In my daily writing before dawn, for the past several weeks, I find myself writing what I’ve come to call “post-election poems,” seeking ways that poetry might participate in healing our country’s mysterious divisions…
12 December 2016
Election Morning Starlight
We have not done enough to spare our country
this avalanche of foolishness—not by word
or heroic act, sufficient witness at the fulcrum
to raise our state of union that lies in the gutter.
A bird could peep more wisdom
than any microphone, the wind sweep
more confessions from the poor,
if only votes too young could count.
So much shouting has squandered listening
and exiled thought, so much free loot sold
among debris the rally left behind
when the campaign bus roared away.
So I gaze up to what is pure and old,
deeply conservative in my devotion
to what is young and beautiful:
rain, dawn, bud, and sturdy root.
When things go catawampus,
when silences abound,
when nations reel from troubles
and tyranny is crowned—
by writing, be the righter
and see what can be found
for remedy and comfort
by writing stories down
of all our old connections,
then pass your blessings round—
for people long divided,
restore our common ground.
Practicing the Complex Yes
When you disagree with a friend,
a stranger, or a foe, how do you
reply but not say simply No?
For No can stop the conversation
or turn it into argument or worse—
the conversation that must go on,
as a river must, a friendship, a troubled nation.
So may we practice the repertoire
of complex yes:
Yes, I know you feel that way, and...
Yes, and in what you say I see...
Yes, oh yes, and at the same time...
Yes, I see, and what if...?
Yes, I hear you, and how...?
Yes, and there’s an old story...
Yes, and as the old song goes...
Yes, and as a child once told me...
Yes. Tell me more. I want to understand...
And then I want to tell you how it is for me....
Champion the Enemy's Need
Ask about your enemy’s wounds and scars.
Seek his hidden cause of trouble.
Feed your enemy’s children.
Learn their word for home.
Repair their well.
Learn their sorrow's history.
Trace their lineage of the good.
Ask them for a song.
Make tea. Break bread.
Poet of the Clan
When ancient troubles flared—
battle imminent in the sunlit glen—
the Laird sent his poet to a hill
to witness each heroic act
in the slaughter, so,
should a generation be slain,
the brave ballad might yet survive.
Now, in troubled times, our work
is otherwise: each lyric reminder
of our humanity may be a medallion
glimmering along the dark road of this
confounding epoch, guiding us
to avoid the precipice, and keep
to the far destination home.