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Writing to Save the Day by Henri Nouwen

“Writing can be a true spiritual discipline. Writing can help us to concentrate, to get in touch with the deeper stirrings of our hearts, to clarify our minds, to process confusing emotions, to reflect on our experiences, to give artistic expression to what we are living, and to store significant events in our memories. Writing can also be good for others who might read what we write.

Quite often a difficult, painful, or frustrating day can be ‘redeemed’ by writing about it. By writing we can claim what we have lived and thus integrate it more fully into our journeys. Then writing can become lifesaving for us and sometimes for others too.”

Emphasis mine.


You see, it’s the same message. This is why I write: That the message may become “life saving” for some of my readers.

Go to Poet Laureate of the Bloggosphere and vote for me!

Vote For The 2008 Poet Laureate Of The Blogosphere.
Bill Knott 49 votes
Rethabile Masilo 27 votes
Sue Turner 11 votes
Leonard Blumfeld 5 votes
Tiel Aisha Ansari 9 votes
Michael Wells 23 votes
Melanie Bishop 2 votes
Steve Caratzas 53 votes
Jodi Herman 9 votes
Steven Schroeder 3 votes
Rob McLennan 234 votes
Dale Favier 6 votes
Levari 2 votes
R.K.Singh 3 votes
Montgomery Maxton 7 votes
Helen Losse 28 votes
Reginald Shepherd 5 votes
Tony Trigilio 50 votes
Gautami Tripathy 9 votes
Jay Sizemore 32 votes
James Steerforth 6 votes
Tony Brown 253 votes
Rebecca Loudon 5 votes
805 voters

Ann Hite’s Introduction to “Life On Black Mountain” Is now on the Dead Mule.

And while you’re there, don’t forget “Poems On the Odds” continues through April with a chapbook by Scott Owens tomorrow and  six poems by Carolyn Kreither-Foronda, Virginia’s Poet Laureate, coming on Tuesday.

The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature

There’s an echo against the cliff
below the castle where the sand is
wet with tears, seaweed
a faded shade of brown. A tide-driven froth
coats my bare white feet.
Beachcombers in lingering shadows
rummage through fragments. The only light
is an orange moon.
The tide is green.

. . . Listen, listen.
All dreamers hear sounds, whispered by shells.
Some hear the Atlantic as she softly moans.
While the story travels, up, riding the flotsam
and sea foam, and slowly unfolds,
the trees near the ocean’s edge hint at
what happened.

Yes, they only hint,—
but oh! Oh, at the point of departure,
how the spirits speak! Sounds like
horrible groans. Sounds.
Like the rattle of chains. Sounds.
Listen. Listen hard. For the voice of the echo
is joined to the cliff by salty tears,
the tears who married that dark, dark sand.

The bones of kings,
who last saw Ghana as they
sailed away, crossing the vast and silver water,
are preserved by salt and have settled,
though probed now by small, mean fish,
several fathoms deep on the ocean floor,
where the whole world is as black as it was—
in the hold of the slaver’s ship.

first published in Independence Boulevard

Ann Hite ’s “Life on Black Mountain” contains over 15 stories and the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature is going to publish one every other day throughout the month of May. Oh, shades of Poetry on the Odds, now we’re doing short stories on the evens. The symmetry of odd-to-even really appealed to Val. Like her dear friend Janis Owens, Val MacEwan (editor of the Mule) watches way too many “Monk” reruns. The Mule is planning on offering the entire collection Of Hite’s stories as a .pdf download by mid-June so ya’ll can have everything in one nice place. More on that later…

A taste of our Black Mountain tales — this clip from “The Sight” which will be available May 10th.

Mama always said Shelly had the sight, ever since she was two and saw Daddy standing behind the cabin. He died two weeks before she was born, selling corn whiskey for Hobbs Pritchard, a mean white man down the mountain a ways. Mama always believed Hobbs killed Daddy, but there wasn’t no proof, and Hobbs got what he had coming to him in the end. So, it all came out in the wash.

Shelly never gave spooks and such much thought until the summer of 1944. The war with Japan and Germany threw Black Mountain into the real world. Mama had worked for the Dobbins family since she was old enough to help her mama make the beds. Shelly Parker started even earlier because Elizabeth Dobbins—the only child of Pastor Dobbins and his wife—took a liking to her as a baby. Elizabeth turned six the month Shelly was born and used her for a play toy. The girl was everywhere Shelly went so Shelly didn’t even notice the change from adored toy to personal maid. She fell into caring for Elizabeth real natural: washing her clothes, making her bed, and later when she went off to college, readying her room when she visited.

Miss Elizabeth came home that summer moaning and groaning about a vacation. Mrs. Dobbins reminded her that the war was serious and it just wasn’t time to have fun. Pastor Dobbins preached at Black Mountain Baptist Church. Shelly never heard him preach because colored folks couldn’t attend. Her and Mama had their own beliefs and read the Bible regular. But, Shelly could imagine his sermons, dry as three day old bread with hard crusts. But, something about Miss Elizabeth made that man bend over backwards. So, he decided to take the family to the coast of Georgia. Some friend of his had a family house on the beach. Shelly heard all this talking from her perch in the kitchen where she chopped greens and radishes for a salad.

“I will die of boredom. Who in the world goes to Darien, Georgia?”

“It’s settled Elizabeth. We’re going to have a nice family vacation.”

Mrs. Dobbins sounded so sweet, but an edge rode her words.
Shelly snickered as she tossed the salad.

