On the 4th

I stepped out in July,

For a run, a short one mind.

As I made the first step I was quick to realize

This was the 4th, and memories flied.

 

I hear the first bang, the pop and the whizz.

With the whistle behind, it’s not so bad

But then that incessant snapping is,

And my stamina flagged.

 

Suddenly my thoughts matched my pace

And rhythmic words phrased

Sentences and stanzas carefully raced

And I knew my run would be poetically chased.

 

You light your fireworks and let off a bang.

You cheer for the sound that’s causing someone pain.

You let the loudness startle the crowd,

And watch the trailing sparkles in awe.

 

How do we celebrate something we barely remember-

With the sounds someone else will never forget?

We watch floral fires light in the sky,

And we forget for this holiday, something had to die.

 

Now don’t misunderstand me,

This day is grand, not at all protested,

apple pie and sweet tea are hardly contested.

But we celebrate emancipation with a sound that

Emanates the perpetuation

Of death?

 

Why raise red cups spilling beer, and making claims of greatness,

When in the next street over, your neighbors can’t make

Monthly payments –

and not because they’re lazy or unmotivated,

Some people can’t get hired because of to whom they’re related.

 

You cheer for your independence, but you’re not walking free.

No, we’re all walking around chained to our fear.

Convinced bullets are the only way to break out.

Determined that our carry anywhere AR15  permits are the tickets

To safety.

 

But we don’t seem to see the millions felled, the ones gunmen select

We celebrate people who died over 200 years ago,

For a country of free citizens we cannot protect

Because, senselessly we cling to something we cannot control.

 

We walk in a world deliberately armed as a militia.

Where we’re more likely to fight for the accessibility of ammunition,

Than the feasibility of a free education.

Because one means we can kill and end up on top,

And the other means we might all be equals, and,

goodness, then where would the progress stop?

 

So by all means, let us look to the fire tinged red rockets glare

See the melted popsicle stain smear into the night sky

Only if then, we can look at the ground and see the bodies piled there.

And finally admit, freedom might be a lie.

 

To some this may sound angry,

I swear to God I’m just scared.

I sit with my back to my wall and listen to the fireworks.

Listen to them all.

 

I hear the people here, crying for their murdered friends.

Begging, pleading with America to make it all end.

I see the Syrian girls, half my age,

The African children, already enslaved.

The soldiers we praise, who’s nights will never be silent,

Who will flinch the rest of their days.

 

I think of the war and the battles we’ve instigated,

Because of people we’ve envied or hated.

I shudder in horror at this culture we’ve created.

This monster of fire we’ve bred.

It was us, the engineers and the builders, it was us asking for more,

More ways to make more people dead.

It is through our fault the gun was fed.

 

And we’ve stood here before.

In wars gone by we fell

In tragedies we thought history could never retell.

And again here we stand.

Hand on throat, gun in hand.

 

Don’t you know, o people, war doesn’t make the world whole?

So if you believe, throw down your guns and pray.

Pray for those people you don’t even believe have a soul.

Pray until your knees are as bloody as the hands of the country you call home.

 

Please, I don’t say this to be mean.

It’s not hateful, or out of spite.

It’s not for the blue against the red.

It’s just from a being, female and white.

From one who doesn’t give a damn if a gun is my right.

 

I care if my children grow up safe.

I care if the babies I bear

Have education opportunities to spare.

I care if the home I create, is expected to entertain an arsenal, just to be safe.

I care if the people I vote for, can protect the country we entrust to them,

Without the people of this broken democracy, stopping them.

 

I care that someone listens to the plea of peace.

I care that my children grow up knowing things can change.

That Harry didn’t die for a fantasy world in vain.

But to teach my generation that things can’t stay the same.

 

Something’s got to give, and fighting is the age old tale.

It’s never gotten much more than blood and tears.

Let’s spin something else,

Something worth lasting through the years.

Let’s teach ourselves now, the ways of peaceful loving.

So as our children grow, they won’t be left wondering –

 

Is this world any more than a bullet ridden death toll?

On Going Home

Earlier this week a friend asked me when I was going to take Jeremiah to see my home. They were speaking of Scotland, naturally. They were asking when I was going to take Jeremiah on romantically historic trails. When were we going to sight see ancient castles and survey the vibrantly green countryside? When were we going to sit in quaint tea shops eating our soups and sandwiches while the rain lashed charmingly outside? When were we going to visit the land full of quiet houses and a surprisingly uproarious population. This is what they meant when they asked me about home.

And I cannot blame them. If one has to be named, Scotland is home now. It is where I worked during my university summers. It is where I return for holidays. It is where my parents own a flat. In all respects, it is home.

