“Walking to La Ramblas.”

Walking to La Ramblas: Meditations on Loss and Grief

A few minutes ago, I read about a terrorist attack in Barcelona, and I’m still in recovery from the shock and terror of reading about Charlottesville a few days ago.

Let me be as clear as I can: evil actions make me sick. I know that I’ve hurt others, especially with my words, but I have never engaged in acts of hatred that kill others. I feel that denouncing, hating, and killing others for the colour of their skin, as for any other essential characteristic, is reprehensible.

I cannot imagine why people would commits actions like these, and so sometimes, all I can do is cry, and wish that the world were a better place. I cry because—by virtue of my white skin—I am complicit in racism; I weep because, as Tennyson wrote long ago, “I am a part of all that I have met.” For that matter, I’m part of all those I haven’t met, as well. I mourn because, for terrible reasons, human beings kill our own people. We kill our own flesh and blood.

Reflecting on the weight of human loss and grief in the last few days alone is very difficult. It makes EVERYTHING harder, because the grief obscures our hope.

In my heart, I walk with those who recently attended a candlelight vigil in Charlottesville, and sang Pete Seeger’s “We Shall Overcome.” “We are not afraid, we are not afraid…” In my heart, I weep with those who mourn their lost loved ones in Catalonia. What else can I do

I can pray. I find myself doing that constantly anyway.

I can write, and sing, about peace; I can particularly do the latter with my friends.

And I can love. By myself, I’m not enough, but it’s a start.

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“Charlottesville.”

And THIS one, already road-tested amongst my friends, is what I wrote on Monday afternoon, in the aftermath of Charlottesville. Thus, it bears its name.

I wrote this under the influence of Mr. Kendrick Lamar, and with the advice of a new colleague, a poet who encouraged me to lengthen my lines. I tried, and it didn’t always work. I’d appreciate knowing how to do it better.

I hope that you understand this poem.


Charlottesville

White supremacy is sin. Say it again, again, again.

White supremacy is sin, because its ideology is sin.

Its foolish Teutonic mythology is sin; it’s thin,

Because it’s premised on the hues of human skin.

Again, again: white supremacy is sin.

 

The swastikas still burn, although the torch is doused,

And even blessed Antifa can’t put them out,

Because they represent our inner void.

Saint Thomas says that evil is privation—

The greatest evil is our denigration—

And cars that plow through people kill the nation,

Because each murder is disintegration.

And although Heather’s eyes are full of mirth,

Her death’s a great affront to Mother Earth.

 

The blood and soil is not theirs alone,

For soil still runs in all of Nature’s veins;

Virginian summer makes a gentle moan

As virgin soil’s plaint makes known its pains.

Collapsing all the bonds of love’s great law,

Stark fury soon gives way to shock, and awe.

 

I wonder if they hear the grass’s whispered moans,

The sighing of the soft mid-August breeze,

Or if their clockwork hearts turn off their eyes

And they mistake the forest for the trees.

The racist riot shouts of sick idolatry,

Of holding up their flesh as pure and bright,

But they’ve snuffed out a woman’s possibility,

And fear and pain hold sway this summer night.

 

Old Aristotle said we are the same,

For like will call to like; our fragile flesh assumes

The weight of hatred and of stubborn love;

Our heads are bowed in sorrow and in grief,

Because this sick St. Vitus dance confounds belief!

The rictus grin of death stares back at us from the grave.

We cannot rest until our spite and sin’s destroyed,

Until we meet the One who comes to save.

 

The old Greek meant that all are siblings, too.

We live together, rich or poor, hale ones or lame.

Like Bono, we can touch the holy flame

If, with our broken hearts, we will be true.

I say again that white supremacy is sin,

And we must cast it out, not let it in.

Our love is greater; love says Heather’s name.

Our love is greater, and our love will win.

“Underneath the Flood.”

I also wrote this longer poem on August 4th of ’17. It’s a bit more hopeful than the sonnet. 🙂


Underneath the Flood

I feel as fickle as the summer rain,

As changeable as August thunderstorms.

I pour myself into activity,

But all my deeds evaporate like steam.

Sometimes, I build ice-sculptures in my mind;

Most days, I beat the heat with exercise,

And feel the darkness drip from every pore.

 

I feel my heartache underneath the flood;

I feel the silver shears of hoary Fate

Still snipping at my tiny, fleeting joys.

I wonder when I’ll write another book,

If I will ever hold a teaching post

(Or any other job to pay my bills).

