RSS

Tag Archives: poems

Two Hero Day: Immortal MLK and Marcella

MLK Memorial Profile

MLK National Memorial. Image by Enviro on Flickr

You already know today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This day always makes me both proud and saddened. Proud that my country celebrates the life and impact of an all time hero of humanity. A man made larger than life as the courageous leader, symbol and martyr of a movement of love and justice. He was an architect, with so many others, of a new system being born while helping an old one into hospice. A person all of us can look up to and be thankful for, no matter what color or creed or culture we call our own today.

It also bubbles up emotions of dark and sadness thinking about the prejudices and hate that were real in Dr. King’s time, before him, and still today in too many ways. It always gets me reflecting on my own prejudices and blinders that are part of me and the way I see the world through the filter of my own worldview and mental models. And, I suppose that is the immortal nature of Dr. King’s message and life–to continually question and challenge my own ways of seeing and being with others in this world.

I had the privilege of meeting and spending some time with the Executive Architect of the recently opened Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial this past October. Dr. Ed Jackson came to Sioux Falls to give the opening keynote at a convention for South Dakota architects that I had organized. How he got there was interesting: I heard him as a guest of Melissa Block on NPR’s All Things Considered (listen to the interview here), defending a design decision that paraphrased a quote from Dr. King instead of carving it verbatim on the memorial’s granite. Something about his demeanor grabbed me, and I thought he might be able to share an architect’s perspective on honoring a national hero in a way that no one else could. So, I googled his name, found a phone number in Washington, DC, and dialed… And he answered! He was so gracious, and said yes to my proposal right there on the phone.

The fact that Dr. Jackson kept his commitment to speak at our little event was remarkable, since that following weekend was the Dedication Ceremony for the new memorial! I enjoyed spending a little time with Jackson, and even walked around Falls Park with him for 15 minutes on our way to the airport. The paraphrased quote issue hasn’t gone away, and in fact the feds have now required it to be changed, somehow. As Ed laid out in his keynote that October afternoon, the decision was not a quick or lite one. It came after consideration and consulting with historians, advisors and Dr. King’s family. His dedication to making this project real–a twenty-plus year effort–is very inspiring. And his bold design decisions are too. Thanks Ed, for influencing me and for building a new landmark to honor a true hero. Congratulations on a masterpiece. I so look forward to walking through the memorial grounds with you for a tour as soon as I get to DC.

Grandam Marcella at the kitchen table

Grandma with family at her birthday party last night

Marcella

You might not know that today is also Marcella Bartmann Day. It’s Grandma’s birthday, and there is no bigger hero in my life. It’s about time I let her know.

I think a big part of what makes someone a hero is the things they practice and what in their being is something you want to be. Probably no one outside her family or friends thinks of Grandma as a hero, but for those of us with her in our life, it’s no question. She’s one of those subtle, solid and grounded heroes. She’s a rock. I love you so much.

She Said it Without Words

Be quiet courage and strength, day after day after day.
Care for their messes of all kind,
prepare the food that gathers them,
lead by being love, not loud. 

Deepen faith, in god and each other.
Make it your constant practice.
And question it all with power and grace,
stand up to find real meaning in ideas and relationships. 

Live concrete in values,
and open yourself to what is different.
Seek out the meek and ragged,
hold them like they are yours. 

Be the glue for those you love,
and the conscience in the room.
Give selflessly so they may find joy or peace,
Make music of your sorrows.

Find pride in humility,
and rugged work.
Know the impossible isn't,
and the worst lives somewhere else.

Make these prayers of contentment and gratitude:
the dishes, the clothesline, the muddy floor.
Enjoy the art of staying put,
and believe in letting go.

Watch over the land and lives,
as a trusted steward and gardener.
Know that what nourishes is scarce,
what's beautiful is temporary,
and all is becoming something else.

Love.
Advertisements
 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 16, 2012 in activism, Celebrations, Family, Peace, poetry, Raves

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

No One Said It Would Be Easy

Working late/early tonight, and this song by Cloud Cult (my favorite band from Minnesota) has kept my motor running. It’s one that just grabs me deep, makes my soul dance a bit. Beautiful, long intro that builds and builds with spirit and energy, and then lyrics that speak in god’s voice.

Here’s the verse behind it:

When you came up from the ground
From a million little pieces
You’re a pretty human being
Yeah, you’re a pretty human being

When it all comes crashing down
Try to understand your meanings
No one said it would be easy
This living, it ain’t easy, oh

You were sewn together
with a tapestry of molecules
A billion baby galaxies
and wide open spaces

And everything you need is here
Everything you fear is here
And it’s holding you up
It just keeps holding you up

When you came up from the ground
From a million little pieces
You’re a pretty human being
Yeah, you’re a pretty human being

When it all comes crashing down
Try to understand your meanings
No one said it would be easy
This living, it ain’t easy, oh

-No One Said It Would Be Easy by Cloud Cult, from the album Feel Good Ghosts
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 27, 2010 in music, poetry

 

Tags: , , ,

Verses from a December weekend

Two to share. A haiku inspired by a story I heard from Krista Tippet’s Speaking of Faith, and a freestyle verse on time and procrastination. By freestyle, I mean sometimes (usually, actually) I just scribble down some things really quickly on the fly, without any work or careful editing. It’s just kind of verse-improv. It’s usually not very good stuff, but I share it with hopes it will give you courage to try it.

