Flowing bodies, male and female
black and white, stand, lounge comfortably
in the small space. A chair. A table.
Pillows and blankets on the floor.
Sounds of Brubeck. Baez. Simone.
Aroma of incense. And something else. Lighter,
more bitter. Like burning tea leaves.
Semester’s done. Books are closed.
Talk circles around the Freedom Riders.
Buses headed for the deep south,
mixed races, facing hatred and death
together. One of our group is boarding
tomorrow. I never heard his name. Tall, white,
skinny, lightly bearded, long sandy hair.
They called him “Jesus.” Perhaps, if
more of us had gone, instead
of just sending Jesus with our blessings . . .
Years drift by, fill with children, homes, jobs.
And war’s atrocities. Twentieth-century technology
wasting primitive villages. Young men
who say “No” accept exile, or prison.
Women slip their aprons. Watts in flames.
We lie down in the streets,
and we dance at Woodstock.
We burn our bras and our draft cards.
We join the Peace Corps
and leave footprints on the moon.
And yet, swords resist plowshares.
As the decade turned, I didn’t want to stop believing,
so I stood in my new red and black Mediterranean-style kitchen, stirring,
stirring, and still believing that
we would stop the wars, live in peace,
love our brothers and sisters,
and, somehow, hammer out justice. Even after
JFK, Bobby, Martin Luther King, My Lai and Kent State,
we still believed.
Now, half a century past, it’s hard to believe.
Sandy Hook happened.
Young bodies still arrive home
from distant lands, broken, or flag draped.
War replaced by terrorism.
Guns held up as idols.
Hatred wears a new mask.
Korans are burned and bibles are banned.
Prophets made mockeries by their own disciples.
Forgotten land mines wait.
Neighbors to the south waste their own land
to satiate our addictions.
Cattle are still fattened, while people still starve.
We drown in plastics and oil spills,
in carbons and particulates.
Mother’s milk contaminated with pesticides.
Coral reefs and rain forests in peril.
Yes, belief has faded.
I sit now among the ashes,
stirring these dying embers.