Middle Ground (Poem)

As promised, I’ve returned with another poem to share. Like the last, this work is driven by my ongoing heartache and frustration with the way many prominent political leaders have responded to the tragedy in Parkland. More than that, though, today’s poem takes a stab at the breakdowns in communication that have been ongoing with these issues for years.

Unlike yesterday’s piece, today’s fits into a category I call rhythmic poems: best when read aloud, this type of poem is built around combining meaning with an accelerated flow of language to pull you from the start to the finish like a snowball, gaining speed and mass all the time.

Middle Ground

What’s left after outrage,
when the moment, cold and vacant,
sublimates under our gaze
and we’ve still not been placated?

Will their thoughts and prayers find answers
for interrogations old and new?
Will we find some ground to share
or dare to stand accusing
those who in care of self recuse
our words of air?

We say “enough’s enough”
and stuff ourselves with platitudes
meant to smooth the rough
discussions sloughing
to the wayside–
giving up to pride, on either side,
the notion that only our opinion matters;
but God, I see the same words
sputter and cough from lungs burned
black by repetition,
digging into fiction that there is no middle ground,
backed by our decision
to sanitize those found
abounding in conviction.
Where’s the interdiction?–
the questions of the answers
of the queries of our time–
the sensible souls between
emotions, words, and lies
who, with unveiled eyes,
parry the notion that we’ve got too much
or little to say,
standing on the ground of the slain.
Have you seen the graves?
Not the tombstones, no;
rocks never gave a woman, child, or man
a damn–they just carry on.
I mean the actions of their hands,
the things these kids can and can’t:
the unbound love of life,
the beauty, the fight,
that made each one shine?
Do you know their names?
I admit I don’t;
I’m more afraid to make this more real
than to sit in shame that I have a voice
but have said nothing.

So I’m saying this:
staking a claim on empathy
beyond me,
a heartache too big to hide
but we compartmentalize
it anyway.
Even if you don’t agree
with the cause–
and I pause here
to say that I understand
fear
of
change
or rearranging the paradigms,
you know those things we find
when we interrogate ourselves–
agree with the hurt,
hurting, and scared.
Repair some element
of this bridge between us all,
not “giving up your right
to stand tall,”
but admitting that right now
no one’s attacked you,
only asked you why your right to have
can outweigh a right to live.
I’m not demanding you give
“yourself” away
or betray some iron credo
you repeat at sunrise each day,
merely that your intent
shift from zealously cemented
defense of an amendment
to a question of what we mean
and meant when we declared
this nation a safe place for any child
to face tomorrow.

I don’t intend this to change your mind,
God knows better speakers than I
have already started to bring
all sides to a middle ground.
I’ve just found my fill of silence
broken by more violence
that we could have brought
to an end long ago.
Again, I know, you have your own fears
held dearly,
often sincerely, with a good heart,
but so do the rest of us,
and until we find a place
for the best of us to agree,
we’ll repeat this conversation
with rising frequency.
We need less questions
of who’s behind
this or that line;
less time paid away
to those who only want to say
what they’ve been paid to.

Real people settle grievances,
bonding over beliefs and instances
of shared community,
not accusing or using these tragedies for gain:
let no malice remain.
Let voices resound
that though we cannot claim peace
we’ve at least aimed
for middle ground.

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