I will be blogging once a month during June, July and August. I treasure the connections I’ve made in the blogosphere and will continue to read others’ work.
A small literary magazine published my poem about a Pride festival and parade in my town. I’m in a mostly rural area with three towns or cities, known as Tri-Cities, in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. It’s a conservative area, making this event more remarkable. However, a strong progressive presence is also in the area. Though I am not gay or transgender, I support people’s freedom to be who and what they are. In my poem I tried to convey the good feeling that emanated from the TriPride Festival.
TriPride Parade and Festival
(Kingsport and Johnson City, TN and Bristol TN/VA)
In the style of the Song of Amergin*
We came holding rainbow flags
We came with 22 floats
We came with 1000 marchers
We’re 10,000 strong and peaceful
We’re the flood of humanity
We’re mothers, sisters, brothers
We’re cousins, and friends
We know love can be lost
We know the rush to judgment
We know our song comes from the mountains
We sing and our music flows over town
We know our song is heard ’round the mountains
We’re the fire and flood of humanity
We see a few mutter and turn away
We know we belong
We’re here with rainbow-striped socks
We’re here to dispel hate and promote care
We’re here with love as our companion
*“English poetic education should, really, begin not with Canterbury Tales, not with the Odyssey, not even with Genesis, but with the Song of Amergin.” – Robert Graves
Published in Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream, Volume 43, No.11, May 2023
The 1970s. New ideas on how to live. Being young in the city, searching for identity and love and the most amazing life possible – that was the story of many back then. They were trailblazers. Martin is one of them.
The 1970s. Anything goes. Sexual liberation. New ideas on how to live. Being young in the city, searching for identity, and love, and the most amazing life possible – that was the story of many back then. They were trailblazers.
Passages, a young man’s coming of age in 1970’s New York City, reflects the greater panorama of people seeking freedom of expression.
Martin is an aspiring writer who explores the tangled topics of love and living an alternative lifestyle as an artist. He also lives within his male and female identities which fuel his dreams and fantasies. His family history of violence, his mental instability, and a friend’s death spur him to escape suburban life.
In the city, Martin meets Simone, an actress on Broadway. A strange first encounter reveals a new self to him. Shortly afterward, he meets sexy, volatile Rafaela, who works in a Times Square restaurant. He struggles to nourish his independent self as he engages in these two challenging relationships.
Rafaela is pragmatic and driven. Simone is on her way to a legendary career. What will Martin do with the gifts and burdens life has given him?
Passages is an exploration of sexual awakening, social change, and a writer’s life.
Content warning: descriptions or references to sexual assault, erotic dreams, domestic violence, and mental health episodes.
Starting today, you can pre-order my new book, Passages, going live April 17. Passages is a young man’s coming-of-age story in “anything goes” 1970’s New York City.
Martin lives within his male and female identities to the extent he has two personas. He identifies as male, but he also understands the world as Maryanne. As he evolves into adult sexuality, he dreams, fantasizes, and explores real life relationships. Escaping a suburban nightmare, he moves to the city. He fantasizes about meeting Simone (who he also perceives as Ethan), an actress on Broadway and wills himself to act, causing a collision of needs and personalities. He descends into temporary insanity, contemplating violence. After Simone leaves for the coast, he meets Rafaela, a woman who works in a Times Square restaurant who tests him even more than Simone. Rafaela is a hard-working immigrant. Simone is on her way to a legendary career. Can Martin untangle his childhood experiences of abuse, his mental health issues, and his complex identity?
I hope readers will enjoy the characters, drawn from “real life,” including the driven Rafaela, irrepressible scholarly Frankie, gifted poet Sally, poetry series organizer Richard, and the ambitious Simone.
Romance, sexual awakening, gender fluidity, celebrity, friendship. Descriptions of books, theater, poetry, film, and music.
Content warning: domestic violence, gun violence, sexual assault, mental health. A few erotic passages.
More updates on my writing: edited and hopefully improved Into The Fire: A Poet’s Journey through Hell’s Kitchen (small changes for clarification and better transitions); Community: Journal of Power Politics and Democracy revised to show the contrasts of joy and sorrow, good and bad, about the neighborhood (and life); and Passages is in the final or next to final edit stage. I think that book will be my last. To end at the beginning! And in Spring 🙂
First a few poems and then a selection from Into The Fire.
