I too mourn the burning of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
I too sing Ave Maria with the thousands gathered in tears around the sight.
But where is the mourning for the black churches burning throughout the South – eight sacred places gutted since 2014?
Where are the thousands of witnesses gathered around these fires crying, singing Lift Every Voice and Sing?
A cathedral burns.
It is live streamed to millions around the world.
It will be on the news for days.
A black church burns.
The world turns
its ash streaked face away.
i have come to a conclusion which i am forced to state,
i am the person i most love to hate.
my phobias are a vain attempt to disassociate
from my own inner demons which constantly frustrate
my attempts to compassionately relate
to my own brokeness and to the one(s) i most love to hate.
outside on the street i hear the snow plow grate.
oh for such a blade my frozen heart to disintegrate
until all i am wont to do is emulate
a love that loves me into loving the one(s) i most love to hate.
In these waning days of summer, when the clouds hang low in crooked shades of blue, heavy with promise, it seems the Dixie storms of my boyhood home have joined the dark migration from the South to here.
Unlike my brown sister, I was not forced to leave by men in white robes, whose cries of hate in the dead of night remind me of the grinding thunder outside my window, the flashes of guns and fire crisscrossing that landscape long ago like the lightning inside the billowing sky.
I make it inside before the clouds open up, but my mouth is thick with the bitter taste of sulphur, my eyes blinded by the strikes, my ears ringing with the booming of ugly words, my heart filled with fear.
I have yet to find someone who can walk between the raindrops, who can step out into this tempest and not get wet. I must succumb to the baptism, confess my capitulation, and admit that I too have contributed to the din of divisiveness, to the howling hurricane of hate.
I cannot control the weather. Yet I can control my response to the storm.
I can wall myself off from the tempest or I can offer shelter to another who seeks refuge from the deluge.
I can let the thunder drown out my voice or I can let my silent prayers reseed the clouds.
I can cower in fear from the strike or step boldly outside, turn my face to the sky, and scream my resistance into the pelting rain.
I can listen with joyful ears as the ugly water disappears with a roar into the gutter, running blindly underground, until it dissipates with a whimper in the bright brine of the cleansing sea.
It is critical that I speak out in no uncertain terms against hate and those who perpetuate such.
However, it becomes all too easy to point fingers at the other or demonize the haters and ignore the racist tendencies that fester inside my own heart.
If I am honest, I must always, as it were, “call a spade a spade.” Both without and within.
I must confess my own sin of thoughts and intentions that keep me from truly loving difference.
I must seek out the places inside my soul where I march in darkness and open them up to the blazing light of compassion.
I must tear down the statues I have erected to honor the enslavement of another.
I must depress the alt-right button within.
In light of the recent events in Charlottesville, I offer the following poem/reflection from a protest I attended when the KKK held a recruitment drive in Staunton, VA in 1987.
like a porous sore in the face
oozing white in this place
hoarse cries of hate are swallowed up
by the silent strands of
we shall overcome
a taunt wire
anger stretches somewhere deep within
all of us
waiting for the snap
when our brother’s neck will be squished
pulp in our grasp
struggle to understand
this hate robed in white
with eyes of glittering coal
the hand of brotherhood is slapped away
while spit runs down the face
turning away to rage in peace
white frozen mind
you’d better look out for your own,
within i reply,
old woman, i am
Written after a protest against a KKK march in Staunton VA November 17, 1987
(Sung to the tune of Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man)
Sometimes it’s hard to be a troll
Giving so much hate to everyone.
You’ll have good times
making fun of their bad times,
Doin things you don’t care to understand.
But if you love it, you’ll do more of it,
Even though it’s hard to understand.
And you love it oh you’re so proud of it
Cause after all it’s your meme.
Stand by your meme
So it can harm and sting too
The sad and forlorn one whose
Nights are cold and lonely.
Stand by your meme,
And show the world you’re above it.
Keep giving all the mockery you can.
Stand by your meme.
Stand by your meme,
Your sick sense of humor needs to be fed again
And laughter is the best medicine.
Stand by your meme.
Understand that we share the same fate
Even though we may originate from a different state
Who of us dares to lock the gate?
A note to you still residing in the land of hate:
Love is wide open.
It is time to immigrate.
It’s just a simple hand-routed sign, one picture among many on a thrift store shelf.
But it is a reminder in these times that everything I do is to be in love.
From combating hate to loving the hater.