Southern Honor

For Ashley H.

Though she be but little, she is fierce.

William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

She commands a ship with one tiny frame, the rutter a finger pointing…

She solicits respect and reverence from peers and elders with a simple “sir” and “ma’am”…

The thick skin of determination built

through tears in times of weakness

did not stop her compassionate heart.

Generations of Celtic pride

and roots burrowed deep in Southern soil

can only describe her

they can’t define her.

She is beauty that doesn’t know it:

She’s unpretentious

but the pride of those that love her.

She is elegant and graceful

in a hoodie on the South side of town.

She doesn’t reserve her strength

for the glitz of a ballroom.

The road rises to meet her

Her burdens, now, are light

Favor opens doors before her

And all her futures are bright.

A Poetic & Auditory Response to A Silent Night at Museum of the Bible

The bleak midwinter settles

in layers of flurries without and within

Crackling fire and a boy hold

a protected book in a one room cabin

Creaking floors and hinges, rattle open

Footsteps in the snow lead

lanterns to a stage floor

where percussion explodes…

Lift up your head! See

the percussion army dance, swing

wide from the shores of burning ships, sink

deep to the lost and hopeless, feel

the heart beats of hope again, watch

footsteps cross continents to bow

on National Mall in Washington DC, dare

to imagine a world where history

comes alive

celebrates The Word of light, the babe

born king, unpretentious, sets

the world ablaze with purpose.

No pit of darkness stands,

when Jesus Christ is in command.

Your army of artists surrender

Pens–Voices–Sticks–Vessels to Your hand.


For King and Country’s Christmas Special is a Partnership with the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. Tickets give you 4 hour access to the 1 hour performance. The show is available for a short time only from December 10-17.

It is a show that blends all the arts–music, theater, writing, and more–to bring to life one of the most important events in world history. Pick up a ticket online before this opportunity passes and grab your headphones for a repeat show. You don’t want to miss this in surround sound.

Why You Should Block Your Ex

Poem read by author, Rebecca Whitman

You told me every word on your mind, no filters–

And nothing that I needed to hear

You filled silence with your incessant need for attention–

And nothing that asked about my life

You made countless promises, filled my heart with hopes and dreams–

And nothing that took action in five years of waiting

You called and claimed you changed, threw a bone at my wants and interests–

And nothing that reflected them as your own in your voice or character

You left me second guessing my best decisions–

And nothing but a wound so close I’m left…

bleeding out…


I phone a friend and find life–

He binds my wounds and gives me hope again

but his heart

is closed to mine.


I think of all the love I shared with you, and I realize it wasn’t nothing–

but it ended in nothing.

I’m tempted to pick up the phone and try again–

then I read about the eight years we tried and failed and know…

there is not enough life left to repeat it.

For all the love we shared that was real, I wish you well–

May you find a heart that gives you rest and welcome; May her love for you be warm and ready

May you give her the best of you–healed and whole because that’s all a new love deserves

not the ghost of regrets with mine.

A Love For All Seasons

True love is not a flash in the pan; it is something that sparks within friendship and grows into a roaring camp fire. All the water in the world can’t douse its flame. It burns endlessly. A love like that is worth waiting for, fighting for, and protecting.

Eugene Barilla and Song of Songs 8:4;6-7

This is for the friend whose fire is yet to be...

You found me…

In the Winter of my discontent when all my hopes for love felt jaded and I saved myself through freezing to -22⁰C.

You thawed me…

I came to life for you–the first colorful buds of Spring opening cautiously, scared to trust the scorched earth with their beauty and light.

You watered me…

The heat of your Summer as you encouraged and celebrated my dreams brought my garden to bloom.

You harvested me…

In the beauty of Autumn, in the fields full and ripe for picking, you saw the beauty in me and harvested my love for your own.

You give me an all seasons love…

You open yourself to me–unafraid to lay all secrets bare. The sparked flame of your love burns away the baggage of mine and I reciprocate gratefully.

Green Acorn: A Prayer

We certainly associate Spring with growth, but Autumn is the start. We have to shed our leaves and let things die for them to grow anew.

Millie, editor of Sylvia magazine
Reading by author, Rebecca Whitman

What will you start in me today, Lord?

What gentle bud will cocoon its life and wait for Spring? What leaves will shed and rot to feed the root of this dream? What branches will You prune from me because they bare no fruit? Will it be a wandering branch of thought or a whole arm out of touch with the mission?

I wait and listen…but I’m a little scared too.

It’s been a fear unsettled since I returned here, yet I want You to unearth it. Uproot it like the weed it is and water me with the Miracle-Gro of Your presence. I feel like I can’t hide away enough in You. Isn’t that part of the evidence here of transformation?

