“grounds of an embattled Moses”
Today we bring some poetry up on the porch:
Daddy, is the ground comfy?
‘Cause every time I spy you watching the TV,
One of us black boys sleeps on it.
I guess I get why they’re tired.
They’ve been runnin’,
They’ve been shoutin’,
They’ve had their hands up.
And I get sleepy after runnin’ at recess,
After shoutin’ on the blacktop,
After ballin’ with my hands up on D.
Ya know, I learned in Sunday School that even
Moses couldn’t keep his hands up.
And every time I spy you watching the news
You got your fightin’-Moses face on, Daddy.
But turning away from me,
You whisper to my big brothers:
“Aaron and Hur — listen, sons:
Whether on sainted streets,
The Big Apple’s concrete,
Cackalacky grass, or university paths —
too many times evil grounds men
who look like Dad; who look like us.”
But Dad, pastor said that, “God blessed the dust!”
So why do folks around chase us to the ground?
And say, “Shhhh — sleep here with your brothers.”
The point of this poem is that the recent onslaught of unarmed black men being slain by American law enforcement is a tragic injustice — one causing confusion and pain among many, even the most innocent of our society.
The reason I wrote this poem is that it feels like I cannot turn on my TV without seeing someone bleeding or dying, and that someone so often looks familiar. It’s another brown man down. I hope I never return to the cruel, cold place of saying, “that’s just life in a fallen world.” I’m sad I have to make the following disclaimer — but I’m not saying that these victims haven’t committed crimes; I’m not saying all cops are evil or racially-biased; I’m not saying I have all the facts. I’m simply saying that the fact is that another soul is lost. The disproportionate killings of black men is tragic; how could it not be when the taking of any image-bearer’s life is just that: a tragedy? Though it’s hard to see, I’m thankful that more of these killings are coming to light with each iPhone sold.
But what’s striking me most throughout these tragedies, though, is a frame, a scene that I see common in all of them; I spy a common stage threading these tragedies. And that scene is a black man lying face down on the ground; the ground — such a common stage for all of who still have the joy of walking this earth. We all are on the ground in some physical sense. But not everyone is grounded in the realities of these slayings, and I’m particularly thinking of Christians who have brothers and sisters hurting in light of them.
But many folks, especially black folks, are grounded by them. And they’re wrestling with them. And their children are wrestling with them. And painful narratives, frightening testimonies, and un-liberating realities are being passed down and around amongst families who see these black faces down on the ground. Though man is a specially-breathed-in and loved ball of dirt, designed to lovingly look up to his God from the dust he was born out, he’s been portrayed so often, so accurately on the TV as someone down on the ground. And it’s the seeming everydayness of these downed faces that are wearing me down. It’s the silence that ensues after the chamber rounds hush; the silence that screams that the viewer is — looking at someone who now is not. And I’m not the only one worn by these realities; consider another poet’s words in “what the cicada said to the brown boy.” Consider what my friends son asked him, “Who stops the police when they do something bad, daddy?” Consider just some of the pictures below that are running through my mind as I write this. Consider prayer and turning to the God of Justice, the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider acting. Consider love.
You can see more of Isaac’s poetry here.