“The pen is mightier than the sword.” Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1839. “… many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose-quills and dare scarce come thither.” Shakespeare, 1602.
I used to think that the … cursor
was not mightier
than a protest for justice,
a hunger walk, peace march,
or creation care,
was not more compassionate
than visiting in prison or hospital,
foster care, hospice or
was not more intimate
than the loaf from the oven broken,
a cup shared
across lines of race and faith,
gender, age, ability, orientation —
not just that very churchy Cup —
but any cup that means
we are sitting at the same table.
But then I consider these writers
and their words
and I know that all the ears cut off
in all the Gethsemanes
has never changed a heart,
the way a parable or a poem does,
written on a napkin in a coffee shop
the edge of a newspaper
a blog, a move-on petition,
a new baby card —
for one friend,
maybe named theophilus,
or so many many strangers.
I wrote this poem for Erice Fairbrother of Aotearoa, New Zealand more than a year ago now, as she gathered together a group of Writers for Justice and Peace for a weekend. I wished that I could travel there but I could only send my words — written words. It is a dilemma — words or actions. Do we hide in one or the other? Does one last longer than the other? Or perhaps is it true that forces of injustice and unrest best serve themselves by dividing those who speak out and act out of their faith. I’ve tinkered with the original a bit for the event 10 Thousand Poets for Change for which I read this last Saturday.