1.

Skates find dark abyss
Glass roof exit hides tonight
Rest in cold surrender

2.

Tomorrow. (Written in the kitchen)

Don’t worry any more,
I’ll surely  start the morrow
with vigor’s determination,
Upon my proclaimed quest.

We’re right here by the door.

Light years ’til the dawn,
Far off across the wilderness,
No telling if far and wide
Will ever take us there.
Old day is never gone.

But wait–my plan is still within,
Untouched, as now becomes yesterday.

What if the buzzer sounds
And I am waiting still?
That perfect time
For my quest to just begin.

The next step that I make
We may fall through into another day.
Could be here already
By the end of this next breath.

Just blink and I will wake,
In time to turn the key.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 21, 2009 in poetry

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Pain and a Pen, Part 4: Barbed-wire Sunset

This is the fourth in a series of poems written at my Grandma’s dying bedside. Barbed Wire lives in frustration and, almost, resentment toward the universe for what seemed like an unnecessary dragging on of my Grandmother’s suffering. It was written late at night, just a couple hours before she died. She appeared to be totally unconscious by now, but still responded with a squeeze of the hand when people would talk to her or a new hand would hold hers.

She was on regular doses of morphine to control her pain, but the almost constant quiet, agonizing moans and clinching of her entire body told us it wasn’t doing the trick. Her blood oxygen saturation had dipped below 65%, and her breaths had fallen to 4 or 5 per minute for several hours. I was sad, helpless and begging her tired body to let go. We had all said our final goodbyes, prayed together around her, and had a good hard cry together as a family. And the agony drug on for her, though we knew th end was very near.

Barbed-wire Sunset

soft darkness,
warm chills,
a bead runs down my face
love will wipe my brow.

parched lips and sunken eyes
no voice left of mine,
turn me here to there
this stubborn stregnth of ox.

another dose
to dull the pain,
to find for me some rest.

each breath, a thousand pounds
upon my chest,
weight of this mortal life
I will to drop behind.

furrowed brow
determined to break the armor
of this resilient vessel,
death prevail in time.

who hears my cry
and opens now the gate?
who holds my hand
hour upon hour?

I go into the next
foggy and unknown
and beautiful.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 15, 2009 in Family, Love, poetry, writing

 

Tags: , , , ,

Pain and a Pen, Part 3: Home

This is part 3 in a series of poems written at my Grandma’s dying bedside. Home was written on the third evening after the stroke, when Grandma could make brief eye contact with us, and was in obvious agony. She’d told my Mom earlier in the day she wanted to go home, and we knew what she meant. By this time, she could no longer find the energy to speak, and breathing took every ounce of energy and concentration from her. She would only open her eyes occasionally. These verses came to me while contemplating her suffering, and were inspired by things I heard others in the room say and ask about what might be going through her mind now. Home is written from Grandma’s perspective.

Home.

eyes gaze deep
my love’s embrace,
words are no more found

look into my journey long
ending as it was born
presence dwells within

let resilient spirit rest
take me home
where peace lives now,
take me home

every breath
a mountain climb
every hour
eternity forelorn

sent off by love,
love waiting still
on the other side

take me home
so ready now
take me home.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 14, 2009 in Family, poetry, writing

 

Tags: , , , ,

Pain and a Pen, Part 2: Onward

This is the second installment in a series of poems written at my Grandma’s dying bedside. Onward was written shortly after Love Note, when I was alone with Grandma. It came from a place of really surrendering to true presence of being there with her, and felt as though she was writing it through me, for the family she loves so much. Her children (my aunts, uncles and mom)  later found it in the journal and selected it as the verse to print on the memorial program for her wake and funeral.

Onward.

gone, not lost,
for she lives on
in me, in you,
in the spirit of life.

every end
is a new beginning
we mourn, not for her
but for our own loss,
our love, our emptiness.

celebrate beloved memories
and tears.
death is life, another step
along a miraculous journey
find joy in letting go.

cherish and keep
each moment we shared
and hug the now,
love never ends.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 13, 2009 in Family, Love, poetry, writing

 

Tags: , , ,

Pain and a Pen: Love Note

Sometime on the morning of October 3, my grandmother had a stroke. Grandma Knox had been in poor health for a while, and the stroke was more than even her resilient, stubborn body could take. She went home early Tuesday morning, surrounded by sons and daughters and grand kids. I know it’s hard for most everyone to loose a grandparent, even when they’ve lived a long life and we know the end is right around the corner.

I love Grandma very much. And this was a pretty difficult ordeal for me, just as it was for the rest of the family. Difficult because I love her, difficult because I watched her suffer through her final days–days where every breath was a painful marathon for her, and difficult because I promised my Grandpa just before his own death that I’d care for her when he was gone. Mostly, though, it was tough because I didn’t want to let go.

During the three days where so many were gathered at her bedside, day and night, to comfort her as she walked into the next journey, I found myself tuned in with a pen. It was an outlet for the myriad of emotions I was experiencing, and it gave Grandma one final voice–at least through my perspective. So, I committed to opening up and being an instrument for the words that seemed to want to be born through me. I captured most of them in the back of Grandma’s last journal, a spiral notebook with a blue and brown floral pattern hardcover. Read the rest of this entry »

 
2 Comments

Posted by on October 12, 2009 in Family, poetry, writing

 

Tags: , , , ,