Wednesday, April 17, 2013

National Poetry Month—Rev. Dr. Edward Frost—About Boston

Something about tragedies like Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon and the senseless carnage encourages poetry.  Literally volumes were written after 9/11 which resulted in several anthologies.  My contributions were even included in one of them.  Other events, like the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut last December have caused outpourings.  After a bloody Sunday morning at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, I wrote what has become one of my most requested poems, Knoxville: 7/27/2008 10:26 A.M.
Most of this poetry is strictly cathartic for the poet—an anguished shriek, a stab at understanding.  Some is simply sentimental.  Some wrapped up in religion and expectations of reunion in the afterlife.  Some is raging jingoism threatening revenge even before it is clear on whom revenge should be wrecked.  Finally, among the piles of slag there will emerge some nuggets of deeper and more nuanced vision and understanding.
Things are probably still too raw after Boston, but gifted writers are at this moment working on it.
Others are looking back at previous reflections.  Thanks to blogger and Facebook friend Jone Johnson Lewis, I found a posting by the Rev. Dr. Edward Frost from his quite wonderful personal blog Frostings .
Dr. Frost is a retired Unitarian Universalist minister who most recently was the long time Senior Minister of UU Congregation of Atlanta where he is now minister emeritus.  He previously served the UU Congregation of Princeton, New Jersey.  He may be most familiar to many U.U.s as the editor of the popular, With Purpose and Principle, an anthology of meditations on the UUA’s Seven Principles and its Sources of Inspiration which was published by Skinner House Press and is often included in introductory material given to new members in many congregations.
I am including his entire blog post from April 15 including a brief one paragraph introduction to his poem.
In the aftermath of the bombing in Oklahoma City, someone said thatit was the end of America’s Innocence. The following is an excerpt I wrote in response. I hope you’ll excuse me if I share it again following the tragic event at the Boston Marathon. 

I was a little boy, five or six years old, living in England
when my city was still being bombed.
I never knew innocence.
I assumed being bombed, losing my friends and relatives,
gutted buildings and smoking ruins–
I assumed this was the nature of existence.
They say Americans will never feel safe again.
I have never felt safe,
not in sixty years have I assumed that there is a place of safety.
The children of Oklahoma City–
the children of America
and our children here today
have come into a world being called, now, insane.
I can offer this–as can millions of survivors
of battles, bombings, concentration camps
and all manner of human and natural terrors–
that if the world is not innocent as Eden,
purely good and safe,
nor is it an evil place.
There is evil, which–who really knows why–
some people come to embody and inflict upon the innocent.
But there is also good,
which I truly believe is embodied
by the vast majority of humankind.
For every insane bomber,
there are tens of millions of people
who will crawl into the smoking ruins
toward the voice of a crying child,
who will sit and cry for the suffering of people they never knew,
who will–in the face of such evil as this–
remind us over and over again of what is good.
The world is not a safe place.
No one ever said it is.
We teach our children that the stove is hot,
that the street is dangerous,
that the woodpile is not safe.
We also teach our children
to hear the music, to sing the songs,
to honor the creatures and the earth we share together.
We teach our children not to talk to strangers.
We also teach them, by our example,
by the tears we shed for the children of Bosnia,
and Sarajevo–and now of Oklahoma City–
that life is so good, so worth risking,
that our hearts ache when a single life is lost.
It may be that someone around our campfire
will do us harm.
Still, the circle of humankind
around the light and warmth
is what we have.
It would be far worse for us if, in our fear,
we doused the fire
and ran, alone, into the dark.
I light a candle as a prayer for comfort
for those who grieve the dead and dying
I light it as a tribute
to all those whose humanity
called them into the fallen place
to save who they could
or simply to be within their hearing.
And I light a candle as a symbol of that fire
–truth, goodness, hope, love–
around which we gather for comfort
and for courage.
—Edward Frost

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