What if we treated each other like poems? Things of beauty to be broken apart and experienced instead of commodities to be judged?
Here’s a piece that I’ve performed a couple of times, down at the open mic of the Seattle Poetry Slam and then in a worship gathering at the Northwest Church. (edited slightly for the church performance.) There’s a series of these poems based on the notion of “Don’t Reduce Me.” Reductionism is at the heart of stereotyping, and the fact that we often deal with each other as if a single fact (skin color, gender, sexual orientation, or whatever) tells us everything we need to know. Truth is, identity is mysterious and emergent, and we should all pause at the holy mystery that is the other person in front of us. Needless to say, life goes too fast to allow such a thing.
To read each other like poems, we’d have to slow down. Way down…
MAKE ME A TOWER
Don’t reduce me.
Make me a tower.
Shower my mind with reasons
Why days all of grime
Can turn into fine
Seasons of nothing but better.
Better yet, can you cut through the clutter
And just sputter me out some hope here?
I’m trying to cope here, and I don’t want to shutter down,
So please—just utter me some good.
Give me some kind of beauty
I’m looking for my heart; I lost it, in part, to duty
And fear of hell, and fell notions of holy.
Now only oceans of you can open the fist.
I missed this,
Missed the gist of this.
Don’t dismiss the potential for bliss here, people.
What I need are open faces,
Designs of production making praises that function
Like light on the leaves of opening trees.
I need to receive the sun’s gift, that spark
That runs down the dark, runs down the miles
Arriving to open the sad into smiles, through all of life.
A kingdom of good I would make if I could.
Now, that attention you pay,
The fine notice you take,
It starts turning the pages,
It rattles the cages inside this man, and
This dead heart starts to shake, starts to quake, and maybe it has to break,
But it can, in time, start to wake up, and by God,
It’s sublime to find in the fine detail what really might be a human face.
I’m more than a race, some type and some chatter,
Be in my now, right here has to matter
We all got some color, some black, white, and brown,
We’re deeper than that once the bias breaks down
Let’s get past it, let’s ask it, whether all that typing and crap
Is what’s wrapping our spirits up so damn tight,
That we fear it, we won’t come near it, our own spirit, we steer it into hiding,
Riding straight into the abyss,
Missing what “could have been” in our time.
Put your mind to better use, and try to deduce the me,
The whole me—I been standing here the whole frickin’ time,
Man—the mission is the recognition
Of the emergent, towering woman and man,
That powerful I am that stands in every common
Image carrier of God.
I’m not a body, I’m not a soul-
I’m a human, I’m whole
An entire being, tired of being abused.
Of being used so poorly.
I sorely hope in the future, we can just refuse to do that,
And choose to see each other—
Don’t reduce me.