Thursday, April 13, 2017

Poems of Centered Resistance

Centered Resistance in Baton Rouge.

In case you didn’t know it or had forgotten, this year’s National Poetry Month blog post series has general themepoems and poets of resistance—in response to the troubling and dangerous times in which we live.  Now that still covers a lot of ground.  We have been encouraged by voices who have come before us and inspired by those who live this very day in peril and rank injustice.  By its very nature the poetry of resistance can come off as strident.  It often pulls no punches and cares not what toes are stepped on or what tender egos are bruised by uncomfortable truths.  Many are calls to action and revolt at great risk to ourselves.  But other poems are almost litanies of despair—they lay out crimes, injustices, and brutalities.  They claim victimhood in order to lay out the moral grounds of resistance—the very urgency that makes us go beyond polite protest and established avenues of socially acceptable activity into resistance where the stakes are far, far higher.
That is all as it should be.  As it must be.  But there is also a different kind of resistance poetry—one which calls on each of us calm our souls in the midst of violence and chaos, to center ourselves in love so that we don’t transform our opponents into the Others so completely devoid of decency and so embodying and empowering evil that we no longer even see them as human.  Down that road lies becoming what we despise—instead of voice of the people we can slip into becoming Robespierres, Stalin, or Pol Pots. 
So let us turn now to what might be called Zen and the Art of Revolution Maintenance.
For inspiration, I have turned to some talented fellow blogger/poets who are also Unitarian Universalist ministers or lay people.

The Rev. Lynn Unger.
The Rev. Lynn Unger is the Minister for Lifespan Learning at Church of the Larger Fellowship, the UUA congregation that serves members across the country and the world, most of whom do not belong for one reason or another to a brick and mortar church.  It is by far the largest congregation in the UUA.  She studied writing at legendarily progressive Reed College in Oregon and graduated from Star King School for Ministry in California.  She is a single dog lover living in Castro Valley, California.  Breathe, said the wind appeared in Quest for Meaning, the on-line publication of the Church of the Larger Fellowship.
Breathe, said the wind
Breathe, said the wind.

How can I breathe at a time like this,
when the air is full of the smoke
of burning tires, burning lives?

Just breathe, the wind insisted.

Easy for you to say, if the weight of
injustice is not wrapped around your throat,
cutting off all air.

I need you to breathe.
I need you to breathe.

Don’t tell me to be calm
when there are so many reasons

to be angry, so much cause for despair!
I didn’t say to be calm, said the wind,
I said to breathe.
We’re going to need a lot of air
to make this hurricane together.

—Rev. Lynn Unger

The Rev. Theresa Novak

The Rev. Theresa Novak has been featured in a previous National Poetry Month entry.  She frequently posts insightful poetry on her blog Sermon, Poetry, and Other MusingsA graduate of the University of California at Berkley, she had a career as a Social Security Administration manager before enrolling at Star King and embarking on a second career as a minister.  She is the Minister Emerita of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden in Utah.  She lives in California with her wife.

Morning Light

There is a special quality of light
As a new day dawns
The shadows are still dark
Danger can lurk undisclosed

But every budding leaf
Of each new tree is also revealed
Dew sparkles like shattered glass –
Or chains

Seize the day
Open eyes can
Bring about the dawn
There is nothing more beautiful
Than justice reborn.

Rev.  Theresa Novak

Tina L. Porter.

Tina L. Porter is a UU laywoman who lives in Waterville, Minnesota with her husband and childrenShe graduated from her hometown high school in Cherokee, IowaShe is a support professional at Nu Horizons of Southern Minnesota which provides adult care for clients with developmental disabilities, mental illness, traumatic brain injuries, chemical dependency, and the elderly with dementia.  B. Safe was written last January on the eve of the Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches and was posted on her blog Ugly Pies

B. Safe

“B. Safe” she wrote on my wall
as I ready myself to join
a wall of resistance.
B. Safe.
B. Safe.
B. Safe.
It rings in my ears
almost like it always has
B. Safe.
Don’t ride the bus that late
Don’t walk alone at night
Don’t leave your drink
Don’t wear that skirt
Don’t travel alone
Don’t be alone
Don’t be
B. Safe, she wrote,
and it rings in my ears
almost like it always has
Isn’t this part of
why we are marching
With thousands of others
who are limited
or limit themselves,
through fear for their safety?
Especially us pale women
who somehow got the notion
that we could have an expectation
of safety, however false
Unlike our sisters of color
who were born knowing
they’d never be safe
in a world that criminalizes,
dehumanizes, detains and
defames their bodies
for the crime of pigmentation
B. Safe, she says,
and I almost hear it
like I usually do.
In my head I tell her
I’m marching with joy
and in celebration
with daughters at my side
a mother at my back
a husband “safe” at home
and a pocket full of souls
I carry with me–
names etched
in my chicken scratch
on paper scraps
that reminds me how vast
one person’s reach can be.
We are resisters. Sisters.
Brothers, and more.
Building a wall
that expands
with the pulse of a
heartbeat or a
bass line or a
double-dutch rhyme
A wall of acceptance
plastered in rainbows
and raised fists
and the names of those
that led us here
to dance upon the arc
of justice that bends just so
we don’t see the end
but we dance
finding ourselves
with ourselves
and not one of us says
B. Safe.
Because we are, together.
—Tina L. Porter

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