Activism Berkeley Christianity Poetry Writing

The Belly of the Whale

I strongly sensed that I was being followed,
and I thought I knew by whom.
It must have been those two young men
Who had questioned me oddly
across from the Walgreens.
They had seemed so strangely disturbed,
when I merely declined to purchase
Some small item they were peddling,

in which I had no interest.

Though I thought I had been quite polite,
I feared I must have crossed them,
For I virtually saw them stalking me
From a place where eyes have never seen.

I broke into a jog.
I thought I might elude them.
I ran about a mile.
I thought I was in the clear.
So I thought nothing of stopping at the well
and shuffling through the throwaways
in search of shirt or trousers,
or perhaps a pair of boots.

Suddenly I heard a sound.
I looked up to see a handgun

rapidly, forcefully striking me
On the top of my head, and hurling me
Down onto the sidewalk.
I hid my eyes.
I felt the power of their guns
Repeatedly beating me upon the head
Like drumsticks on a drum.

“I am going to kill you, White motherfucker!
Kill your White ass, bitch-ass, dead!
White bitch-ass motherfucker!”
White racist pig!!”

Something made me plead with them:
“Guys!  Guys!  It doesn’t have to be this way!
Take everything I have — take the laptop –
but please, please spare my life!!”

As quickly as they had appeared,
they yanked the pack right off my back,
and while I watched in disbelief,

they fled into the night.

Down the stairs a lady ran.
“Are you all right?
Are you all right?

Do you want me to call the cops?”
Of course I did!

But when the police arrived,
they questioned me for what seemed forever,
as worried neighbors emerged from their doorways
and blood poured down my face like rain.
They ordered me to slow my speech,
And frisked me, shouting harsh demands,
mocking my requests for medical help,
and seeming to suppose that I was a criminal,
Or some kind of offender,
Rather than the victim
Of a crime of theft and battery,
Of violation – and of hate.

Finally they let me file a report,
which I held powerlessly in my hand,
at the Community Breakfast, before Bible Study,
in the morning following that long, long night.

There I saw the first of my assailants
Staring at me from across the line,

with pain is his own young twenty-year-old eyes,
as though pleading with me to spare him,
The way he had spared me.
And something gave me pause –
“He’s just a kid!” I thought.
And I collapsed in my integrity,
For I did not have the heart.

O Berkeley, city of my sorrow!
You care about social injustice and human rights from afar,
Yet you overlook the suffering of the one who sits nearby!
I swear I will not return to you,
Till running frantically upon your shores,
I warn you of the wrath to come,
And urge you to repent your wrongs,
Or face the fate that is your due.
For that will be the  dreaded day
Of many nightmares coming true –
The day when God will place me
In the Belly of the Whale.

Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope.
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Activism Broadway Creativity

Coming Together: Scene One

One of the concepts in my theory of Thought Processing is that thoughts are either of value or they are not.  If they are not of value, their application is obvious.  They ought to be immediately sent into the “recycle bin” and ultimately trashed.  If they are value, then they ought not to be dismissed, but given some attention as to where they might best be applied.   The thought I wish to  express in this entry is definitely of value, for it affirms for me the sanctity of the Artistic-Creative Process.  Had something phenomenal not happened this very evening, during a full rewrite of Scene One of Wintone Greene, I would not be placing the words of this thought on this page tonight. It has to do with the creative process.  It has to do with the phenomenon of incubation, as introduced by Graham Wallas in his famous treatise, The Art of Thought.  

Graham Wallas

How I love it when two things come together, in the same place, at the same time, unexpectedly!  This is what affirms for me that I am somehow on the right track.  The two things were these:

1.  I knew that there had to be more evidence of “police brutality” in the scene, as well as more evidence of a naively idealistic spirituality on the part of the Street Kids — the main followers of  Winston Greene.   I knew that there needed to be a climactic moment in the scene where the Street Kids and the cops would be at odds with each other.  But I didn’t know where that moment should be.

2. I knew that in the music of the Opening Number, Intervention, there was a certain spot that seemed extremely anticlimactic.  I also knew that the Kids and the Cops were singing toward each other at the moment of said anticlimax.   But I didn’t know what to do about it.

How intriguing that the two were solved at once, as though they had been intended for each other!  In a rush, I added about 24 measures of increasingly dynamic music and lyrics, to expand the interaction between the Kids and the Cops in such a way that what was once musically anticlimactic was now a musical pinnacle, and what was once textually incomplete was now full, rich, and powerful.  The music built up and up, the lyrics of transcendent wisdom from the East blossoming into a mantra of liberty, while the vulgar threats of the unenlightened police rose up to meet inspiration with fury.   Only Winston Greene had the wisdom and courage to intervene, and to offer himself willfully to the Powers That Be, in order for his finest followers to be spared.

I guess you’d have had to have been there.   But the upshot is that a relatively lackluster Opening Number has this day been transformed into a profound and powerful affirmation of faith.