One poet I mention in the book is Jules Supervielle, a Uruguayan poet whose poem, “Champs Elysées,” published in the American Poetry Review, 1981, impressed me. I quoted the beginning:
“Poets of two shores
we who drink night and day at the fresh spring of the world…”
Here, in the vernacular suburbs, lawns verb up from curb to sidewalk, the active voice of spring. The adjectival plantings of azaleas, rhododendrons. The punctuation of small bulbs: pauses of crocuses, semi-colon hyacinths whose perfume stops you short, daffodils’ asterisky golden heads, the exclamations of tulips: red red red. Though textbooks caution the road to hell is paved with adverbs, spring comes at us riotously, vigorously, with a break-your-heart flourish. Meanwhile, the house, the one solid noun in this story, rests on its foundation, happy to be modified, ready to open its door to the other noun, the collective one, that’s just now coming up the driveway.
A poem by one of the poets in the 1980s poetry scene (which I describe in Into The Fire).
by Toi Derricotte
I went down to mingle my breath with the breath of the cherry blossoms.
There were photographers: Mothers arranging their children against gnarled old trees; a couple, hugging, asks a passerby to snap them like that, so that their love will always be caught between two friendships: ours & the friendship of the cherry trees.
Oh Cherry, why can’t my poems be as beautiful?
A young woman in a fur-trimmed coat sets a card table with linens, candles, a picnic basket & wine. A father tips a boy’s wheelchair back so he can gaze up at a branched heaven. All around us the blossoms flurry down whispering,
Into The Fire: A Poet’s Journey through Hell’s Kitchen, Chapter 2: 1978, Culture Review, excerpt:
Denise Levertov’s speech, “The Education of the Poet” at the Donnell Library, was thrilling, incredible. When I walked into the packed auditorium, I was amazed at the auditory surge of anticipation and urgency in people turning out for a talk on poetry. Her presentation was musical, flute-like, resonance and eloquence. (I recommend her poem, “Another Spring.”)
At St. Clement’s, the next Poetry Festival reading drew eighty people, almost a full house. A notice had appeared in the Daily News “Leisure” section, using a press release by the readers. The poets: Susan Axelrod, Linda Stern, Kathryn Cullen DuPont, Keelin Curran, and Amy Roth.
With a bow to Linda Stern’s “Music of the Spheres” poem: five women moved across the stage as though on one wheel, carrying a spherical instrument that vibrated with music, a murmur traveling across the universe and back.
There was always music playing in my head, connecting the spheres of my life. In my SRO hotel room in an Upper West Side residence for women, I was reading The Aesthetics of Silence by Susan Sontag. The old myth about art was that it was “an expression of consciousness, consciousness seeking to know itself.” This consciousness could be noble, inspiring, affirming itself. The new myth was anti-art, replacing the materialistic with the spiritual, with “a craving for the cloud of unknowing beyond knowledge and for the silence beyond speech.” Rather than confession, art became a deliverance.
Headlights’ warmth chases winter’s chill, erases shadows fleeting night blazes
The Bench Poems, by Mary Clark
Hello, fellow bloggers and readers. I’ve been busy on two books for a few months (or many). Some of you know, as you have read at least one of them. Thank you! Every writer needs readers that will tell them when they’re on track and when they’ve sped off into the wilderness.
The first project was a revisit to Community, a memoir released last year. The revised version will be available soon. In it I venture to “wax poetic” now and then just to brighten the tone of the story. I like sunsets, but the rosy dawn is also beautiful.
The second project is the book I was working on last year: Passages. It’s been through several reincarnations. Hopefully, it will be ready for prime time in the near future – though I harbor hope for a publisher, and so time will tell.
Reading has taken a lot of my time as well. Among the books I enjoyed and – or would recommend:
Horse, by Geraldine Brooks.
She shows the way thoroughbred racing is intertwined with American history, specifically, with racism. The use of black grooms and trainers, many enslaved, to care for these horses, and their depictions in paintings of the pre-Civil War era, is told so well I felt I knew the men and the artists. Our current history appears in a parallel story. She is deft at describing the changes in thought and language that accompany the honest examination of racism in the U.S. And when stereotypes can surprise us, whether white or black. The horses are characters with personalities, too. The central horse, Lexington, is gifted and used to enrich his owners, while also rising above them to become a legend.
Angel Landing, by Alice Hoffman.
