Writing Beyond Racism, continued

From Beth Sanders, another poet in the Spiritual Expressions group…

 

Refusing To Inflict Injury On Another

(After Martin Luther King, Jr.)

It goes on and on, the infliction of injury.
If we are honest, can we really avoid not hurting anyone?
But if we do, we immediately experience the internal violence of spirit,
and we are a part of the hostilities.

If we are honest, can we avoid hurting?
We try to love our enemies,
but we are a part of the hostilities.
Can we really just stand and be hurt?

We try to love our enemies,
but their free speech offends us –
can we really just stand and be hurt?
Does that keep us from internal violence?

Free speech can be hurtful and scary.
But we can stop our own mouths.
Does that keep us from internal violence?
Yet our quiet example speaks for us

We can stop our mouths,
but we immediately experience an internal conflict of spirit.
Our example speaks for us,
yet it goes on and on, the infliction of injury.

Beth Sanders

 

Beth says:

I too was inspired by the Pantoum Nessa brought in for MLK Day. It is a very strict form, which gives meaning by repetition. As I read my poem out loud, I heard King’s phrases in a new way as they twisted through the poem. I was also thinking about the Charlie Hebdo experience of recent days.

These phrases are King’s: The individual engaged in a non-violent struggle “must never inflect injury on another.” By avoiding physical violence, those who follow the philosophy of non-violence “avoid internal violence of spirit.” And, our only hope today lies in “declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.”

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Writing Past Racism, Into Love

Inspiration from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Poems About Him

I lead a writing group, Spiritual Expressions, at Fountain Street Church, Grand Rapids MI. Because I am a poetry therapist, all the comments are meant to be positive in response to participant writings. And really, something remarkable always happens. On January 19, 2015, the writings I brought for inspiration were all related to MLK, racism in our country, and non-violent communication principles found in MLK’s work. As the inaugural post, I would like to introduce W. Donald Wheeler, a valued member of our writing group. I hope you will read his poem below and be inspired.

Confrontation

I have decided to stick to love.
When hate short-circuits judgment,
no fact will alter one’s course.
Hate is too great a burden to bear.

When hate short-circuits judgment,
and a trigger is tripped in the brain,
hate is too great a burden to bear:
Voice and finger will not be constrained.

Once the trigger has tripped in the brain,
calm and caution are swept aside.
Voice and finger will not be constrained.
Provocation reinforces hate.

With calm and caution swept aside,
behavior is ratcheted to the next level.
Provocation reinforces hate.
The outcome will satisfy no one.

With behavior ratcheted to the next level,
confrontation quickly (or slowly) turns lethal.
An outcome that satisfies no one.
Its ripples are legion.

When confrontation turns lethal,
the Outcry is ratcheted to the next level,
and Its ripples are legion.
We must decide to stick to love.

Hate is too great a burden for the nation to bear.

The first draft of this poem was written on the 2014 anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, in the wake of a spate of fatal confrontations between police and unarmed black men. It’s a pantoum, inspired by Dr. King’s words: “I have decided to stick to love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” While writing, it occurred to me for the first time that although the responsibility is not equal (because of the unequal power), the underpinnings of the fatal confrontations are often the same on both sides.

Donald Wheeler, 01/26/15