Where does inspiration lie? Everywhere!

This is my attempt to pounce on and then shape the words I breathe.

Please join me with your comments and make this a dialogue . . . and visit Susan's Poetry!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Have a Heart: a poem about Racism

Why don't I write poems about racism?  It's hard and it takes courage and other impetuses like rage and loss.  Which I have, and which now are surging.  So this is a beginning to a cycle.  It is itself a circular poem: when you get to the end, start again at the beginning.

Have a Heart

My heart developed abnormalities
absorbing years of antidepressants.
HahahaHA!  having absorbed years of
antidepressants, my heart’s abnormal!

I am in the USA privileged
classes.  And now no reason remains not 
to address class ism and race ism.  
Does reason exist?  Reasons don’t exist.

Neither in my heart nor yours.  Take courage.
Courage: from the Latin cor meaning heart.
Heartache follows.  I don’t choose sadness
and outrage, they chose me as whiteness did.

Choose me!  I called out again and again
while growing up a poor white Jewish girl
too dumb to notice everyone’s pity.
So poor that poor victims befriended me.

Why didn't you tell me that she was black?
I just thought she was beautiful, my friend,
name begins with an M, we jump rope and
whisper and giggle while boys call Heifers!

And that was that.  Discovering systems
that separated and divided  in
binary codes has taken my whole life
and double that to dis-empower them:

boy and girl, adult and child, rich and poor,
white and black, white and color, suburb and
city, city and country, teacher and
student, English speaking and not English

educated and uneducated—
where I jumped all class expectations with
the help of sixty thousand plus dollars
accumulated school loans, I paid off

though it took thirty-five years privilege—
white privilegeto be eligible
for loans, lower-priced housing in pretty
neighborhoods, loan extensions, credit, jobs

though it took forty five years to learn how
to say no and took trial and error
to become part of community—I’m
human now with a heart worth living.

Have a heart is a meaningful statement
to those of us who are healing our scars 
from race ism and class ism and who 
make dismantling both our privilege.  

Posted at Poets United   Poetry Pantry # 215

Copyright © 2014  S.L.Chast

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Native Seeds

Native Seeds

What’s in a seed? Literally, I mean—
Since it is the final line between life and death.

Seed crops are big business in the Twenty-
Teens, as modified chemical commodities.

Who will buy unmodified seeds? Take a
Chance on root rot and visually imperfect fruit?

Go native, eschew “intellectual
property” and find unadulterated seeds?

Look in your backrooms and deepest pockets.
Look in the guts of frozen stone-age animals.

Look in green houses of rich new-agers.
Look in backyards of impoverished survivors.

Before it is too late, look in our wombs
where eggs and sperm await science’s benefits.

Question farmers and cooks, keepers of lost
sciences of harvesting food and next year’s seed.

Ask them what is native to the land and
what’s in a seed?  Literally, and soon.

The final line between life and death
Seeds famed as movie stars, as the best game in town.

Copyright © 2014  S.L.Chast

Note:  For a critical response to Vandana Shiva see "Why Vandana Shiva is so right and yet so wrong " by  in Grist.org (20 Aug 2014).

Monday, August 18, 2014

Watch live: The Autopsy

Michael Brown Preliminary Autopsy Diagram
A partial image of Dr. Michael Baden's preliminary autopsy report 
obtained by NBC News from attorney Anthony Gray, 
who represents Michael Brown's family.

The Autopsy

The national guard arrives to quell pro-
tests outside while medical agents test-
ify to Brown family survivors:
Six bullets struck him:
shown on generic
male outline, front and
back.  No color. 
No blood.  Yet, diverse
scenarios are
suggested based on
wounds of grazing, ex-
its and reentries.
Standard passive voice
admits no actors:
scenarios are
suggested.  Marks of
ground abrasions  on
his face are the signs
of struggle, none else.
No outlines are shown of the officer
who shot the bullets. Any signs of fight?
Signs of flight?  No one asks. Hands up.  One more.

