents of domestic violence in black communities. Spoken Word artist Dasan Ahanu reads his poem, Can I, which he wrote while doing sexual assault awareness and education work with men in Durham, North Carolina.

Mr. DASAN AHANU(Poet): (Reading) “I want to dry your tears and hold you until comfort sets into your skin like icy hot, and everyone can smell your new day coming. Because your body needs it, your soul needs it, your spirit needs it. And he tried way too hard to take it.

Too many times he blamed you, yelled at you, insulted you. Too many long nights sleeping away the pain, and you never expected it to be like this.

When you signed your name on the dotted line and contracted a disease you never expected, a disease called H-I-M. A power-hungry man who never gave a clue. They usually never do.

Two sides of doom, one lulls you in so compassionate and caring, the other captures you so intensely, so angry, and it should never be like this.

It pains me to know that one in four women live like this. That fatality comes from the hand of a partner more than the hand of a stranger. And you were caught in his web. I wish I could run my finger down your cheek and sing you songs of a new day.

Like Ask Me, by Amy Grant. Better Days, by Guy Clark. How Come, How Long, by Babyface. You are Gloria Gaynor and you will survive. And if necessary, we can be like Dixie Chicks and tamper with his Black Eyed Peas and run off together, leaving behind a missing person that no one misses at all.

You are strength. You don't deserve it.

Made it through the constant resistance to not lose it to a swinging fist, and it should never be like this. Your skin is beautiful. Is a leopard horrific because it has spots? I make you laugh because I say your complexion has character, but there is no quick healing factor.

And I know that you wish for wolverine's claws so you can tear through his body of evidence that says he should get it now. His case stands on brawn; but even in marriage, no means no.

Made it through isolation and verbal attack. Pinch the pennies that he overlooked in his forced incarceration. Times must change, and I want to help you plan.

Mr. AHANU: I wrote the poem Can I because I felt that, as a man, I needed to address the violence that women face. I've been working for about three years on sexual assault and rape awareness prevention, so the poem itself just kind of speaks from man's point of view: looking, and seeing, and recognizing what the violence is. And as the poem goes on, I start to speak about how I'm there as a supporter and a secondary survivor to help her get through her situation.

And saying that I'm willing to do whatever I need to do. So it gives a sense of accountability and a sense of responsibility for stopping the violence.

GORDON: Poet Dasan Ahanu, reading his poem, Can I.

Dasan co-founded the group Men Against Rape Culture in Durham, North Carolina. His organization works with other North Carolina coalitions to raise awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence. Dasan also teaches at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.