Sunday, July 12, 2020

Thought for the Day

What does it mean to write poetry in a world where
metaphors are weaponized, and people erased in them?
~ Philip Metres

Quoted from Philip Metres, "Of Seeing, the Unseen, and  the Unseeable: Technology, Poetry and 'When It Rains in Gaza'" (Sec. 10), New Ohio Review, June 11, 2018

Philip Metres, Award-Winning Poet and Translator; Professor of English and director, Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program, John Carroll University (Metres's most recent book is Shrapnel Maps (Copper Canyon Press, April 2020).)

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXXIV

Fatal Celebration (July 3-5)

      In memory of 9 children lost to gun violence
          on Independence Day Weekend, 2020

They were six
and seven, sometimes

as young
as four, sometimes

as old as eleven
two were
two were seven
two six  two eight

the one just four, well
here our eyes land
and do not move

If you ask where
they came from
I could answer
Everywhere but

that would be wrong
We know today
they numbered nine
Let us name them
and if not, then

their play places:
Atlanta; Avon, Indiana;
Chicago; Columbia,
Missouri; Galivants
Ferry, South Carolina;

Hoover, Alabama;
San Francisco
Washington, D.C.

Lives taken now
noted, new numbers
added to archives
to help us remember

they died by gun
on our July 4 weekend

their fatal celebration
lost among the sounds
of bursting rockets

the sparklers held
in their tight little fists
raised against the red glare


Even during this pandemic, the children continue to die. I wish I knew their names, and not their incident numbers.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXXIII

My greatest fear is that I wake up, and 
our democracy is gone.
~ Congressman John Lewis

[T]here are forces today trying to take us back
to another time and another dark period. We've come so far
and made so much progress, but as a nation and as a people,
we're not quite there yet. We have miles to go.
~ Congressman John Lewis


Directed by Dawn Porter, the newly released documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble (Magnolia Pictures), is now available for streaming nationwide. The film is about one of the most important civil rights leaders in America. Using archival footage and interviews with Lewis and his family as well as those figuring significantly in Lewis's life, it exposes both the issues of the past and present and the inspiring examples of Lewis's civic activism and leadership on such legislative issues as voting rights, civil rights, and gun control.

The documentary's co-producers are Dawn Porter, Erika Alexander, Ben Arnon, and Laura Michalchyshyn.

Here is the film's trailer:

The Hyperallergic article by Eileen G'Sell, "A John Lewis Documentary Probes Tensions Between National and State Power" (July 4, 2020) looks in some detail at the film.


The Washington Post has issued "11 Things to Watch to Better Understand American at This Moment". The article by Bethonie Butler, includes such films as 4 Little Girls, 13th, Do the Right Thing, and I Am Not Your Negro.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Thought for the Day

[W]hat we do to each other is compounded
by what time does to us.
~ Luiza Flynn-Goodlett


Quoted from Luiza Flynn-Goodlett, "The Quiver Inside Each Atom: A Review of Ellen Bass's 'Indigo'" in The Adroit Journal, April 10, 2020 (Online)

Luiza Flynn-Goodlett, Poet, Writer, Critic; Editor-in-Chief, Foglifter (Flynn-Goodlett's most recent collection is the forthcoming Look Alive (Southeast Missouri State University Press, March 2021).)

Ellen Bass, Poet; Chancellor, Academy of American Poets; Nonfiction Writer; Editor; Teacher (Bass's most recent collection is Indigo (Copper Canyon Press, April 2020).)

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Flag on the Fourth of July (Poem)

The Flag on the Fourth of July

Stars curl
and spiral

this night

O the sight
of all that

and red
and white

all that

all that

all that

My Other July Poem:

Also See:

And if you have time for reflection, listen to Frederick Douglass's "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" as delivered by actor Ossie Davis:

"A Nation's Story: 'What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?'" at National Museum of African American History and Culture

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXXI

We have years of activism under our belts. 
Now we just fight harder, we fight smarter, and we fight as one.
~ Alejandro, Film Subject, The Unafraid

I had an opportunity last night to view online, on Good Docs, the feature-length documentary The Unafraid. Anayansi Prado and Heather Courtney are the co-directors/-producers and cinematographers.

