In my weaker moments I imagine
that you sent this plague
as punishment for our iniquity,
but deep down in my heart I know
that’s not your way.
In fleeting moments of clarity,
I picture you gazing out at us
and ruefully asking out loud:
Don’t you know that I really don’t need
to inflict punishments on you?
Can’t you see you’re doing a pretty good job
inflicting punishments on yourselves?
Even now I’m astonished that
this terrible moment still hasn’t taught you
that no matter how hard you try
you cannot hide from one another.
Even now you cannot see
that the lines you’ve drawn
will not protect you,
that viruses care nothing for national borders,
that pandemics do not stop at walls
checkpoints and security fences.
I look on in wonder as the powerful,
your so-called leaders,
close the gates even tighter,
warning citizens not to congregate
even as they increasingly herd humanity
into prisons, detention centers
and refugee camps.
Even now I’m astonished
by the rampant ignorance of those
who still believe the absurd lines
they’ve drawn in the sand will
somehow keep them safe.
And now it has come to this:
you must sit closed up in your homes
keeping your distance from one another
that your communities might survive.
I can only hope that
in this moment of separation,
you will finally come to see
how connected you truly are –
for this may well be your final chance
to grasp the most basic of lessons:
that in the end,
you only have each other.
This prayer might be painful
for you to hear, but it’s all I have.
All I ask is that you listen to my words
and please don’t turn away:
A new and unfamiliar fear
has been growing within me.
Every day the walls close in,
every day the world bears down upon me
just a little bit more.
I’m staggering under the weight
of voices assailing me from every direction.
I’m unsure of what to do, what to think,
I don’t know what is real and what is false,
whether to stay in or venture out,
I can’t tell if my comfort is complacency,
if my worries are hysteria.
Every day I read of illness and death
and I dream of escape.
I see the birds building their nests
outside my window
and dream of flying far, far away,
to a place untouched by fear or sorrow.
Our leaders have utterly failed us;
they wander in confusion
without a care for our well-being.
I trust only in scientists and care-givers,
I depend only upon my friends,
my neighbors, my community.
I know we will only survive
if we care for one another.
How long will I dwell
in this strange new kingdom?
How many will be stricken,
how many will fall?
Will I make it safely
to the other side?
As I contemplate your familiar silence,
I realize I don’t really require an answer –
perhaps just the reassurance that whatever happens,
we’ll bear each other along the way
with kindness, decency and love
until our long sleepless night is through
and the warm light of a new day rises
to envelop us once more.
tonight we sing of victory:
a joyous delirious melody
to the moment we’re dreaming of,
the world we’re struggling for,
the place where deliverance has been
patiently awaiting our arrival.
tonight we sing out to a power
greater than any we can possibly imagine,
our jubilant notes of praise
guiding us like breadcrumbs over impossible,
impassable mountain peaks, through
the narrowest of narrow spaces
where creation once wrenched land from sea.
with wild abandon we’ll praise
the love that has nurtured us,
the strength that has somehow sustained us,
the journey that has been leading
to this one timeless moment.
for too long we’ve been stumbling
through the wilderness
hardening our hearts in doubt,
fearfully shutting our eyes to wonders
we’ve never dared imagine, to the signposts
that might otherwise show us the way.
so let’s stand down the voices
that whisper of our unworthiness,
we are the ones whose song
cannot not be silenced,
the ones who fight back and win, yes
we are the generation that
crosses over to the place
of joy everlasting.
tonight we raise the cup,
tomorrow we’ll breathe deeply
and dwell in a world
without borders, without limit
in space or in time,
a world beyond wealth or scarcity,
a world where there is nothing
for us to do but to be.
they said this day would never come,
yet here we are:
the surging waters have receded,
there is no oppressor, no oppressed,
no power but the one
coursing through every living
breathing satiated soul.
memories of past battles fading
like dry grass in the warm sun,
no more talk of enemies and strategies,
no more illusions, no more dreams, only
this eternal moment of victory
to celebrate and savor the world
as we always knew it could be.
see how the justice we planted in the deep
dark soil now soars impossibly skyward,
rising up like a palm tree,
like a cedar, flourishing forever
ever swaying, ever bending
but never breaking.
