It will be okay

It will be okay
they told her
when the lump,
that lump
turned out
not to be

Years later
after chemo
after radiation
after therapy
after tears
after unexpected joys
it turned out
to be okay,
not great
not painless
but okay.

It will be okay
they told him
when his mother died
in a car accident
during one of those
freak storms
that seem to be
more and more

Years later
after the funeral
after the grieving
after cleaning out
and selling
the family home
after memories
dredged up
from the deeps
on unknown anniversaries
after tears
after unexpected joys
it turned out
to be okay,
not great
not painless
but okay.

(This is another one of the poems that I wrote in 2016, but never posted. It didn't feel finished. Perhaps I'll come back to it later.)

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At the Clark Art

Something stirred
in my adolescent heart
as I pondered
the pastel clad ballerinas
in a nineteenth century
Parisian studio.

What did they talk about
after their lesson?
Did they the think of boys?
Would one of them
have glanced at me?

would they tug at a satyr?
Dragging him into
a wooded pond
and a watery death?

Or would they themselves
be saved
from a watery death
in an undertow?

Would they sit
half naked
for Renoir
or well attired
for Sargent?

(Another poem written and read in 2016, but not posted until 2017. It was written for a poetry group writers prompt and still feels a little incomplete)

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Number 2 Pencil

With my Number 2 pencil
I take notes
on our history,
the American Dream,
of those who came to our country
seeking a better life,
religious freedom,
to be a city on the hill
and I don’t hear
about those who were
already here,
or those who came in shackles
longing for any freedom.

With my number 2 pencil
I take notes
on our arts
the great writers, painters, and musicians
who have given us such great legacies.
Were they all white European men
because everyone else
was too oppressed
to create
or simply because
that’s all the writers
of our histories
managed to see?

With my number 2 pencil
I fill in the ovals
on standardized tests
that will be used
to appoint my place
in society,
and I long for God’s law
when we shall know the Lord
and be God’s people.

(Note: This poem was written in 2016 and presented at a Poetry Sunday, but was not posted on the blog until 2017. There are a few poems like this I hope to catch up on.)

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Watch Night, White Privilege

As a white man from the north
brought up in the twentieth century
I can only imagine
life on a plantation
with slaves.

It goes something like this:

when I couldn’t sleep
I would sneak out of
the plantation house
and down to the slave quarters
where I would hear them talk
about great adventures
seeking some wonderful prize;
travelling through
dangerous swamps
like wise men
following a star;
not the star of Bethlehem
but the northern star.

They would stop
when they saw me
and Auntie
(she wasn’t really my aunt,
it’s just she took care of us
like a good aunt should
unlike my mom’s
older sister,
a widow
who lived with us
and was very strict
and stern
and worried
about uprisings
and wanted us
to keep the slaves
in their place);
Auntie would talk kindly to me
and take me back
to the plantation house.

I think mostly the slaves liked me
although I never really knew
if it was just Christian Charity
or deference
to their master’s son,
but I’d get frustrated
when they talked about
their concerns
and told me
I couldn’t understand
or help.

When I started noticing
how pretty
some of
the slave girls
my age
and flirting with them,
I hoped
they would like me
and not just smile
of my power
and prestige.
Then some of the slave boys
started getting meaner to me.

Then the war came.
They wanted their freedom.
I just wanted
our old way of life back.

Sure, my dad owned slaves,
but I never did.

A century and a half later
I read about
another black kid
and the riots
and Black Lives Matter
and the black folks I know
tell me
I wouldn’t understand
because of my
white privilege
whatever that is.

The buildings
of the great institutions
where I studied
and worshiped
were built by slaves,
but I wasn’t involved.
I don’t have to
“have the talk”
before my kids
walked down the street
and the police
and doctors
and teachers
and others
all treat me justly.

I just want things
to go back
to how they used to be
before all this
racial tension.

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Sometimes, I feel like I’m supposed to go to Nineveh
but when I get to the ticket office
all they have
are trips to Tarshish.

I stand
in the lonely ticket office
and look at the posters
of exotic destinations.

I don’t want to be thrown overboard
by frightened fishermen
and Nineveh is too far to walk
I don’t think I even know the way.

So I wait,
looking around for a friendly face
that might help me find my way
or even walk a little while
with me.

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