Monday, November 2, 2015

When S**t Gets Real

The shit gets real when
your mother asks if you've thought about
what you'd like done if you die.
I'm thinking about it now.
But I don't plan to die,
not yet.
Not my body.

My body is
pulsing with
pulsing with
pulsing with

despite signs
from outside
that signal
darkening days.

My body will be safe and sound.

The rest of me...
As I crunch leaves on the sidewalk
I know death is
necessary shedding,
allowing fallow time
to gather strength for

That shit is real.

I put my faith in the trees
that know more life than I,
in roots
for the Center,
in limbs
towards Expanse,
towards Light.

I put my trust
in the lesson
that dying is not
an all-or-nothing deal.

I look to the mystery of
What Is To Be
that I cannot see
until it is,
or sometimes
long after.

I believe
in yellow
in orange,
know that these are
within me,
will fall away
as I stand strong,
my core

I believe
in green to come.

That shit is real.

Monday, October 19, 2015

does she dare?

I was invited to write a piece in response to a painting for an exhibit at the Family Court. The theme of the exhibit, consisting of 11 paintings by Betty Dore, is domestic violence. Today was the reception and we writers were invited to read our pieces. Below is the poem I wrote in response to the painting. The first line contains the words on the painting.

cautiously she approaches the edge of Dread.

does she dare?
does she dare step over the line?

she has looked that way so many times,
snuck closer
when she thought
she was alone.
but then
a butterfly startles,
or birdsong,
or blossoms,
and she runs,
cowering in fear of hope.

she knows Dread.
born in this town, she feels her way through it,
            steels her way, avoiding traps sometimes,
she knows the rhythms of this place
            the beats that will signal just when she will hurt,
            the pauses that guide her to moments of rest

then without warning the tempo starts again
so frantically
she can’t keep up,
can’t keep up,
can’t breathe,
can’t breathe,
can’t ―

her body knows ROYGBIV,
and not in that order.

in Dread silence,
whispers from hope
discover her.

does she know them?

murmurs greet,
she’s never been there,
sounding sweet,
maybe once as a child,
move her feet,
or in a dream,
is she wrong?
edges fading, blurry brightness,
but she longs,
walking into blinding fright,
it’s her song,
in Dread she never needs to shade her eyes,
            it’s her song.
but Hope blazes.

She stands,
eyes closed,
and lets her feet follow the pulse
She knows in her soul.

and when She arrives at the edge,

            She stops,

opens her eyes,
slowly lets them

the colors make sense.
and the birds.

and She dares,

steps forward.

dread behind her,
Hope her new home,   

where the butterfly becomes her friend.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Autumn Lesson

In autumn 
            the trees
show us the beauty in endings,
in liberating pieces of ourselves,
our lives,
                        without fear.

In brilliant style
            celebrations of lives well-lived
                                    let go,
                        gracefully float to become
the stuff of parties –
confetti for the child,
noisemakers crunching under feet,
            leaf beds for jumping and
raucous play.
She disturbs her parent too serious,
too focused on work,
no time for play,
for pause,
                        for noticing the splendor
of death on the ground.
Tree feathers shed
raw beauty,
bare truth.

Rest in the long darkness.
Embrace mortality,
sacred cycles:

Green will come again.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Stories We Tell

I love to tell stories. I love to weave together threads of lives that may seem unrelated (even to me when I begin) until, in and out, in and out, the strands come together into a surprising piece of beautiful cloth. That is why I write…or at least that is why I share some of the things that I write.

There are other stories I tell, too. They are the ones I whine to my close friends, or utter with despair, or whisper with an optimism that somewhere deep I know isn’t justified. These are the stories that go scrawled in my journal- not fit for public consumption.

I was recently walking with a friend who had just been to hear BrenĂ© Brown speak. My friend was gracious enough to share some of the wisdom she had gleaned from the day. The piece that has come back to me over and over is about stories- not like the ones woven through me that become beautiful once complete. Rather the stories we make with threads that get tangled and knotted as they wind around each other … and through us…The kind that twist through my stomach…and back…and neck…and head…the ones that would create dissonance if they were music. Familiar stories, but ones based on illusion rather than reality: that I am unlovable or unloved; that I am not enough…or too much; that there is something inherently wrong with me that causes some people to turn down or not respond to my invitations or that makes me unworthy of invitations from them. Twist, tangle, knot.

