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Pray for Peace

from Ellen Bass, The Human Line (2007)

 

Pray to whomever you kneel down to:

Jesus nailed to his wooden or plastic cross,

his suffering face bent to kiss you,

Buddha still under the bo tree in scorching heat,

Adonai, Allah. Raise your arms to Mary

that she may lay her palm on our brows,

to Shekhina, Queen of Heaven and Earth,

to Inanna in her stripped descent.

 

Then pray to the bus driver who takes you to work.

On the bus, pray for everyone riding that bus,

for everyone riding buses all over the world.

Drop some silver and pray.

 

Waiting in line for the movies, for the ATM,

for your latte and croissant, offer your plea.

Make your eating and drinking a supplication.

Make your slicing of carrots a holy act,

each translucent layer of the onion, a deeper prayer.

 

To Hawk or Wolf, or the Great Whale, pray.

Bow down to terriers and shepherds and Siamese cats.

Fields of artichokes and elegant strawberries.

 

Make the brushing of your hair

a prayer, every strand its own voice,

singing in the choir on your head.

As you wash your face, the water slipping

through your fingers, a prayer: Water,

softest thing on earth, gentleness

that wears away rock.

 

Making love, of course, is already prayer.

Skin, and open mouths worshipping that skin,

the fragile cases we are poured into.

 

If you’re hungry, pray. If you’re tired.

Pray to Gandhi and Dorothy Day.

Shakespeare. Sappho. Sojourner Truth.

 

When you walk to your car, to the mailbox,

to the video store, let each step

be a prayer that we all keep our legs,

that we do not blow off anyone else’s legs.

Or crush their skulls. And if you are riding on a bicycle

or a skateboard, in a wheelchair, each revolution

of the wheels a prayer as the earth revolves:

less harm, less harm, less harm.

 

And as you work, typing with a new manicure,

a tiny palm tree painted on one pearlescent nail

or delivering soda or drawing good blood

into rubber-capped vials, writing on a blackboard

with yellow chalk, twirling pizzas–

 

With each breath in, take in the faith of those

who have believed when belief seemed foolish,

who persevered. With each breath out, cherish.

 

Pull weeds for peace, turn over in your sleep for peace,

feed the birds, each shiny seed

that spills onto the earth, another second of peace.

Wash your dishes, call your mother, drink wine.

 

Shovel leaves or snow or trash from your sidewalk.

Make a path. Fold a photo of a dead child

around your VISA card. Scoop your holy water

from the gutter. Gnaw your crust.

Mumble along like a crazy person, stumbling

your prayer through the streets.

 

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The (Online) Diary of a Mad Black Mzungu

For those of you who don’t know, my title is a spin off of the Tyler Perry movie, “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”  I’m not really “mad”.

Today is the first day of my Indiegogo campaign, The Black American Mzungu Literary Project, to raise funds for my trip to East Africa and to reopen a school for Ugandan girls with special needs in Mukono.  Ironically, this is also my first entry on this blog page which I started five years ago while studying in Uganda the first time.  Because of the campaign and because my time away is solely about writing, I thought it would be a great idea to give myself a weekly assignment of keeping an online diary where I can keep folks informed on what’s happening with me as well as make a personal writing commitment where I am somewhat held accountable by others.

Blogging has always been a little daunting for me– especially when you are considering submitting work to be published widely.  How does one decide which thoughts or moments are fit for an online rant versus a real story that could be later developed into something substantial and meaningful?   Does blogging imply that you think so highly of your thoughts and writing that you want it on the web for everyone to see? Will I feel like a loser if my only followers are my parents and siblings who wouldn’t necessarily read my rants, but have to follow me just because it’s the right thing to do?

Truth is, it’s hard for me to write so openly, so regularly.  I do, however, frequently journal (is that a verb? If not, you know what I mean)– it has helped me sort out my thoughts and frustrations over the years and has also been a great reference when writing about my time in Africa.  I find that keeping a journal (the old-school leather -bound books of lined paper– I faithfully use Moleskines, btw) is one of the most stress-relieving exercises one can commit to.  I believe it so much, in fact, that I recently inquired about leading an extracurricular journal writing workshop with the incoming students of the Uganda Studies Program later this fall for which I was approved.

But to blog on the internet, whether it is an open or private forum, means to be vulnerable with both friends and strangers about what I feel.  It means I have to decide if I will censor my thoughts or be candid about my views, and with whatever I decide, be okay with the feedback that comes along with it. IF, that is, there is any feedback at all.  What if no one cares about what I have to say? Will that be the ego-bruising moment for me? To log on and see that there is no one following, no one reading, no one commenting?

I’ve been contributing to 215mag.com, a digital magazine in Philadelphia, for over a year now and a few things I’ve learned are 1. write your best 2. proofread your work 3. build an audience 4. be ready for scrutiny.   I am still working on the 3 & 4, but these days I think I am ready to strut my stuff online– whether my audience is 1 or 1000.  I think I can handle readers’ comments– whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent.  I’m not sure what my theme will be yet, but I think it’s cool to figure that out along the way.

So here it goes– from journaling in Moleskines to blogging online, my life is really about to be an open book.

 

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