Dear Activist. Dear Politician. Dear Poet.

Jesus, it has happened again. And again. On the same day, two mass shootings, one in Savannah, Georgia and one in San Bernardino, California.

Jesus rolls off my tongue not as a direct address but as an expletive. I could just as easily have said, "Sh*t," or "F*ck."

I have mad respect for Jesus, though. Just as I have mad respect for Buddha, Muhammad, Mother Earth and all the other divine poets -- Rumi, Emily Dickinson, Sappho.

To my mind, Jesus was an activist, beloved and reviled by his contemporaries, who answered his divine calling: to show people their own true and broken hearts.

And guess who was ready to see their own hearts? The beggars, the shunned, the prostitutes, the thieves -- the humbled who already knew they were broken.

The rest? The rich, the powerful? Those who were striving to be rich or powerful? They were busy contemplating exactly how they would drive their tricked-out camels through that needle's eye.

Jesus, we are so, so broken.

(Expletive, or direct address?)

  • We are killing healthcare workers, in the name of life, as in pro-life, as in right-to-life.
  • We are killing brown-skinned children for walking at night, for playing with toy guns, for "mouthing off," for committing petty crimes.
  • We are killing movie-goers, classmates, co-workers, in the name of -- what was that in the name of, again? Rejection? Perceived injustice? A malnourished soul?
  • In the land of equality and justice for all, we are killing people -- transgender people, gay people -- for being themselves.
  • We are refusing entry into our country to the very people our Lady Liberty promises to welcome, the poor, huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, because they might be terrorists. Because we are afraid they will kill us.
  • But we seem to be doing a perfectly good job of killing ourselves, according to (Yes, there's a website for that.)

    The rhetoric, the unhinged "logic," the vitriol, the hatred, the fear. (Because really, doesn't it all come down to fear?)

    Jesus. (Expletive.) It scrambles the brain.

    Jesus. (Direct address?) We are all so, so broken.

    But only some of us know it.

    The rest are spackling over their broken parts with gold, hoping to mask the cracks. The rest are separating their broken pieces, pinning labels: US and THEM.

    The rest are praying for the victims while supporting open carry gun laws.

    The rest are praying for the victims and their families while accepting campaign contributions from the NRA.

    The rest are praying for the victims and their families and the first responders while upholding a ban on gun violence research.

    A ban on research.

    Look at that again:

    The governmental agency charged with preventing and controlling disease is not allowed to research one of our country's greatest ills: gun violence.

    The contradictions. The doublespeak. The maddening lack of logic. The injustice cloaked in . . . what? Is it even cloaked anymore?

    In order to perpetuate this status quo, we must all deny reality, forget the carnage, move forward as though nothing is wrong.

    Jesus. (Expletive? Direct Address?) In order to heal this status quo, we must all look into our broken hearts -- our perhaps differently broken but still all broken hearts -- and build, together, from there.

    "We pray for the victims, the first responders and their families."

    Jesus. (Expletive.) What good is prayer?

    Jesus (direct address), I'm sitting here on a Thursday morning. My kids are in school. I'm due to a meeting in 28 minutes, and I am still in my pajamas, on this couch, writing it all out.

    As far as I know, my kids have not been shot yet today. But they could be. If I remember that every day, if we all remember that every day, won't we make the changes we need to make?

    Jesus (direct address), I'm sitting here on a Thursday morning, wondering, what good is poetry? My life calling. What good is it?

    Can a poem build a shield between the next bullet and the next victim's heart?


    But what is poetry, if not the site where we bring all our brokenness -- not my brokenness, not our brokenness versus their brokenness, but our collective human brokenness -- into the light.

    What is poetry if not the site where the seemingly impossible contradictions -- the exquisite beauty and the devastating horror -- live together as one whole being.

    What is poetry but the place where the mental illness-inducing denial ends, where we stop pretending, where we sit in the stunned silence of our collective ugly truths and try to build something new, something real, lasting and loving from there.

    What is poetry, but the deepest, truest form of prayer?

    What is policy, without poetry? Without the understanding that we're all in this mess together, so let's build something that will sustain our collective us. Our U.S.

    Jesus. (Expletive.)

    Have you ever read the whole poem, written by Emma Lazarus, engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty?

    The New Colossus

    Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
    "Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
    With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

    Jesus. (Expletive.)

    Dear Jesus. (Direct address.)

    Dear Beloved and Reviled Activists and Politicians and Poets,

    We are all, in some way, exiles -- from our homelands, from our dreams, from the ideals of this country we share, from our own terribly broken hearts.

    Let's meet in the center of a poem. Together, let's find our way home.


    This post first appeared on Write Where You Are.

    Photo Credit: Cheryl Dumesnil