May 17·edited May 17

As an older and more experienced poet, I was worried about a younger poet reading at a place that was a little bit invite only last week. I wasn't sure what she'd say, and if it would be appropriate. I supported her anyway, even though I gritted my teeth and she stood up to read. Then something happened. She was amazing!! Totally blew me away. As well as the audience. One of her lines, which was taken from our theme of tradition, was "the only tradition is love.". So powerful, and so queer, and it taught me yet again to not judge people before they get a chance to show you who they are.

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An old Friar has been heard to say, “I ask God for one good humiliation each day. They are faithful to provide, and often more than one.” 😉🤣

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Wise words that make me cackle a little bit. 😂

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Nice word: cackle.

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It is my dream too and even in these Anthropocene times full of hatred, violence and destruction of the Earth and its myriad inhabitants, I am beginning to see the beginnings of fulfillment…Perhaps it is inevitable regardless of what humans do, but I prefer to believe we can make a positive difference in realizing the dream, if not in our time, then for the children to come.

Hoofnote: I believe the “Land Back” movement in the USA and Canada is but one aspect toward realizing the dream. “Land Back” is an indigenous movement that is gaining broader support across the USA and Canada (Turtle Island). Most notably in Oklahoma, but also here in California. This is an example from my old ranger stomping grounds and the Yurok people I came to know.

Yurok leader offers insight on landmark project at 'O Rew - Save the Redwoods League


Dreaming of a Harmonious Earth  — Center for Action and Contemplation


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I had a long career as an environmental land use planner, after years as an ecologist/ranger. In my capacity I had authority to write laws and enforce zoning that protected both land and inhabitants, including heritage trees. Now as an old ecotheologist I try to instill such care in others through storytelling and teaching in a voluntary capacity.

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May 17·edited May 17

I read your second link, Patrick. Beautiful, and hope-inspiring! I also think that we're in a sacred bond with each other, in my better moments 😂

One of the things that struck me as a young adult during the second Iraq war was how fashion seemed to infiltrate with Indian and near Middle Eastern clothing. I remember big rings, Bangles, and the occasional streak of kohl on the eyes of my classmates. It made me marvel at arches, and their ancestry.

Even in times of conflict, I think there is a way through it through borrowing and through exchange. Your meditation reminded me of that.

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You made me think of te flip side of owning and being owed which has led to so many catastrophes and how exchanging and borrowing through a shared sense of belonging is making something rather than possessing something

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We can always hope, and act in grace out of our hope. 👍🏽

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Yehuda Amichai’s little poem so beautifully struck me in a big way this morning; I was reminded of a poem I wrote a few years ago responding to the ugly mindset being revealed in our country of one seeing themself as superior over someone else — and which then is justified in a distorted sense of self-righteousness.


Is this what we have come to

separate and


Let’s just

keep them out

by building a

facade of


while believing

it can be done

without a cost.

Have we not learned

that the air

spreads out evenly




in open fields.

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May 17·edited May 18

I am still crying so steadily through my dry eyes from listening to these last 2 segments I can barely see in order to write. I did sympathize with all the poems. Each moved me and the power was cumulative. They were all so deeply human and profound. But these last 2 and your comments were especially unexpectedly moving to me.....the word whisper in the Amichai poem..

and word naive as you apply it to the other,...your defense of the word naive and its root meaning -to be born...as a way to end this series, stand out as my tears drip right into my tea.

This grouping of poems and commentaries may end, but digging deep, loosening the hard soil of ourselves is just the small small beginning of what softens us and what could be...I feel like I'm mourning and praying all at once.

I take walks and hikes and now I am committed to memorizing these 2 poems on those paths ahead.

Thank you so much for the supreme gift of these remarkable poems.

What have i done with my advantage? It never feels like enough. But I have had the privilege of serving others as Clergy and been so rewarded by enabling and sharing life cycle experiences from making a Hebrew baby name official in

ceremony through other joyous and poignant moments that mark life's moments to holding a hand on a death bed.

As a mother and sister I have had the advantage and privilege of having an organized and sound mind and empathetic heart to effectively love and support my brother who has autism and my twin sons both with challenging disabilities. What supported me and continues to support me? The few but immeasurably dear people along the way who weren't and aren't afraid to challenge me and love me all at once.

