February 8, 2010

Poem of Peace

My close friends and family will tell you that the only presents I usually give them for their birthdays, holidays or special occasions are poems. And the poems always, always rhyme. Since I was six, I utilized poems to convey my ideas (i.e. "my mother wasn't funny when she gave away my pet bunny; my father's the best dad because he never gets mad.") Twenty years later, I'm still doing it. I'm actually surprised that it took me this long to write an entry in rhyme, but regardless, here it is...

A Poem of Peace.

In the subtlest of moments, life changes before my eyes
Often in these moments I take me by surprise
As I unclothe the preconceptions and take off the disguise
I am left stranded, naked, seeing the stark truth behind my lies.

I tell myself lies sometimes, in order to feel free
Pretending that as a human, I lack accountability
And so I am left in a world in which I make believe
Though my eyes are open...I still claim not to see
So this poem is a poem in pursuit of honesty
Of the truths that remain, that stem from my heart
I still have much to learn, but this shall suffice as a start.

Though I believe in peace, a life of peace had I swore
In reality, most of our lives are driven by war
War between races, Based on the color of faces
war of territorial gains, the claiming of spaces
war between politics and polarized wings
the destruction of common goals, of which divisiveness brings

War between ourselves-torn with societal mainstreams
Trying to figure out where to fit our own dreams
Torn between our natural image from which we were given
And a barbie doll image to which we're subconsciously driven

Blaming others that the harm we see is another's fault
Not seeing our role in things, our own actions an assault
Denying that the jewelry we wear and keep in our vaults
Have not come from pain, of these thoughts we halt
We tell ourselves pretty things come from a mine field
But deny that it is enslaved children who painstakingly yield
Minerals and diamonds in order to survive
And we hang them from our necks, so our own wealth thrives

And I pretend to make believe that my clothes come from a store
And not from a factory where physical labor leaves muscles and hearts sore
And I pretend that when Jesus said "if you have two coats, give one away"
He really meant you can save charity for a different, more convenient day

And I see us paying for exploitation
Justifying destruction for new creation
Perhaps this all my imagination
a make-believe of truth or a miseducation
But we're all a part of the proliferation
of a culture which seeks the domination
of indigenous species and all others we come across
democracy is a gift, but there is a line we have crossed

One voice, one vote; this is what I believe
not corporations electing Presidents because their motive is greed.
We're founded on freedom and principals of democracy
But when we engage in human rights violations, we engage in hypocripsy
Letting the world be run by a profit-ridden corporatacracy

Comparatively speaking, in this country we are safe.
But we always feel so threatened, perpetual fear we instigate
But there are places where people suffer much worse fates
In Congo where girls are subject to gang rape
Fistulas ripped, vaginas torn
Children abandoned, a population forlorn

Earthquakes in Haiti, people buried alive
North and South Korea, families suffering divide
Starvation in Zimbabwe, religious clashes in Nigeria
And health care for all here is causing hysteria?

I understand the need to preserve a certain status quo
But of the current state of things, is this the way we should go?
If being a nationalist
Means preserving self- interest
And becoming isolationist
Then to my spirituality and God will I seek guidance to step
Obeying the laws, but questioning the people we elect

And though I may be defined as poitically liberal
And my values declared impractical and much too cerebral
An idealist who lives too much in imagination-
To others I seem to engage in conservative conversation
Pursuing a moderate way and supporting religious vocations

However I am labeled, I seek to fight evil
That perpetuates extreme disparity and leaves others as unequal
Although I don't suffer from discrimination because my color is white
I know racism exists and minorities still fight
To overcome stereotypes and be seen in the same light
Frustrated by conceptions that white often means right
To say racism is over ignores a greater plight

And though I am straight, of the mainstream sexual orientation
I have seen loved ones cry tears based on gay discrimination.
And they say words don't matter, if you don't mean what you say
But I have seen sadness as a consequence of a joking "fag" or "so gay"
Sometimes intentions seem pure, we justify principals with beliefs
But if beliefs cause pain and suffering, perhaps we're missing a piece
Because while love can cause sadness and love can cause pain
Love doesn't treat the essence of one's being with disdain

And other lies that we believe, I begin to see...
I've come to realize that money is certainly not free
It may come at the sacrifice of who we may want to be
Hiding our dreams for financial security
Saving money for things that we don't even need

And our relationship with the environment, of this I have learned much
At times it seems that everything that we touch
the grass, water, forests, begin to destruct
We indeed have broken mother earth's trust
Like vampires, of her resources, we perpetually suck
it is rare that we stop at enough...
we always want more
turning mother nature into our whore

We treat animals and trees as objects for our use
Taking as much as we can, turning our eyes at abuse
Forgetting that like a time bomb about to blow a fuse
if we don't change our ways, it is us who will lose

But regardless of differences or what we each believe
from deep within our sorrows we all seek to be happy
If I can fill myself with love, pushing aside hate
Hoping that with openness, judgment will dissipate
And with judgments aside, in my heart there is more space,
I can better relate to others, of new beginnings I can create

Let us appreciate the difference, to acknowledge other sects
But still embrace diversity, ensuring no neglect
Believing what we may, but not owning notions of correct
We can build a community of differences based on universal respect

If we can demonize the injustice, and not the person
then we can start to live by love's assertions
of a religion based on kindness, there will be no desertion

So, to sum it up, in my quest to self-actualize
I yearn for a union of all of the divides
of self and God
of self and other
let other be brother
let me become we
thy become my
all unify.