Disclaimer before I go on: I have not yet read BrenĂ© Brown’s new book and I may be completely misremembering what my friend said. But even if I am misremembering, my interpretation of her words has served me well thus far.

I, like many other people, am good at making assumptions and snap judgments- about how something or someone is, about why someone is or isn’t acting a certain way (read: the way I want). These assumption and judgments may lead me to frustration, anger, sadness, blame…nothing that is particularly helpful. Yes, there are times when frustration, anger and sadness (I left blame out for a reason) are appropriate, but not when they’re built upon the shaky foundation of my imagination (not to dis imagination, but it’s got its right time and place).

Since the conversation with my friend, I have been hyper-aware of the stories I tell- the ones that tangle and knot me up, instead of loosening and liberating me. I notice when the twisting begins and I ask myself: What do I really know here? The answer is usually short. And so I gently tease open the thread threatening to choke me in its knot.

Here it is the absence of story that is beautiful, that frees me. It is the letting go of the assumptions, fears, and insecurities that twist me up. It is recognizing the old wounds, still tender, and treating them gently, allowing them to reside in their own land of the past, but not allowing them to claim new territory in the present.

This is not easy. Sometimes it’s like trying to stop the swinging of a pendulum between false hope and despair. But sometimes I can rest in the center of what I know. At ease with what is. There it is calm; it is balm; it is palm trees, just the right amount of sunshine, and cool water; it is breathing in the purity of what is. That’s how good stories should end, right? Happily ever right now, grounded in the present. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

I want to be a bridge

Two years ago I was in Palestine, serving my first stint with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron, Palestine. Exactly two years ago today, I posted a picture on Facebook: spray-painted graffiti  that read "Death to Arabs" in Hebrew. It was just outside a newly opened kindergarten for Palestinian children. Leading up to the kindergarten's opening, Israeli settlers disrupted the building's rehabilitation work on multiple occasions. On the first days of opening, settlers came into the school area, harassing and scaring Palestinian children and teachers alike. The school called upon CPT and other NGOs to offer protective presence during the school day. Beyond our presence, to the best of my knowledge, no action was taken in response to this hatred directed at children. Such things are common in Palestine.

Today the picture popped up in my "on this day" Facebook app. Seeing it and remembering the events still make my stomach turn. But thankfully, this day offered a vision much more hopeful than the one I saw two years ago.

Two nights ago someone spray-painted hateful words on the Louisville Islamic Center, a local mosque whose outreach and inter-religious relationship-building surpasses that of many other religious institutions. The red messages were hateful and seemed to aim to incite Jewish-Muslim divide.

The response of Louisville's mayor  was immediate condemnation of the act. The response of so many Louisvillians from multiple faith traditions was immediate condemnation of the act.

And the response of members of the Louisville Islamic Center: forgiveness and recognition that the act was not representative of the larger community. Some members of the local Muslim community took the incident as an opportunity to teach their children about love and compassion.

Today I had the privilege of going to the mosque and standing with hundreds of other Louisvillians - Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, and most likely people of other faiths, too - to express a commitment to love.

When I arrived, I saw that the graffiti was more extensive than I had realized. My gut reacted with a churning familiar from my Hebron experience. But whereas in Hebron there was no universal denunciation of the act, in Louisville the clear sentiment was one of solidarity, of reaching towards each other to embrace rather than pointing fingers to accuse.

We gathered. We painted over the signs of hate. We made connections. A young woman at whose retreat I spoke last week came and introduced herself to me. I reintroduced myself to a local peacemaker I'd like to know better. Looking in every direction, I saw connections being made.

I will go back to Palestine in about two months. The divide there is so deep. The hatred, the fear, the imbalance of power so great. Violence occurs as demonstration of power and as attempts to reclaim power; it erupts often, daily - many times a day - in one way or another.

