mid-week poetry

51XG4p-jUhL._SY300_Aimee Nezhukumatathil was kind enough to give me permission to read her poem, I Am Not The Hand, from her collection, At The Drive-In Volcano. Thanks to one of my mentors at Antioch, Gayle Brandeis for introducing me to Aimee’s amazing poems. I only hope I do it justice.

I Am Not The Hand  (via SoundCloud)

Recorded at the Don LaFontaine Voice Over Lab.

Also, please take a look at her new book, Lucky Fish:

“A farmer is devoured by a flower in one of the many beguiling poems of Lucky Fish. This is the sensation I often had reading Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s wonderful new collection—that of being immersed in a limber intelligence. Rooted in the terrains of culture, place, and parenthood, and buoyed by inventive language that is joyous and sincere, Lucky Fish is a book of copious heart and imagination. How wonderful to watch a writer who was already among the best young poets get even better!”
—Terrance Hayes

I am still processing my week at TED Global and hope to have the first of probably several posts up in the next day or so. In the meantime, check out the link. They’ve posted some of the most memorable talks already…

on North Korea

The news of Kim Jong-Il’s death reminded me of an article I read about six or seven years ago, about a man who escaped North Korea, aided by Christians. I wish I still had the article. It struck me not only because it was a powerful story, but also because there was a local family at my kids’ school who had escaped North Korea. The man in the article was imprisoned for trying to provide humanitarian aid (for details from a rare Westerner allowed into N Korea, there’s an article at Mother Jones). For obvious reasons, the article did not provide his name or some key details, but it prompted me to write a rare poem, Can one man make a difference, which I read at Beyond Baroque.

Can one man make a difference?

I cannot tell you his name, only that he went into North Korea in winter

He cried at the bitter cold conditions and gave them clothing

I cannot tell you his name when they began the interrogation

but the name of his savior is Jesus

Can one man make a difference?

His crime against the People’s Republic of North Korea

Was to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ

The hopeless and starving saw a ray of hope

The sick and the dying saw the face of God

He told them the names of the great I AM:

Jehovah-jireh (the Lord will provide)

Jehovah-rapha (the Lord who heals)

Jehovah-ra-ah (the Lord my shepherd)

He cannot tell you the name of the man arrested for stealing

beaten until he begged for death

Released.  And then arrested again

Rationed to morning beatings with thick bats

Rationed until his diarrhea became uncontrollable

Rationed to eating dirty rags used to clean toilets until he died.

Can one man make a difference?

I cannot tell you his name

When they arrested him again.

Only that he had hope, he had the Word

He had been to the mountain of spices

54 more days knowing kicks and blows of judo experts

54 more days knowing the living corpses around him

54 more days knowing the young woman sentenced

to 3 years for 1 Bible.

I cannot tell you the name of the man

Beaten and twisted and starved in the bitter cold

Until he could not stand

I can tell you he did not renounce his God

Do not throw the word torture around like a beach ball

Do not use the word torture when you mean interrogation

When you mean inconvenient

When you mean incivility

When you mean insensitive

Can one man make a difference?

He will tell you Jesus did and the Christians who paid his debt

But he cannot tell you their names

He will tell you they bought his freedom

He will tell you he would have died to save their money

I cannot tell you his name

Only of his apology for using that money to return alive

Only of his gratitude to be alive to share the love of Christ

As an enemy of the state of North Korea.