Monday, May 2, 2011

All is not well

Late at night on the Thursday before Easter, a young man was shot on my street. I heard six gunshots and went outside to see him lying on my friends’ yard. We will probably never know why he was killed.

The night after Easter, a little ways south of me, a long-standing feud between two neighbors finally led to one stabbing the other with a kitchen knife.

The next night I heard a gunshot in the house behind me and called the police. I’m starting to think I should put 911 on speed-dial.

Yesterday evening I learned that a cousin who has struggled for years with infertility just had a miscarriage.

And then late yesterday night while I was finishing up a Latin paper, I heard the news that a man who killed a lot of people ten years ago in an event that would characterize world politics for the first decade of my adult life was killed in Pakistan. There were messages of celebrations being sent around the ciber-waves between my friends around the country.

But there was no celebration in me. I don’t have it in me to celebrate death—not this week. Yet in the middle of all those brushes with death, we commemorated the Lord’s death, the only hope we have that our tragedies have meaning. If there is any hope that death is redemptive, it is not because of its perceived justice, but because of its lavish grace. I hope to learn to see that one day.

At any rate, I can’t process my thoughts about death right now in crunch time, but I thought in commemoration of the events of yesterday I’d throw up an old poem from that day three weeks into my freshman year of college when I walked into my freshman composition class and learned the world was changing. Pardon the angst and the melodrama (but honestly, it was an appropriate day for it); I’ve changed as a poet since then, but in many ways my spirit is still screaming in the same way.

God have mercy on the souls of those who died in New York and DC ten years ago. God have mercy on the souls of those who died in Pakistan yesterday. God have mercy on us all.

* * *

September 11, 2001
I.
You normally spend your time kicking the ground
Because he is the only close person around
To look up at you as you trample him down.
For the dirt is the only one who’at least understands
The feeling of crushing, the sickening sound.
Though you don’t always like all the mud on your hands
At least it is someone who’ll always be there.

Does anyone care?
You go to find love
But find only tolerance there.

And you finally scream at the top of your lungs
But the world is so big and your voice is so small
That your cries seem to add up to nothing at all.
And you cry “Hey, can you hear me?
All is not well.
Hey, can you hear me!”
But nobody hears ‘til you speak with your guns.

II.
And wrong has become all you see anymore,
And life has become just one cankerous sore.
Will the wrongs that were done by the rich to the poor
Justify what you do now to get your word said?
You might learn not to hate if there was any more.
Well, if her god is love then he must be dead,
And your hate must be fine ‘cause at least you can feel.

Is anything real?
You sing when you hear
She’ll also have pain in the deal.

And you finally scream at the top of your lungs
But the world is so big and your voice is so small
That your cries seem to add up to nothing at all.
And you cry “Hey, can you hear me?
All is not well.
Hey, can you hear me!”
But nobody hears ‘til you speak with your guns.

III.
Well I don’t have the answers; I’m only a child,
And the wrongs have become so incredibly vile
That thoughts of true peace are exceedingly wild.
But still I have faith—you can call me na├»ve—
That there’s power in grace and in love through this trial.
At least I have chosen what I will believe.
Maybe I’m chosen; I’m chosen to give.

A way to forgive?
I hope he can show
Us a worthier life we can live.

And now I will scream at the top of my lungs
Though the world is so big and my voice is so small
And my cries seem to add up to nothing at all.
So I’ll cry “Hey, can you hear me?
All is not well.
Hey, can you hear me!”
Perhaps they will hear when I speak with my love.

3 comments:

Casey said...

Em,

What a poignant, thoughtful post. My heart aches to hear of the tragedies surrounding you these past weeks. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Christ is risen; we need not ever give up on hope! This can truly be a difficult thing to accomplish when so much death is in our midst, but I pray we can hold on tight.

Mary S said...

Em, I would say that yours is the perfect place for a "cloister". I have presumed that the name of your site indicates that you try to live a contemplative/mystical life. And what better place to have a contemplative/mystical place, where prayers are offered for the world, than the place your cloister is located.

If nothing else, I hope this comment gives you courage and stength to continue with your "cloister" work--however you realize that.

I've often tho't of my own life now as a kind of hermitage type of life, so I resonated with what I tho't the title of your website might mean.

There's been a lot of what you describe going on recently; I myself have had a acquaintance killed in a assault recently. I can appreciate somewhat how you feel in this situation. Again, I say: Hold on to the prayer and be a presence of peace and goodness in your surroundings. MCS

Hemraj said...
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