I give you…everything.

I surrender everything I have because I know it is a gift from You–a resource given to use not hoard. I know you will take care of me and get resources to me if you know you can get them through me.

I work through my waiting.

I pursue greater trust in You. I write down my dreams, and I’m not afraid to dream big with You! I make plain the steps to fulfill what I can, but, ultimately, it all falls apart without Your hand.

I have looked up at the sky through a world full of acorns.

I have seen the light through the leaves and let them fall on me. I have let brown acorns root and take residence where they should not have been, while the good green ones fell away from me. Why was my soil not good enough for their seed? Why did some other woman grab them with her earth, become their lover–their mother of children?

My ground, though aged and weak, has rested. The once stripped soil is fertile ground once more. I wait–with thanksgiving and expectation–for tomorrow’s planting and harvest. I thank You, Lord, for the green acorn You have chosen and are preparing for me today.

Fresh Bread

The sweet and sour of the yeast comes first

Then the sound of the crack

as your hardened skin breaks

in my hand. I partake,

surround myself in memories of warm laughter and sticky dough in a ceramic bowl in grandma’s kitchen–6,000 feet above sea level

slice some butter and spread it inside you, take a bite and savor

till the bite melts away…

I cup my hands to my mouth, hold my breath, and try to keep the memories from fading.

The Tree

I remember when we planted you:

one small twig in an ocean of sand. You bloomed

where you were planted and stretched your arms into the sky, your feet into the sand. You left me

white flowers in spring and sweet fruit in summer. By autumn, you were yellowing but still offering me shade and a safe place to climb. You fill my yard with golden

shreds of yourself; I let them decay and nourish the earth where you left them. Winter settles in and you are stripped bare. I shudder

at the thought that you’re not here. I remind myself you are just sleeping; green life still oozes inside your warm, wrapped branches. I wait,

for spring to waken you and summer to harvest and share you with the world.

But if I’m honest

I’d be just as happy to keep you

all to myself: my special apple secret beneath a yellow moon.

A Life Interrupted

When you lose a loved one, it is hard to find the words to express what they meant to you in that moment. It is especially hard when they are young. Such was the case with my brother, Joseph Tallent.

You will hear more about Joey later this week, but today we want to share the poem written for his memorial. This terza rima is a celebration of his life.

by Rebecca J. Whitman

From the moment you entered the world,

you struggled for breath and light.

Life came to you unfurled

after four years of perpetual fight.

You looked around in awe and wonder.

The world–your oyster–now a beautiful sight.

You found joy in little things: sitting under

Yankees Stadium, traveling to see games, 

commiserating when they were torn asunder.

A second love took its claims

when you found the melody of strings.

You went to concerts, met famous names,

felt the inspiration and life that artistry brings,

and chose to perfect that skill as your own.

Playing music was a freedom that gave your heart wings.

Around NASCAR you had grown

faithful to the 3, 24, and 88

numbers your favorite driver had flown.

Managing numbers was your gifted trait.

You made financing dreams easy

by taking away the worry and weight.

You weren’t afraid to be cheesy.

You were fearless in frivolity–

carefree and breezy–

yet still a man of depth and quality

with deep convictions about faith and politics.

You invested time with shrewd equality

in relationships of trust not tricks.

You found happiness and love,

peace and rest from conflict.

You built a home and family to be proud of

but your dreams were cut short.

You’ve moved on to life in Heaven above

and we wait to reunite in that Heavenly court.

Shared Memory

I remember the sticky sweet smell of blueberry pie

filling grandma’s kitchen when we told her, and the hushed

smile when she saw the ring.

She pulled me close and whispered her approval:

You caught yourself a good one, girl. I’m glad. You deserved it.


I remember the hardwood floors, and the way we danced

in the living room before the children came–and still do

as they’re sleeping.


I remember the fish in the bathroom wall. The swirling blue

we painted below it. Our faces aglow

laughing

waiting to see the awe and wonder

of our children in their own aquarium.


I remember the way you first held my hand:

slow and gentle,

afraid to be touched but hovering to touch mine.

You warmed to a long sought-after embrace,

mellowed by wrinkles and tears, strengthened

by a life well lived together.

Now your hand is paper thin; a ghost in mine.


I hold the vapor of you, relive

every memory of our shared past, wish

I had you sooner, thank

God that I didn’t miss you–

that you were mine!

Faith is the Substance!