so tonight we raise the cup,
tomorrow we’ll breathe deeply
to savor a world recreated,
and when sun sets once again
we continue the struggle.
to the ones who dwell in the halls
and chambers of the most high
we solemnly swear
we will hold you accountable
to uphold our rights
to ensure our safety
to safeguard our very lives.
we vow to preserve protect and defend
love support and sustain each other
through the coming storm
to the very best of our abilities.
we promise to never forget
the ones who went before us
the countless who fell
in the bright light of day
the nameless whose sacrifices
have vanished in the deep darkness
of the night.
this concludes our ceremony
but don’t be fooled
that roar you just heard
was just the latest call to action
in an endlessly unfolding struggle
it didn’t start with us
and it won’t end with you.
so you best get used to the sound
of our voices and the sight
of our multitudes pouring into the streets
because that call will keep resonating
long after this day is done
that’s right we plan to answer it without fail
and without end so help us god.
i’ve been singing your praises
for so long
i’m not sure if i know
how to stop.
sometimes i’m terrified
to imagine what would happen
if i even paused to take a breath.
sometimes i wonder
is this endless hymn really
just my way of avoiding
the awful truth:
that I’ve been sending
these words of adoration
into a surging swelling
if i choose to sing a new song
will you rage against me;
will you strike me down
like all the sad singers
who came before me
or will it even matter
to you at all?
let this be my prayer then:
when i grow short of breath
when my words grow weaker,
will you at least pretend
that these aimless words of love
somehow made a difference
just like they say:
it’s always worse at night.
the shadows lengthen
and once again the dread slowly starts
its nighttime creep.
it’s really quite the routine,
this nocturnal dance of mine
so go ahead, enjoy the show –
i’m sure it must amuse you
the way i thrash through the night,
sheets coiling tighter and tighter
around my throat like
some demented night serpent
faithfully returning every night
to feed on my fears.
one of these nights though
when you least expect it,
the joke will be on you
that’s right i know you’re there
do you really think i can’t see you
lurking offstage in the shadows,
enjoying the nightly entertainment?
oh yes, my latest act
is opening soon and
i just can’t wait to see
the startled confusion on your face
when i finally stop struggling,
spread open my hands,
and sing psalms of praise to you:
the one who hides
in the darkness.
now i lower my gaze
and the air around me grows leaden;
the sky darkens,
i can almost feel you crashing
back down to earth.
that’s the thing about these
so-called sacred mountains:
they have this way
of drawing our souls
down to the ground
even as they secretly yearn
can you show me
how to see beyond?
can you help me to loosen my
idolatrous grip upon the land
that i make truly see
your dwelling place?
can you teach me once and for all
that these peaks point upward
so I might somehow be guided
into the spaces above?
i’m not calling out to you any more.
no more simplistic, needy prayers.
no more pleading to you for rescue
on my day of trouble.
they say there’s none like you
but i’m starting to realize
that you’re all created
more or less the same:
jealous, imperious, possessive
and come to think of it,
pretty needy in your own right.
for so long i’ve sent out my yearning,
for too long i’ve fixated on you
and your boundless largesse,
never stopping to consider
you might really just be
a reflection of my own
so as of now you’re off the hook.
i’m going over your head.
i’m daring to imagine
a boundless source of beneficence
yes, even beyond your own.
no expectations, no desire to fill
this bottomless well of need.
i’m sending my prayer straight into
the heart of my longing,
beyond hope, beyond desire,
for isn’t this the place
where all prayers are truly
and finally answered?
we used to believe all the sorrows
visited for so long upon this land
were just a sign of your
angry, vengeful nature –
that you were visiting
your fierce disappointment
upon generation after generation
of unruly, ungrateful children.
maybe that’s been our problem
that we’ve been making
this all about you:
projecting our deepest fear and loathing,
onto some petulant, omnipotent land lord
that we might somehow avoid the truth
of our own dark wrath.
how could we have known
that the terrifying voice
we heard roaring down
from the mountain
wasn’t yours at all?
how could we have possibly missed
that one fleeting moment
when truth and justice kissed,
then vanished into the
cold night air?