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Hummingbird Effect in “A Poem to Be Read in Circuit”


The paper provides a comparative study of A Poem to Be Read in Circuit by Raquel Salas Rivera, the connection of the hummingbird effect with Eric Garner’s case, and their relation to the death of Sandra Bland. There are two major issues that make those cases similar. First of all, it is discrimination. The poem by Raquel Salas Rivera interrogates one question after the death of Sophia Isabel Marrero Cruz, who would cry for her. Although there is no exact answer to the question, it is evident that there will not be many people in mourning since the deceased woman was related to transgender people. In the case of Sandra Bland, racial and gender discrimination did not let her find the job which resulted in depression and inability to pay the fees which only maybe the situation worse. In the case of Eric Gardner, he was badly treated by the policemen due to his obesity and black skin. Secondly, the hummingbird effect can be traced in all the cases. Its essence is in the fact that action causes another one which is connected with the first action but still different. For example, the employment problems caused the depressive state of Sandra Bland and later caused her death. In the case with Gardner, the arrest unwillingly provoked his death.

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Contemporary American literature is rich in unique, authentic authors. Their extraordinary styles are especially evident in poetry. There is a tendency to create a poetic or prose piece to commemorate some weird events. Hummingbird Effect by Justine El-Khazen and A Poem to Be Read in Circuit by Raquel Salas Rivera can serve good examples here. The first peace is a nonfiction work, and the second belongs to poetry. However, it is not a poem in its classical meaning. The lines do not even rhyme. Thus it represents blank verse. In fact, these compositions are the appeal to the universe about the happenings that struck the authors. These events are not global but touch the topics and the people who were somehow important to society. Thus, what do the poems of Justine El-Khazen and Raquel Salas Rivera have in common and how are they related to the case of Sandra Bland’s death? These are the questions to answer in the paper.

A Poem to Be Read in Circuit

A Poem to Be Read in Circuit was created by a Puerto Rican poet Raquel Salas Rivera. She lived and worked in Philadelphia and her poetry together with essays and translations was issued in many journals and literary collections in America and abroad. One of the poems which are the issue of this paper, A Poem to Be Read in Circuit, was published in a journal of literature and arts Apogee. The mere fact that this literary work was published in Apogee witnesses its unique character since the journal is famous for printing inadequately represented fresh and brave works. Besides, the journal gives preference to the authors representing national minorities. Thus, issue 08 of 2016 appeared in winter. The cover was of unusual pink color, and the inscription said: “Sara Bland is not alive and someone is to blame.” It was probably the way to commemorate Sara Bland, a young woman whose death in a cell after the arrest was much discussed and argued in 2015.

The poem strikes the reader from the very beginning. The first page has nothing except the author’s name, title, and thirty-one identical lines reciting “who among you cries for SOPHIA ISABEL MARRERO CRUZ?” (Salas-Rivera, 2016, 32). The name is capitalized throughout the poem thus attracting more attention. Before further analysis, it is worth remembering why Sophia Isabel Marrero Cruz was so important for society and how she is connected to Raquel Salas Rivera.

Sophia Isabel Marrero Cruz, a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, was born in 1970 (Legal, 2016). Hence, the origin is the first thing that unites the two women. She moved to San-Francisco dreaming of college. However, the problems with language did not let her obtain a degree (Legal, 2016). After returning to Puerto Rico, she dedicated her life to the protection of the rights and interests of transgender people. Her activity was not limited to her native country. Cruz was also known as a community educator in transgender issues in Latin America and the United States (Legal, 2016). She was a kind of icon for transgender people since she did much for the recognition and support of those people. Consequently, her death was a shock for the transgender community both in the US and Latin America.

Getting back to the poem, it should be mentioned that the question asked on the first page is repeated on the following ones. Salas Rivera continues interrogating “who among you cries for…” (Salas Rivera, 2016, 34). It is interesting that although the name of Cruz is written in capital letters throughout the poem, the other lines do not have a single capital letter. It makes the eye catch the name first, and then the rest of the text, thus influencing the distribution of the reader’s attention. Salas Rivera addresses people of different professions.

“who among you cries for SOPHIA ISABEL MARRERO CRUZ?