As I write, I am aware that the divide around the issue of Israel/Palestine is deep here, too. I didn't see it today, but I know it exists, because of conversations I have had...or have not been able to have. I wish it were not so.

I want to be a bridge. Sometimes I am, stretching between sides that don't touch. Often I'm not sure I can reach as far as is needed...or if I'm meant to do so.

Today I know I was meant to be a bridge. It was easy because I wasn't alone. I was with hundreds of other human bridges: reaching from hate to love, from intolerance to forgiveness, from apathy to compassion.

Those of us present were issued a challenge today and I offer the same to you: Let not painting over graffiti be the end. Let us seek out people from whom to learn and ask questions rather than rely on the "all-knowing" technology at out fingertips to learn about people.

Let us act out of love and not fear.

Let us build bridges.

Let us be bridges.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Christian Assault Rifle

A few days ago, I saw an article about a gun manufacturer selling "Christian assault rifles." Really, something with that label (misnomer) exists. The safety settings are Peace, War, and God Wills It. The words below are my response.

Death machines,
with Scripture engraved
from a psalm,
labelled "Christian."
When ready to kill,
set to "God Wills It."
God wills it?

Did Jesus kill a lot of people?
Or promote killing?
Did I miss that part of the
New Testament?
Or misunderstand?

It was bagels today,
and a sign that said "Breathe."
Joking around and
running fingers through thick hair.

Ice cream yesterday
and chocobananas and stories and
dancing and laughter.

These were the bullets shot
from my
Christian assault rifle.

I got shot, too.
Each time I felt

A smile.
Invitations to read aloud -
words of peace
and words that are a piece of me.
(even though I dodged some).
Gummy chews for a shaky body,

and more listening.

These are the
kind of
Christian assault rifles
I ever hope to encounter.

The only kind I'll ever use.


I am surrounded
by sharpshooters
of love.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

You Are

Monday morning as the sun streamed through my blinds-pulled-as-high-as-they-go office windows, I touched and greeted my three plants. Hand to leaves reaching towards light, “You are beautiful.” Fingers touching the new leaf cascading to the ground, “You are beautiful.” And the magenta blossoms made more vibrant against forest green, “You are beautiful.” 
Then to the only other creature in the office, I said, touching hand to heart and making a small circle as I’ve seen my friend do, “You are beautiful.” I knew that each affirmation was a connection to something beyond the object of my attention, deeper than just acknowledging each being. 
A few months ago I met an amazing young woman, fragile and strong, as we all are, but more transparently so than many of us dare in public spaces. She shared her story of trauma and healing, both of which continue to weave through her life. Upon our second meeting, after hearing her offering of her whole broken self, I felt the need to tell her.
“May I touch your face?” With her permission I put my hands gently on her cheeks and looked into her eyes. “You are beautiful.” I felt a surge of Life between us. I wondered how the world would change if we greeted each other by acknowledging this truth of what/who/how we all are.
The women’s group I am a part of took on the practice of recognizing our own awesomeness each and every day for a month. Some were uncomfortable with the exercise. It wasn’t always easy to do.
I am not always faithful to the practices we are invited into, but this one, I did. As we were instructed, I listed two things each day: a success like daring to reach out to that handsome and intriguing man (who said “yes!”), the difficult work of admitting my own deficiencies, the simple knowledge that I could make a good bean salad. Every day I managed to find two reasons to declare, “I am awesome.” 
The exercise was a reminder of all the good that is within.
The month ended and so did the exercise. I quickly forgot. I remembered again. Like the tide, I forgot and remembered, forgot and remembered. This pattern of seeing self-scarcity and self-abundance continues.
My plants are thriving. I don’t greet them with care every day. I usually only remember on Mondays, when I offer them the part of their sustenance I control.
Water: source of life.
Love: source of life.
In all truth, right now, I am thriving, too. There are people in my life who are hurting and I cannot ease their pain. I cannot change their situations, because my actions are not the source of their pain. So I offer love in my incomplete, aiming-at-unconditional-but-not-always-doing-it-well way.
The world is hurting. From dead Syrian children washed up on shores to abuse behind doors, to gangs, guns, wars, there is so much I cannot change.
But I can offer myself. I can offer my willingness to change me, the only part of the interconnected web of Being over which I have dominion.
As I change myself, I change the world. This world, despite everything we do to make it otherwise, is beautiful.
Broken and healing, fractured and yet somehow whole, I am beautiful.
We are beautiful together.
You are beautiful, too.

