Category Archives: Poetry

Howard Thurman’s When the Song of the Angels is Stilled

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flocks,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among the people,

To make music in the heart.

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Somebody’s got to dream

With the world and all its ways

Leaders and people misbehave

Somebody’s got to be in a daze

Somebody’s got to dream.

 

With the world and all its violence

Screaming, shouting, fighting the silence

Somebody’s got to provide guidance

Somebody’s got to dream.

 

With the world and its pride

Pretending, lying, trying to hide

Somebody’s got to go to the other side

Somebody’s got to dream.

 

With the world and its plans

Oppressing, distressing people and land

Somebody’s got to call on the Upper Hand

Somebody’s got to dream.

 

With the world and its deaths

 Killing until barely the soul is left

Somebody’s got to give the future breath

Somebody’s got to dream. 

June Jordan’s In Memoriam: Martin Luther King Jr.

index
I
honey people murder mercy U.S.A.
the milkland turn to monsters teach
to kill to violate pull down destroy
the weakly freedom growing fruit
from being born
America
tomorrow yesterday rip rape
exacerbate despoil disfigure
crazy running threat the
deadly thrall
appall belief dispel
the wildlife burn the breast
the onward tongue
the outward hand
deform the normal rainy
riot sunshine shelter wreck
of darkness derogate
delimit blank
explode deprive
assassinate and batten up
like bullets fatten up
the raving greed
reactivate a springtime
terrorizing
death by men by more
than you or I can
STOP
II
They sleep who know a regulated place
or pulse or tide or changing sky
according to some universal
stage direction obvious
like shorewashed shells
we share an afternoon of mourning
in between no next predictable
except for wild reversal hearse rehearsal
bleach the blacklong lunging
ritual of fright insanity and more
deplorable abortion
more and
more

June Jordan, “In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr.” from Directed By Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan(Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by The June M. Jordan Literary Trust. Reprinted with the permission of The June M. Jordan Literary Trust, www.junejordan.com.

Source: The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (1997)

Trayvon Martin: Blackness and Halloween Costumes

Trayvon Martin.  Most Americans know his name and the story of his death.  But, now his name is strangely associated with Halloween.  Apparently, some persons think that it is acceptable to dress like a dead child and in blackface, no less.  I cannot even begin to describe the callousness of those who think it good fun to mock the tragic death of another and to suggest that one can represent a socially colored black person by painting their face black.

Rants on social media simply don’t cut it and a law can’t fix this.  Another conference will not make sense of it.  This is a matter for the heart and it is at the core of our humanity.  We must reconcile these truths, these choices to deeply offend.

And I don’t want to hear, “It wasn’t me.”  Or, “This was their poor decision.  We can’t blame everyone.”  No, I do blame all of  us.  What have we done or left unsaid if this is a choice?  What are we really afraid of?  And why does the taking of this child’s life not invoke fear in all of us?

And I don’t want to hear that Halloween has passed, that it’s old news now, that the matter is finished because the Facebook account has been closed and he has changed his profile picture.  This does not mean that the work is finished– because we don’t see it any more.  No.

And don’t let the fact that Trayvon Martin died three years ago imply that what happened to him is in the past.  Clearly, it is not; his life and his death now made present in the form of a costume.

Raven McGill offers words for us to reflect on at a National Poetry Slam.

 

 

She Is Woman: A Tribute to Mothers

urlLet the praise of mothers around the world and around the corner, from amateur to sage, to every mother at every stage continue.  I present to you, “She is woman.”

She is woman; “hear her roar.” Hear her confess her faults, declare her intent, make vows of fidelity and coo as she looks into the mirror- face of her child. Watch her change her appearance, remodel her outlook on life, re-arrange her priorities— right before their eyes. It will take longer for her to get dressed than to get her life in order so that she can be mother.

She is woman; “hear her roar.” Hear her bribe with cookies or popsicles, lollipops or trips to the park or whatever you want.  “Just stop crying.”

Toddler tamer, ringmaster and ringleader, singing “ring around the Rosie.”  Her pockets are full of broken cookies, stuffed with small toys to keep them occupied. She is a one- woman circus act, juggling work and play, dinner and nap time, self- care and the care of the little others that remind us so much of ourselves. It will take her longer to clean up the house and their faces than it will to make the sacrifice to meet their needs so that she can be trusted as mother.

She is woman; “hear her roar.” hear her sing the alphabet song and teach them to tie their shoes. Her womb is their first room; this is why she cries when they leave for school. Still, she will pack book bags and lunches. She will hug and try not to hold on. She will wave and try not to beckon them home to her. It will take her longer to accept that they are growing up and to let them go though she knows that she is still mother.

She is woman; “hear her roar.” Hear her soften her voice for hard- headed teenagers in order to be heard. Uncompromising, she tries to fit morals and values, accountability and responsibility into the teenage mind. It’s a tight squeeze but she makes it fit. She makes it work, balancing checkbooks and the limited hours to be there for everyone else. It will take her longer to be present for herself than it will to accept that she does not have to hover, no helicopter parenting welcomed. “If you stay at the mall or the movie theater, everyone will know that you are my mother. Please leave. I love you.”

She is woman; “hear her roar.” Hear her proudly tell stories of their childhood to friends and spouses, boasting because their accomplishments are hers and she thankful that she got to be their mother. Candid and embarrassing, passionate and full of laughter, she becomes the central character. It will take her longer than to realize that she is not a supporting cast member than to accept that she is our heroine and mother.

She is woman; “hear her roar.” Hear her fight for her independence as the children she cared for now seek to care for her. “I am your mother; you don’t tell me what to do,” she says.

Now, hear your children roar; hear us that you have cooed and bribed and taught and comforted and boasted of. Let us have our say today. Yes, you are woman but you are our woman so let us see ourselves in your eyes today. We promise not to coo but we do declare our intent to love you and to be as faithful to you as you have been to us. It may take you awhile to accept this as you are always mother.

 

Yes, she is woman but she is always mother, mother- ringleader, mother- negotiator, mother- teacher, mother- mediator, mother- storyteller, mother- friend. She is mother in the beginning and mother ‘til the end. “Hear her roar.”