Home Poetry The Child and the Idol: Choose.

"Yo Mama's Pieta," a photo by Renee Cox, as seen in "Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People," a film by Thomas Allen Harris.

She’s not new here, she has walked across these same jagged shards of glass, the same broken concrete, her bare feet soaked with blood a thousand times. Her name doesn’t matter, you can call her Mary, or Blessed, or Goddess, or Mother. Her name doesn’t matter, her children’s does.

She has knelt in these ashes before, cradling broken bodies. She has been Rachel who could not be comforted, Mary at the foot of the cross, a woman with a number tattooed on her arm behind barbed wire, a nurse, a field medic, a elementary school teacher. But not anymore the bright eyed youth who once said “yes” and carried Life within her womb or gave birth to Creation. She is older, wiser, her sharp edges rounded by the world. There is grey in her hair, and lines at her eyes. There is steel in her spine. In her face is veiled glory and millenia of choices made by man, and she does not need our prayers.

Her younger self knew hope, her younger self knew courage. She spat in the face of judgement, and walked with brave firm steps a path of newness. She raised her children on the words of her own prophecy, on promises of power destroyed and the weak raised up. She lit within them the fire of Heaven, the passion of Holiness for the lost and the broken.

Hair flecked with silver earned, she knelt once at the foot of an instrument of torture and conquest, the broken body of her hopeful child cooling in her arms. She looked up at the soldier, bloody spear in his hand and her eyes alone defeated him. He dropped that weapon, a human tool made only for killing, and walked away into the unknown. He made a choice.

As they laid her son in the cold ground she snapped the haft of conquest over her knee, took the wicked blood-stained head of it in her hands and bent it into a new blade that would cut only sod. She hitched herself to it and set to turning over the soil while others plotted revenge, or hid, or fled, or stood hopelessly weeping.

She has sat in pools of blood on battlefields, school yards, churches, and nightclubs ever since cradling the beloved broken bodies of her children over and over again. In one arm she holds them like a babe, and always in the other she holds up for our eyes to see out own beloved idol: spent shell casing, a tool made only for killing. Always in her eyes the question, the challenge. Choose.

She sits down on the altar of violence, in the temple of our rights, her feet soaked with blood, her robe streaked with it, her Holy child dead in her arms. There, before our greatest idol, before gun and bullet, our sacrament to Security, and Rights, and Male Violence. She holds her children in our gaze next to the altar we have built to our greatest idol, to that we worship above all else. And still her psalm echoes.

She does not need our prayers.

Her eyes demand only our action.

That we would beat our swords into plow shares.

That we would chose at last life over death.

That we would choose the lives of her Children, over the idol of our own making.

The cult of death reaps only death. The worship of hate only more hate. We have been trying to buy our way to peace with blood and judgement from time out of mind. And we have reaped only death; and we will reap only death.

The choice is always before us in her arms. A broken body only we can raise, and a cold spent bullet held between thumb and forefinger. Do as we have always done, or leave behind what we think we cannot do without and walk into the unknown.

(Featured Image: “Yo Mama’s Pieta,” a photo by Renee Cox, as seen in “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People,” a film by Thomas Allen Harris.)

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