When American kids were needlessly gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida because our politicians have continued to fail to address the underlying issues of gun violence in America, I ran into a challenge.
I couldn’t find the words to describe how I felt about the incident, nor could I find the language to convey how I felt about the inhumanity of the gunman and our politicians who fail to act on this critical issue.
As a writer, I try to challenge myself to practice writing in a variety of genres, from non-fiction to fiction. As most of us who put pen to paper know, writing is a messy process that takes commitment and self-care to carry out on a consistent basis.
But on February 14, I was frozen; I couldn’t find the words to write.
When I began writing for Elephant Journal, my goal was to write on a range of topics that has now included everything from environmental philosophyto consciousness; yoga to global environmental governance; travel to spirituality; politics to art; personal development to gratitude; and sustainabilityto mindful living.
For most of my life, I’ve been an academic—so, naturally, most of my previous writings have been centered on academic non-fiction. More recently, I’ve begun writing fiction, as well as spending more time writing as an independent journalist.
It’s all a part of my journey from head to heart.
But in the wake of this needless American school slaughter, I realized that nothing I had previously done had given me the tools I needed to adequately express myself.
Then, the words of the late Paul Engle, director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and founder of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, came to mind. He once said:
“Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words.”
Pondering this, I then thought, What if I just let everything I’d been feeling after the killing pour out “nerved and blooded with emotions”?
In that moment, I decided to try to express my emotions through poetry. The result is this poem entitled “Is This who we Are?” Read it aloud if you can.
Is This who we Are?
Birthing, becoming, dying;
Being, coming, going, life unfolding;
Falling apart, crashing, burning, yearning;
Singing, feeling, cohering;
Quietly tortured, solemnly connected, rejected;
Melancholy inspired disgust;
Swinging complex apes, aped;
Attaching, suffocating, detaching;
Constant noise, unable to sit, fidget, spin;
Too fast, past, present, after and before;
Uncertainly wondering, certainty escapes;
Order, chaos, violence, relate;
Healing, repairing, consoling;
Punishing and searching;
Seeking, letting go, annulling;
Going, going, going relentlessly;
Stopped. No, they were shot!
Encountering, blabbing, shunning, and punning;
Music to my ears;
Listening but not hearing;
Hearing but not understanding;
Proving, convincing, wishing for sense—nonsense;
Money, honey, money;
Sexting and texting;
Awakening, numbing, dumbing down;
Round, dulling, mulling;
Heaven and hell, our purgatory;
Here, there, everywhere;
Drifting; praying for nothing;
Counting us in, counting us out;
Power, hierarchy, patriarchy;
Fall apart, again, begin again;
Secrets of death, unkempt;
Betrayal, avarice, vanity, insanity;
Concealed, hoping, wanting, taking;
Baking, shaking, breaking;
Giving, living, and loving;
Walking, talking, stalking;
Repression, oppression, confession;
Start again, begin at the end;
Making and faking;
Discord, sowing, sewing;
Reaping, eating, f*cking, sh*tting, and spitting;
Masking, the masked;
Grotesque monkeys, aped;
Nothing but man and sometimes hate;
Smoking gun, no pun;
Trained, pained reprieves;
Vacating, swimming, swimming;
Vacationing through cosmic dust turned to rust;
Heavy metal, jazzed up;
Opened to three; free;
Split in two, exploding, converging, hurtling;
Grieving fire, earth, soul’s water;
Wriggling and wrinkling, shrinking, growing;
Showing and knowing;
Groaning and moaning;
Rubbing and tugging;
Letting go again, begin again;
Never satiated, empty minds, vacant hearts;
Shoving, then loving to love again, begin again.
More, more, more;
Do and don’t;
Walk alone, do and want, but do not want;
Shook up, shaken down, imprisoned minds;
Find a little less in this beautiful mess;
Progress reasoned, unseasoned seasons;
Scientific, terrific for all reasons
Verification, validation, suppositions;
Making sense nonsensical;
Turning, yearning, burning;
Kneeling, killing, sitting, and forgiving;
Empty field, filled, fulfilled toward the only end;
To embrace it all;
And begin again;
We live and love;
We begin again;
Let it go, let it all go;
This is who we are!
If you’re feeling and thinking deeply and need a place to share your words, write for Elephant. Go ahead, you may find yourself connecting with people and new ways of expressing yourself, while capturing the attention of people who long for the resonance imbued in the language that flows through your veins, and your pen.
Author: Dr. Matthew Wilburn King
Editor: Callie Rushton
Publication: Elephant Journal