Do you know it? 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

To Sing in Tune

Made for the celebration of a friend's work; a friend
who exemplifies open-hearted living
Fear and poor judgment
not of nature,
just the natural flow of human beings, 
navigating a world of promise. 
Nature's song, sung out of tune. 
- from "Nature's Song," Edward D. Currelley

I am moved by the idea that a peacemaker never judges anybody - neither his neighbor close by nor his neighbor far away; neither her friend nor enemy. It helps me to think about peacemakers as persons whose hearts are so anchored in God that they do not need to evaluate, criticize, or weigh the importance of others.
- Henri Nouwen, Peacework

I began reading Peacework after it was used in prayer at work a few weeks ago. As I've been savoring the truth and the challenge Nouwen puts forth, I feel certain this is a book I will return to; this book will likely accompany me to Palestine in a few months.

Last week I was talking to a friend about the troubles of the world, of the violence happening in so many places and what needs to be done to quell it. As he was talking about large-scale solutions and the human instinct to defend, violently if necessary, our loved ones, my mind went to a story I'd recently heard from a friend who had recently returned from Nigeria. I don't remember all the details, but it went something like this:

In a village in an area where Boko Haram was active, villagers lived  in fear of what might happen when Boko Haram arrived.

One day two men from Boko Haram entered the village and knocked on the church door. The pastor invited the men in for tea. They accepted, drank tea and talked, maybe for an hour, maybe a few. The conversation was, as far as I know, nothing special, just the kind of conversation anyone might have with guests coming to visit. After some time, the Boko Haram members left through the back door of the church, so that villagers wouldn't see them.

A few weeks later the pastor was travelling with his family and was stopped at a Boko Haram checkpoint. Being stopped like this meant almost certain death. The pastor got out of the car and awaited his fate. Bu t then -

The two soldiers with whom he had shared tea and conversation were working the checkpoint. They recognized him.

"He is a good man. Let him go."

The pastor got back into his car and drove off, his family reunited and safe.

They let him go. Boko Haram, known for brutal killings, inhumane acts, indiscriminate terrorizing, let him go.

They can see their neighbors - whether they are North Americans, Russians, Nicaraguans, Cubans, or South Africans - or members of terrorist groups - as fellow human and women who need to be listened to, looked at, and cared for with the love of God and who need to be given the space to recognize that they belong to the same human family as we do. 
- Henri Nouwen, Peacework

The pastor saw not terrorists, but people. Though he may have been fearful, he did not act out of fear, but from a place of love. Love. He opened his mind and heart to the possibility that there was more to the men at his door than the inhumane acts they carried out. Operating from the depth of who he is, from the depth of who we all are at our core, from the place of ultimate and intimate connection, he invited them in to act like humans. And they did. I can only imagine that for them it was a relief. Who of us doesn't want to be seen for more than the worst of who we are? Who of us doesn't crave connection? And later in a circumstance of disconnection, a situation where fracture-rupture-pain-death were the modus operandi, those terrorists remembered the pastor's humanity - and their own - and acted accordingly.

...I am allowed to live without the heavy burden of judging others and can be free to listen, look, care, and fearlessly receive the gifts offered to me. And the more I become free from who the other "really" is, the more I feel part of the whole human family stretched out over our planet from east to west and from north to south. Indeed , saying "No" to the violence of judgments leads me into the nonviolence of peacemaking, which allows me to embrace all who share life with me as my brothers and sisters. 
- Henri Nouwen, Peacework

This is how I aspire to live. I have quite a way to go. I have so many examples of when I have gotten it wrong, when my decisions have been grounded in fear or judgment, pride or resentment or self-righteousness, but I am learning. I am trying to become more aware of my patterns, so I can create new ones, more beautiful ones, that will ripple out into the world. I am learning to forgive myself when I stumble. I am trying to love better, starting with myself and extending well beyond.

