Thursday, April 07, 2011

April 5, Poem 5 - Conditional


As the different streams having their sources in different places mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear and crooked or straight, all lead to thee.

Swami Vivekananda (Hindu prayer, fr. an address to the Parliament of Religions – as taken from Installation on steps of Art Institute Museum)

if on the way here the man whom I asked

about the direction of Randolph and Wells

hadn’t refused to look at me; if any

of four people to whom I said Good Day

on my block last week didn’t stare back

and through me. if I didn’t always feel

so unwelcome, so black, so goddamned

honored all the time to just walk around

where others understand right to be;

if I didn’t walk around so damned tense

all the time – so ready for the wrong thing

to be said, for a punch to be thrown, if

respect, if I didn’t feel so damned black

all the time – if I didn’t just feel like

beautiful people just get ignored, all the way

from Jesus until now, then I’d not weep

into my hands at the swami’s words,

so many offerings – prayers spreading

up stairs, reds, yellows, greens, slow

moving like Mercury – like retrograde –

like my body could maybe unfurl, like

I might could un-fist and love, like

I might could make a song of the words –

the words laid bare – crisp as gunfire

and so clear, such a bell these words;

if it didn’t rain blood on the Southside,

if white wasn’t such a badge, if white

didn’t so rush to claim it, if everybody

wasn’t so busy protecting their privilege-

sheltering their young from the sun; if

war wasn’t its own hymn, crooked

and hot as a shaft of light, I could believe

the love of priests and messiahs. I could

hosanna out my bosom and sing

the words leaking up to God. I could

august. I could toll. I could genuflect,

vindicate, black, refugee,

and live.

To schedule a reading or an appearance please contact Ofer Ziv at Blue Flower Arts at 845-677-8559 or email


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