When I was reading this, I asked myself, when is this? No one had cell phones. People were collecting change for the bus. It’s old times, but I realized, within my lifetime. I can remember (dimly) those days. The book was published in 1980. That doesn’t mean it’s not relevant. Because it is, very. The story takes place in a small village on Long Island, once a hopping seaside town and now forgotten as people moved to the trendier places. Another reason it’s not a big draw is the large nuclear power plant, Angel Landing, clearly visible on a point of land nearby. A young woman, Natalie, returns to her aunt Minnie’s (Minnie is a live wire) boarding house (now empty) in the town, with her activist upper-crust boyfriend bunking in an office where he can work on his anti-nuclear cause nonstop. As she sits in her aunt’s house she notices the sky turning color. Later, an explosion. There’s been an accident at the plant. I won’t say more, but this story is an oddly surreal, moody, wandering journey to self-realization. While it’s set in the “old times,” it’s modern in many ways. Now I find it lingers in my memory.
Our Missing Hearts, by Celeste Ng.
As we face potential conflict with China, this book takes on the issues of nationalism, fear-mongering, “patriot laws,” family separation, and the ease with which a democratic republic can become a dystopian society. A pandemic followed by economic hardship and riots is blamed on China, and all Chinese people in the U.S. are suspect. Books are banned, protests quashed, laws are passed limiting Chinese-American freedoms (education, employment, travel), and ultimately, the government reaches into family life, taking children from parents who might taint them with un-American ideas. A mixed couple find themselves caught up in the hysteria. This book raises vital questions about the direction of our country, and any country that still calls itself a democarcy.
February means Valentine’s Day, the season of the heart, so I’ve collected some love poems for you. Of course, there are famous ones, such as Elizabeth Barret Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways,” and W. H. Auden’s “The More Loving One.”
These poems are by contemporary poets as well as those who were writing long ago.
And poetry can come in other forms. In Australia, voters are preparing for a referendum on the “Uluru Statement from the Heart” giving a voice to the original inhabitants, the Aboriginal people.
A medley of poems and songs begin with one of my favorites, “The Reclining Gardener,” by fellow poet and blogger, David Selzer.
by Katherine Mansfield
Outside the sky is light with stars; There’s a hollow roaring from the sea. And, alas! for the little almond flowers, The wind is shaking the almond tree.
How little I thought, a year ago, In the horrible cottage upon the Lee That he and I should be sitting so And sipping a cup of camomile tea.
Light as feathers the witches fly, The horn of the moon is plain to see; By a firefly under a jonquil flower A goblin toasts a bumble-bee.
We might be fifty, we might be five, So snug, so compact, so wise are we! Under the kitchen-table leg My knee is pressing against his knee.
Our shutters are shut, the fire is low, The tap is dripping peacefully; The saucepan shadows on the wall Are black and round and plain to see.
Strephon kissed me in the spring,
Robin in the fall,
But Colin only looked at me
And never kissed at all.
Strephon's kiss was lost in jest,
Robin's lost in play,
But the kiss in Colin's eyes
Haunts me night and day.
Three paces down the shore, low sounds the lute,
The better that my longing you may know;
I’m not asking you to come,
But—can’t you go?
Three words, “I love you,” and the whole is said—
The greatness of it throbs from sun to sun;
I’m not asking you to walk,
But—can’t you run?
Three paces in the moonlight’s glow I stand,
And here within the twilight beats my heart.
I’m not asking you to finish,
Wild Nights - Wild Nights!
Wild Nights – Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
Futile – the winds –
To a heart in port –
Done with the compass –
Done with the chart!
Rowing in Eden –
Ah, the sea!
Might I moor – Tonight –
Two years ago in January Ed Kaplan, a good friend and fellow poet, died in his city of dreams, Philadelphia. He wrote this about himself:
“Ed Kaplan came ashore in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Since then, his work has been published in well over a hundred magazines and journals – as well as books including Alvin (1974, Triton Press, Boulder Creek, CA), Seraphics (1980, Avalon Editions, Oxford), & Pancratia (1983, Swamp Press, Oneonta, NY). Educated as a boy living in Atlantic City, walking home by the ocean, participating in the roar of waves, inspired by the vastness and the grain of sand underfoot.”