There are times when practicing love - of self and others - comes naturally and times when it is a struggle. During the struggles, I am learning to tell myself that the pains are not fruitless, but rather growing pains, signs that I am stretching into a new embodiment of who I am, allowing the center of my being to expand, opening myself more freely - to sorrow and to joy, to giving and receiving, to filling and emptying. I am learning to live into the rhythms of life, anchoring myself in that which is True, that which is Infinite, that which is Love.

I am learning, ever so slowly, Nature's song, hoping that I might one day sing in tune.  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Space to Grow

It is 3:59 AM as I start writing.  I woke up about an hour and a half ago and my alarm is set to sound in an hour and six minutes. I didn't know when I woke up that I'd be up for the day. But here I am. My back is tense, a residual result of having spent the last hour and a half trying to go back to sleep and getting ever more frustrated at my mind's inability to shut off.

Then I decided to embrace my mind's workings. I haven't written in a few weeks and this time awake offers a gift, an opportunity to process all that is stirring and clearly needs attention.

First step: Go outside and look at the sky. Listen to all the creatures that make noise during the time I am usually asleep. Remember through these sights and sounds that the world is much bigger than the small space I usually pay attention to, which is too often the space of my own oh-so-limited mind. Remember that though I am small, I am nonetheless a part of this wonder; I am at once insignificant and a vital piece, intimately connected, interwoven, entangled in the All.

When I come inside, I still hear the night sounds. My windows are open since this night does not oppress with the usual heat that comes in mid-August in Kentucky. The air from outside is cool and flows through my windows. I am grateful.

Yesterday I pulled weeds in my backyard. Lots of weeds. A couple of months ago with the help of my friends and family, I tore down my deck. I have not replaced it with anything yet, so the rains of summer have encouraged life to spring from the ground my deck used to cover. The same is true for the rest of my neglected yard.

So much life has sprung up; the unwanted weeds, a corn stalk (?), as well as the plants I carefully chose to inhabit the space are (mostly) thriving.

All have plenty of space to grow and the conditions are ripe for them to reach for the sun, offering praise through their simple gifts of beauty (even some of the weeds), fragrance, and nourishment for my body.

I have some control over what happens in my yard, but I don't control the sun, the heat, the bugs or critters that come along. I plant, I tend, and I trust the rhythms of nature that are out of my control.

I have been thinking a lot of late about trust, control, and the relinquishment of (the illusion of) control.

For many years I've talked about how certain areas of my life seem to flow without my having to do much for glorious opportunities to present themselves. Other areas seem much harder and just when if feels like I'm about to enter the flow, I find myself stuck again. Of late, I've been considering why this difference occurs.

A couple months ago, I think I figured it out:





In the areas that flow, I learned early on to trust the feeling that said, "Yes, this is where you must go, even if the way isn't clear yet." Sometimes the "where you must go" was cause for exhilaration, sometimes cause for anxiety, often both at the same time; that's still true.

Guided by that trust and a willingness to move slowly, I'd take a step...and another...and the path opened up and  took me to the place I knew I needed to go. Each place brought me new adventures, new growth (and growing pains), new joys, new people to love and ways to express that love. My life is rich as a result.

In the areas that haven't offered the same ease, I have been less willing to trust, more eager to take control that isn't mine to take, more likely to step ahead too quickly, impatient, only to find myself lost, alone, and confused.

It wasn't until recently that I became aware of the difference.  I have many years of habit-forming to undo. I've started the process.

As I lean into trust, like the weeds and the flowers and the vegetables and herbs, I'm finding that the space for me to grow is enough, is expanding like the vast night sky I observed tonight.

And I am accompanied. Sometimes I have been so entrenched in listening to the voices (including sometimes my own) that seek to steer me away from the path, that tell me I must move quickly or else, that I forget or ignore the constant background hum of voices that tell me I am loved, I am connected, I am not alone, ever...and that I can trust their steady presence.

