Poem: Not Much


Not Much

This morning I had to scrap the poem I worked on
for an hour or so at the diner.
It was a wonderfully nasty thing, full of frustration and hate,
a rant,
a scream of pain and mourning and more pain
at governments and systems that have lost their humanity,
lost their sense, even the common variety,
that live in the war zone of either or,
willing to let the casualties mount,
and mount and mount.

I had to let it go, that hour of work, no matter
that the words were true
and the emotion behind them truer.
It was a thing of hate, brilliantly vile,
cutting as a razor on tender wrists,
my worst nature, harnessed to my best words.

Were I a howling sort of poet,
it would have been my masterpiece.

But to what purpose?
to rile up a few thousand readers,
some for, some against, all wondering
at my madness, cheers and curses flying
back and forth, back and forth,
a one-day war zone,
for the next headline
before it disappears.

I will use simpler words.
There are hungry people.
I will feed one, or a few.
It is not much, but I can do it.

There are hurting people,
scarred by trauma not of their own making,
abuse or tragedy or pain or the scourge of being ignored,
or drugs or loss or (Oh how the list goes on.)
I will listen to them. The ignored.
It is not much, But I can do it.

There are people who love,
the initials, L. G. B. T. Q. – a distorted alphabet
that ignores that these are people.
Real people. Real hearts.
Not scum. Not vile. No less strange in God’s world
than my cotton-polyester socks.
I cannot change the minds of haters,
but I can honor their love.
it is not much. But I can do it.

Here is the truth of it.
The battle is always bloody.
Hate and the desire push aside the casualties
of the inconvenient and broken is blustery business,
loud and mean and violent,
but in the end, that hate falls apart.
It cannot hold.

And when it falls apart,
all that is left is the thing so hated by the angry.

Love does the rebuilding.
Love binds us together with sustainable bonds.
Love heals.
Love grows.
Love recognizes value, lifts up, protects.
Love is not linked to position or power or politics.
It is where even the angry fall when their wounds spill over,
when their own world shatters into dust,
when their own hate devours them and all they treasure.
It is all that is left when the battles end.
No matter who wins,
Love survives.

So say what you will.
I am not made for this world.
I know this.
I have no power. No position. I can’t even write a good rant
and put it out there with the rest of the noise.
But I will not be swallowed by the noise.
I will love.
It is not much. But I can do it.

About this poem. 

This one doesn’t need much interpretation. A couple of things.

The reference to polyester and cotton socks will be missed by most people. There is a section of the biblical book of Leviticus. Some are things you would expect: Murder, thievery, etc.  Some are things you would not expect: like mixing two types of cloth in our clothing or eating shrimp. Also in that list are “men who lay with men.”, one of the verses anti-gay people use to declare gays an abomination. I often wonder if those same people every wear two kinds of cloth when they get dressed in the morning, or eat shrimp or take part of any of the other abominations listed there. I wonder how to pick and choose from the list as to which are OK and which are not. I’ve never really figured that part out for myself, so I am not condemning. But I do find myself wondering what drives the choices we make, what general principle directs those choices.

Mine is that all people are to be loved. It’s simple. It’s small. But I can do it. It’s easy to keep track of.

The picture is called “Altar”. I painted it a few years ago and it currently lives in a pastor’s office in Virginia.

Off my soapbox.




  1. Thank you, Tom, for sharing some of your thoughts, this morning.
    I have been feeling the sadness, but not hopelessness…….
    I am hopeful, in the knowing that, as you say, love will win in the end………
    Your words are comforting to me. 💕

  2. Tom,

    Bob wants to see your masterpiece and so do I. He said “Don’t hide your hate under a bushel basket”. I think of it like anger – suppression leads to unhealthy consequences, leaching out elsewhere.


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