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“Two Beats to the Sky” (National Poetry Month)

Up wind and against the tide 
the egret stalked his reflection in the marsh
deliberate and grave.
From the highway straight as a ruler
he was an S-curve floating white over gold,
clouds clotting the grasses around his legs.
I hoped to see him lift off, those wide wings
heavier than air, white finger-feathers
trailing, two beats and into the sky.
When spirit gleams of an instant
unrepeatable, we turn with all 
that is in us,
eager for the dawn, 
lifting the clouds with a tug 
and a snap like rolling up a map.
But he remained earth-bound, as did I —
then to my eye the day’s full sum 
was granted me in a flash.

Barry Casey taught religion, philosophy, ethics, and communications for 37 years at universities in Maryland and Washington, DC. He is now retired and writing in Burtonsville, Maryland. More of the author’s writing can be found on his blog, Dante’s Woods.

“High Hope” (National Poetry Month)

Hope hangs high out of reach
Of manipulation, it’s frilly edges
Bright with the light of the sun,
Beautiful, fearful,
Constantly moving and changing shape,
Drifting, appearing and disappearing
Against the unchanging blue beyond;
It’s center dark and pregnant
With mysterious life that,
When it comes to term,
Showers down all we awaited
And more,
Asking nothing in return!

-Jim McMillan, MD 

If hope sits high, 
then I sit low.
Alone.
This hope with its Golden frills 
is beyond my grasp 
The terrain of my reality is changing 
and it’s changing all too fast. 
High hope, high hope, will you be worth the wait? 
Will you rain down golden promises?  
Will you cleanse the window of my pain? 
Will you require nothing of me?  
Is this a gift you freely bestow?  
Or do you take pity on me for my land is parched and desolate 
and you know, oh hope you know! 
High hope, high hope do you really require nothing in return? 
Is this waiting a blissful season? 
or will this waiting be like tinder?
Will I burn oh hope, will I burn?

-Ezrica Bennett

During the pandemic, a collaborative project initiated by one of my dearest friends and the daughter of my co-author provided a platform for people to connect through art. The project involved one person starting a piece, whether it be painting, sculpting, poetry, etc., and sending it through the mail or digitally to their partner, who would then finish the piece.

Dr. McMillan initiated the poem “High Hope,” which I completed. This poem beautifully illustrates humanity’s capacity to connect through art, even in challenging times, while also delving into the nuances of individual experiences. Both Dr. McMillan and I discussed our relationship with hope during that period of our lives. The words of the poem provided solace, reminding us that regardless of our circumstances, poetry allows us to find beauty in every season. -Ezrica Bennett

“We’re All Black” (National Poetry Month)

(Tuesday, October 11, 2023 – 3:11 AM, while reading Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility)

Blackness…
Deep, depth, unknown-known
Darkness…
On the side, the periphery, the margins, objectified, othered
Establishing the light, the revealed, the side we’re oriented towards.
Lightness….
Surface, depthless, known-bound.
Lightness…
Facing us, we face it, centered, objectified, normalized.

The chiaro pushing aside the scuro what a penumbra it creates.
What the objectified, unnormalized scuro covets yet longs to hate.
Black scuro divided by Kant to become something for incomplete light to target
Blackness targeted by Whitefield and Edwards that the othered could be a market.
Red Friday, black Friday—fri-ing the black like something to be consumed.
Fri-ing that which makes the whole; the blackness which must be resumed.
Chiaroscuro is incomplete, incomprehensible without the scuro within.
The surface, the appearance, the obvious not a living soul but an incomplete skin—