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the doctor, the psychiatrist, the pastor, the lawyer, the cook, the poet … the theorist” (Salas Rivera, 2016, 34).

Besides, she repeats that “it’s a serious question” (Salas Rivera, 2016, 34). In fact, the poet does not expect any answers. She remembers the fact of the transgender experience that Cruz had which could be the reason why not many famous people were concerned about the death of Sophia Isabel Marrero Cruz. Salas Rivera accuses famous poets who “cried for so many who have died that we don’t know anymore how to alienate ourselves from the quotidian traumas” (Salas Rivera, 2016, 35). These lines focus on the fact that famous people would not cry for someone “crazy, contradictory, unstable” (Salas Rivera, 2016, 35). In fact, Salas Rivera speaks of disparities that are evident between transgender people and the rest of society. She supposes that more people would be bothered by the death of a person “if she were a cisgender … a cisgender man … had been on MTV …” (Salas Rivera, 2016, 35). Thus, the poem introduces the problem of inequality and discrimination. Also, returning to the shade of the journal cover, pink color can symbolize female transgender individuals since it a traditional women’s color. Besides, it is included in the Transgender Pride flag and Pink Triangle.

Case of Sandra Bland

The case of Sandra Bland gains another meaning in the context of the poem discussed above. This young woman considered she was there “to change history” (Nathan, 2016, par.1). She communicated her spectators through videos on a Facebook page known as SandySpeaks. The woman gave much attention to African American history. Bland proclaimed the idea of the friendship of black and white people and invited everyone to befriend. However, she became an even more famous postmortem. She is considered to be an accidental victim of police brutal behavior (Nathan, 2016). However, it is still not known what exactly happened in jail.

Her origin is, probably, one of the causes of her outcome. She was born to a mother who had five daughters and had to raise them on her own (Nathan, 2016). The family lived in poverty and changed their place to find better opportunities. Although Sandra was lucky to get a music scholarship at a university, she could hardly find a new job quickly. It is an example of racial and gender discrimination since black women “were more than twice as likely to be unemployed as white women” (Nathan, 2016, par.13). No work meant no money. Thus she could not pay the bills and fees she had to. It led her to a depressive condition. She was caught drunk or with drugs not once (Nathan, 2016). The last arrest became fatal for Sandra. The circumstances of her death are not clear until now. However, the strange death made her famous. If compared to Cruz, Bland’s representation in the media was broader. It brings another discrepancy: the circumstances around the person are more important than the personality.

The Hummingbird Effect and Gardner’s case

Then the case of Eric Gardner is a perfect example of the so-called hummingbird effect. A man was stopped by the police officers. Since they acted not appropriately, the man had problems with breathing and finally died. Thus, the actions aimed at the prevention of some illegal actions caused the death of the man. The case was much discussed and involved in a racial context as well. The work of El-Khazen (2016) was dedicated to Gardner’s case. Its initial aim was to attract attention to the cruelty of the situation. However, the unexpected effect was the people’s realization of how powerless and vulnerable they were.


The analysis and comparison of the cases of Gardner, Bland, and Cruz lead to the conclusion that the traditional problems of American society are still a burden. Despite the propaganda of tolerance, the issues of discrimination on gender or racial background still exist. Gardner was a black man, Bland was a black woman, and Cruz suffered due to her favor to transgender people. However, the stories of Sandra Bland and Eric Gardner are united with another thing. It is empathy that stimulated the ordinary citizens to seek the truth in both cases and make the guilty be punished. They provide unprecedented cases of people joining to solve the cases of the individuals they did not know. The story of Sophia Isabel Marrero Cruz as reflected in Salas Rivera’s poetry gives another example. It is that case when a person who dedicated herself to serving the people is undeservingly forgotten. Finally, the hummingbird effect should not be left aside. People should be aware that any action may have both expected and unexpected effects, and the latter ones are difficult to predict.


Salas Rivera, R. (2016). A poem to be read in circuit. Apogee, 08, 32-35.

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El-Khazen, J. (2016). Hummingbird effect. Apogee, 08. Web.

Legal, L. (2016). Sophia, we will miss your cry for justice and equality. Lambda Legal. Web.

Nathan, D. (2016). What happened to Sara Bland? The Nation. Web.

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