Copyright © 2014  S.L.Chast

Saturday, August 16, 2014


An SUV blocks my driveway
an obstacle
to the ease of getaway
from my house and garage
near a busy church
in a gorgeous black suburb. 

Call the police and
don’t wait,  interrogate
everyone and the flowers too
white rose of the church
red rose of mine and
one stubborn navy SUV. 

Stewardship and right-of-way
entitlement with mortgage
and school tax and
insurance and interest
with no parking no trespassing—
or else why bother?

Such an asshole, I swear
too close to a church member’s  
daughter and whoa!
colors swirl around me
muddying the red rage
flowing from my ears. 

I am white and
my house is brick
as the church and
my car is Korean
a robin’s-egg blue
stick-shift standard. 

The day is yellow
and redder than red
as frustration grows
I cannot remember why
I wanted to get out
just the inconvenience. 

Offensive to defensive
my fence protects all
but my driveway and
I don’t even wonder
how privileged I ought to
be because I am me and

Lucky living in this locale
that uses words instead of
bullets even when I am
the mean one and—looking
around— see nothing
but kindness and thoughtfulness. 

Calming down, calm
down the lady, calm—
and as if on cue
a neighbor woman emerges
and drives her car away while
we—them and me—we
who look on are speechless. 

She had no right!  We reach 
consensus without even trying
as the red rage retreats to my ears
and I see through clear 
brown eyes so when someone
laughs I sit near and smile too.

Posted for Corey's 

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb.....

at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads.

Copyright © 2014  S.L.Chast

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Racism or intolerance, that is the question.

    I live next to a very active church and often come home to find the street filled with cars and my "normal" parking spot gone.  How grateful then, I am to have a driveway that I can pull into, no loss, no foul, no long walk from the car.  However, over the 10+ years that I have lived here problems arise when my driveway is blocked and I cannot get OUT of my driveway.  
          That happened again yesterday.  Rather than sit and pray about the situation, I determined to call the cops ... then decided to ask in the church first.  A young lady said she knew who belonged to the car and would get them--but I was too angry to wait.  Again, I didn't pray.  I said to the teen not to bother, that I guess the asshole deserved a ticket and a tow.  
          I went outside and called 911, but the cell didn't complete the call, so I went inside to use my land line.  When I came out, the sidewalk of the church was lined with people angry at me for interrupting their party, angry at me for swearing to and abusing a child, yelling at me that the car was not one of theirs.  Again I didn't pray first which would/could have turned the entire moment around.  I could have asked them to pray with me--though arguably they were too angry.  The teens mother wanted me to apologize to her child.  I wouldn't and the incident accelerated with words on both sides until I called the mayor and the police arrived.  
         The police calmed me down.  They found out who on the block owned the car.  A neighbor I barely knew (contradiction in terms, right?) came out to move her car saying she'd only been there a minute (an hour?)  and that her own driveway was blocked. They gave her a warning--but I walked down the street and noted that her driveway was not blocked.  Again, instead of praying and rising up and letting go and letting God, I insisted she be cited for blocking my driveway. I called her a liar, (a word I had also applied to the teenager from the church).   The police said they would send her a citation, and they calmed me down. While I walked back up the stairs to my second floor home, I saw the policemen--three now--go over to talk with the crowd.   
          I went inside, collapsed weeping, cursed myself for my part in the incident, and began to fear that the people of the church would sue me for a racism that I don't have, reversing a life that has worked against racism in every way I knew how.  Finally I was praying.  But I could not let go of my hard heart, and so I went to bed weeping.  I forgot to look at the amazing full moon of the night, forgot to call a friend, forgot all about the amazingly good poetry reading I had had at a Friend's meeting earlier in the day.  What a waste.
          Finally I woke up with a softened heart, able to note all the times I could have prayed, hoping to find a way to make amends. This is the first thing--to write about it.
          In the entire situation above, I am the only white character.  I realized that last night.  I realized that by the time the policemen arrived and realized I was scared that I had reacted as if I was just an angry woman and not in a potential racially charged situation.  I think, though, that I am the only one who thought about race in that negative way--none of the crowd had said the usual things I was used to from being a teacher, an early 1970s feminist and an activist.  I said to the policemen that I was scared, that I was white and---they stopped me and said don't go there.  They knew me.  I had lived int the area for a long time.  They had come by for a break and entry.  As I said, they calmed me down.
          I feel humble, softened and ashamed.  But I am also still afraid that it was a racial situation and that the group will sue me for everything I did wrong.  That they will say I wouldn't have treated them that way had they not been black.  That I am racist.  That I am racist.  That I live on privilege.  All my life I have worked to understand privilege.  I fear that one incident when I acted from anger will make my entire life a lie.  
          I am waiting for the shoe to drop.  And so I am praying that I overcome my distrust, that I can cure my anger.  I did not expect to bump up against this fear.  I thought I was beyond that in self consciousness.  I know I have a problem with anger, but I am seeing that I still have racism lingering in my heart.  This is how we find out about the vestiges of racism, when we bump up against them in our hearts instead of opening the door to pray together with whoever is there of any race, in any situation.   
          My BFM tell me that this is a leftover 70's overzealous guilt--that my real problem is intolerance of imperfection and quickness to anger. 
          So let us pray.

