Breaking Silence

A tribute.

When silence is betrayal, when uncertainty mesmerizes, a calling to speak can be a vocation of agony––so rejoice as well, because we are here in firm dissent, a new spirit among us.

No document from human hands can make any of the persecuted less our brothers––sisters, hear their broken cries. They watched us poison water, bulldoze land, and the children run in packs in the street, seeking food for their mothers.

Family, village, land––destroyed. The initiative is ours now, to somehow cease this madness, to be prepared, with every creative protest possible. To challenge the young with alternatives, each by their own convictions.

There is a deeper malady here, and the answer so readily dismissed as weak is love––courageous, relentless against fear.

Let us hope. We still have a choice.

Begin. 

***

Exactly one year before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his speech “Beyond Vietnam––Time to Break the Silence” at Riverside Church in New York City. Today’s post is a tribute to this moment, assembled from words and phrases in this speech. Found poetry is one of my favorite ways to listen.

Bird Feeder

Sights for the sore.

When the pigeons come near the bench, a white-haired lady tossing crumbs from her lap begins to laugh when a lone mallard approaches. You too? she says. Okay, okay. Then come three or four other ducks. Sure, sure, she tells the first, bring your friends. There is enough.

Down the path, a toddler turns from his red rubber ball, and now he is coming too, the others behind him. In the distance, a train sound. Uh-oh, says the boy, and then turns back to the birds. Hands open, arms out. The woman laughs again.

Rituals

From one palm to another.

What grows here is an open hand. It catches shade from remaining trees like falling rain. Cup the view, wrap a fragile forever in time, hold. An old ritual: pull back the sun. It can’t be helped, the impulse to pry a closed fist into an open palm, for heat or to signal an invitation. Like, Stay.

***

Inspired by the sculptures of Lorenzo Quinn. And everything else.

Valley

Between us.

Between being and becoming, a valley holds the wasted lives of a time when we thought we could not know what we were except by testing hot fire against some idea of what it felt to be a god, before the end of the world, and we are in this valley now, still with this longing, and what can it be but nostalgia for the days when it was possible to imagine anything but this relentless fragility with its incessant reminders, that there is no becoming beyond this? Instead of a world, see this baby, head bandaged from the last strike, another attempt by a would-be god of our own making, to make some urgent point, but there is no scorecard without a world to rule, only this child looking up, eyes glazed and the dead all around.

Safe Passage

For shelter in the event of this now.

How do you enter?

What, you mean this? It can help to know that you are already here.

Parents have been sending the children to school with special stickers: names, telephone, blood type––in case, in the event––unmentionable, but. Some schools made these stickers mandatory. They have been practicing. In case of fire, one drill; bomb, another. The idea is not to panic.

How?

It can help to know that–– 

Not to say too much. We want them to feel normal, say the mothers.

What now?

We pray, says one mother. We pray a lot, she says, for peace.

But how can––

Look. We are already here.

But––

We hold the babies, hold the prayers. We hold on, and the windows are shaking.

Shhh, we say, shh.  What else?

***

For the mothers and the babies, the brothers, fathers, the missing, and those holding in solidarity and love.

Sources referenced: Foreign Policy and Today.

Life and Limb

Seeding the resistance.

With blasts on the horizon again, I want to know the woman who grew a forest around her to show the world its trees, offering a resistance. These ones are harder to kill, she said. She called them sacred and some jeered. 

We don’t know, she explained, what we destroy.

What’s in them, anyway? someone asked.

Time, she answered. Time.

***

Inspired by the work of Dr. Diana Beresford-Kroeger, as discussed in this article.

Taking Heart

Fortitude is often misunderstood.

Only with courage can a body refuse any code designed to justify denial of dinner on pretension of purity. To refuse to embark on a scavenger hunt where the name of the game is seeking out the sin, to separate the convicted from the saved. To face conviction before submitting to these fiends of fracture, devils of division, forking tongues over plates of counterfeit communion, segregating what was once from what lives now and may yet be.

So great is the shock, the attendant illusions: what can a body do without a human enemy beyond the mirror?

Here’s the beginning of a story: someone meets a stranger on the road. What follows is all that matters.

Take heart.

***

Inspired by the writings of Richard Rohr.

Saving Breath

To sing, chirp, breathe.

What do you call a spring without birdsong? Carson wondered and the answer was dying. Without this symphony, sentience itself is suspect. Sing, shriek. Chirp. The people who knew before genocide called what moved here holy wind. All breath, all spirit, all soul. 

It is something, isn’t it, to live when a common descriptor of our common malaise involves the need to get away and breathe. Where is away, then? When everyone’s chest is aching, there is a silent agreement: don’t mention it. Is it true that a wolf can smell a body’s feelings, or is it only fear that scents?

If we were the gods of the people who once listened, we could turn ourselves into wolves and know. Take the flight of raptors, stretching our sights. Assume the bodies of dolphins and realize our depths. We could hear an octopus cry, taste its tears, dance with urchins, and let the lamprey finish our sentences. 

Then we might know breath again, the word meaning life. Meaning, duration of a moment; a short time; a movement of free air. Air, meaning the invisible everywhere, ether of arias, current of hymns.

Facing the Lion

No show, just a portrait of strength.

Persistence like a river until it’s bled dry, and no temper. Here is no coercion, no brash announcements, no bold statements. Most of what she is saying, facing what others call this beast, is so subtle it sounds like nothing. 

Everything is the opposite of nothing. Something is also the opposite of nothing. A robe but no armor, her hands in the mane, so near the jaw. He leans into her and she holds.

Someone wants to know who is calling the shots, but there are no calls happening here. No shots. Here is a wild creature renowned for ferocity, a feared killer, at rest. She is with him. They are breathing, still.