Monday, November 5, 2018

POEMS FOR PITTSBURGH

These days, it feels like our hearts break every day. Never did we think things could get this bad. The angry rhetoric is loud and divisive. But we know the good hearts are many, and the haters are fewer - (if more numerous than we thought). So when Pearl Ketover Prilik, who blogs at Imagine,  and Ayala  Zarfjian, of  a sun  kissed life,  wrote poems reminding us that light always follows darkness, I knew I had to share it. It is an important message. May our souls hold onto this comforting reminder.







Jeff Swensen photo / Getty Images

I have no poetry tonight for the life blood
spilled of the eleven souls at prayer -
I have no poetry tonight for the shopping
grandfather shot in the back of his head,
no poetry tonight for the murdered
grandmother in a parking lot -
All massacred for their "audacity" to draw
free and safe breath in the gust of fetid
toxic, lethal lunacy -
I have no poetry tonight for the hate-hand
that shook
the locked church door
I have no poetry tonight for envelopes of
destruction mailed to free thinkers
No, I have no poetry tonight for hatred, nor
intractable ignorance - Pretty words will
not warm the bodies now cold.
An explosion of poetic lyricism will not
bring forth another song, or shout, or sigh
from the dead.
Tonight, I save poetry for the spark of
humanity that flickers in the darkest
night and flames in brilliant conflagration
when united in common cause.
Tonight I save poetry for that bright
shining arc bending toward justice
....smelted in the white heat of our
collective outrage.
Tonight as tears choke -
I hold fast onto
the poetry of possibility...
Always and forever - light shall follow
darkness.
It is our mandate to shine.
Now.


                                                                              WPRI.com image


Sherry: And shine we do, after every act of inhumanity against our fellow beings. Our light must outshine this darkness, if we are to survive.

Pearl: I spent a good part of the past few particularly horrific days online posting and responding to unfolding, unsurprising yet still murderous hate-driven events. We live in a nation, a representative democracy, that has always survived as spun sugar atop an underbelly of hatred and violence. Throughout the years, from our inception as an insurgent nation displacing an indigenous people, importing others as slaves, we have bumbled along, a lynching here, a granting of freedom there. We are, and always have been, far from perfect. 

Yet....Yet......Yet, in times of crisis, we have always felt that the President would turn to the vision of the amended Constitution, or, perhaps more accurately, to the vision of the nation we wished to be, and speak to all of us, one nation, indivisible, resilient and committed to freedom for ourselves and others. 

We are now living in a time of a 'reality show entertainment' presidency, who has successfully stoked, unleashed and normalized the worst impulses of far too many, to suspect differences of faith, face, or opinion as fearsome.

This President did not create hatred, intolerance or prejudice - however, he, as other autocrats of the past, is energizing the disaffected with scapegoats and bogeymen and women.

We are facing a difficult time. With an election imminent, we could restore some balances and checks, as our government intended, upon the executive office. However, I believe we are attempting to vote away demagoguery. I believe we are grappling with the trajectory of the very soul of our nation. We have moved far beyond party politics to a place where we must believe in the innate goodness of people, and a Universal leaning towards justice and freedom.....

Not only because, in my humble opinion,   because that is the "right way" to proceed, but because I believe that our survival as a nation and a world  depends upon that flicker of light within us all.

Sherry: I agree, Pearl. We are at a turning point, dark versus light, the soul of a nation.

Pearl: This dark pall that has fallen upon us cannot be the cause for despair, but must be seen as this age's clarion call to shine a bright light and move forward together, never being silent or hopeless in the face of the spectre of hatred's manifesto or manifestation. 

The words of this poorly thrown together poem were my attempt at solidarity of spirit for the story of our nation and world, that we can and must not cede to destroyers and naysayers. We can and shall overcome. 

In peace and love and commitment to continue to do better and be better - I write.

Sherry: Those words are not poorly thrown together, Pearl. They flowed straight from your heart. Thank you for saying what we are feeling so clearly. Haters will not turn us into haters. We stand united.

Ayala posted a poem for Pittsburgh, too, that i am happy to include here. Ayala's family came to the U.S. anticipating welcome. I can only imagine how they are feeling now.







The shape of my eyes,
The sound of my voice,
The shade of my skin.
My sexuality.
The color of my blood
the same
as yours.
If you saw the light in my eyes
if you saw my mother's tears,
if you felt her fears,
grief engraved on her skin.
Would you have yanked me
like a weed from the   
garden of life.
Would you have shattered
me in pieces
leaving me
to bleed out in the dark.
Ideologies differ,
dreams unalike,
my diversity
makes me
unique,
beautiful,
majestic,
a beacon in the fiber
of humanity.
The shape of my eyes,
the sound of my voice,
the shade of my skin,
my sexuality.
The color of my blood
same as yours.