[addendum:  The church facilitated a meeting between the mother and I which was positive in so many ways that I was in tears again. She had sent her number so I could call.  From her first enthusiastic response to hearing it was me to the final words she made me feel blessed,]

Friday, August 8, 2014

Let's Talk About Prayer

Two books that helped me expand my idea of prayer and develop daily practice of prayer are The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris and The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.  I read both during participation in Spiritual Formation retreatsfour years with Baltimore Yearly Meeting and one year with Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).  

The following poem resulted from talks with other poets about prayer.  

By Prayer, you mean memorized ones with
institutional seals of approval
and I admit—as warm ups and stretches—I
find them to be openings as useful
as candles in flame and windows ajar.
After such warm-ups, prayer for me is
opening my heart to God, spending time
in relationship with It.  Words come from
gratitude and need, intercession and
sorrow, forgiveness and discovery.
We dialogue in liquid silences,
wait for more there-ness, expectant but un-
knowing whether God will respond today—
that is, if It will answer directly—
though It speaks through others, even you, now.
I know you laugh off this prayer from non-
monkish lay persons like me, but I have
strained to gain this presence minute by inch,
drop by second, trial to success all
these years, intentionally reaching out.
So I "waste" my time planting flowers in
vegetable gardens and roadways, a
dialogue with holiness, replacing
death with life and plain with ornate beauty
simple in its gratitude and welcome.

What do you mean by prayer?  How and when do you pray?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

31 Words Seeking Poetry

From 7-23-2014, an unfinished poem, from me and my Aquarius rising, posted today for Isadora's Poems in Progress at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads:

Whether to expand or shrink through prayer
is surely a problem of semantics
of small experiential interest.

Are flowers obstacles to a garden?
What of their soil, water, air and sun?

I cannot remember why I was thinking of questioning prayer's growth-inducing properties or thinking of prayer as a flower or as an elements needed to support the life of flora, bees and anything that grows.  I cannot remember why I stuck to 8-foot lines that have no metrical integrity.

I don't have a next line; I have no experiment or experience to suggest.  One or the other or both would save this would-be-poem from extinction!

Thank you.

Note:  As we write this poem, help me by visiting more than once! 

One solution, Thursday at 7pm: 

Prayer doesn't change anything
naivete says, and I sigh.
Intangibles like insurance
charge sky high for certain returns
which prayer cannot do, for sure.

But the hand of prayer holds me—
it has my back.  And being held
in the Light does something like that.
For a meeting, the sure attention
means guardians on our path.

But I still want to try character as suggested below!