What do we do with this pain?

Dear Ones,
I couldn't sleep last night. I wrote a poem. It helped a little. I know I need to feel this pain, this despair, small and insignificant as it is in the weight of others' suffering. In a few days or weeks my awareness of the current outrage might fade and I can carry on unchanged. But I don't want to. I want to be changed. I want to begin to understand how I might be contributing to the suffering of others, consciously and unconsciously. I do that through story. Listening to the stories of others. Writing my own story. Encouraging others to write and share their stories. This morning as I watched the liturgy on YouTube I longed to kneel at the altar shoulder-to-shoulder with the choir, heads raised toward the cross, palms open to receive the body broken, remembering what it is to nearly choke on undeserved forgiveness. I don't want to do this alone. Will you join me?

Please join me in creating community while exploring identity, power, and privilege through writing. 
These topics are difficult to unpack in casual conversations (especially when we're social distancing) and on social media. But as our country is reeling from violence in the wake of seemingly unrelenting oppression, we desperately need to listen deeply, as well as share what is true for us. 
Our racial and ethnic identity, power, privilege, economic class, gender, sexual orientation and other important aspects of our lives have shaped us and our worldview in ways we often haven't considered.
My undergraduate studies were in political science/public service and women's studies, and I can't tell you how much my young assumptions about the world were shattered and rebuilt in those days...Well, maybe I can as I begin to write those stories. My assumptions about the world have continued to be shattered and rebuilt in the decades since.

Right now, I see the most recent wreckage, and I want to rebuild, but I know I can't do it alone, which is why I invite you to join me. None of us need to be sociologists, or any sort of subject matter expert to engage in this process of discovery.
In Poetry & Prose of Identity, Power & Privilege, we'll explore these formational and foundational experiences by responding to twice weekly writing prompts, by telling our stories in either poetry or prose. The focus is on our own lives and experiences. Our opinions and beliefs will certainly come out as we write and offer one another our words. And will honor one another's experiences, and listen to their opinions and beliefs. Whether or not we agree, we will offer appreciation for the gift of their vulnerability as they share their writing with us.

We will support one another as we revisit our lives in response to writing suggestions. We will not debate, convince, debunk, teach, or in any way prescribe to others how they ought to think or act. We will allow the words of others to broaden our understanding.
If you join, you will receive an invitation to a private Google group and you'll receive a writing prompt twice a week via email, at least through the month of June. You will be able to post your writing in response to the prompt in the Google thread or via email. We will provide only positive and encouraging responses to one another.
This is a private invitation only group. Posts and responses can only be seen by members. If you'd like to join, please click the button below, or send a request to If you know of others who might like to join, please forward this email to them.
Join Poetry & Prose of Identity, Power & Privilege
A Poem Because Cities Are Burning and I Can’t Sleep
Midnight May 31, 2020
If a poem could keep
the world from exploding,
other lives from imploding
I’d never put down my pen.
I’d ink blank pages
until fingers cramped, blistered,
and bled, until the marks
of artistic suffering smeared
the alphabet of good intentions.
I’d write until compelled
to stop and look upon
the streaked mess
I’d made of creation.
Forced to cease
my frenetic struggle
for self-expression
I’d rub a tired hand
across my neck
and just breathe in and out
because I can
live in the present moment.
I’d see tears of privilege
smear my careful pages
forming corona bursts
that spread like wildfire
consuming poetic constructs.
Ink seeping into blood
bleeding into grief that overflows
its banks surging with despair
flooding foundations
that were supposed to protect
our fragility but crumble
under the weight of oppression.
Exposing the rotten materials
upon which we’ve built
systems that promise
to uphold everyone
but never could
support the weight of equality
and that fail all of us now
as illusions of protection
and safety collapse.
The walls tumble down
and we are broken, shattered
scattered along the streets
cowering in quarantined homes
victims of an unseen virus,
supremacy, and privilege.
Barely masked vitriol
is such flimsy covering
against what we truly need to face.
I should be standing
alongside those destroyed
by the shadow side
we once tried to hide
but are now parading and tweeting.
Our naked underbelly celebrated
our worst selves shined up
our deepest fears inflicted
upon others we dehumanize
in order to keep our motives
unexamined our wounds unhealed.
My voice is so easily spoken
my words so easily heard
my views so easily accepted
my pen so easily plied.
But you who’ve been silenced
you who’ve been ignored
you who’ve been shunned—
protest. Riot if you must.
Burn your truth into my skin
and may your cries
haunt me to the grave.
Copyright © 2020 Cathy Warner, All rights reserved.

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