The piece that I wrote tonight
was inspired from so many of the amazing
conversations with - that I had with the staffers
from Search for Common Ground,
and I don't know about you, but when I hear
about all of these amazing women
all around the world
taking such huge risks, being so brave,
being so visionary,
and then I think about the kinds of actions and risks that we can take here.
I realize sometimes I might be falling a little bit short,
and sometimes it can be a little bit of a circuitous road
to finding common ground. So, this poem
is a little bit about that.
It's called, "The Divided Soul."
I am currently in an argument with myself
– actually, all of my selves.
Welcome to the coffeeshop of my soul
where every person whom I have ever been sits,
waiting, glaring, waiting for something to happen.
The twenty-four year old activist me
with her hoop earrings and newly inked tattoos
feels that churn in the pit of her stomach,
that hardened knot soured by
all those who told her that her voice didn’t matter.
She wants to take that knot and fling it
Into the face of whoever disagrees with her.
She crosses her fists across her chest, over a t-shirt
that reads, “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.”
While the thirty-seven year old spiritualist me
sips green tea from a paper cup
In her uniform of yoga clothes and no makeup.
She doesn’t cry or scream or fight in public –
or even private anymore - because some years,
some losses took all of that out of her.
She inhales deep, eyes the bold letters on that t-shirt
and whispers, “Anger is a secondary emotion.
what you’re feeling is pain. All people suffer
whether they speak it or not.”
While at the kids’ table, the five year old curious me
clutches her crayons and sips her orange juice.
She dives straight into the glossy black and white photos
in her kids’ biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On these pages, she sees this great man speak.
Beside her waits an illustrated book of Nelson Mandela,
his huge smile beaming from its cover, his hands outstretched
in a human chain around the green earth beneath a rainbow sky.
This child is watched by the nineteen year old suspicious me.
She touches her carved wooden necklace on her chest,
the one that she bought in Johannesburg
after sitting with anti-Apartheid activists on a grassy lawn.
They called themselves the “Lost Generation,”
unsure how to survive after conflict
in times of peace.
She scribbles maniacally in her notebook
looking around the cafe, wondering,
"Who knows what I know now?"
Breezing past her is the thirty-four year old professional artist me.
She throws down her leather bag, kicks off her heels, and thumb types,
“Why say, ‘Fight The Man?’
when The Man funds every arts program, political conference,
and all the sandwiches anyway?
Wouldn't it make more sense to just say,
'Invite the Man'?
Less sexy...but less disingenuous?”
She gets a text from a friend:
"We knew how to protest under Bush,
so we'll know how to protest under Trump."
"He went from reality star to President.
We went from protest to protest.
Tweet me all you want,
but don't we need new tactics?"
Pause. She decides not to send.
The twenty-four year old activist me sees her
and scoffs, “Sell-out.”
The thirty-four year old professional artist me
looks up from her phone and says, “Excuse me?”
The nineteen-year old suspicious me says,
“Neither of you are even scratching
the surface at all.”
The thirty-seven year old spiritualist me says,
“Oh honey, if you only knew.”
The five year old curious me starts crying.
The floodgates go wide open:
“Oh, you think you got all the answers, don’t you?”
“It's because of people like you that things are so messed up.”
“You know, none of you are even worth talking to anyway.”
“You wanna live my life for me. Well then, go right ahead!”
The doors of the coffeeshop fly open.
the forty-one year old self-conscious me
that I am today.
She’s gone back to wearing her hoodies and sneakers and hoop earrings,
because after a decade of trying,
she realizes that there are no real adults on planet earth anyway,
no supreme wisdom passed down,
no absolute truths revealed -
She holds up both her hands,
“Ladies, ladies, ladies, please,
everybody, take a breath.”
hoping this will buy her time.
How does she say this?
That every morning, she looks in the mirror
and wonders if all the people that she've been - she’s been
can be seen on her skin.
How many more people will she become?
The saying goes that
if you’re a conservative at 20, you have no heart;
if you’re a liberal at 40, you have no head.
She doesn’t know about that,
but she can feel her heart in her chest
and her head on her shoulders and she knows
that she doesn’t want to be a divided soul.
Who doesn’t have a sense of disbelief
about their own life?
the dominatrix artist
turned to conservative mom.
She's seen the the gang leader
transformed to social worker.
She's seen the finance executive,
now meditation guru.
The homophobic father who came out as gay,
the radical who became conservative,
the billionaire who became socialist,
the rich to the poor,
the poor to the ri - the poor to the rich,
the healthy to the sick,
the weak to the strong,
the adversary to the friend
the stranger to the lover
back to the stranger again.
Who exactly is fighting with whom
When battles so viciously pursued end,
and victory still cedes no answers,
when relationships are deemed as futile
and disposable as a button’s click,
when voices are heard because they’re loudest,
when solutions are chosen because they’re fastest,
how can we live –
anonymous to our own hearts,
unable to shout the dead back to life.
We cannot batter the world into agreement with itself,
fragmenting peace with our shut eyes, ears, and souls.
In the coffeeshop,
the forty-one year old self-conscious me
feels her palms sweat.
She looks each self in the eye
knowing that each of them
are as real and relevant
as she is today,
She clasps her hands together
and says, “Okay.
Looks like we’ve got a lot of work to do.
Who wants to start?”
Thank you all so much. [Applause]