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

Hebrews 11:1-2, NIV
Poem read by the author, Rebecca Whitman

Faith is the substance

Of things hoped for, it is the

EVIDENCE

It is the root of the tree, the bird of the wing, it is the

WING

It takes flight with our dreams…

It is the fruit of the seed, it is the

SEED

It’s that tiny ember of spark, the burning coal of flame…the essence of life… it is that seed

Growing in the unseen; the truth propelling the future into reality… it is the breath

of life still waiting to be defined

DEFINED

By faith that understood how the heavens were formed by God’s command not the spontaneous decision of a single cell or a cosmic burst.

By faith that led men and women to worship an unseen King, walk with him when he was seen, live through joy and pain, fight and defend and die for…and with…this King.

KING

This King who walked among us not as a prince but as a man. The man who had every right to wear a crown and snub society but chose to hangout with outcasts and live with propriety.

This King who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, raised the dead to life, healed the sick, and escaped the sword…

This King whose perceived weakness became the power that launched a thousand ships, routed enemies, conquered kingdoms, ruled justly, and obtained the promise for all Heaven and Earth…

EARTH

The place where Heaven bends down with supernatural provision and we are two house finches at a glass feeder: stuffing our beaks with seed we didn’t earn, lifting our little red heads with pride and joy, and stretching our woodgrain wings to fly.

Citizen of Heaven

I came to You in filthy rags, dung

buried beneath my nails, shame

lowering my head

my reckless self-

loathing was a tomb

till I met You

I was stumbling blind, zombie

walking through my life, empty

failures trying to hide behind

mascara eyes, a panic

room till I met You

You whispered my name

and I ran out of that grave

out of the shadows

into the light of your day

I still question my worth

and the weight of my words:

Did I contribute to equality?

Did I contribute to oppression?

Will the bare naked

sins of my past, stand

as evidence to accuse me?

You open your hand to me, take

mine in yours, smile

at me reassuringly, forgiveness

a blanket embracing me

I am beginning to forget

why I ever doubted You

When I was broken, lost

in a loveless world, identity

stolen, homeless, orphaned

You called me a citizen of Heaven

the weight of Your glory crushing

the weight of my chains

Love made me your equal

now I have a future and a hope

because of you, Jesus,

I can dream anew.

Winter Grizzly

Good poetry is bravery in ink.

the audacity to exist without permission

–Yecheilyah Ysrayl, The PBS Blog

The cold winter settles in, cracks

my brittle porcelain skin, streaks

grey glitter into my hair, then

I meet you.

Your deep eyes open, a blue sea

surrounds me: I am taken in.

The water rushes over me, warm;

my fractured heart begins to thaw.

No-shave-November blankets

your smile in golden red, your face framed

in grizzly brown curls. I swoon.

You pray for me while with me, tears

God has collected 3,650 times before.

My lungs collapse in awe and wonder,

disbelief that you’re for real, expressed

in one word: Wow.

You ask for a translation.

I send you this poem.

The Language of Oppression

The language of oppression hides

in bitterness and hate, cowers

beneath tables and folds

of a woman’s skirts, lowers

its head and hands

to the feeding trough, surrenders

its body while its insides

scream defiance and resistance

The language of oppression chokes

out Truth, stifles

what really happened

to our mixed race

American



I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. I’m wrapped up in poetry and editing books where I am taking the last classes of my master’s degree in English. After reading a lot of Native American poets like Layli Long Soldier, I was moved to respond to the way so many Americans are stuck looking backwards. Even though their narratives are stories happening right now, they are influenced by a perception that some Americans are victims who are owed something by other Americans who were oppressors. There is something wrong with that.

On this blog, I shared a very personal poem from my own struggles with identity and heritage. That poem went on to be published by Sylvia Magazine.

No one would imagine I would have such issues, though, because I am as white as white can be. In our culture, white is synonymous with oppression. In the South, I am particularly aware of the hateful stares of my “minority” neighbors. Everyone assumes that I have had an easier life because I am white and that my ancestors owned their ancestors. If they asked, I’d tell them the truth: my ancestors lived in tiny rooms with newspaper walls on land they did not own. They worked alongside former slaves; they didn’t own any slaves of their own.

Racial identity is a complicated thing in America. We want to claim a strand of our DNA like we are pure bred of that nationality. The truth is that we are all mixed. If it were not so, we would not have survived in this brutal, foreign land. For love or survival, we formed alliances with other cultures and mixed our blood with our neighbors.

I can look back on that and say my poor ancestors were taken advantage of by an oppressive majority race, or I can look back on that truth and say my ancestors made sacrifices to afford a better quality of life for their offspring. I believe both are true, but which one perpetuates peace and harmony in society today?