Ed was influenced by the Beat poets, but his closest association was with Vincent Ferrini, the sprightly irritant and muse of the “Big Man,” Charles Olson. Ferrini was the grain of sand that caused Olson to form a pearl of words. Vinnie was a good poet himself, living by the sea in true urchin fashion in Gloucester, Massachusetts. In 1981, Ed and Vinnie and came to the poetry program I ran at St. Clement’s Church in Manhattan. After this, Ed read at the St. Marks Poetry Project with Ferrini and Joel Oppenheimer, saying this about it in 2020: we each were shades of that dynamic that asks… make a poem or be the poem? three different answers. back then, i didn’t get it at all; vinny did and joel wasn’t pushing it on me, kind of in the middle. but it was a great reading! tho vinny & me read at st. clements, hell’s kitchen (not lost on us). He told me in an email (after reading a draft of my book, Into The Fire: A Poet’s Journey through Hell’s Kitchen) that Steve Levy, writer and journalist now with WIRED was in the St. Clement’s audience. Ed’s generosity, humor, and “poetry like weight-lifting” earned him respect in the writing community. He was not an academic poet, earning his living as an administrator; when I knew him in the 1980s he worked for a temple in New Jersey. In his later years he became a student of Zen and practiced meditation.
On December 27, 2020, Ed left a note on his Facebook page, saying, “ram dass was cremated, put in a cardboard box, marked . . . return to sender.” At the time his friends were unaware this was to be his last post.
He once told me the Facebook page would be an archive of his work. For the first year or so, I copied his posts and kept them on a computer file. Here are some of my favorites from those early posts as well as several of his poems.
first came the swimmers, lost on land, then the beatniks who commented, then the nudists then the fashion designers & models, poets, comedians, chefs & of course the players gangsters & spoilers, then modernists, then the big collider proved we are entangled, all one, not separate, then the music started & in 2525, we held hands and started over!!!!!!!!!
back from my morning ritual sending love to the street world…cold out there: one man, a regular of mine, refused gloves because his fingers are too swollen…one is too crazy to accept money (I think he may eat it). but the world rests there at that intersection of walnut street, 40th and love.
in the sabotaged ashes of my life, I sit; in the squandered pieces of my life, I sit; keeping my heart soft in spite of the complaining self, undeserving of this miracle, and at times, crying do over. I get it; I stay lost in it.
so much hatred manifest in our selfish melodramas, causes, opinions for the moment – judgments on everyone in the circus – awaking to this day, i seek to fill my heart with the good of people, their ability to change, to help each other with kindness, to drop the shouting, no matter how noble you think your path is – to honor the contradictions of being human while holding fast to the emptiness and the fullness of this too quick life.
still looking for something in the world – but it’s getting better – my story gets more ridiculous and less fantastic than I thought…and it’s perfect.
just a little history in zen about humor – sure, they smile those smiles, and the idea of “mu” or clown in Chinese Buddhism is dear to me, and in most traditions, real humor is in the background. You’d think that cosmic humor would sneak into any relevant theology. but zen isn’t theology. SO: as we turn a page on time everyday, another fiction, my prayer for the world is more laughing, vast laughters; laughter and wholeness before the big bang, and after, laughter in spite of, laughter because of, and laughter in the face of karma, just for a moment in our suffering. in between failed hopes & dashed dreams. at the site of hurting, directly on the wound. laughter at dying! give laughter a central role in your heart seeking. Apply a joke to your ambition. stick laughter on your frustrated relationships. watch children laugh like they are on fire!!
Power of Man
(from Table of the Permanent)
a cold hand above the sea, to be immortal, he thinks
coals must be fed with stars, which, on eagles’ backs
lands in the rockslide sky like broken thunders.
he owns small cats & slate. he swallowed
the moon straight & it burned an albatross
inside his clumsy process from which he draws
his power of hammered gold & oyster foam.
poor men, he thinks, poor women: any of this earth
will survive your failure. his short days
have only flowers & no roots for memories
as he throws them into the open mouth
of his working riddle, the deep black guess
that somewhere he is considered the only one of his kind.
he cries better than anyone else. he staggers the mind.
he is the only wave that has come this far unbroken.
he is stubborn which means he crawls in her hair
shaking his fist in the soft face of the earth, arming himself
with dreams that only will be sold & gone & cold.
he is in front of a firing squad ready to prove otherwise.
he knows it's forever, that others will take everything
but that away. he touches the future which he keeps with him.
all these magnificent lies through which the little good
we do, one drop at a time, remains: he was a salesman or a
carpenter or a company man. he provides & clears his pride.
