BTT #49: Soap Dispenser – Montgomery – Alabama – 2018

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“We’re here because we just want to wash our hands.”  Photo of a public parks soap dispenser showing a vandalized Great Seal of the City of Montgomery, Alabama in 2018.  Photo by Lona Gynt.
Soap Dispenser – Montgomery – Alabama – 2018
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We’re here because we just want to wash our hands
After making waters.
As blood whispers out upon the lands
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I hear the chains of sons and stolen daughters.
Why did God make light
After making waters
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To place the birth of civil right
Just beneath the scratch of hateful knives?
Why did God make light
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If not to count the cost of broken lives?
Where do we find the strength to catch a breath
Just beneath the scratch of hateful knives?
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A blank star cradles still the toiling stench of death,
We turn away and stop our ears from hearing,
Where do we find the strength to catch a breath,
·
If closed eyes have nothing to be fearing?
As blood whispers out upon the lands,
We turn away and stop our ears from hearing.
We’re here because we just want to wash our hands.
–  Lona Gynt,  December 2018
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·Posted for Jilly’s prompt at dVerse where she has challenged us to use a repetitive form.  Check out the link again and again and again:
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I have chosen to write a Terzanelle.  But I have thrown in a “secret ingredient” in the Spirit of Amaya’s recent Tuesday’s Poetics prompt in which we were challenged to use an established form but change it just a little bit to mix things up:
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I modified the poem about 8 hours after posting it, I have the original in the conversation with Jane below. Her Terzanelle this prompt is masterful.
All right reserved for text and photos to Lona Gynt, December 2018
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These picture are from the Civil Right Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama.  “We’re here because we just want to wash our hands.”  Photo by Lona Gynt.

 

54 thoughts on “BTT #49: Soap Dispenser – Montgomery – Alabama – 2018

    1. Thank you Jilly. Sharpie is a good idea. It was a real double take for me when I realized what I was staring at during my very suburban pleasant soccer tournament weekend this summer. I have been trying to get this poem out of my head since August, and I have been wanting to try a Terzanelle. So your prompt was just what I needed. Thank you.
      Let’s never forget the truest heroes of Montgomery.

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  1. Therisa Godwaldt

    Lona, wish I could tell you, why we humans must have hate others, who are different. Could it be genetics, when we (humanity) hadn’t left the African plains, as protective mechanism for survival.

    I know, too many people have died, or lives ruinen, as a result of this. Maybe, one day, Dr King’s words will resonate, in everyone heart. As I have witnessed too much hate, to last several lifetimes, and not erase that stain from my soul.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Jane, after your Terzanelle “Shoot” I told you I wanted to try one and you told me to let you know when I did. Here it is, but the meter wasn’t right, so I changes it this morning after sleeping on it. I really appreciate the compliment, but I think my second version is better. And your “Autumn Grieving” is absolutely stunning. I am burdening our conversation with the original version of my soapy lament.

      We just want to wash our hands
      After making waters.
      As blood whispers out upon the lands
      ·
      I hear chained sons and stolen daughters.
      Why did God make light
      After making waters
      ·
      To place the birth of civil right
      Just beneath the scratch of hateful knives?
      Why did God make light
      ·
      If not to count the cost of lives?
      Where do we catch breath
      Just beneath the scratch of hateful knives.
      ·
      A blank star still cradles a stench of death
      We stop our ears from hearing,
      Where do we catch breath?
      ·
      If closed eyes have nothing to be fearing
      As blood whispers out upon the lands,
      We stop our ears from hearing.
      We just want to wash our hands.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s powerful, and the run on stanzas are effective. The repetition of washing hands, the blood and the light being too dark to see makes me think of Lady Macbeth’s madness. At least she went mad. Most of the murderers you have in mind sleep very easily after their crimes.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Your comment got me thinking and scribbling:

        “Water is insufficient solvent for the stain,
        But at least the Scottish Queen
        Had basic sense enough to go insane.
        The “decent people” of the world
        Who Kill in refuge of some sacred tribal strain
        Are blinded by the blood
        And sleep and rest
        And do not dream
        Until they rise to cut and hurt
        And quite decently again it seems
        To lift their hands and kill again.”

        Needs work, who knows.

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    1. Thank you Jim. (waves, and I thought I should tell you, I have been working on it, there has ben the paper training, the treats, the long deep discussions – Ling Ling is so much more manageable now – I have recently sdtp’ed – Proud of me?) good to see ya!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve already heard how powerful your poem is… let me say also that it is beautifully honed; razor sharp (I know, cliche! but this is my response… not a poem). You do good work.

    Oh, and good work on the behavior modification experiment on your friend… Ling Ling? Let me know when they begin clucking like a chicken! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Charley, I was hoping that the beauty would come through the protest/lament as well. This compliment means so much, not cliché, rather it is very meaningful to me.
      Oh, and as for Ling Ling, don’t tell Jim, but I vaguely suspect that Ling Ling might actually already really be a chicken rather than a panda, but may have actually hypnotized me to think they are a panda, or maybe I can’t just own up to Jim that I have stopped dragging the chicken, it just doesn’t sound as edgy as the whole panda thang y’know?

