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Spoken-Word Poet Rudy Francisco Performs His Poem “Rifle”

-In honor of
National Poetry Month, our next guest is here
to perform the poem, Rifle, from his book, “HELIUM.” Please welcome back to the show
Rudy Francisco. -[ Cheers and applause ] ♪♪ -And the article says, “The Mexican government
confiscates approximately 30,000
illegal firearms per year. When the guns are taken,
they get dismantled, and the metal is used
to make other types of weapons that will later be utilized
by their military.” In 2012, Pedro Reyes,
an artist from Mexico City, convinced his government
to donate the guns to him, and he turned them
into musical instruments. So, somewhere,
there’s a tambourine, a drum set, a guitar, all made out of things that were
used to take people’s lives, but now they create a sound that puts life back
into people’s bodies, which is to say a weapon
will always be a weapon, but we choose
how we fight the war, and from this I learned that even the most
destructive instruments can still create a melody worth
dancing to, and, sometimes, don’t we also
call that a battle? I wonder how long it took
to convince the first rifle that it can hold a note
instead of a bullet but still fire into a crowd
and make everyone move. When I was six, I was taught
how to throw a punch. In the ’80s, that was
the anti-bullying movement. Uh, the first time one of my
classmates took a “yo mama” joke a little too far,
I remembered my training, so I turned his nose
into a fountain. My fist, five pennies. I closed my eyes, I made a wish, I came home
with bloody knuckles, and it was the first
piece of artwork we hung on the fridge. I remember staring at my hands
the same way you stare at a test when
all your answers are correct. I didn’t know
what class this was, but I did know I was passing, and isn’t that what
masculinity has become? A bunch of dudes
afraid of their own feelings, terrified of any emotion
other than anger, constantly yelling
at the shadows on the wall, but still haven’t realized that we’re the ones standing
in front of the light? We learn how to dodge a jab. We learn how to step in
before we swing. We learn the heart
is the same size as the fist, but we keep forgetting they
don’t have the same functions. We keep telling each other
to man up, but we don’t even know
what that means. We turn our boys
into bayonets. We point them
in the wrong direction. We pull their triggers,
and then we ignore all the damage they’re doing
in the distance. The word “repurpose” —
The word “repurpose” — The word “repurpose” means to take an object
and give it amnesia. It means
to make something forget what it’s been trained to do so you can use it
for a better reason. I am learning that
this body is not a shotgun. I am learning that
this body is not a pistol. I am learning that a man is not
defined by what he can destroy. I am learning that a person
who only knows how to fight can only communicate
in violence, and that shouldn’t be
anyone’s first language. I’m learning the difference
between a garden and a graveyard is only what you choose
to put in the ground. You see, once… Once I came across a picture
of a strange-looking violin. The caption said that
it was made out of a rifle, and I thought to myself,
“You know… …someday that could be me.” -[ Cheers and applause ] -Rudy Francisco! That’s how you do it.
Thank you so much. His book, “HELIUM,”
is in stores now.

100 thoughts on “Spoken-Word Poet Rudy Francisco Performs His Poem “Rifle”

  1. I love this man, and to see him on the Tonight Show is amazing. His words move me I want his book. Omg I so proud of him! 😄

  2. i love rudy so much he's come so far and his words always help me, so happy to see him on this platform and get the recognition he deserves !!!

  3. Rudy you are a BEAST! You once performed in my classroom in Chapel Hill, and this poem will make its way into the forefront of my curriculum starting tomorrow. Yes, men, we can do it! Toughness is vulnerability and honesty and openness and real courage and sensitivity and…

  4. Rudy you are amazing! Love how you are able to put into words everything we want to say! Buy Helium and immerse yourself into a beautiful world of artistry !

  5. I love spokenword but hate being yelled can use dramatic effe t without Volumne..All the spokenword artists use this style.Thank God Im different.

  6. I don’t watch this show so often, and don’t really like slam poetry as opposed to more traditional forms… but I am so happy that a major line tv host had this form of art take the spotlight for a moment.

  7. Choose When We Fight
    The War.
    What Has
    When We Man Up
    And Play Music With
    But Not Know What That Means.

    When It is Not My First Language,
    But Humanity.
    Cuz you Know,
    That Could Be Me.
    That Was My Ancestries.

  8. Home Town hero. I remember watching him perform at Mira Costa college when I was still in high school. I remember watching him perform at the open mic nights on coast hwy across from the regal theater. He was the reason I started writing. Been following him ever since. This is beyond amazing and the piece was beyond powerful. Man. Rudy. Congratulations!

  9. My favorite poet! Helium is amazing, in fact it's the only book my 17 year old child has ever "borrowed" from me.

  10. Why do all poets sound the same now? At least all the ones that win awards.. It’s just talking.. there’s no art, no abstract visuals, it doesn’t allow the reader to fill in any blanks. It’s just description or thought like a journal with frantic rhythm.. guess that’s just my opinion tho

  11. Turning an instrument of the preservation of life, liberty, property, and limb into a musical instrument is a downgrade.

  12. Wow. There are so many different messages in that poem and he connected them all so beautifully. That was amazing.

  13. Just saw this on a TV rerun and I was hooked in seconds. Reminded me of the 70’s peace movement. Maybe there is hope for this generation.

  14. He made me cry. Yet Jimmy Fallon reaction was typical of a clueless insensitive white man. He didn't get the solomnnety of the poesy or was simply cold towards it.

  15. ♥️✊🏽♥️✊🏽♥️✊🏽♥️✊🏽♥️✊🏽♥️✊🏽♥️✊🏽♥️✊🏽♥️♥️✊🏽♥️🌚♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️✊🏽♥️🌚♥️✊🏽✊🏽✊🏽✊🏽✊🏽✊🏽✊🏽✊🏽♥️🌚♥️✊🏽♥️✊🏽🌚🌚🌚♥️♥️✊🏽♥️✊🏽♥️✊🏽✊🏽♥️🌚✊🏽♥️🌚🌚✊🏽🌚♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️✊🏽✊🏽✊🏽✊🏽✊🏽

  16. I’m so proud of you Rudy. I’ve been a big fan since I was in middle school and for you to get to this point. Wow. Inspiring and motivating, you’re words have touch so many. I hope to one day have half the artist talent that you do with words. God bless you and I wish you an amazing life.

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