Winter Compline

In Blog, Poems on 27 November 2014

I wrote this poem the Thanksgiving after 9/11. I felt hopeless, frustrated by the presidency of GW Bush, had lost faith in the U.S. political system, and found myself needing some comfort, some reason to keep believing that the world wasn’t becoming worse and worse.

I’ve been feeling that way this week, after the travesty of a grand jury decided not to even have a trial for a man who shot a child to death in Ferguson, MO. I’ve been feeling despair and sorrow and have been mourning for how racist and afraid and selfish and controlling and hopeless American society is.
So my thoughts turned to this poem, which I wrote on the grey, rainy Thanksgiving morning of 2001, thinking of something from Christian and Jewish scripture, a passage from the 9th chapter of Isaiah:

“The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.”

It feels like we live in the “land of the shadow of death” these days. My Black friends and loved ones definitely live in that shadow. Michael Brown died in the shadow, the shadow of white supremacy, the shadow of institutional systemic racism, the shadow of fear.
But I refuse to live in fear, and I refuse to settle for fear. I refuse to be part of what casts that shadow, and I intend to try, with my utmost, to use my various privileges to question, critique, challenge and interrogate the shadow. I intend to start that work with myself.

And I intend to always look for light.

This poem is a small thing, a little attempt of a much younger self trying to grasp at hope, and maybe finding it for a moment. It’s a candle, and the world is so large, but it’s what I have.

Here is a recording of the poem from 2005, featuring G Scott Jones on trombone, Mario Abney on trumpet, Christopher Slone on bass and Julian Addison on drums. It was recorded at Emporium Wines & The Underdog Cafe.

Here is the text of it, originally published by Denver Syntax.

I hope it brings you some small comfort. Happy Thanksgiving.