Ayala: i wrote 'The color of My Blood' for the victims of the Pulse nightclub. I feel it is fitting, after another senseless act of violence. My thoughts are with the people of Pittsburgh. The victims woke up Saturday morning and all they wanted was to practice their faith, to observe the sabbath. I have no words.

Sherry: Your poem says it all, my friend. Each of us just wants to live in peace, to strive toward our dreams. The colour of our blood: the same for every human heart. Thank you for adding your clear, true voice to this conversation. I hope your family knows that most of us celebrate diversity and see a fellow human being, when we look at each other. Those who do not may be very loud right now. But many are rising in opposition. 

I pray for a kinder world, soon. But we have to do more than pray. We must extend our hands in friendship, help others to feel seen and welcome and safe. Smile at the guarded faces of those who feel threatened in this tense atmosphere. Let people know there are more lovers than haters in this world.


I found the following poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, who often writes words that inspire, when one most needs to read them.  I wanted to share it, especially for the message in its closing lines. We can respond to divisiveness with inclusion and warmth. Politically, the gulf is wide. But person to person, we can reach out, join hands, believe this aberration will end, and life will be good again. We live in hope, even when hope falters.





SHOULDERS
by Naomi Shihab Nye

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.


This man carries the world's most sensitive cargo
but he's not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
HANDLE WITH CARE.

His ears fill up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy's dream
deep inside him.

We're not going to be able 
to live in this world
if we're not willing to do what he's doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

                   *****

My friends, take heart. Have courage. Inevitably justice and what is right must triumph. I hope these poems have helped in some small way to light a flicker of hope and resolve. Events come so thick and fast, one can feel overwhelmed. That is when we need to be most aware and plugged in. And united! Vote America kind again. 

Thank you, Pearl and Ayala, for your inspiring words.  They were what I needed to read just when I needed to read them.

Do come back to see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


32 comments:

  1. Sometimes this bottom part of the post shows up at the top of the page, sometimes not. When I try to remove it, it removes EVERYTHING, so I will leave it alone. Please ignore it if it shows up on your screen. Smiles. Thank you, Pearl and Ayala, for your very moving poems. My attention will be focused on the polls tomorrow. We live in hope.

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    1. Thank you so very much Sherry - you are an inspiration, a motivation a light and a bastion to commitment. Hugs and love and smiles. Yes, we live in hope - moreso because of you.

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    2. Pearl, your words warm my tired old heart. Thank you.

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  2. These are such wonderful loving poems, souls for all nations, elbowing hate out of the way with love.

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    1. Thanks, Chris. What a beautiful comment. Love trumps hate, for certain.

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    2. Yes, Christine what a beautiful comment a poem in itself..
      elbowing hate out of the way with love." Yes!

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  3. Sobering but necessary writing, in both poetry and prose, from two very eloquent poets – and their no less eloquent interviewer! The Naomi Shihab Nye piece is the perfect closing to this post. Thank you so much to you all for spreading the light.

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    1. Rosemary - tonight I think of your roses and inhale the spirit that you send. Thank you.

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  4. I am so grateful to read these poems, glad someone has the words I need to strengthen my hope, which is dim now. Thank you Pearl and Ayala. Your words are so inspirational. I appreciate that you write what I needed to read.
    Sherry, thank you for your words of wisdom and your call for kindness to renew itself. I've been rather paralyzed lately, incredibly immobilized by what's happening in this country. I do hope that hearts that have been darkened, get infused by light. May love triumph.

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    1. My hope was growing faint too, Myrna....but let's hope tomorrow helps restore the balance of power, so kinder hearts can prevail. Other wise, we are sunk.

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    2. Myran and Sherry ... I can see where light of hope may feel dimmed and the fear of more darkness overwhelming - but we shall never be sunk unless we drill holes in our own boats and sit captive, paralyzed and stunned. We may be fearful of this surreal tilted world where hatred is running as a wild unrestrained toddler ... but the only time I believe we might be in danger of drowning is if we find that we are turning to hatred. I highly doubt that this community would find themselves suddenly converted to a lack of conscience for each other and the world... and so though hope may be challenged it cannot be snuffed out no matter the circumstances. Let's hope for a break in the "challenge" and a bit of check on the madness around us - but also continue to remember that even if one finds themselves in a locked psych ward - one is not suddenly insane. Stronger hearts will prevail and kindness will follow if results are not kind.

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    3. Yes, i am certain we will never turn to hate. The past two years have been discouraging. But tomorrow may bring hope.

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  5. Yes, yes, yes, and again yes. Your poems are worth reading again and again. Thank you too for including one of my favorite Nye poems, one I used to bring into High School classes. Never think your words are too rough, or too anything, but perfect. Read these poems out as often as you can, whether at rallies or a meet-ups or in groups of friends and relatives. Thank you.

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    1. YES. I am most excited that the students plan to walk out of school tomorrow to vote.

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    2. Susan ... yes... if anyone should need a push due to despair or a dimming of hope ... please do VOTE ...

