Poem: Believing the Words


Believing the Words

It is early in the morning, not quite six.
a few early birds sing. The rest still sleep.

Your mind is full, still hungover
from the righteous anger
of wrongs generations have refused
to face or fix, more willing
to be afraid of the misguided truths
of simple slogans than the state of our souls.

It has plagued you. Ten days now
and it still eats at you.

You were raised to believe the words.
“Justice for all”
They rang in your chest when flags flew
and bands played. You believed them,
aware that some did not,
aware your one father did not
until his own Damascus Road experience
struck him like lightning as he left his father’s funeral
surrounded by black faces he had too long ignored.

You were raised to believe the words.
It is easier, in this rural corner of the world you live in.
It is a poor place, and unbearably white,
Eleven years here, and it still seems strange,
the lack of colors you grew up with.
You came here for the peace, and it has permitted your soul.
You are stronger for it, but

even here, you are disturbed.
“Where is the progress?” your heart screams.
How is it that we still feel empowered by something as fleeting
as color?
How is it that we still allow our fears to become tyranny?

I am an artist.
Day after day I mix paints and apply them to canvas and paper.
Slashes of color, one layered on the next,
each one vital, none of them able to stand alone,
but together, there is magic.
It is the lesson I learned in school.
I was raised to believe the words.

But ten days, ten nights in, and the decades of pretend
have taken their toll. It is not them. It is not there.
It is here. It is now. It is forever now
and the words mean nothing unless, unless,
we make them true. Unless
we have the courage to be, for a time, uncomfortable
enough to listen, and change.

Outside, the cat sits in the early morning sun.
He is at peace. Whatever simple cat beliefs he carries,
he lives.
We can learn from him. We must.

You find yourself growing calmer,
inspired by your simpleton feline family.  It is time
to release the anger and begin the work.
No, not begin, to finish the work.
because you see,
I believe the words.

About this poem. 

Yesterday on Facebook, I posted that the best quote on what is happening in our nation came from, of all things, a sports article on Bill Bellichick by Mike Florio: “In this historic moment, there is no middle ground. The choices are to support the notion of equality, liberty, and justice for all, or not to.”

I wrote the full version of my father’s change of heart vis-a-vis race in an earlier post.

Yeah, that’s my cat, sitting in the sun yesterday morning.

No, I am not at peace yet. I get there, but the anger rises back up. I suspect a lot of us are going through that right now.

From that mix, this poem.





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