We can’t change the past. At some point, we have to make peace with what happened to our ancestors and be thankful for the sacrifices that were made to provide a chance for a new life for all of us. The American melting pot is not easy or beautiful to all groups of people, yet we all are that pot. We need to realize that it says more for our resilience and determination that we are still here despite all the atrocities of the past than it does to point fingers at others and claim we are better than them because we were victims. In every family tree, there are both victims and victimizers. Instead of more protests, insincere apologies, and tax-paid handouts, we should embrace our own life story and make the most of the days we are given.

Looking back on history is not where we find our identity; it is where we learn how to do better in our own lives. True identity can only be found in Christ.

A Thimble-Full of Native American Blood

I don’t need a DNA test to tell me who my mother is; I know who she was. –A.D.

I tell you that what you know is wrong;

                we are not natives, we are whites

                more British than the British, in fact

I tell you that your mother

              registered white on the census;

              she was never half Indian

I tell you that the memories of her chewing

a black gum tree twig, dancing

in circles with my father, laughing

while fry bread sizzles

in an iron skillet

are just country

I tell you that the only record remotely

                supporting this identity

                is the marriage record saying

                Colored

It never occurs to me to consider

                                          race was a perception

                                                                  not an identity

                                                                             and perception lies

It never occurs to me

                               that one culture

                                                    can completely erase

                                                                                              another

Yet there it is on paper:

              colored = powerless, vulnerable

                           White = Entitled To Own

There it is on paper:

               my native antecedents slipping

                                      off their indian skins, a thin layer

                                                                 of vanilla ice cream melting

                                                                                                  from their chins


In the mid-1800s following the Emancipation Proclamation and during reconstruction in the South, white plantation owners feared a loss of land to freed slaves and Native Americans. As a result, in North Carolina, the State Constitution made changes to label all non-whites as “colored” and designate that “colored” people could neither own land nor marry. Native Americans were encouraged to assimilate. If they could look white and pass for white, they claimed they were whites. It was the only way they could have a chance for a fair life in the new world, but it was also the way that many Native American tribes disappeared from history….including my own.

 

A Grown-up Christmas Morn

*Twas the morning of Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was resting, not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung on the walker with care,

as it rolled through the house…everywhere.

Us grown-ups were waiting in our own recliners,

While visions of gift wrap filled trash can liners.

And dad in his blanket, and I in ice packs,

were switching the channels and eating up snacks.

When out in the yard, there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my seat to see what was the matter.

I flew like a flash, away to the hatch;

I turned the brass handle and opened the latch.

The sun on the breast of the sandy farm rows,

gave a lustrous illusion of Christmas’ snows.

Then what to my wondering ears did I hear?

But the curling of ribbon. Presents are near!

With a jolly ol’ lady so lovely and quick,

I knew in a moment she must be Mrs. St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles her scissors did fly,

As she lifted her voice in carols to the sky:

“Here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of yore. Faithful friends who are dear to us, gather near to us once more. Through the years we all will be together if the fate allow. So hang a shining star upon the highest bough, and have yourself a Merry little Christmas now.”

Her voice mingles with scissors, ribbon, and tape;

a melody of sweet holiday escape.

As leaves before a hurricane, she flies;

when faced with an obstacle she takes to the skies.

Surrounded by supplies she’s having a blast

of making grown-up wishes happy at last.

And then in a twinkling I heard from the room,

a crack and a clackle; a monstrous boom!

Just as I got up and began to move around,

Out of the room Mrs. St. Nick came with a bound.

She wore a simple gown with fur at the collar.

She looked frazzled and about to hollar.

A bundle of ribbons were stuck to her back,

and she looked like a jokester just stole her pack.

Her eyes–how they twinkled! Her dimples, how merry!

Her cheeks were like roses, her nose like a cherry!

Her droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

and the hair on her head was like silvery snow.

The stump of a pen she held tight in her teeth,

and the ink, it encircled her mouth like a wreath.

She had a broad face and a little round belly,

that shook when she laughed like a bowl full of jelly.

She was chubby and plump, a right jolly ol’ elf!

And I laughed when I saw her in spite of myself.

The wink in her eye and the twist in her head,

told me I had nothing to dread.

She spoke not a word, she went straight to her work;

filling the tree with presents then she turned with a jerk.

Then laying her finger aside of her nose,

and giving a nod, up the chimney she rose.

She sprang to the sleigh and to her team gave a whistle,

and away they all flew like the down on a thistle.

But I heard her exclaim ere she drove out of sight,

“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”


*This poem was written this morning inspired by the activity in my home and by a few familiar classics. I hope you enjoyed it.