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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
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
Tonight as tears choke -
I hold fast onto
the poetry of possibility...
Always and forever - light shall follow
It is our mandate to shine.
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.
The color of my blood
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
to bleed out in the dark.
a beacon in the fiber
The shape of my eyes,
the sound of my voice,
the shade of my skin,
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.
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!