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“What supported me and continues to support me? The few but immeasurably dear people along the way who weren't and aren't afraid to challenge me and love me all at once.” Yes, yes and yes.

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May 17·edited May 17

But I just realized my phrase is incomplete....and a voice that whispers deep inside me when my broken heart listens and receives.

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That place of occasional grace I’ve found both startling and calming is when I don’t even choose to pursue a harm done.

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Well said!

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I have needed to sit with both of these poems for a couple of days before responding. And, especially, the question Padraig asked in the Amichai episode: where is your power causing difficulty to the people you say are wrong? Oof. I have been willing to look at how my white privilege causes harm. But causing difficulty to the people I believe are wrong? I see I have all sorts of beliefs about that. That the people I believe are wrong hold all the power and wield it mercilessly. But what about the people who have little power who believe in them? I don’t have that answer right now. This is a question to ponder and really sit with. It holds the key I think for breaking through this very intractable place we find ourselves at this point in history. I appreciate the story Padraig shared from the festival. How he and his friends had terrified this man he then met years later. How their actions had felt more harmless and benign at the time. Thank you for this week of poems about conflict and all the work that went into it. For raising these important questions and giving us a space to ponder them.

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The telling of the festival story sent chills through me. When have moment I might not even remember have caused harm, or remember only in the most inconsequent way.

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I saw this on my walk this morning -

War determines not who is right, but who is left. Made me think of Yehuda Amichai's poem.

Whatever we gain by being right, others lose. And we are left alone.

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What an excellent and important question, Pádraig! Thank you for the invitation…. While I let this be with me all day, memories of times I wish I had done something differently flooded to my mind. As an elementary school student in an almost all-white school, why did I not use my native English language privilege and “American” status to defend the Sikh boy who was an immigrant, who had long dark hair wrapped up in a cloth (turban), whose hair I only saw when his turban came undone one day on the soccer field during gym class and his shiny long hair was blowing in the wind and how uncomfortable he looked, and oh, god, how the kids teased and taunted and ostracized him. Why did I not speak up for him? The pain of this and the guilt are still there after all these decades. Also an understanding that my own “acceptance” my own “belonging” was so tenuous, i dared not threaten it by defending the immigrant child. All unconscious of course.

Years later, in high school, I found it easy to speak up for the white boy who transferred to our school who was visibly very “different” from the other kids (he dressed like Robert Smith from The Cure, red lipstick, black eyeliner, the teased black hair…) and had all kinds of homophobic anti-gay insults hurled at him. Why was I able to use my privilege and relative “power” (?) in this instance - even though I was a brown girl in a white school, he a white boy, but I had some kind of or believed I had some kind of in-group belonging … or maybe by then I had what I needed - the support you ask about. Yes. I think that was part of it. (the other part I think was that it was easier to stand up for an “other” but much harder to stand up for “my own” - may sound counterintuitive but in the context of racism and “cop in the head” internalized oppression as Augusto Boal called it, it makes sense).

Part of the support i believe was simply becoming aware of my own privilege and aware of my power or advantageous state… which came about through reading, learning about the world, learning history, about dynamics of power and how they function, etc. Part of it was a growing understanding that the world was full of injustices, and inequalities… feeling a sense of right and wrong… having a conscience… and role models who spoke up against injustice, so I had a different sense of belonging emerging, perhaps, one could say.

Years ago, I taught social studied in a high school where the students were primarily Black and Latinx, from poor and low-income families. And there I was, coming in to teach, with my class privilege and my South Asian-American background. It helped me to be reading and reflecting in community (I was in a teacher training program), such as reading Lisa Delpit’s wonderful book, Other People’s Children, and journaling about my experience in the classroom, with an eye to dynamics including race, class, and gender. It was a support to be intentionally reflecting on power dynamics and how to not bring harm, however unintentionally, to the students and how to actually do some good, along with others.

Listening. Reading. Going slow (to avoid auto pilot reactions). Reflecting (to learn from the past). Journaling. And as Mahmoud Darwish implores us in his beautiful poem, “Think of others”. It may sound so silly and basic and obvious, but just that - actually - I think has helped and helps me.

I love this question and all the questions you posed this week, Pádraig. They will stay alive for me and I’ll return to them again and again. Thank you for all your energy and thoughtfulness in bringing us these gorgeous poems and putting this series together. 🙏🏾

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Thanks so much for the latest mini series. I especially loved the last two poems. I can learn so much from "The place where we are right" - I too often think that I am right. And "trauma is not sacred", I needed to hear "you are more than the things that hurt you you are more than the people you have hurt"

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We as humans tend to find security in certainty.

