Uncomfortable Words, Breathtaking Steps (audio poem)

The week began with sadness, anger, and confusion swirling around. A whirlwind of emotions that I had to write my way through. Writing helps me to process and (try to) understand all that surrounds. The events of the week kept me on a difficult writing path, but as I prepare to publish this post I am relieved to learn that the violence that disrupted protesting, early in the week, seems to have subsided and local leaders across the country are beginning to listen to the unified voices shouting for change. I chose to turn my Monday writing release into my post, even though this piece contains topics that are beyond my expertise, beyond my comfort-level, because I understand that silence solves nothing and I get to choose discomfort over comfort. Not everyone has that choice. The topics presented in my poetic prose always leave me heartbroken and confused, but I will do my best to show awareness and respect and present multiple points of view. I am not offering answers in these lines; I am just a teacher and poet writing through emotions and trying to make sense of our current affairs, that sadly, are nothing new, and I am sharing my voice, as I repeatedly, through the years, asked countless students to do.

Uncomfortable Words, Breathtaking Steps
Uncomfortable Words, Breathtaking Steps
Uncomfortable, I am, writing about moments
I have not lived, or topics I know little about
Unless seen with my eyes or felt with my skin
How can I bring imagery and details to fruition?
The answer is obvious if one chooses to listen

All truth seekers, writers or not, can observe and ask
Difficult questions that are often silenced and passed
From the first hand, then edited and shuffled, for the masses
Writers can also create entire worlds with their imagination
But some details should not be altered or fabricated unless
It is to create a projected future where love and acceptance reign
A future that will be only a fairy tale if unasked questions remain

Even so, uncomfortable questions and difficult conversations
Only go so far … A lifetime of asking could yield an understanding
But never provide an absolute knowing of what life is like for
7.8 billion (minus one) other reflections and souls, not our own
Isn’t that how it should be; isn’t humanity’s greatest gift, diversity?
Isn’t there profound beauty and mystery in the not knowing, the discovering?
7.8 billion unique heartbeats, 7.8 billion reasons to embrace individuality
If only this belief was humanity’s default setting, not one of constant reaching

How can a person born with white skin know what it is like to take one step
In shoes worn by a black person when stepping can lead to unexpected death?
Even when in lockstep, not all steps are shared, not all must cautiously tread
Yet a shared anger explodes, sympathy evoked, and an outpouring of tears flow when
Another son is seen pleading and begging for mercy – replayed millions of times
A final sacred moment that will come for each of us, not meant to be witnessed
By the masses, shattered by the unrestrained knee that restrained a man’s breath

How can those not sworn to serve and protect know what it is like to take one step,
In shoes worn by an officer when stepping can turn toward the direction of death?
Those not wearing blue can observe, but never walk lockstep or in the stress
Yet shared anger explodes, sympathy evoked, and an outpouring of tears flow when
Another procession passes honoring a fallen police officer who took a final breath
While upholding an oath, that most live by and tragically, some give their life for
While helping the masses, devastated as another public servant is laid to rest

When will the violence and racism end?
When will black people be able to safely step?
When will police officers be able to safely serve and protect?
When will “with liberty and justice for all” reach beyond the morning pledge?
When will love and acceptance reign?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

U. S. Constitution, Amendment 1

I shared my voice, like I encouraged my students to do. Writing on the topics of race relations, I am ill-prepared, even though I am well-read on racism and oppression, having taught American Literature for many years, and having created and taught many projects promoting social justice. Books and stories reveal a world of information, but they do not replace first-hand experience. But from discomfort, I will not turn; I will ask and learn. I will focus on what one teacher and poet with a pen can do, which starts with turning off images of violence and death. I can do more than constantly watching clips of a man’s final breaths, or bricks launched in the air. I can begin asking myself difficult questions, that asked collectively, could lead to a fairy tale come-true, where love and acceptance reign.✌❤ Michele

Picture 1: Cattail Cove, Arizona State Park Picture 2: Granville Island, Vancouver, BC 

Copyright © 2020 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

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