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.