22 June 2010

Every Poem is a Love Poem

image by Kieran Rynhart

"This is a tree on fire with love, but it's still scary since most people think love only looks like one thing instead of the whole world." -storypeople

In March I met a poet who is also an activist. I don't think she intends to write a particular type of poem; it's just that activism is in her bones and words are in her soul. Naturally, activist poetry falls from her breath.

She said that she doesn't write many love poems, however, but then she re-thought that idea and decided that just maybe every poem--especially the kind that inspire movements or change--is a love poem.

I have to agree.

So I met a woman named Amira in April. We were at her apartment complex playing with our little friends from Burma and Bangladesh when we met Amira's oldest son. He just jumped right in and started playing with us, and that's really how we like it anyway. I believe the kingdom of God looks a lot like people of various shades, hues, tongues and incomes jumping right on in and chalking the sidewalk, blowing bubbles and chasing a soccer ball together.

Amira saw her son playing with us and came out to meet me. I loved the way her Egyptian accent curled. And I was struck by her desperate love for her three boys. I noticed that when she saw we had fruit snacks for the kids, she went back to the house and got her other two children. She encouraged all of the boys to eat the snack. I could tell that this wasn't just about greed, so I asked Amira her story. It was no sadder or more compelling than many of the stories of immigrants and refugees I've met. It was her story, though, and I was moved by being a part of hearing her journey as a Christian in a Muslim nation, her struggle to leave her homeland, her need for some kind of financial relief in this very expensive land. At some point she said to me that she had to choose regularly between feeding her children and paying for electricity.

Immediately after meeting Amira, I felt a poem coming to me. It just started one day while I was in the shower and then began taking many different forms. Then when I was invited to participate in the spoken word census of Nashville, I felt like developing Amira's poem as the piece to share a story of an Egyptian-turned-Nashvillian.

I didn't plan for it to be a love poem. Not even an activism poem, I suppose. I am just a storyperson and want to give form to a story after hearing Amira's. Who would have known that just a month later, Amira's husband would lose his job and find it hard to find full time employment, the threat of eviction would hover over them and that I would have a poem ready to share Amira's story and ask for help to keep a roof over her head? But that is the story of today. And thanks to the glories of Facebook and God's amazing grace, friends have offered generous donations in just minutes that will help this family in their emergency situation. And I know we will be able to find others who can help us walk alongside this family and help them figure out ways to make it here in the U.S. Because I also know that the kingdom of God looks not only like a playground but also like a community coming together and picking each other up.

So in this moment, I think about the poet Andrea's statement about love poems and rejoice in the fabulous shapes that love takes. Writing Amira's story helps me connect with her, and I believe that's where the love is born. And I'm grateful to be able to write a few love poems in this messy, messy beautiful world . . .

May we all write our own kind of love poems in the lives of the people we meet.


Anonymous said...

ah, yes... every poem can be a love poem. I like that. Thanks for teaching me about poetry and love.

Jan said...

Thank you. I love this so much that I put the storypeople quote and picture on FB with a link to your blog. WOW! (I hope that is okay.)