July 4 brings with it to communities in the U.S. summer rituals of remembrance and celebration. I am approaching this year’s day of baseball and backyard cookouts with far too many frightening world realities on my heart and mind.
Life’s awe-fullness is infused with both grandiloquent wonders and debilitating horrors. My friends gave birth to their first child this week. She is beautiful. Tiny. Helpless. Hopeful. What gifts does and will this baby offer into our world where children at physical and emotional borders are homesick and hurting? What dangers will she face? This precious infant-one’s eyes reach out across the miles from photos taken just after her lips tasted earthly air to call me into the depths of my own humanity and into God’s calling to us to create communities of love, hope and peace for all of God’s children.
Our rituals—both those that reside within religious traditions and those that arise out of everyday life and communal histories—remind us of who we are. At least, they have the potential to draw us into deeper consideration of our identities and histories. These same rituals also invite us to reflect on our humanity—the possibilities and perils of how we undertake each day the responsibilities of making community together. I crafted this poem as a reflective prayer on the occasion of 2019’s July 4th ritual.
Colors against the Night
We sit side by side on the top deck step,
the tiny terrier and I,
and consider the stars.
pierce heaven’s veil with fire-tipped needles,
stitch prismatic threads into a murky sky.
Are bottle rockets and bombastic music symphonious?
Behold! A plane crawls across the shrouding fabric
behind the embroidering spray,
wingtip strobes whirling.
What else swims and swirls out there?
A salvo trembles the earth beneath our feet.
Guns, bombs, sonic booms of grief trouble the air we breathe;
lives topple to the ground.
When will we draw silence from our pockets,
or perhaps peace—
fling their colors against the night?
I look at the terrier, she at me.
A siren wails.
She throws her head back and howls and howls.