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  6. Thank you, Sherry. I am sad that we have to live through so many tragedies but grateful that we can shed a light with our words. Thank you again.

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    1. Ayala, you words are powerful, strong, beautiful and shining a bright light on the majesty that certainly is you.

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  7. Thank you for saying yes, Ayala. I know you feel these times very acutely. Just know there are more of us who embrace and welcome those who come to these shores, than those who don't. The daily rhetoric is hard to bear for me; it sickens me. It must be even more so for you.

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    1. On that note Ayala, it is precisely the beauty of your spirit and words that are the heart and soul of this nation. There has always been hatred in this country and there has always been the strength to fight hatred and oppression. It is wonderful that you are now here - all of us ONE nation, indivisible.

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  8. Beautiful words to heal as we all keep looking toward the light of hope! May we find that hope tomorrow following the election.

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    1. Even a wilted plant will thrive in the sunlight... yes we need to keep looking toward the light of hope. As, I believe it was, Michael Moore, stated "we do not have the luxury of despair."

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  9. Dear friends.. I just finished writing my warmest feelings to you and whoops here came another challenge... as I was about to hit post my page simply blinked and whoosh all was gone.. so I shall begin again...and be sure to copy as I write...I'll be back in a few moments...

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  10. I am glad it is not just me that these incomprehensible things happen to, lol. You can imagine when i tried to remove the thing at the top of this feature and the whole THING went blank. Thankfully i kept my head and pressed the back button. Oh my goodness.

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  11. A moving post … the poems and narrative, give pause and inspire contemplation at a time when we - all of us - need to give sober reflection to questions such as: what do we want to be about and how do we translate that into what we can do for our world. Wonderful work on this, Poets. Thank you, Sherry, Pearl and Ayala.

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    1. Thank you Wendy for your words - it is at times of challenge and testing that we need each other most - and it is wonderful to be in the company of conscientious contemplation - I love thinking about the idea as to "what do we want to be about and how do we translate that into what we can do for our world." It is reflection such as yours that keeps the flame of hope aflame.

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  12. Ahhhh what can one say on a night like tonight? I am honored and inspired and truly grateful to Sherry. Perhaps never more than when we are deeply challenged do we as poets need each other, to hear each other’s words, to see as we struggle to articulate the inexpressible and to warm ourselves even just a bit in the light of like-minded souls. Ayala, your words were just perfectly suited to the times “a beacon in the fiber of humanity” on this night of uncertainty. Tonight as we sit together in spirit joined in the soul of poetry – the vision of a kinder, more passionate, vibrant world – protected forever in the everlasting spirit of the poetic heart. Sherry, you shine bright tonight in bringing this inspiration and camaraderie at just the needed moment. The poem you chose to share, Shoulders, by Naomi Shihab Nye was simply breathtaking in its inspiration and stunning beauty. Yes, we hope for a change tomorrow and yet tonight steeped in and anxious in this often grim surreal tilted-world we must and will continue to care for and about one another. No matter the outcome of tomorrow’s election we will continue to realize that as the father in this beautiful poem, we all carry “the world’s most sensitive cargo” … each other.
    Thank you, Sherry, Ayala, Naomi, and this wonderful poetic community – Perhaps, there is nothing certain but that we shall continue – together – in a tapestry we create together. To one and all, in solidarity, yes Sherry and resolve and commitment to never be silent.

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  13. Thank you for your wonderful thoughts, Pearl. If we cant be at the border, offering food, comfort and welcome, we can share our love for our fellow humans who suffer, vote for those who work for social justice, and spread light to combat the darkness. It does help. I feel heartened by this sharing, almost as if we held our own small vigil for Pittsburgh in this space. Thank you, friends.

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  14. Pearl, your poem is inspired. Your poem awes me, and I agree with everything you said about the political framework of today which seems to inspire violence such as occured at Pittsburgh. Ayala, I also think that your poem written initially for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre is very apt in response to the Pittsburgh massacre. Interesting how both of these killings were inspired by a hatred of a group of people. Then there was the shooting of two people of color in a Kroger store (another minority) and a shooting iof women (targeted) in a yoga studio in Florida. What a world this has become! Sherry, thank you for also sharing the words of Naomi Shihab Nye, a poetic voice I have always admired. May we be a kinder and gentler nation soon. Not holding my breath unless the political climate changes, but who knows..... A very timely feature. Thank you, all.

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  15. Sherry, thank you for sharing these poems...each one different and just want I needed today, while the ads are still shouting and I am avoiding anything that looks like election coverage.

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  16. You are most welcome, friends. It was my privilege to put this together.

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  17. beautiful words by all of you. although much hate is being projected in our society now days 'we' must all be a beacon of light so that we brighten the darkness. we must all show that we love even in the simplest of ways; a smile, a gesture, a gift, words, etc. as long as I have a voice, I will project it with peace, love and joy.

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