Two Short Poems


After the spectacular celebration
the deflated balloons
hang limply
from the mailbox.


It’s not just that rain
is an overused metaphor
for tears
or the grey of the sky
often symbolizes grief

The air had a cold clamminess to it
like I imagined a dead body would.

It was like one of those mornings
on vacation
when you knew it was going to rain
but you’d go to the beach anyway.

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Bearing Witness

As I, a bedraggled looking old white man
ran my errands
in a predominantly black part of town.

I saw two people,
an older black man in a nice suit
and a plainly dressed black woman
standing next to
the tract rack that read
“What the Bible Really Says”.

I thought of my friend,
a black minister
putting on her shirt and collar,
the belt of truth
and the breastplate of righteousness
and pausing to think
of the martyrs
past and present.

“What the Bible Really Says”
I thought about how God loves me
more than I can understand
How God loves this couple
more than I can understand.
I thought of the commandment
Love your neighbor as yourself,
no matter what their skin color
no matter how different they are from you.

So I looked around
to make sure there wasn’t a pickup truck
with a Confederate flag
and I walked over to them,
shook their hands,
thanked them for bearing witness,
and told them what they already knew.

God loves them, loves all of us,
more than we can understand.

Rachel Dolezal Rorschach

I’ve been struck by the reactions to Rachel Dolezal I’m coming across online. Just a few of them include things like

I think she is a narcissistic asshole.
She is a liar, a fraud.
She is raising important issues about the definition of race.
She is racing important issues about identity
She is the result of a messed up childhood.

I remember years ago when I worked for a large international bank. I hired a management consultant to help navigate the tricky waters. In one meeting, she suggested being aware of how people react to you, is, at least in part, a result of who they are, instead of who I am.

“Imagine yourself surrounded by a big silver ball”, she suggested. “What is coming at you is often a reflection of the others. Just let it reflect back.”

So, I thought about Rachel Dolezal. Is she a giant Rorschach test? Are the people calling her a “narcissistic asshole” really making a comment about themselves? What about those calling her a liar or fraud?

To me, I like exploring issues around identity or the definition of race and I see that aspect of her. I don’t tend to think of my childhood as being as messed up as it seems hers was, but I ran into my share of dysfunction during my childhood.

As I try to make sense of all of this, let me offer this poem:

For Rachel

“You’re not really black.
Your biological father was white.
You haven’t suffered like black people have.”

She put down her copy
of the National Committee of Negro Churchmen’s
“Black Power Statement”

“My Father is Black”, she replied
“His Son suffered more than any of us can imagine
so that we could be brothers and sisters.”

On Being Made Cool

“It’s what all the cool kids are doing,”
she said in all earnestness.
“I never tried to be cool.”
I replied.

Although it wasn’t exactly true.
I had tried desperately to be cool
when I was a kid,
but failed miserably.

So, I wondered,
who defines ‘cool’ anyway?
What if me and my friends
could have our own form
of coolness?

So we became conformed
by non-conformity.
Which in the end
wasn’t that cool either.

So, I wondered,
who defines ‘cool’ anyway?
What if the ultimate arbiter of ‘cool’
said we’re too die for.

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After The Annunciation

What was it like
for Mary
in those days after The Annunciation,
before she felt the baby kick?
Did she have doubts?
Did she have fears?

What was the discussion like,
with Joseph?
“Honey, I think I’m pregnant.”

Did she have cravings?
Did she have misgivings?
Morning sickness?
Or worry about a miscarriage?

What was the time like
with Elizabeth?
Did they laugh
and compare notes
about their pregnancies?’
Did they share any fears?

What about you,
in your times of great change,
when God is at work?

“It’s not the same”,
we might think.
“We’re not like Mary.”
But maybe Mary wasn’t either,
before The Annunciation.

We might even convince ourselves
that God doesn’t work like that

So, do we recognize the Lord’s hand
or voice?
Do we have doubts, fears or misgivings?
Can we hear
the messenger of the Lord
“Shh… Be still… Be quiet”?

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