On this day, in these times of hysterical, dishonest rhetoric, I value more than ever that the man I married 16 years ago is someone who speaks in unvarnished truths. Truths that sometimes feel like small earthquakes, wind and fire that stir me from my calm – and his.
On this day, it seemed worthwhile to visit a Quaker poet, John Greenleaf Whittier, and listen in on a conversation he might have with John Frederick Webster, this descendant of Quakers from Pennsylvania. John, my best friend, confidant, soul-mate, and father to my children. John, good neighbor to Luther and Randy for whom his simple acts of friendship were salve to the pain of their homelessness. John, whose generosity of hand and heart, must owe something to his heritage.
JGW to JFW
Quaker to Quaker, I have to tell thee
I have no patience with evangelical
Zeal at home or abroad. This tomfoolery
That passes for politics! This hypocrisy
Writ large is barely concealed evil.
In my time, John, we railed at slavery:
But look, look around thee now.
One hundred years and more—and history
Has only taught men to recycle idiocy.
What exactly doth thou have to show?
JFW to JGW
Say I don’t know. We sent
A man to the moon and back safely.
We cured small pox and leprosy.
But peace? It’s a thing far and distant.
In our time, women vote, gay people
Wed. Fewer children fill the workplace,
But millions still go hungry. We dabble
In justice. But when we truly tremble,
It’s before the gods of the marketplace.
In these fractious, ungenerous times
Greed trumps need. And too few blush
Even as they bludgeon truth. The crimes
Of ignorance and silence drop like dimes
Into a sewer filled to overflowing with slush.
I am reminded that “the past comes round
Again. And new doth old fulfill.” If we paid
Our dues, God will “reclothe us,” He said
“In our rightful mind.” If we but forsake sound
And sit silent, waiting on the Lord.
Happy Birthday, John!