Poetry

Poetry

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:

Sometimes,
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
were
and flirting with them,
I hoped
they would like me
and not just smile
because
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
killed
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.

(Categories: )

Nineveh

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
confused
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
alone.
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.

Questions

There are questions you need to ask
because the question needs to be asked
even though you know
the answer is no.
You ask
because it will change
the people asked,
and you.

There are questions you need to ask
because it’s part of the process
even though you’re sure
the answer is yes
and when the answer is no
you are devastated
confused
and it changes you
more than you can imagine
and you hope
the people you asked.

There are questions you need to ask
even though there’s no answer
that you can see
and still your soul cries out
“why?”
as you wait for
the promised change.

A Eucharist of Tears

It’s not like
my hip is out of joint
from wrestling
all night long
with an angel.

It’s not like
I’ve had to beg food
from a starving widow
as I flee
the angry priests of Baal.

It’s not like
I’ve hung my harp
on the willow trees
of Babylon.

It’s not like
I’ve seen my Son
hung on a tree.

It’s not like
I’ve been beaten
for seeking freedom
or the right to vote.

It’s not like
I’ve been denied ordination
because of my gender
or orientation.

it’s not like
I’ve fled a war torn city
on a barely floating boat
only to see
my dreams wash ashore,
lifeless.

It’s not like
I am a young woman,
shaking hands,
in the receiving line
at my mother’s wake.

Hope deferred,
hope dashed,
makes all souls sick
and I think of these
my brothers and sisters
who share
the Eucharist of tears
day and night.

I know my friends mean well
when they tell me I am bright
I am a good person
and that God has
a wonderful plan for me.

Yet it sounds a bit
like the young woman’s friends
saying
“Cheer up!
It’s not the end of the world.
You have your whole life ahead of you.”
and I take another helping
of tears.

Finding Skittles on the Altar

A form of poetry I’ve been very interested in recently is called ‘found poetry’. Here is what I’ve found recently.

The second and sixth stanza are from a political campaign, but I changed one word in the latter stanza for more impact. The first is a comment a friend made about those quotes. The third stanza is from Matthew 20. The fourth is from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, and the fifth is from the musical Jesus Christ, Superstar. I end off with putting the question in the form of the questions asked during baptism in the Episcopal Church.

While some people looko at the political quote as a poor political analogy, I think it is really a great analogy for the Christian life.

Eating the skittles
is following
the way of the cross.

“If I had a bowl of skittles
and I told you
just three would kill you.
Would you take a handful?”

“You do not know what you are asking, Jesus replied.
“Are you able to drink the cup I am going to drink?”
“We are able,” the brothers answered.
“You will indeed drink My cup,” Jesus said.

“After supper he took the cup of wine;
and when he had given thanks,
he gave it to them, and said,
"Drink this, all of you:
This is my Blood of the new Covenant,
which is shed for you
and for many
for the forgiveness of sins.
Whenever you drink it,
do this for the remembrance of me."

“I will drink Your cup of poison
Nail me to Your cross and break me”

“Let’s end the politically correct agenda
that doesn’t put God first”

“If I had a bowl of skittles
and I told you
just three would kill you.
Would you take a handful?”

“I will, with God's help.”

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