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Stepping Over Our Wounds – Henri Nouwen

“Sometimes we have to “step over” our anger, our jealousy, or our feelings of rejection and move on. The temptation is to get stuck in our negative emotions, poking around in them as if we belong there. Then we become the “offended one,” “the forgotten one,” or the “discarded one.” Yes, we can get attached to these negative identities and even take morbid pleasure in them. It might be good to have a look at these dark feelings and explore where they come from, but there comes a moment to step over them, leave them behind and travel on.”


“The writer must write what he has to say, not speak it.” –  Ernest Hemingway


In light of the recent political events, I’d like to explore the intersection of these two ideas;  letting go of hurt and speaking out.  Of course, we (people) must abandon our (personal) wounds, if we are to live positive, effective lives. The world is filled with enough depression, and most of us want to avoid that, if we can.  There is enough to be “down” about without holding grudges and making martyrs of ourselves.

And yet the “poking around in [the wounds] as if we belong there” is just what the writer must do in order to expose society’s ills.  A poet knows he/she writes better (stronger and with better images) from negative rather than positive emotion.  But he/she might not want to live there.  There is a difference between personal and societal injuriy.

A poet may write to address humanity’s ills, a nation’s collective sins without dwelling on personal slights. It is for that very reason that I wrote Seriously Dangerous, my book from Main Street Rag, that is now available for advance order.

In Seriously Dangerous, a violent undercurrent lurks—always ready to strike—beneath nature’s raw, God-fearing beauty.  Or is it the other way around?  Maybe beauty truly is the truth that awaits us and will come forth when we least expect it.  Maybe hope is hiding behind our dark, violent culture.  Maybe a stern warning will change us this time. Our past and our present are seriously dangerous.  We must face this fact, if we want to become whole.

Politicians tell us to “tone it down” and preachers remind us of personal sin,  yet it is the writer who can give us the image and remind us of who we are collectively.  He/she can do this in a non-academic way so as to reach the hearts of many.

Sadly, our nation was conceived in violence, and violence continues to rear its ugly head quite often.  Rhetoric incites–often to violence in the disturbed individual.  Many of us believe that “faith without works is dead,”  and action can lead toward hope.  A violent nation can become  a peaceful one.  Yes, it can. But not without acknowledging the place from which it came.  But we don’t need just to “tone down” (bury and ignore) what we know.  Reading the Constitution aloud isn’t enough; we need the truth.  The truth can set us free.

We need to stop pretending there are good kinds of violence and bad ones.  We need to stop glorifying war, prejudice, and hatred.   We need to forgive our ancestors, spread the truth and then the peace.


Seriously Dangerous

The evening begins with kudzu—
summer memories submerged
in a deep southern swamp—
where spirited black boys, old dryers
bob beside alligators.  Late in hot night,
flashes of yesterday surface in pain
like the prick of a thorn, the mock
of a crown that continues its burn.

Low whispers, deep shadows remain
where trials by fire have left actual trails
after a tromp in slime & muck,
with tell-tale footprints from society’s
work boots.  Seriously dangerous,
the cross without a savior—
deniable today, but for masks, hoods—
cannot burn away filth & dross,

nor wash us clean, ’til truth bleeds.

from Seriously Dangerous, now in advance order


January 2011