But the answer that immediately sprung to my mind when the question was presented was a simple “never.” Jeremiah will never see my home.

 

When I think of returning home to Angola, I’m overwhelmed with the amount of childhood memories I have from the sub-Saharan country. In this incident I vividly remembered the chickens.

In our second compound, we moved there within two years of living in Angola, there was a consistent hen and flock of chicks. I adored these animals as a child. I would chase them incessantly, running alongside the hen who angrily flapped her earth bound wings. I would laugh with glee at the sight of new yellow chicks tumbling over themselves in an effort to keep up with their disgruntled mum. In the mornings, before I had to study math or science, I would check on new eggs, huddled safely under the cargo containers we used as car garages. There I would lie, tummy down, head poked into a dark, dirty cavernous space. Mother hen would squawk and ruffle. But I just wanted to watch. I just wanted to be with them, and for them to belong to me. So I spent hours in the dirt, inhaling the feces infested dust, collecting feathers, counting eggs, and loving chickens that were not mine.

These chickens, of course, did not have momentous lives ahead of them. They were not nursery rhyme chickens, set out on great bread making missions. No, they were scrawny African chickens, destined for the coal heated pan from birth. I don’t remember being traumatized by the fate of these chickens. Maybe my parents remember some awful realization I’ve blocked from my mind. But I remember just knowing, some days there would be less chickens than the day before, and that was okay. The chickens didn’t belong to me, they belonged to the street, to the guards’ families. They were not entertainment, they were food. And though they kept me company for many years, eventually they were all gone, and that was okay.

Jeremiah will never meet those chickens. He will never lay on his stomach in ashy red dust and watch as angry hens cluck under a MAERSK container. But that is a memory I call home.

Home, home is waiting for that light on the guardhouse to switch on so your mum will stop worrying about the freezer. Home is begging your dad to turn on the generator so you can have coke, pizza, AND an episode of MASH on Friday night. Home is turning off the telly to listen for gun shots. Home is the acrid smell of burning rubbish wafting over a cement wall, a scent I would give all the Glade candles in the world to smell again. Home is always being a different colour, and never really belonging but not knowing anything else. Home is having malaria and fitting in with everyone else. Home is long, bumpy car rides listening to a Walkman full of Billy Joel and Dixie Chick CD’s I took from my sisters’ room while they were at boarding school. Home is melting gingerbread houses, tangled mosquito nets, and a furry, loyal watchdog.

Home is the place no one can go. My home, the house, the compound, the country that sprung to my mind after that question is a place to which I will never return. On the off chance we were to procure visas for Angola, there is no guarantee that house in Graffanil is still there. There is no way of knowing about my dog, or the guards, or the church. There would be no more chickens, and it wouldn’t be my home.

 

So here I am, with a wedding in the imminent future, waiting. People shower us with gifts and cards. Phrases such as “it’s so exciting to make a home for each other” hit hard. How am I supposed to make a home for someone else, when I can’t go back to mine? How am I supposed to make this tiny, university owned flat a home when it’s in a country foreign to me? How am I supposed to make meals, home-style dinners, when going to the nearest Kroger is still overwhelming? How am I supposed to invite people over to “our” home when I feel like a stranger in its walls? How am I supposed to make this space a home for Jeremiah, when I don’t even belong in it?

 

This thread of questions keeps me up late at night, wakes me in the early morning, grips me at work. These attacks on my future fatigue me, they call for me to give in, to put the ring back in the box, say a polite good bye and move on to the next place. But I can’t. I can’t leave. I can’t give power to the lies saying I’ll never have a home. I can’t give truth to the lies saying it’s better to run. I can’t give in. I almost do. Really, ashamedly, I’ve taken my ring off more times than I would like to say. I have come so close to pulling out old suitcases and packing them with new clothes, ready to board a plane and leave a life I don’t understand. What stops me is my question – where else will I go? Where, within this universe, can I go and say I will feel like I belong?

 

I do not have a home on this earth, and I never will. I do have a home, in the heavenly realm, with the perfect Father. I have a home free from turmoil, I have a home secured. I have a home overflowing with love. But it is not here. No, here I will not belong – not just in America or the UK, but on this earth. I will not belong. It is terrifying to know that, to think that there is no place my parents can conjure out of brick and mortar that will make me feel at home. It’s daunting to realize that daily I will walk alongside co-workers and find them complete strangers. I will not belong, but I will not be alone. Each day I will come back to Jeremiah’s waiting arms. Each night I will sleep folded in with one who loves me deeply, one who loves me well. Each morning I will wake wanting to know him more, and he will wake wanting the same. And we will go through our lives, day in and day out, not belonging to this world, but belonging to one another, and looking ahead to a heavenly, heavenly home.