I try find to find peace in the "i don't knows"
Hoping that as I listen, my heart will grow
And observing the cycle of reaping what i sow
life will unfold in equilibrium, balance will flow

A new earth filled with simplicity
This is a dream I pursue actively.
Through lies, I hope I continue to see
And if God asks, "a fighter for peace who will it be?"
I will bow my head and fall to me knees
Here I am, I am waiting... God, please send me.

February 4, 2010

"I'm ok."

This morning, after my dentist appointment, I rushed down the block towards the subway station hoping to make it to work before 10 a.m. It was cold. Really cold. As my list of things to do swirled in my head, my eye suddenly caught a blanket shaking at the corner of 59th and Lexington. Except, it wasn't a blanket shaking. There was an older woman whose body was curled in the fetal position on the concrete, wrapped in a thin blanket. Though her body remained tightly wound, her head stretched upward seeking the generosity of strangers, her eyes gazed a few feet ahead of her at the passing of feet. She was shaking. Profusely. I watched a stranger drop their gloves at her feet. Her head remained dropped, but she lifted her eyes in appreciation. "Oh my goodness," I said as I approached her, "you must be freezing! Please take my hat." I outstretched the hat towards her, but she was too cold to reach out to it, so I dropped it in her lap. She nodded her head. "Thank you," she whispered.

And then, I kept walking. Because that's what you do, right? Carry on with your life? Move on to the next obligation? I walked down the subway steps on 59th and waited for the 6 train. Something whispered inside of me, "that's all?" I stared straight ahead waiting for the screeching of an approaching subway train. "She was freezing, Ker," the voice whispered. "Go back." I didn't listen. The subway came and I got on. The train conductor called out, "train traffic up ahead. We're going to be delayed for a moment."

"Go Back." it whispered. I stared ahead, glazing over blank faces and trying to avoid looking at the train door which remained open. Two minutes we waited. The train started moving again.

I'm not listening, I thought to myself. I should go back...I'm not listening to...wherever the voice was coming from, be it my heart, or my conscience, or my guilt, or the universe. Regardless where it came from, I wasn't listening.

Oh well. Too late, my rationality chimed in as the subway jerked to the next stop.

We got to 51st street. The doors opened. It's not too late, I thought...8 blocks away...I could walk back to her in 8 minutes. She's probably gone though. Someone else is surely helping her. Gotta make it to work on time. "Watch the closing doors," the conductor yelled out. The doors didn't close. The conductor yelled out again, "doors closing!" The doors remained open. "Go." it whispered. The doors started to close, I grabbed my bags and dashed through the open door. Back to 59th Street I headed. I counted the blocks as I frantically walked. Definitely going to be late to work. I passed the stores I had just past, watched people sipping their coffees and rushing to work. My bags bumped against passerbys. I grabbed a hot tea to give, just in case. Finally, I reached the corner again. She was still there. Someone had taken off their jacket and wrapped it on her. Two people had already left hot coffee by her side.

I kneeled next to her. The hat I dropped by her side had fallen off. "Your hat fell off," I said. This time I put on her head. "Can I take you somewhere to get warm. Are you freezing?" She didn't recognize me from before, probably because I hadn't looked her in the eye and probably because she likewise avoided eye contact. "I'm not too cold," she replied, still shaking and looking down. "People are layering me up with clothes. My legs are in pain. I'm just gonna stay here." I paused. "Ok. that's ok...ok." I mumbled, wondering what else to do. I stared at her, finally asking, "But..are YOU ok?" She finally gazed up at me. "You know," she said, "all morning I sit here and people drop things at my feet, but not any one ever ask me if I'm ok."

She paused. And gazed back towards the concrete. Someone dropped some change in her cup.

"But I'm ok." she finally said. "I spend the nights in the shelter, sometimes at a friends' house. I'm ok. Thank you for asking ma'am."

"Ok." I replied, knowing that while she was surviving, she was barely ok. "Ok. I'm glad you're ok." I said, nodding one too many times.

We exchanged a few more words and then I crossed the street to get back on the 59th Street Subway. I started crying as I walked away. Crying because she was suffering and I had walked by her and it took me 9 blocks to turn around. Crying because I was someone who had thrown something at her feet. Crying at the justifications we tell ourselves to pretend we're not responsible. Crying at the hundreds of people who walked by her each day, pretending not to see. Crying at the kindness of those who gave her their clothes. Crying at the thought that no asked her if she was ok. Crying for the millions of other people who only want people to care enough to ask the three simple words of "are you ok?" Crying at the mere thought of the magnitude of suffering in this world. Crying at how it was only after I looked in her in the eye that my heart awakened to her need.

When I exited the subway in Brooklyn and approached the court house, I looked at the clock and tears brimmed my eyes once again. After all of my concern with timing, I was only twelve minutes late. I breathed a sigh of relief, "I'm ok on time," I thought. And then I paused, feeling the heaviness of the unspoken story encompassed in a shivering woman's words of "I'm ok." My heart hurt. But on to the next obligation.