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Monday, April 30, 2018

POEM: Parade of Virtues, 5:45am Thursday


PARADE OF VIRTUES, 5:45am THURSDAY

You wrong us
We let You know how
- is that not love?

You ask how to do better
We believe you can
- is that not faith?

You stumble or fail
You get another chance
- is that not patience?

You obstruct
We continue
- is that not persistence?

You press down
We rise up
- is that not determination?

Though You fail
We believe you'll succeed 
some day
- is that not hope?

You renew the cycle,
still We walk among you
- is that not tolerance?

We've offered You answers
when You have sought them
- is that not charity?

You ignore or dismiss this
and think You're doing fine
- is that not ignorance?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

30-Some Years and Counting

I remember you.

I don't remember your names or your faces or what assorted small Iowa towns you came from.

I was probably the only black person you'd ever met in person. You probably never knew a black person. I definitely didn't act or talk like the black people you'd probably seen on tv. The fact I didn't talk or act "Black" was something I heard a lot, especially in my teen years. You probably had no clue how to react to me.

I heard you that night in our cabin at the retreat center. It was late, lights were out, you weren't ready to sleep and you started telling jokes to pass time. Maybe you thought I was asleep.

I wasn't.

I heard every joke. Every word. Every use of the word "nigger".

I remember how easily and gleefully it came from your mouths, how easily nigger joke after nigger joke came from your seemingly endless stores of comedy black gold. I heard the reason we have sex on our minds all the time is because of the pubic hair growing from our heads. I heard about the truck with the shipment of bowling balls that picked up a hitchhiker and how the state trooper was dismayed when he discovered one of the nigger eggs had hatched. I don't remember all the other jokes, but I remember I dared not move, I dared not speak, I dared not give away that I was awake, and I definitely dared not fall asleep until after you did.

I may have told one counselor the next day, or I may have told one of my friends. I don't remember. If I did, I don't remember if anything happened as a result. No one left, but my trust definitely did. In a retreat center in small town Iowa, surrounded by small town Iowa Catholics I felt even more isolated than before. Washed over by messages of love and unity and service and acceptance, I remained on even higher alert.

I have never been called "nigger" to my face, just when nobody thought I was listening.

Poem: BURDEN OF PROOF

BURDEN OF PROOF

Prove to me
you can actually believe

Can you cite evidence
that my efforts
have any chance to actually
change your mind

For a chance of change
I have to have faith
in your good faith
though it seldom
proves to be so

I have every reason to doubt
you actually want to know
and want to try
rather than to simply
bog me down
or shut me up

If you actually did
I have to believe
you'd look for yourself

There is more than enough proof

You would choke on citations
cough up study
after study
be sick to death
of mounting evidence
you would drown in proof
while I have no proof
you would actually believe
this time


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Poem: I OFFER MIXED BLESSINGS

I OFFER MIXED BLESSINGS

I do not wish you ill

I wish you awareness
I wish you realization
I wish you an open mind
open ears
and an open heart

When those truly come
the weight of your ignorance
will cause confusion
turmoil
sorrow
pain

May you lament your past perceptions
and may the ignorance of others
drive you mad
drive you to speech
drive you to action

You might understand
our rage
our resilience
our restraint
the depth of our faith
and our dismissed strength

You may even grow
to resent their resistance,
remember it was yours,
and know at times
it could too easily be
again

I do not wish you ill —
only the experience
of awareness
as catalyst
and also
as curse

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Poem: BLACK ENOUGH ACTOR

BLACK ENOUGH ACTOR

I see others sweat,
see them wait and prepare
almost all of them looking like
a Black Actor

I hear them sing, one by one
voices sounding like Motown
or church —
knowing that's not me
my voice is not like that

I hear them perform, speak,
and recite
each one dramatic,
whether soft or raised voice
each one sounding like
a real, Black Actor
Is that what they want?

Is it better to choose
my favorite Angry Aaron
or stick with the coin flips
and be the only one like me
they'll likely see?

Should I use my time clowning,
geeking up hallowed space
before local theater
decision-making power?

Fear makes safer seem sounder,
stops me spreading my self
and my soul

Sinister, stifling whispers of fear
make safer seem smarter,
sensible,
sounder
stopped me from spreading
my self
and my soul

Almost.

I can't stand up to be counted
if I count myself out,
a different design of triple threat

but am I Black Enough,
or will they be won
by the One And Only Me?

Monday, March 26, 2018

Poem: THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT

Kids,
you are all right
you are fine

yes, you're doing fine

do not allow yourselves
to be crushed
there are those of us
who will stand for you
who will stand with you

some who want you
to stand up for yourselves
to stand with each other
to get more involved
to get off the couch
are now standing against you
shouting you down 

all from their couch 

in so many ways
they have been crushed
and let things happen
again
and again
they have been crushed
ground down from the grind
and convinced
that there's nothing you can do
but give thoughts and prayers

say thoughts and prayers
and thank American God
it wasn't you

you stand up
and march
and make sure you're heard
because if things never change
it could have been you
who could have
changed them

thoughts and prayers
and thank American God
that right here, right now
yes, it is You

Friday, November 17, 2017

Poem: I BELIEVE IN MAGIC

I BELIEVE IN MAGIC

There is magic, child,
in how people rush
to justify the unjust
how protectors
can kill with impunity
and almost 
every
time
be found guiltless
and go free

There is magic
in how speaking out
is a bigger problem
than injustice itself

There is magic
in how the right act
is an affront to liberty
in how doing better
is slavery
and the expectation to do better
is oppression

There is magic in how
somehow
there is not Enough to go around
but there is always Enough
for more of the same

There is magic
in how racism thrives
but no one is racist
in how sexism lives
as excuses die
and in how They demand
you always say "Please"
to get Them to give you
what you should already have

There is magic around you, child.
Just open your eyes.