Few things have the power to inspire visions of a just and thriving society like the arts. And the NEW team has a special fondness for poetry. Since April is National Poetry Month, we decided to share some of the poems that are resonating with us in this moment. We hope you find something worthwhile in them yourself. Enjoy!
This Land Is Your Land
I am learning more of you, your peoples I offer the Zulu greeting, “Sawubona” (“we see you”) In response we offer, “how do I have to be as a human being for someone else to be free?” Despite the ways they tried to deny and cover up your existence I am calling in your presence more deeply here among us You are no mystery to me, you never were Just buried deep in my consciousness Covered by the veiled lies I see what you did, on this land we now occupy, along the river’s edge We cannot (re)build without you. Sacrilege. It is no coincidence that you are here as I seek my own liberation My freedom tied to the truth of our experiences, your truths and mine I see you. I feel you. When I walk this land, this property, it all feels and smells different now Here you are Burning, tending and nurturing your families, the living environment around us Before the brutality, the industrialization, before individualism and occupation You are here, you always were, They tried to erase you but they cannot You take up space in my heart, reminding me of our interdependence Calling us back To our lives and lifestyles, not theirs. Returning us to our innate knowing We are all indigenous to some place Your land reminds me of my native land Stolen, carried away but never lost inside of me I imagine your elders faces and I see them among the faces of my elders As I dream of new futures, returning and (re)membering I beg of you, watch over us, guide us back to our new home The home you made for us, the home where we found each other Amid the brutality, we found each other This land is your land, this land is our land.
Yodit Mesfin Johnson
As a child, she had tried to hold onto Change tightly. She remembered pressing her nubby fingers against her tiny palms to try to contain it, to no avail. Change kept moving, and trickled down her forearm, forming warm rivulets of itself in her inner elbow. Its chimerous gold leaving lovely trails of tumultuous transformation. As she grew older, her frustration with Change also grew. Why was it so unruly? No matter what she did, or how careful she was, there it was. Uncontrolled. Unpredictable. Unrelenting. She tried discarding it, yet somehow it always came back. She tried ignoring it, yet somehow it always made itself known. Its sticky wake glued together the most crucial pages of her favorite books. Its opaque ooze obscured the faces of departed loved ones on her favorite photographs. As she grew older, she reluctantly accepted her companion. But she only allowed it to exist on her terms, and stored Change in a tightly capped jar. Yet somehow it inevitably and intractably outgrew its glass prison. Change overflowed, making puddles of possibilities, and chance, and serendipity. Why did Change have to be so difficult? Every morning she would give it a brief glance to make sure it was still restrained. "Quick, quick, don't make eye contact." A suspicious sigh of relief when it was still intact. But without fail, in mere days, there it was again. Glass cracked, lid askew, carpet ruined. Change reveled in its freedom once more. She definitely wasn't getting her rent deposit back. One day, while yet again cleaning up recalcitrant Change, Change sloshed out of the yet again compromised jar. Droplets of Change spattered onto her face. Fuck. She tired of this ochre albatross. She dutifully poured Change into its new, already too small jar, And looked for a cloth to clean up the mess Change had left behind. Her tongue instinctively darted out and licked two errant golden droplets. Uh oh. Change...tastes...good? Real good. Like the warmth of the sun on your face, good. Like the satiation of an orgasm, good. Like the deep belly laugh from a solidly-delivered punchline, good. She confusedly opened the new, already too small jar, Gingerly dipping her index finger in, Just covering its soft pad with the viscous, candescent saffron. Haltingly bringing it to her lips, and gently placing it on her tongue, Brows furrowed, waiting to discern the flavors of Change. Bursts of... Joy Sorrow Sweet Bitter Energy Lethargy Played across her palate, With an afterglow finish. ...Is this...Change? Perhaps...Change isn't so bad.
Hamida A. Bhagirathy
Precious gems are everywhere in the cosmos and inside of every one of us. I want to offer a handful to you, my dear friend. Yes, this morning, I want to offer a handful to you, a handful of diamonds that glow from morning to evening. Each minute of our daily life is a diamond that contains sky and earth, sunshine and river. We only need to breathe gently for the miracle to be revealed: Birds singing, flowers blooming. Here is the blue sky, here is the white cloud floating, your lovely look, your beautiful smile. All these are contained in one jewel. You who are the richest person on Earth and behave like a destitute son, please come back to your heritage. Let us offer each other happiness and learn to dwell in the present moment. Let us cherish life in our two arms and let go of our forgetfulness and despair.
