Why We Have Poetry

Robert Metz

1. To Counter Fear

“one of the [three] persistent hounds of hell
that dog the footsteps of the poor,
the dispossessed, the disinherited.”
(Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited, p. 26)

Pale horse of a blank page,
the pencil worn to a nub

positioned between thumb
and forefinger. Fear

of a woman, her embrace
at the door already closing

on her goodbye: “A hug
can tell so much about a person.”

Fear of a photograph
washing out primary to pastel

to the white of bones
swept by desert winds.

Fog fear of old age,
plastic mattress protector

on a single bed fitted
in a corner of some room,

its T. V. always on
too low to comprehend.

2. To Counter Deception. Hypocrisy

“Through the ages, at all stages
of sentient activity, the weak
have survived by fooling the strong.”
(Howard Thurman, p. 48)

Deep in the cave, a beast
rears up and roars on the walls,
surrounded by little sticks of men,

their pointed words pricking
the tender spots polka dotting
the creature’s flaccid hide

naked to all but itself,
this trumpeting tyrant–
poor sweet baby! Get it?

Ruben Bagues

3. To Counter Hate

“Despite all the positive
psychological attributes
of hatred . . . , hatred destroys
the core of the life of the hater.”
(Howard Thurman, pp. 75-76)

Because they will not lift a hand,
nor offer a cup of water, nor forgive

the pummeling of stones, nor
salve their neighbor’s skin torn

for what he had coming to him,
nor untie the neighbor’s shoes

and bathe his feet in costly oil
then lace the shoes, too small

too large, to their own feet
and walk a mile, another, another . . . 

Yogendra Singh

4. Because Love

“The religion of Jesus
makes the love-ethic central.
This is no ordinary achievement.”
(Howard Thurman, p. 79)

At the door of the City Light
Community Ministries’ noontime

distribution of hot meals
handed out in plastic grocery sacks,

the time of Corona Virus COVID-19,
men and women, some with toddlers,

older children, line up in what can only
be surmised as joy accompanied

by dogs rescued from alleys,
from backyards of condemned houses,

from men with chains. The Displaced
saving the Displaced cuddling

in their arms, pressed against their legs,
or lying at the feet of their savior

sharing the meal, its cup of soup,
bottle of water, all the Disinherited

reaching out to pet the dogs,
some of whom are now able

to lick the palms opening with
what they have to offer.

Lesulie Collins



Thurman, Howard. Jesus and the Disinherited. Foreword by Vincent Harding. Beacon Press, 1976.