“Shelly Parker, you know not to use your bare hands on Mrs. Dobbins’ food. She’d faint over dead.” Mama named her Shelly because she always wanted to leave the mountain and go to the ocean. . . .
Come back to the Mule tomorrow to read Ann’s introduction, under Fiction. Oh, how we love our Mule! 🙂

Jeremiah Wright, pastor to Barack Obama for twenty years, spoke publicly in his first television interview since clips of his controversial sermons circulated the Internet in an interview on PBS set to air Friday. Wright expressed frustration with how his sermons had been portrayed by the news media and critics of Obama’s presidential  bid.

“I felt it was unfair,” he told Bill Moyers according to released excerpts. “I felt it was unjust. I felt it was untrue. I felt that those who were doing that, were doing it for some very devious reasons.”

“The message that is being communicated by the sound bites is exactly what those pushing those sound bites want to communicate,” he said, adding later, “I think they wanted to communicate that I am unpatriotic, that I am un-American, that I am filled with hate speech, that I have a cult at Trinity United Church of Christ — and by the way, guess who goes to his church, hint, hint, hint? That’s what they wanted to communicate.”

read entire article


A couple of days ago, I found an editorial, “Managing Ignorance,” by the Rev. Dr. John Mendez, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, in The Chronicle. The article appeared in the April 3 issue.

I should have seen the editorial earlier, but racism doesn’t go away, you see, just because I’m slack. So I’m going to excerpt it now.


The Rev. Dr. John Mendez


“In recent days, the American public has been bombarded by a series of video clips, relentless isolated sound bytes, and lots of frenzied, misinformed overcharged rhetoric by the news media, commentators, and right-wing bloggers, caricaturing and demonizing my friend, Dr. Jeremiah Wright and Trinity Christian Church. Dr. Wright is under attack for the use of language and sentiments uttered while preaching a sermon that criticized and condemned American violence at home and abroad. In my estimation, however, the real reason Dr. Wright is under attack is that he was the pastor of Senator Barack Obama and his family for over 20 years, as UCC President John Thomas pointed out. Those who sifted through hours of sermons looking for a few lurid phrases and those who aired them repeatedly were only seeking to discredit and harm Obama by associating him with the historic prophetic ministry and social gospel preaching tradition of the Black church, as if that is a bad thing; and to divide the American people along racial and religious lines by subtly playing the “race card.”

I have known Dr. Jeremiah Wright for over 25 years. He is a brilliant preacher and scholar. He was recognized by Ebony Magazine as one of the top 15 preachers in America. He has preached in Winston-Salem several times to overflowing audiences. Trinity Church is located in Southside Chicago, where the consequences of racist public policies are manifested in a crumbling infrastructure, a failing school system, and a lack of economic development. For decades, Trinity Church has been hailed as a model church for what Dr. Martin Marty, a professor of religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School and frequent visitor to Trinity worship services, describes as a place of ‘hope, hope, hope.'”

Read the rest of the article here. Emphasis mine.


Dr. Mendez was instrumental to my understanding of black preaching. He spent hours of his valuable time talking with me and recommending books, so that I could understand this aspect of my thesis on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And now I hope others will listen to this man of God.

You see, I love John Mendez, and I respect him. In my heart, he will always be my pastor, whether I sit in his pew or not. He has helped me educate my ignorance and become a recovering racist rather than a practicing one. And in that, dear reader, there is hope, hope, hope.

American can yet become the nation we dream of.


White Into Black


into that darkened sky—

How can one be born
when one is old:

in the flood from His side,

beneath the piercing sword?

I will abandon my watery grave—

pale as ancestors, plunged
into its flow—

black as my Jesus, comely:
a bride.

first published in Domicile

Fulfilling A Mission by Henri Nouwen

“When we live our lives as missions, we become aware that there is a home from where we are sent and to where we have to return. We start thinking about ourselves as people who are in a faraway country to bring a message or work on a project, but only for a certain amount of time. When the message has been delivered and the project is finished, we want to return home to give an account of our mission and to rest from our labours.

One of the most important spiritual disciplines is to develop the knowledge that the years of our lives are years ‘on a mission.””


Emphasis mine.


The devotional by Nouwen explains, at least to me, why I must continue presenting a battle against the triple evils: racism, poverty, and war (as identified by Martin Luther King Jr. in Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community in 1964), why I must continue to explain that in race relations “better” (the term white people insist upon, and is true) does not mean “equal” (the goal for black people that hasn’t been reached).

I am on a mission. I’ve been sent here by God. I will continue on my mission because of Calvary. God will call me “home,” but maybe not until more people have heard the message.


On another note, Vote for me for Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere. I had eighteen votes this morning.

Vote for me for Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere.


Vote For The 2008 Poet Laureate Of The Blogosphere.
Bill Knott 12 votes
Rethabile Masilo 23 votes
Sue Turner 6 votes
Leonard Blumfeld 1 vote
Tiel Aisha Ansari 4 votes
Michael Wells 16 votes
Melanie Bishop 1 vote
Steve Caratzas 2 votes
Jodi Herman 4 votes
Steven Schroeder 2 votes
Rob McLennan 36 votes
Dale Favier 5 votes
Levari 1 vote
R.K.Singh 1 vote
Montgomery Maxton 1 vote
Helen Losse 14 votes
Reginald Shepherd 4 votes
Tony Trigilio 44 votes
Gautami Tripathy 4 votes
Jay Sizemore 0 votes
James Steerforth 2 votes
Tony Brown 80 votes
Rebecca Loudon 4 votes
260 voters

The rocks that protrude
divide the river
into natural rivulets.

After crossing the Atlantic,
we formed a nation
where forbears walked
on needle-covered ground.

The air beneath the pines
bears witness, whispering
of what we have done.

The gray mist that falls
on rich and poor alike—
becrying equality—

cries, “Alas.” And still,
we pretend that debt
is not our call to justice.

April 2008
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