Thich Nhat Hanh (shared by Linda Tam)
sometimes I can see something so clearly but I can't tell you what it is, only how it feels so I whisper my feelings to you so only you can hear, but not the naysayers and the way you look back at me says you feel it too, inside your own vision and your version of our vision is so much more than i could see alone so we sit holding our visions, sharing our secrets...whispering and then we rise to run....chasing liberation and love... longing for the kind of soul food our bellies have hungered for and only tasted a time or two....in morsels not meals we each add in a "little of this and a little of that" sometimes a teaspoon, sometimes a pinch from our palms, sometimes a bushel of goodness and suddenly our pot and plates are so full that it takes two hands to hold them and many mouths to eat the abundant, rich textures and tastes steaming from a cauldron burned and pressed into metal that can withstand the heat we long to share this soul food with others; to fill their bellies too its that kind of food that you taste way after the meal is over the kind you wake up still smelling; pouring from your pores it's familiar and foreign as you smell it you remember that it is your grandmother's recipe the one she planted in you when you were 2 the one she'd whispered into your apron clad body that you're whispering now to your kinfolk, the youngin's & all who'll listen you remember she told you....."this food will change the world. you will change the world. do it well with others do it...feed the people, your kinfolk"
Yodit Mesfin Johnson
Life is not what is promised, But what is sought. These bones, not what is found, But what we've fought. Our truth, not what we said, But what we thought. Our lesson, all we have taken & all we have brought.
Amanda Gorman (share by Kate Harris)
The future is now. The future is the present with the faith of a mustard seed. Contemporary kernels of love, conciliation and creation, Growing our tree of life--our joys and sorrows, our celebrations and trepidations, Butterfly effecting a future of rooted relationships and branched beliefs, Collectively entwined and wending, with respect on it. The future is a recognizance of who we are. Celestial beings bearing our own fires of divinity, Divinity encased in blood and bone, scent and skin, Wrapped in the rapture of love. How divine! The future is a vision we cast for the generations of the future. Long after our ichor has desiccated, bones brittled, adipose decomposed, Reaching our selfsame stardust destinies, We will behold future generations' sacred flames, Thriving and actualizing, communion in community, Kindled by our own divine fires of future past. The future is now.
Hamida A. Bhagirathy
Do Not Lose Heart, We were made for these times
Mis estimados queridos, My Esteemed Ones: Do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world right now. It is true, one has to have strong cojones and ovarios to withstand much of what passes for "good" in our culture today. Abject disregard of what the soul finds most precious and irreplaceable and the corruption of principled ideals have become, in some large societal arenas, "the new normal," the grotesquerie of the week. It is hard to say which one of the current egregious matters has rocked people's worlds and beliefs more. Ours is a time of almost daily jaw-dropping astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people. …You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet ... I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose Hope. Most particularly because, the fact is - we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement. I cannot tell you often enough that we are definitely the leaders we have been waiting for, and that we have been raised, since childhood, for this time precisely. …I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able crafts in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind. I would like to take your hands for a moment and assure you that you are built well for these times. Despite your stints of doubt, your frustrations in arighting all that needs change right now, or even feeling you have lost the map entirely, you are not without resource, you are not alone. Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. In your deepest bones, you have always known this is so. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a forest greater. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless. … We have been in training for a dark time such as this, since the day we assented to come to Earth. For many decades, worldwide, souls just like us have been felled and left for dead in so many ways over and over -- brought down by naiveté, by lack of love, by suddenly realizing one deadly thing or another, by not realizing something else soon enough, by being ambushed and assaulted by various cultural and personal shocks in the extreme. We all have a heritage and history of being gutted, and yet remember this especially … we have also, of necessity, perfected the knack of resurrection. Over and over again we have been the living proof that that which has been exiled, lost, or foundered - can be restored to life again. This is as true and sturdy a prognosis for the destroyed worlds around us as it was for our own once mortally wounded selves. …Though we are not invulnerable, our risibility supports us to laugh in the face of cynics who say "fat chance," and "management before mercy," and other evidences of complete absence of soul sense. This, and our having been 'to Hell and back' on at least one momentous occasion, makes us seasoned vessels for certain. Even if you do not feel that you are, you are. Even if your puny little ego wants to contest the enormity of your soul, the smaller self can never for long subordinate the larger Self. In matters of death and rebirth, you have surpassed the benchmarks many times. Believe the evidence of any one of your past testings and trials. Here it is: Are you still standing? The answer is, Yes! (And no adverbs like "barely" are allowed here). If you are still standing, ragged flags or no, you are able. Thus, you have passed the bar. And even raised it. You are seaworthy. …In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. Do not make yourself ill with overwhelm. There is a tendency too to fall into being weakened by perseverating on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails. We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the Voice greater? You have all the resource you need to ride any wave, to surface from any trough. …In the language of aviators and sailors, ours is to sail forward now, all balls out. Understand the paradox: If you study the physics of a waterspout, you will see that the outer vortex whirls far more rapidly than the inner one. To calm the storm means to quiet the outer layer, to cause it, by whatever countervailing means, to swirl much less, to more evenly match the velocity of the inner, far less volatile core - till whatever has been lifted into such a vicious funnel falls back to Earth, lays down, is peaceable again. One of the most important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or despair - thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl. Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts - adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take "everyone on Earth" to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale. …One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires ... causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both -- are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do. …There will always be times in the midst of "success right around the corner, but as yet still unseen" when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But … that is not what great ships are built for. …This comes with much love and prayer that you remember who you came from, and why you came to this beautiful, needful Earth.
Clarissa Pinkola Estés Reyés (shared by Judy Nimer Muhn)