Against the Current: Collective works on State Violence, identity and Resistance

Assata Shakur

Foreword: The italics are Assata’s words, quoted from her poem “Leftovers-- What is Left” which can be found on pages 146-147 of her autobiography. The italics below are not the full poem but excerpts lifted in the original order.

For Assata


After the bars and the gates

    there is a world outside ready to be blown apart

    ready for Assata begging for her to come back

    after these bars and gates I cannot lie there will

    be more barriers and boulders to move but there

    Is no doubt in anyone’s mind they will be moved

    they will be jumped, climbed over, torn down

    no man made structure lasts forever, nature can

    and will take everything back one day, Assata

    with your natural hair and strength of a tornado

    there will be no more bars and gates one day.

and the degradation,

    after the degradation there will be the Truth

    the truth is a fire nobody can put out

it may smolder it may burn almost to the end

but it will come back it will rage again it will be

told your words Assata are the truth they are

a fire no pig can stomp on your words are

cooking the best bacon I’ve ever tasted.

What is left?

    You are left, you are left beaten down and

    tired and sad but you also have the poem

    and all the other poems you have written

    what is left is the poem that is your body

    what is left is the work to do, to go to sleep

    to wake up and drink a cup of coffee and

    try to start again, what is left is hope how

ever dim what is left is the pen and the page

and your voice they can never take away

your words they can never silence you.



After the lock ins and the lock outs

    you will break in again you will break

    your sisters and brothers out they will

    break you out in the ultimate great escape

    after the lock has been picked and broken

and the lock ups,

    Assata, you will be the greatest legend of

    all time, the magic in your fingertips, the

    light in your bones can slip through any

    thing, they couldn’t hold on to you forever

    you will be remembered as the greatest

    escape artist of all time, better than Houdini

What is left?

    your empty cell without you, the looks of

    disbelief and anger on piggy faces what  

is left is a two million dollar bounty

    on your head that will never be cashed    

what is left is victory and a day to celebrate

    what is left is a two million dollar bounty

    on your head that will never be cashed


After the tears and disappointments,

    will come the victories and the smiles

    no matter how small they seem at first

    they will add and multiply and you

    will feel the warmth of a thousand

    cuban sunrises on your back.

After the lonely isolation,

    there will come the day you will get

    to see your daughter once more

    after the isolation comes the crowds

    comes the family and the friends they

    tried to hide from you, but even the

    cruelest cunning jailor can’t stop love

    from finding its own again.

After the cut wrist and the heavy noose

    there will be healing, there will be

    bandages and kisses and love

    blood is thick your body is strong

    it knows heartbreak and defeat but

    it knows how to keep walking with

    your head held high they can never

    take away your light the light in your

    blood shines on it shines on.

What is left?

    time time is what we have left we are

    not dead yet our hands still work though

    they may shake our feet may be calloused

    and raw but they still move our teeth may

    clatter but our voices still scream, what is

    left is your story, and we have read it.


Love is my sword

    So are your words so is your face

    your image is a beacon of hope

    let your love cut down the world

    we have grown to hate.

and truth is my compass.

    we will follow you anywhere Assata

    with truth at the helm and you as our

    captain, there is nowhere we cannot go.

What is left?


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