Our faces turned against the periphery, the margins, taught to fear blackness
Making sacred the light; demonizing the dark.
In the darkness lies other possibilities, the possibilities of otherness.
Making sacred the dark, humanizing the light, giving it its spark.
Routine, familiarity, comfort yields our lighted orientation;
Fear, ignorance, allusion of invincibility distances our inward humanity
The Thinker, alone in the mind’s zone, reasoning becoming salvation.
Averted from the community of chaos, confusion, messiness full of calamity.
Walking and thinking among the masses:
people masses, hungry masses, poor masses.
Leaving the masses to think, separately, to think in isolation away from
People masses, hungry masses, poor masses, othered masses, black masses.
Once giving alms to the masses, we abandon and give nothing.
Creating a blackness, a scuro outside of self to avoid our inner black something.
That which we tamed to remain on the margin, becoming that which we fear
That which we long for knowing it will bring some tear, some tear
That which we hide without worry, without any care.
Wanting to stay normal, stay formal as sounds bounce off the high sacred rafters.
Escaping the hidden fighting, struggling to be free unable to sound off the low sacred ceiling.

We are all black facing the known, living in the known, walking in isolation.
The pushed aside, set aside, put behind unfaced requiring indignation.
That we can live, exist, in the allusion of acceptable, normal, of right, of divine.
But the left-alone-soul, the essence of the abyss, leaves community, experiences decline.
Hence there’s D. Trump, H. Walker, C. Thomas, on the decline of destruction.
Think of self above others, above real community, selfishness the allure, the seduction.
Claiming the community, the part of humanity blackified, breaks the allusion.
Requiring a turning from the chiaro towards the scuro to explore humanity in seclusion.
Not averting the light but embracing the blackness, that which embodies the made-up blackness.
That which is in the black has always been with us but dividing it from us, objectifying
The object becomes a commodity to be manipulated and exploited, falsifying.
Black is what we must be, must claim, to see the totality of our humanity.
Our humanity as individuals, as collectives, as community.
Until we confess our sin that shed lights on that which we have blackened,
We cannot embrace the possibility that lingers in that blackness.
The valley does have a lily, the wilderness does have a garden
Physics says black is the absence; art says black is the fullness
Division makes absent the color that would be in the light.
Community makes present the full color found in the black.
Let’s be black, let’s be whole.  (4:11 am)
Now that’s a queer thought—hmm!

Image: Detail of “Anaya with Oranges,” Bisa Butler (2017), Chicago Institute of Art.

Benson Prigg is professor and chair of English and foreign languages at Oakwood University.

Volume 52, Issue 1

“Spinning at Spectrum,” a playlist of the latest music in and around our community. Curated by Maxwell Aka.

Recent Articles

Olesa Acevedo - AdventHealth

Mission in Our People: A Journey of Purpose and Healing

Growing up in Moldova, I was blessed to be surrounded by strong women who embodied resilience, compassion and purpose. My grandmother, a nurturing matriarch, not only ran a successful flower business but also cared for our family with unwavering love and dedication. Her life was a testament to the power of purpose-driven work.

Young Adventist’s First Novel Explores Isolation and Academy Life

“I’m probably not allowed to say, write, or think this—considering the damage it does to my chances of salvation—but I’ve always found the Sabbath to be unbearably boring,” states the main character in Chief of Sinners. A novel that explores growing up Seventh-day Adventist, its author, Nolan Ryan, is a 20-year-old history student at the University of Toronto.

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Joseph and Potiphar's Wife

Nameless, I Lie

I must catch him. I must draw him in with the only thing I have, The only reason I am here.  Maybe with him, I won’t feel dead after.  Maybe with him, I could actually be the first.  Maybe with him, it won’t hurt. 

John Wesley Taylor V - Andrews University

Challenges Facing Andrews University

From what I understand about AU’s current administration and AU’s continuing maturation, I fear a clash of cultures. On the one hand, AU is boldly venturing toward an open future, embracing the best of our religious heritage. This, as opposed to AU being led to cautiously back into a settled past that’s questionably adequate for today. 

Calendar

July 1, 2024

[EVENT] Society of Adventist Philosophers Call for Papers – Proposals Due July 1

The Society of Adventist Philosophers invites you to submit a paper proposal for this year’s conference on the theme “Called to be Free: Philosophical Reflections on the Contours of Freedom” taking place on November 21st, 2024, in San Diego, CA. Students and teachers from all fields are welcome to submit a proposal until July 1st. Accepted papers will be notified by September 1st.