This early morning I pay attention. I see the vastness and trust. I attune my ears to the songs of life that remind me of who I am and Who I am a part of.

Though I will likely find myself yawning later today, I am grateful for interrupted sleep, for the space to grow not in resentment, but in gratitude.



My alarm will soon sound and I will move into the regular patterns of the day Awake. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Unexpected Encounter

At 2:30 the guy who was installing my modem between 12:00 and 1:00 arrived.  He had called at 1:30 to say he'd arrive in about a half hour; he was coming from far away. When he called his accent, his tone, and his language choice brought the words "good ol' boy" to mind. When he appeared at my door, he was too young for my definition of the phrase: he was probably in his 20s, fit, tanned to an almost charred brown.

He apologized for being late, "It's been a hectic day." He put his phone, iPad, and keys on the coffee table and went outside to check the wiring. In the few minutes he was gone, his phone rang and rang and text message alerts beeped incessantly.

He came in and asked if his phone had rung. When I said yes, he took his phone and went outside. As he paced my sidewalk, phone to ear, his tone was intense and angry; I couldn't hear his words. After he finished the conversation, he came in and out of the house a couple of times and when not talking on his phone outside, was deeply involved in his texting. Observing this, I wondered if his delayed arrival had been as much from these exchanges as from the his 20-mile route to my house.

He came into the house once again, checked something and went back outside, this time only venturing as far as my front porch. With this closer proximity, I heard the words "duke it out with your new man"; I wanted to laugh (do people really use those words?) except that his tone indicated he was dead serious. He called the person who I assume was a very recent ex-girlfriend words I will remember but will not repeat here. After a few more angry remarks, he was off the phone and on the job again, as much as his constant texting allowed him.

Back in he came, careful (as he was every time he entered and exited my house) to pull the door shut, since it doesn't do so without a good tug. He began to set up the modem, but needed to call someone to get approval for something not listed in his work order. He set his phone to speaker phone; the man on the other end of the line was less than pleasant, to put it nicely. Hearing how the modem guy was being treated, hearing how he'd just a few minutes before treated someone else, and watching his continued entanglement  in text messages, I decided to direct my energy his way, wishing him peace, serenity, patience, and the ability to calmly let go of the pain he'd threatened to punch his way out of. I did this until he got off the phone and started talking to me. He commented on the bad attitude of the person he called. I agreed with his assessment without remarking on his own recent phone tone.

"How long have you been doing this work?" I asked.

"Five or six months."

"Do you like your job?

"No." He paused. "I'm just being honest; it's good money."

He finished setting up the modem and needed to settle the payment. I sat on the couch; he knelt on the floor across the coffee table from me.  Another speakerphone call, this one automated.

As the recorded voice spoke, he looked towards my mantle. A wall hanging by Penny Sisto lives there.

"Trayvon Martin?" he asked. With the foundation only of stereotypes and assumptions about this guy, I made the quick judgment that he wasn't too keen on the subject matter.

"Yes, though I didn't even realize it until I had it in my house."

Our voices confused the automated system that only accepted a yes, no, or a number spoken. He had to hang up and as he redialed, I explained that when I first saw the piece, I remembered a photograph that used to hang in my parents' house and now hangs in my sister's.

The eyes. It was the eyes that captivated me. And the butterfly. Memories and beauty compelled me to buy the piece. When I unrolled it in my home, seeing it only for the second time, I realized I was looking at a portrait of Trayvon.  I felt even better about my purchase.

His next question: "What's it made of?"

It is quilted and painted. He stood up to look closer.

"Can I touch it?"

With my yes, he put his fingers on the work, gently and reverently touching one part and then another. He was quiet. I can only guess that beautiful art, something that has always been in my life, is not part of his daily reality.

His work was done, so he thanked me, wished me a good day, and went on his way.

I wonder what the rest of the day delivered. I wonder if he did or is still going to "duke it out" with his ex's new man. I wonder if my directed energy or his encounter with beauty soothed his soul even a little.

