Poetry and Healing in Times of Great Tragedy

Today is my birthday, but I won’t be celebrating this year. I woke up this morning not thinking about my 24 years of life, but about the 26 lost souls, and 20 of these victims who never got a chance to see the full beauty of this earth. My heart aches on this day when the celebration of life and renewal are more custom. It bleeds thick with pain of the most recent mass shootings in the U.S. The clouds outside my window are dark and heavy filled with the tears and screams, the longings of parents and community members, the memories of lost friends and teachers, and the unrealized dreams of so many. The clouds look as if they could come crashing down at any moment. But, for some, there could be no greater causality than what happened yesterday at Sandy Hook. The earth has ended as many people have come to know and love it.

And even half way across the country, I feel connected to this tragedy. Perhaps it is because my mother was a teacher of special needs elementary school students for 26 years. Or perhaps it is because I am a young person not too much older than the shooter. I believe the main reason I feel involved is because I am a human. I am a human that feels connected, related, involved in the existence and happiness and sadness of the world around me. Now, I can’t always participate in such an empathic way. Our web of interconnectedness is too beautifully and at times tragically complex. But as a religious leader, as someone dedicated to the eradication of injustice and violence and the reimplementation of a peaceful and compassionate world order, I must stand up and walk, serve, speak, and journey with this mission in my heart and my actions.

I just finished a course that studied several feminist thinkers, including the great poet and warrior, Audre Lorde. Of the many things Lorde taught me in this class, the power of poetry as a means of truth telling, healing, survival and liberation was one I will cherish forever. It has renewed a passion in me for writing and reading poetry as a spiritual practice. In the aftermath of this great tragedy, I offer this poem I wrote of grief, hope, and healing:

An Essential Journey Back into Light

Lights extinguished by tears and whimpers,

Sputtering flames become wicks of what could have been.

We search for light in this darkness,

Checking behind doors of truth and compassion,

Finding empty gateways, and paths towards the unknown.

Perhaps this light springs up from the fallen memories,

Sprinkled with salt on wounds never healed

And on hearts not yet mended.

The outrage, the pain, the beauty and innocence lost

Our community mourns, demands, seeks truth and light

Where to begin this search, this journey?

It is not in reason, but in grief and in prayer.

So some pray, some meditate, some question and wonder,

Some cry, some hide, some wish it was over.

But, if light be our essence,

Then the journey is not far.

We must search deep within

Sifting through sand and soot

For hope and wholeness.

There is light in this journey

Way off, to the left or right, or both

But it begins in darkness,

Faith promising a more clear journey ahead.

Lights will be rekindled one day,

Somehow a healed heart will emerge

Recalling pain but seeing new joy,

One day somehow it will be bright again.

May the divine spark of light and goodness in every being illumine our path forward out of this tragedy. May our light spread and bring healing and wholeness to all those who suffer because of gun violence. And together may we journey as one nation towards a peaceful land where tragedies are memories, and love and compassion rain down like a warm April shower.

(Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

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