Power of Appointment
Indiana night driving in heavy snow a single car stretched across route 74 at midnight a truck two miles back slides out of the mirror fierce wind & onelight houses by the highway bones of prehistoric animals & lovers & theorists
100 miles of crowded solitude & jelly beans to stay awake tossing cigarette ashes on the floor
we are salesmen in the thirties with belted luggage we have families back home it’s Thursday January 24 Indianapolis to Cincinnati
the brain is one third fat two thirds extravagant gold sash
you are therefore never alone angels are deft & spidery drawn to drapes & lampshades sit like parakeets on our shoulders or shadows
standing out in the cold between a satellite dish and a double vision
as in love as in death as in the organized sex of our red bandanas as in the serious theatre of her blood as in being alone in the middle of a country at night as in forest
I am surrounded by a ton or two of man’s rigor peeling off into the organ moon as we always did constantly surprized in our trauma it’s a kingdom of crabs chains mace plums emeralds brats and the unretrievable the wood in the trees
the wind in the wind
As Olson lay convex
As Olson lay convex his liver
the ruling part
caught the attention of the Angel of Death
he tried deception wanted to make the Angel a fool said touch me & I will spoil
he tried accepting authority Angel as physician said please don’t hurt me you are a permanence whose function it is to terminate life on earth
he tried moving the cruel Angel with his enormous need to persuade her to shed a tear of mercy he was a young girl on the knees of an old gentleman imploring take her life instead of his
he used all the food at his table his bones his animals his herbs his interior a giant in the courtyard grabbing the fountain to his mouth as if it would fit & quench
ran wild out of the ocean into jungles
a man who got taken in by lights & smoke
who was too damn heavy for the roof
he wouldn’t think of standing anywhere else
(I apologize for formatting problems. The first three and last three lines of “Olson lay convex” should be free-standing and single-spaced.)
The following video of the poem, “Seraphics,” about the issues around gun violence reflect his punchy style.
In Praise of Craziness, of a Certain Kind by Mary Oliver
On cold evenings my grandmother, with ownership of half her mind- the other half having flown back to Bohemia-
spread newspapers over the porch floor so, she said, the garden ants could crawl beneath, as under a blanket, and keep warm,
and what shall I wish for, for myself, but, being so struck by the lightning of years, to be like her with what is left, that loving.
by Kevin Hart
Some days the snow has taken me in to know the time of snow, to live inside a world so quiet
its music is all a shimmering. Some evenings when quite alone I turn off every light
and watch the snow enjoy the dark, moving lushly through spiky air, finding more time
in time than when I stretch myself and am my father’s father. Oh yes,
there is a sparkling choir, there surely is, and dark ice air through which we fall.
Sheep in the Winter Night by Tom Hennen
Inside the barn the sheep were standing, pushed close to one another. Some were dozing, some had eyes wide open listening in the dark. Some had no doubt heard of wolves. They looked weary with all the burdens they had to carry, like being thought of as stupid and cowardly, disliked by cowboys for the way they eat grass about an inch into the dirt, the silly look they have just after shearing, of being one of the symbols of the Christian religion. In the darkness of the barn their woolly backs were full of light gathered on summer pastures. Above them their white breath was suspended, while far off in the pine woods, night was deep in silence. The owl and rabbit were wondering, along with the trees, if the air would soon fill with snowflakes, but the power that moves through the world and makes our hair stand on end was keeping the answer to itself.
Going from the old year to the new, we pause for reflection and try to envision the future. The present moment fills us at the passing of the old, and we believe in that moment the future has endless opportunities and perspectives as it stretches out before us, beckoning. What is the truth of our position in time? Fleeting or part of an eternal process? Both, I suspect. Whatever you believe the poets have communicated the transitory moment, our death, our loved ones’ deaths, changes that upheave our lives. They have celebrated birth, new life, continuity, and the bonds of love that defy even death.
Which brings us to Shakespeare and one of the greatest poems about the waning of life and human resiliency.
That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou seest the twilight of such day As after sunset fadeth in the west, Which by and by black night doth take away, Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest. In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, As the death-bed whereon it must expire Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by. This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
Recently, watching YouTube videos of poets reading their work, Garrison Keillor said W.S. Merwin said that poetry always begins and ends with listening. I wish I had learned that years ago! Here is Merwin reading, “Yesterday.”
Another way is talking to the reader (as if to yourself), which many current editors will tell you not to do (ignore them).
