The church celebrates the Feast of Pentecost today: the day when the first Christians, gathered in fear after Jesus’ Ascension, received the gift of the Holy Spirit, coming as tongues of flame, with a sound like a rushing wind. (Acts 2:1-11). I write this as the major cities of this country have been aflame with rioting (a lot of if it apparently created by white groups on the left and right seeking to invite violence) as black communities protest the murder of yet another unarmed black man.
The overflowing rage and anguish is justified, inevitable. Starting my day, a red candle lit for Pentecost, I sought to bring together prayer, action, and words: I sent a contribution to an organization that calls white people to Show Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), and then I began to name at prayer those who have been killed, knowing that to call someone’s name is to see them more clearly, in our common humanity. Only there are too many names, and I do not know them all. So I turned from intercession to the other “tongue” I speak: poetry, and there emerged this poem.
Pentecost 2020: Calling their Names
The feast of Pentecost, and tongues of flame
Burn in hot, angry love for murdered lives.
Names of loved ones who mattered, brutalized
Are called in love and grief, with gathering crowds.
Beyond love’s voices burn the furious flames
Of rage consumed in looting and in fire
While riot gear and anarchy assert
The whiteness of enduring violent power.
In tongues of living love and grief they call
The names of people known and loved: Breonna – Ahmaud
George, Trayvon. . . the list too long, Killings
Too common, but we call the names we can.
Melissa, Sandra, Michael, Paul, Laquan. . .
The flames of Spirit blowing as a wind
Ask with the poet now: how many deaths
Until we know that too many have died?
The Spirit burns in rage: the list goes on.
(poem (previously unpublished) copyright Kathleen Henderson Staudt 2020)
*I do not know the source for the image at the top of this post: it hangs on my wall and I love it – if anyone knows please contact me!