Later in the day I went to a meditation. We were invited to breathe in the darkness of a situation, place, person, the world, and to breathe back to it/him/her light. Many places and people came to mind, among them the young man I had judged so quickly and just as quickly been reminded of the layers of complexity we all embody: aggression and tenderness, contempt and respect, agitation and calm, apathy and curiosity. I breathed in...and out...for him: pain to healing, darkness to light.

I hope that when he was in my house and again later in the day, he felt that he was breathing in light and releasing darkness. I hope he felt some relief and that it rippled out through his interactions with others. I hope that he experiences more beauty that causes him to pause, to touch, to slow down, to gentle his soul. I hope.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Rupture (Detroit) part 4

Where is the humanity?
Where is the divinity?

She said
“I want you to have a terrible reputation”
because you, i, told the truth,
the one she knows in her bones.
i am afraid.

the truth is
i gave the man
picking through the dumpster
some cherries,
but not the raisins.
i didn’t talk to the folks
staying day and night
on the church lawn,
except reluctantly
when they extended
to me.

the truth is
i wanted to see…
and i didn’t.

i didn’t want to see
white supremacy,
my complacency,
my complicity,
at work.

She said,
“You’ve got to put
your religion,
your heart,
your life
on the line.”

the truth is
i like my comfort,
my privilege,
my protected heart,
my distance from the line.
i don’t want to be
bothered with the
hard work
that lets others live
as easily as i.

but i must.

the truth is
my guts are spilling out,
ruptured in encounter,
and she and he and she,
implanted so quickly,
are spilling out of me
as i try to hold them
and the pestilence
in with one hand.

i also hold the salve.
i grip it tightly,
hand closed around
the sacrifice that leads to healing,
the sacrifice that isn’t sacrifice,
but cleansing love,
soothing relief.

the wound festering,
i am afraid to move my hands,
to open them,
and my heart,
and my life,

afraid of not enough,
afraid of what if,
afraid of a bad reputation
from telling the truth.
and i bleed,
and Detroit bleeds,

so i speak:

Where is the humanity?
Where is the divinity?

Rupture (Detroit) part 3

Maureen Taylor, State Chair of the Michigan Welfare
Rights Organization 
“My whole life is around
people’s water being shut off.
I’m offended!”

44,000 homes
(how many people?)
lost water
this year.
32,000 more on the list.

water to drink
water to bathe
water to cook
water to clean
water to flush


hot summer

blue lines painted on sidewalks
alert neighbors of
the anguish
that once lived only inside,
remain as 
marks of shame
and pain.

from parched homes
sleepy bodies
steal away in the night,
hoping to save the family
from grasping for one another,
when CPS comes:
fragmentation of child separated from parent -
to be reunited


when will the water return?
when will the children return?
when will the decency return?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Rupture (Detroit) part 2

“We’re basically under attack now.”

Tax foreclosures.
Investors buying from
under the feet of
long-time residents.
Qualifying for poverty exemptions,
the red tape they try to clear
saturates with blood drained
from once-vibrant Russell Woods,
(im)paling the neighborhood.
Too thick, too slick, they slip,
fall, carried away in a stream of crimson.

The outsiders, parasites
ready to choke to the death,
see only unnatural green

and call it pretty. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Rupture (Detroit) part 1

This is the first of several poetry/reflections from my time at the Christian Peacemaker Teams Peacemaker Congress in Detroit.

“Don’t cry too much. We survive.”

She waited for us in her car.
When she stood on the street,
six cars stopped to solicit her services.
She had nothing to offer but a fiery spirit to re-build her city.

Trucks and trucks and trucks roll
off the Ambassador Bridge,
carrying goods to quell
voracious appetites 
- consumption -
passing sidewalks otherwise deserted,
as women, one here, one there,
sell sex to appease
unquenchable desire
- consumption -
for something not possible

More things (she is object),
more things (even to herself?),
more things for you and me,
while a city crumbles

and the untended hunger persists.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Who Are You Now?

i only know i saw hearts
come together:

fractured halves

jagged edges seamlessly bonded,
though they never had fit before.