Lines For Winter by Mark Strand
Tell yourself as it gets cold and gray falls from the air that you will go on walking, hearing the same tune no matter where you find yourself— inside the dome of dark or under the cracking white of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow. Tonight as it gets cold tell yourself what you know which is nothing but the tune your bones play as you keep going. And you will be able for once to lie down under the small fire of winter stars. And if it happens that you cannot go on or turn back and you find yourself where you will be at the end, tell yourself in that final flowing of cold through your limbs that you love what you are.
Another version of listening and talking is what I will title, “Generous.”
Sabbaths, 1993, I by Wendell Berry
No, no, there is no going back. Less and less you are that possibility you were. More and more you have become those lives and deaths
that have belonged to you. You have become a sort of grave containing much that was and is no more in time, beloved then, now, and always. And so you have become a sort of tree standing over a grave. Now more than ever you can be generous toward each day that comes, young, to disappear forever, and yet remain unaging in the mind. Every day you have less reason not to give yourself away.
And the new season begins.
Wind Rising in the Alleys
by Lola Ridge
Wind, rising in the alleys,
My spirit lifts in you like a banner
streaming free of hot walls.
You are full of unshaped dreams. . . .
You are laden with beginnings. . . .
There is hope in you. . . not sweet. . .
acrid as blood in the mouth.
Come into my tossing dust
Scattering the peace of old deaths,
Wind rising out of the alleys,
Carrying stuff of flame.
Song at the Year’s Turning
by R. S. Thomas
Shelley dreamed it. Now the dream decays.
The props crumble; the familiar ways
Are stale with tears trodden underfoot.
The heart’s flower withers at the root.
Bury it then, in history’s sterile dust.
The slow years shall tame your tawny lust.
Love deceived him; what is there to say
The mind brought you by a better way
To this despair? Lost in the world’s wood
You cannot stanch the bright menstrual blood.
The earth sickens; under naked boughs
The frost comes to barb your broken vows.
Is there blessing? Light’s peculiar grace
In cold splendour robes this tortured place
For strange marriage. Voices in the wind
Weave a garland where a mortal sinned.
Winter rots you; who is there to blame?
The new grass shall purge you in its flame.
I’ve joined Mastodon and pared down my time on Twitter. My blog and daily emails from friends comprise the greater part of my internet life. However, Twitter allowed me to keep up with current news, often from the affected people themselves, and with my fellow book lovers. I used it to promote my books as well. Now that I’m on Mastodon I am enjoying the richer engagement I’m having with other writers and reviewers. You can find me at @Mclark@mastodonbooks.net
My Kindle Vella adventure continues. Passages had 6 readers in the beginning but as soon as payment was required that fell to zero. The message I’ve taken from that is to make it more compelling. I’ve discovered on reviewing the rules that episodes on Kindle Vella are not to be published anywhere else on the internet for free. I have to chose between publishing on my blog or on Kindle Vella. I’ve decided to keep working on Kindle Vella to see if it works. At least for the next few months.
In the spirit of the season, here are two poems. The first by Maya Angelou is well-known. The second is by Sally Young, now Sally young-eslinger, an old friend of mine. We knew each other in New Jersey before I went to New York and she to Chicago and later Kentucky.
AMAZING PEACE: A Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou
Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses. Flood waters await us in our avenues.
Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche Over unprotected villages. The sky slips low and grey and threatening.
We question ourselves. What have we done to so affront nature? We worry God. Are you there? Are you there really? Does the covenant you made with us still hold?
Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters, Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air. The world is encouraged to come away from rancor, Come the way of friendship.
It is the Glad Season. Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner. Flood waters recede into memory. Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us As we make our way to higher ground.
Hope is born again in the faces of children It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets. Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things, Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.
In our joy, we think we hear a whisper. At first it is too soft. Then only half heard. We listen carefully as it gathers strength. We hear a sweetness. The word is Peace. It is loud now. It is louder. Louder than the explosion of bombs.
We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence. It is what we have hungered for. Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace. A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies. Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.
We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas. We beckon this good season to wait a while with us. We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come. Peace. Come and fill us and our world with your majesty. We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian, Implore you, to stay a while with us. So we may learn by your shimmering light How to look beyond complexion and see community.
It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.
On this platform of peace, we can create a language To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.
At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ Into the great religions of the world. We jubilate the precious advent of trust. We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope. All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices To celebrate the promise of Peace.
We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Non-Believers, Look heavenward and speak the word aloud. Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud. Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.
Peace, My Brother. Peace, My Sister. Peace, My Soul.