I wonder if I’ll have a family,

And see the new flames in my lover’s eyes

Reborn in children who will share our names.

 

I wonder where the future’s leading me.

Will I forever grope my way through fog,

To trip on sullen stones still wet with rain?

Tonight, I feel the darkness and the rain.

Are there still blue-sky blessings meant for me,

And sunlit paths where I can walk in peace?

Am I an eagle, or a sparrow still,

And will I spread my wings or fall to ground?

 

The questions pound at me, like driving rain;

They soak my searching soul with sodden doubt.

Like film-noir spies, they steal into my sleep,

Ransacking all the treasures of my heart

And plundering the riches of my mind.

When will I find the pearls of certainty,

And wear a crown of beauty, or of truth?

 

My truth is drowned by too much honesty.

This may be how I hold things in reserve—

I feel my feelings through the warm, dry words

That wring the truth from wet experience.

I think that’s fine. I may still find a truth

That shrinks to fit me when the cloth is dry.

The truth is not a hamper, but a flame.

I long to skirt the thunderstorm, and yet

I’ll only find the truth if I get wet.

“Questions.”

I wrote this during a thunderstorm on August 4th, 2017. That was a much simpler time…my questions are slightly more complex after Charlottesville than they were before it. I hope you enjoy it anyway.


Questions

The questions pound at me, like driving rain;

They chase me through the streets, with doubt and fear.

They echo through my heart, again, again,

And haunt me when my loved ones are not near.

They mock me with the whispers of regret;

They wound me with the memories of pain.

They say I’ll fail the goals I’ve not yet set,

And taunt me with the joys I won’t attain.

I cannot stop my doubts with word, or deed.

Sweet friendship sweeps away my thoughts of fear.

My quiet affirmation in my need

Will scour my heart, and keep my purpose clear.

I still discern the strength that lies in me.

I know myself, and—knowing—I am free.

“The Fruits of Reason.”

This is a companion-piece to “Fierce Desire,” the previous post. I hope you like this one, too. 🙂


The Fruits of Reason

It doesn’t matter what the page will say;

I feel the text is cogent. If it’s not,

I’ll deck myself with Scripture’s arsenal

And beat back all the demons in my mind.

I know that they are Legion, and I fear

Myself run wild among the ancient tombs,

Not heeding when I cut myself in rage

Or caring when my discourse makes no sense.

I follow every thought to its own end,

Remarking on the death of every flower.

 

My courage is not born of knowledge; no,

It is the progeny of ignorance,

Of knowing all the little that I know.

My gaze is narrow, for I gaze on ink,

Collecting every memory of joy

Like twenty freshly-ripened citrus fruits,

To squeeze them dry of all their tender truths,

To mash out all the meaning from their flesh.

 

I nonetheless can feel my gaunt resolve

Still stiffened, like a British bayonet;

It still stares down the starving corridors

Where rows of mindless theses line the walls.

My iron will still strikes upon the stone

Of tapped-out brain and overburdened heart.

I feel my flaring neurons waken me:

One more! If I could just write one more word,

It might fulfill the promise of my life,

The prophecy enclosed in my true name,

The endless quest for meaning and for peace.

 

I know that words can’t fill my hungry soul,

And concepts cannot keep me warm at night.

Their meaning lies behind the printed signs,

Because words point to love, to fond embrace,

To laughter over games, to pints of beer.

Sometimes our sentience serves to isolate,

To wall us off from feeling and from growth;

Our words and deeds must blend to form our life.

 

There’s nothing wrong with rationality,

But reason’s light will quickly ebb and die

Without the kindling of relationship.

The twining passions set our hearts ablaze

And light our vivid paths, like earthly stars.

“Fierce Desire.”

I wrote this one last night under the influence of a can of  Boneshaker. It concerns my decompression from my thesis. I hope you like it! 🙂


Fierce Desire

I feel a quietness suffuse my soul,

A calm that rolls through me like seaward tide.

I feel the gentle loss of stern control

That comes on me when I let go of pride.

It doesn’t matter what the page will say;

It matters little where the footnotes fall.

I wrote a cogent text, in my own way,

Because I felt its urgent, whispered call:

I can live out the joy, the vibrant grace

That is my birthright from the holy flames;

I must discern a loving, welcome space

Where all my friends can hear Love speak their names.

My text is holy, full of living fire,

Because it joins true love to fierce desire.

Book Review!

A couple days ago, I had a book review published in the Toronto Journal of Theology! It concerned an anthology of theology and disability studies.

You can find the full text here, if you’re interested! 🙂