The film follows a small group of DACA youths in Georgia — the storylines of three in particular are narrated — after their high school graduation in 2014. By law, they are shut out of the top five public universities in the state and must pay tuition at the international student level — obstacles none of them can overcome. In the years covered, which end just before 45's election in 2016 and his subsequent attempt to force the deportation of more than 800,000 persons with DACA status (the recent Supreme Court decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals came too late to be noted in the film), we see how the young people are impelled to become political activists and how for all three and their families the "American dream" becomes their "American nightmare."

The Unafraid is deeply moving in parts, as it portrays quite well not just the multi-generational struggle to create a better life and future in America, especially but not only in the Deep South, but also what forces those with no money, no education, and no papers to leave their countries for the United States. The sacrifices made are tremendous, and what it means for families to risk everything to come here is wholly unappreciated by policymakers who would rather erect walls than uphold the values this country is supposed to represent. Our cluelessness robs human beings no different from ourselves of so much, from the most basic rights and services that those born here take for granted, to the opportunities to realize better lives for our children, opportunities slow in coming, if at all, to the undocumented.
In addition to showing us the truths about forced migration and its life-changing consequences, the documentary also sharply reveals the racism endemic throughout this country. To be brown means having a life that doesn't matter, if you want to go to college, if you want to make a living that lifts you out of poverty. To be brown means not having the right to believe in the "American dream". To be brown means, in the argot of the film, to be "very afraid" until you become one of "the unafraid" who finds the strength to risk opening a closed door. 
That any one of us might watch this film and not see the wrongs we perpetuate in our government and socioeconomic and cultural policies, as well as through our myth-making, is to be deliberately obtuse and tragically indifferent to the riches that immigrants, undocumented people, asylees, refugees, and DACA recipients offer us.

A virtual discussion of the film for those able to watch it last night takes place this evening on Zoom. I intend to listen and to be part of it.

Here is the film trailer:

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Divine Feminine, An Online Exhibition

Deborah Taylor, "I Stood There Once, On the Green Grass, 
Scattering Flowers"
Oil, 6" x 6"
Inspired by the Mary Oliver Poem "Flares"
in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

From the Online Exhibition The Divine Feminine


A new online exhibition, "The Divine Feminine",  officially launching July 1, now graces the Website of my parish, St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Arlington, Va.), where I lead our Arts & Faith ministry. Although my original plans were to present the show's more than 30 paintings on the walls in September, factors beyond our control — the ongoing closure of the parish because of the novel coronavirus — necessitated a rethinking and reimagining of the artwork's and related ephemera's display. As you will see, the paintings by four local artists — Elisabeth Hudgins, Linda Maldonado, Elise Ritter, and Deborah Taylor — have migrated beautifully to the Website.

The exhibition, which is accompanied by the Introduction to the artists' concept for the show, includes sections for the Artists' Statements, Inspirations, Artwork, and Biographical Information. Also included is a list of prices for each work. All the works are for sale.

Above is an image on a work by Deborah Taylor, all of whose paintings were inspired by Mary Oliver poems. Below is an image of work by each of the other participating artists. 

Please enjoy "The Divine Feminine" and let us know in the comment section for this post what you think of it.

Elisabeth Hudgins, "Cradle"

Inspired by Elisabeth Hudgins' Stone Cairns

 Linda Maldonado, "Sacred Waters, Holy Ground"
Acrylic and Collage

Inspired by Christina Rossetti Quotation

Elise Ritter, "Blue Madonnas"
Acrylics and Inks

Inspired by Terry Tempest Williams Quotation


The sources of the artists' inspirations are documented in the Artists' Inspirations section of the exhibition. 

The inaugural online exhibition "Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic" remains available to view on the St. Michael's Website.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Thought for the Day

Justice is built through the actions of many people
doing small things to refine and improve society. Justice
is built through the deeds of many people influencing
the attitudes of society. . . When enough of us are showing
that we care about feeding the hungry, the nation will rise
to the challenge of feeding the hungry. . . When enough 
of us refuse to allow people to sleep on the streets, live in
cardboard boxes, be mistreated by public officials or want
for proper medical care, then these injustices will begin
to go away and we will be on the way to building a moral
and just society, a moral and just world. . . .
~ Rabbi Michael Weisser

Quoted from Kathryn Watterson, Not by the Sword (Bison Books, 2012), pages 154-155

Rabbi Michael Weisser, Rabbi and Spiritual Leader, Free Synagogue of Flushing (2008 to Present), New York; Winner, Pax Christi National Peacemaker Award, 2012 (Weisser is known for befriending and converting to Judaism a Ku Klux Klan leader in Lincoln, Nebraska. The story of how that happened is told in Not by the Sword.)

