After writing about not having any typos last week, I then found four or more. I blame it on the blackberry cider I drank before firing off my poem. Next week I will deal with perfection, but for now, please bear with another long one :) As I was writing this poem I listened to "The Sound of Silence" by Disturbed. Very moving, if you have a chance.
I wanted to write a poem about my kids saying
“I am glad we are not Muslim”
as we sat down to dinner during Ramadan,
the sun still high in the sky.
I hoped to ponder the conflict with my
surly teenagers who opened the fridge
and freezer as I finished making dinner,
who ignored my request for help to speed things up
in favor of negotiating over half a bagel.
They added“And the girls take off their head scarves
as soon as they walk in the school building”
to show me they are not the only rebels.
I wanted to remember for Lent my best friend in high school
giving up M & M’s, but only the peanut ones.
And contemplate my yearning for an outer structure
some confession, sannayasa,
a call to prayer, Sunday school, bible study,
an infrastructure that backs me up
when I should think of others,
be a good person, to not waste or want too much.
I could have written about not eating meat for a week
and appreciating Muslims who will fast for fifteen
hours to remember those who do not have enough food.
And I do appreciate them. Still very much.
Instead, I am watching clips from the Orlando Sentinel
about the largest shooting
in America by a citizen, also a Muslim,
at a gay bar named Pulse in Orlando, Florida.
I am asking what happens when a book or belief
secures eternal life and happiness
if you kill in the name of your God.
I have written three poems now with this theme
Paris, Boston Marathon, Peshiwar,
with each I pray it is the last.
When this tragedy occurred
my son was reading Night by Elie Wiesel
Propped up on elbows, I reread
over his shoulder the tome
about surviving concentration camps
so my son would not feel alone
when he discovered the depths of depravity.
In Germany today there are numerous
art installations and memorials to the Holocaust’s history,
attempts at amendment the more progressive generations
knowing forgiveness is not always possible,
will not allow forgetfulness.
Similarly when couples are trying to repair
infidelity, for any chance of healing,
the one who strayed must bring up the
affairs, must shoulder the burden of vigilance.
In America our prisons are full of African Americans,
our reservations with addicted and poor tribal people,
both populations America has subjugated
in the name of progress and righteousness,
and yet our culture is slow to attempt restitution.
But we must, despite our guilt and shame,
we humans must apologize and ameliorate.
Elie Wiesel did not want to run at the urging of
the butt of a rifle, did not want to know
the smoke and stench of the furnace.
On my bedside is another book,
this about nonviolent communication.
The author, Martial Rosenberg,
argues when we coerce another even with words,
even with thought, we act violently.
At night I turn down pages and imagine
a world of requests and honesty,
shared feelings and honored core values.
Yet yesterday when I asked another son
to place a book on a table which required
half the effort it would take to toss a frisbee
at his feet, he refused.
Our conflict became a mini cold war,
as we exchanged ice chips of insolence,
mine then without pleases, his no’s, now with anger.
My mother who was visiting joined my allied forces
and yelled at my son,
“Most parents would clobber you with that book,
now respect your mother and put it on the table.”
It was a carpet bomb and I was thankful for it
and yet hated my thankfulness.
I have long frequented gay bars,
love the love and lust freely demonstrated,
the music is often better for dancing.
Two of my peak life experiences occurred
at Jake’s, the local gay dive in my small town.
First, I met the love of my life.
Second, I found a teacher I often reference,
a Native man who gathered the mostly white crowd in a circle
while the song “Halo” by Beyonce played.
He beamed as he sang the words,
I can see your halo, it’s my saving grace,
we beamed beheld in his benevolence.
I usually write to find answers,
and yet today I only search to clarify my questions.
How do we embrace a majority of peace seekers,
when a few radicals murder in their name?
How can we coexist with those who believe
fervently their evil acts are sanctioned by God?
How do we prevent the loss of innocent lives
without causing more innocence lost?
How do we in this season of renunciation,
turn toward our brothers and sisters with compassion,
some of us who have ancestors who committed
the very terror we condemn?
How can we learn to halt violence,
to say no to terror on any level,
not in my name, not my God, never.