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      1. Well, there is dredging… as in prepping the chicken for the proverbial meat and three. But I suspect that dredging the panda would require a tad more prep. And potentially a trip to urgent care if things don’t go as planned.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You brought those Biblical references in so skillfully, as a way to honor the heritage without once overtly mentioning anything about the vastly important foundation laid by the African- American churches as they grounded the civil rights movement in the real lives and spiritual strength of the people. Even the first making of waters reminded me of separate bathrooms and drinking fountains. I like very much that you shared your process and thus encourage us all to take the tame to tinker, tweak and revise – even in the context of this public forum.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is a very perceptive responses Christine, made my day. I am glad you felt the weight of history and segregation subtext in this. It is possible to feel smug about “how far we have come” in that there is no more segregation and we all share and mingle the waters in Southern restrooms. But still, separation and division stare us down in that soap dispenser. An institutional honorific for the most heinous white supremacy organization in our history (confederacy) is fused with a lawless protest that seeks to erase any acknowledgement of the most courageous people in our history (civil rights movement). The spiritual strength they show is enormous because it is bound in love and sacrifice, and I am glad you got that too. Poems, like people, need loving tweaks and tinkers. Working under a prompt the posting is sometimes premature. It would be cruel to keep it locked in an incubus, better to let it grow and breathe. 😊

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  4. I live in a small southern town whose naked aggressions against its former slaves have been allowed to be forgotten, as if sleeping dogs should truly lie. (The Groveland Four are closer than a thrown stone.) The troubles aren’t gone, either, just buried to the side while folks come eager-eyed into our downtown for the small-town Christmas charm. When I dug some of those wrongs — and horrors — there was the convicting sense that white-washing one’s past allows one to look away from their present: Without reconciliation there is complacent obeisance which is even more guilty for conspiring to look away. A public bathroom in Montgomery is a perfect crossroads of past and present, the segregated toilet and water-fountain finding fresh division in the trans bathroom, the harsh cultural segregation which has no place in the heart. And those hateful knives, they don’t come out of nowhere. There is an abandoned black church just out of town I have been trying to save from suburban progress (rotsa ruck), but it is the abandoned cemetery atop the hill the church once stood on which is the true ground of reconciliation, bodies buried and lost under the forgetfulness of neglected time. Our lasting guilt, too. I love the way you put our pardoning Christianity front and center of the problem, waters and light, blood and chains. One day I’ll get to the lynching memorial in Montgomery, and walk among the silenced bells. True waking is not what we thought!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We need more truth, more reconciliation, and we need to try not to be blind. You’re right about the trans bathroom issue evincing some symmetry here. Old things are new again, old demons have not been excorcised. I am fascinated how scripture was appropriated for such heinous purposes as advocating slavery and subsequent abuses, but was also claimed by Dr King and others to bind us closer in love and resolve. Trying to wake if I can stand it. I appreciate your thoughts so much Brendan!

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  5. The last stanza is very powerful.

    If closed eyes have nothing to be fearing?
    As blood whispers out upon the lands,
    We turn away and stop our ears from hearing.
    We’re here because we just want to wash our hands.

    We have a lot of work to do before our hands are clean. Thank you for writing this. It is inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Merril, I am glad you mentioned the memorial, I find it a place of tremendous spiritual power and remembrance. You feel a powerful tactile bond at the opportunity to touch the names of many of the victims of hateful violence killed just because they wanted to assert their basic rights. As the water washes over the names and the visitors hands, it a space for reflection and light, marshaled to count the cost of broken lives. It provides a foil for the Great Seal embossed soap dispenser, and a chance to view the last stanza with a prism of hope. I am glad you saw this.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The violence we allow is chilling, and water is not an adequate solvent for the stain, but at least in realizing it we may have strength to move forward again. Jane also thought of the Lady Macbeth, made the point that at least she had the decency to go insane, but the murderers that justify their actions in the name of right, sleep well and rise to cut and spread more pain. Bjorn, I really appreciate you impulse to peace, it is a leitmotif for you. Thank you Friend.

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  6. The irony is squeaky clean here that your speakers “we” want to wash their hands when they have no blood to wash, theirs are clean, not brandishing hateful knives. The terzanelle made for interesting parallel structure, but you made it clear that, as in Genesis, first comes waters then comes light. First we desegregate and learn how to drink from the same fountain and share the same public facilities, then we let civil rights permeate our being. First we let flow down the drain our erroneous ways and then we clean our minds and learn the ways of God’s love. There is a natural way of true progress, or as MLK put it, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” And scratching out the Civil Rights movement ain’t part of it. Awesome poem, Lona.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You get it Amaya, I have been thinking of Dr King’s long arc all week, it brings the reading of hope at the end as we dip our fingers and then our hearts into the memorial waters. As for retrograde diversions, the scratching out of CRM was hateful, but That is one person, I am more saddened by the front and center honorific for the terrorist Confederacy persisting in a community collective. Oh to break the seals upon our hearts under which we still labor. But still… we can feel a peaceful chill, be held in God’s arms, and feel the arc of love continue. Kindness wins, but only because it doesn’t have to. Still.

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  7. A powerful piece, Lona, from blood and water. Although I am hard-core in science, I have come to think that in many religions, the starting point had great humanist worth, but was later subverted by power structures for violent ends, as we see all over the world. Thank goodness we can find places of respite, diverse as they may be.

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