Fear of the unknown is a thing.

Absolute certainty, though, claimed by those in power

(church, gov’t, corporations…) is a tool for control.

And said powers absolutely fear loss of control.

We must continue to dig up the world and listen to the whispers.

(“there is a love poem waiting deep below”)

Just an aside…I think I like the word curiosity over the word doubt.

It feels more like moving forward.

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I see what you are saying because they are both words that imply that questions will be asked and they both challenge the status quo. Curiosity is a more gentle engagement

I interpret doubts as demanding more of us .....interesting to think about these 2 words.

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I also like the word invite over demand...so perhaps curiosity will invite us to a more authentic action...

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May 17·edited May 18

Yes but they each have their uses, their "place" lol....when Amichai uses doubts in the same sentence as digging it seems he is using it to show we need to use a strong hand. Using a strong hand and pressing or digging into something doesn't have to mean forcing something. Doubt and digging have an urgency, something needs to be disturbed in order to get our attention. So curiosity and invite have their place but I'm thinking Amichai means something different.

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Thank you for the selections this week of Poems as Teachers and the generous and personal newsletters they came with. I will be thinking of the poems as I continue to examine what I have learned about myself.

Yehuda Amichai’s “The Place Where We Are Right” is an appropriate send-off at the end of this week in which we have focused on ‘ground,’ and care/love, and memory.

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Generous and hospitable Padraig is yes yes and yes Kathleen with this amazing series. The WORK that went into this!

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Late to the party...but thoughts on the last three wondrous poems: Mosab Abu Toha. You asked how the poem affected? I can't even imagine. I have not lost a loved one to anything but old age; I've never lost my home or my country. I can only try to listen and learn from those who have gone through so much trauma and loss and understand the power of empathy. Jericho on conflict--yes on so many levels, but probably the greatest lesson learned is that it is not necessary to demand discussion and confront someone over conflict. I learned from my daughter that keepig quiet for a time and ensuring love and acceptance can turn an unforseen and shocking conflict into forgiveness and stability in a relationship. Yhuda and advantage and power. I believe I've addessed this in the past because I'm currently a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa. Here, you cannot escape the advantage and power you have being a white face in a village of black people. When I was young, I was so full of what life offered me and how it energized me to seize the moment. I was youth and very sure of my place in the universe...but it took some time to realize how that advantage was seated in white and Western cultural privilege. Working and living in a poor village in Mpumalanga, South Africa has afforded me a chance to switch my privileged inheritance to one that is grateful to receive the full and bountiful gift that rural tribal life has to offer. I'm here to learn...and work WITH the local culture, not re-make it.

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I should have waited until I listened to both of these poems to comment! Just finished Kai Cheng Thom's poem and it left me shaken.

The line "All demons carry a map of heaven in their scars." Ooof. What a needed reminder to hold compassion for everyone, even those I feel most at odd with, and even myself.

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It isn’t my power and change is not under my control

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A little while ago, I was waiting in line to check in at my doctor’s office. When I have medical appointments, I do my best to dress polished because, fair or not, it affects how I am treated and spoken to. Doctors and staff are more respectful and give more detailed information. I am not the querulous, weak older woman.

As I queued up that morning, ready to get on with the business of a doctor visit, I gave a quick turn around and in my peripheral vision noticed a woman of a different race standing behind me. An unbidden thought, “She is intimidated by me,” flew into my consciousness, interrupting my thoughts of the day’s to do list. My attention came back to the present, and I tried to empathize about what it might be like for an immigrant woman, new to a country, uncertain of the language and customs. I felt humbled, kindly, and my shoulders relaxed.

I thank that woman for helping me, and enlarging my understanding of people. It was not until reading today’s prompt that I saw this in terms of power. It brings me back to the importance of kindness.

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As a student, I hold a particular role in helping push for a world where everyone can flourish. There have been many instances where I have taken a stand that has required risk, but I know that I hold privileges as a student. There are ways I can feasibly push for change, that get at the heart of many of the problems institutions create, and I have to take responsibility and be accountable. I do not want to step aside when there is something I can do and especially when it is needed.

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