New Poem: AME

Like millions of other people, I am horrified, saddened, and disgusted by the mass murder at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. My hope is that writing this so soon after the event is not in any way irreverent, but is intended as a gesture of support and respect.



The gun is mystical there,
in the arms of a man
in the arms of America,
and it’s holding its owner hostage.
White shame waits, this life ransomed
to imposture, to rage, to a will that means so little
to the world.



He longs for prestige, and he enters a church.
The black mother, born of a smithy.
He sits for a while, listening: watching heads bent over Scripture,
talking, circling their faith in thought.
But the circle breaks. His homily has begun.



The parishioners have heard this sermon
many times: from other mouths.
Their lives are preached as treason
to this white man and his gun.
He lets slip one
to help him cast the spell of fame,
to keep fear’s lesson alive, and his lying.
And then he runs. Away with his destiny.
His mystery polished with use.



What would Vesey have said
of the new blood spilled,
the new quake on the Bethel Circuit?
“If they kneeled, they bent in Emanuel’s name,
not in reverence to hate. Tell the Pharaohs
the sea is red and waiting.”