Monday, June 22, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXX

Some things that haven't been stopped by COVID-19:
wars, domestic violence, famine, pestilence, displacement—
our will to live.
Sudanese-American Slam Poet
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador

. . . forced displacement nowadays is not only vastly
more widespread but is simply no longer a short-term
and temporary phenomenon. . . We need a fundamentally
new and more accepting attitude towards all who flee,
coupled with a much more determined drive to unlock
conflicts that go on for years and that are at the
root of such immense suffering.
~ Felippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees*


One percent of humanity — one of every 97 people — is displaced.* Fewer and fewer are able to return home. In the midst of the pandemic, in countries or territories with acute food insecurity, in overcrowded, insanitary camps, subjects of violence and hate, refugees are among the world's most vulnerable people.

How often do you think of them?

And if you do think of them, do you wonder how they have hope?


This past Friday (July 19), I had the privilege of seeing, thanks to One Journey Festival and NoVA Friends of Refugees, an exclusive online screening of Refugee, a haunting 23-minute film by director-writer Brandt Andersen, who has made his own visits to refugee camps and championed a number of humanitarian initiatives. Earlier that day, the film, short-listed for an Oscar, had its premiere at UNHCR, the United Nations agency tasked with protecting the rights of and providing emergency support to refugees.

Film Poster

Dramatically relating the story of a pediatric surgeon who flees Syria with her young child, the film stars Yasmine Al Massri as the brilliant doctor "Amira" and Massa Daoud as her daughter "Rasha." It is riveting, profoundly moving, and hopeful, and reflects the very real circumstances of the world's forcibly dislocated refugee population, which numbers nearly 80 million, more than half of whom are under age 18.

Here's the film's trailer:

A discussion with Syrian American actor Jay Abdo, who plays "Papa Homsi," Amira's father in the film, followed the screening. Abdo, a celebrity in the Middle East, related his own difficulties in getting out of Syria after running afoul of the regime during Arab Spring, and of his struggles to create a life in America with his wife Fadia Afashe, a visual artist, writer, and human rights lawyer who also found herself in trouble with the government of Bashar al-Assad. (See The Guardian and Middle East Eye articles below.) Several things Abdo said echo the remarks of a forcibly displaced Iraqi family I know well: no refugee willingly leaves his or her country, and there is always hope of returning.

The COVID-19 crisis and other events have largely pushed off our front news pages the dangers to and maltreatment of refugees. It's so important that we not forget them, that we try to understand the conditions that brought them to our own country until the current administration began shutting them out, and that we be witness to their efforts to survive and to give back, which they do many times over in the communities where they are resettled.

If you have a chance to see Refugee, take it. It's a film you cannot forget easily.

Frankie Taggart, "Syrian star turned pizza boy dreaming of Hollywood ending," Middle East Eye, January 3, 2017

Fadia Afashe, "For One Syrian Refugee, the Research Strikes Close to Home," RAND Blog, December 22, 2018

Virginia Isaad, "Syrian Artist Paints the Revolution," Los Angeles Magazine, November 29, 2012

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Thought for the Day

Commemoration renders life human: forgetfulness makes it
inhuman. We know of course about the grace of forgetting.
But even when remembrance carries grief and shame, it fills the
future with perspectives. [. . .] The degree of accountability 
regarding yesterday is the measure of a stable tomorrow.
~ Eberhard Bethge

Quoted in Laura M. Fabrycky, Chapter 8, "Befriending Bonhoeffer," in Keys to Bonhoeffer's Haus: Exploring the World and Wisdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Fortress Press, 2020), page 237 (The quote is from Bethge's Friendship and Resistance: Essays on Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Eerdmans, 1995), page 105.)

Laura M. Fabrycky, Writer and Poet; Diplomat's Spouse (While her husband was stationed in Berlin, Fabrycky became a volunteer guide at the Bonhoeffer-Haus. Currently, she and her family live in Brussels, Belgium. Her book is a memoir.)

Eberhard Bethge (1909-2000), Writer, Biographer, German Protestant Theologian; Student and Close Friend of Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer