Category Archives: Poetry

ICE, a poem by Carina Schiltz, M.Div. Intern, Milwaukee, WI

ICE
(U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

Another chapter in the land of the free, but only if you’re a citizen.
Now he only works one job instead of two.
He’s been here since 1985, has paid taxes  on his houses
at his jobs
since he walked across the border
when he was 20 years old.

His wife earned 90 dollars last week.
She cleaned 8 houses, top to bottom.

Their two children are citizens.  Beautiful. Bi-lingual.
Dressed in their school uniforms.
They do not know their father is in danger of deportation.
The parents haven’t told them yet.

The police stopped him after he “ran a red light.”
They handcuffed him.
He has never been ticketed.
He has never been in trouble.

He has one year until his court date.

The agonizing hours. The calls to lawyers.
The waiting. The grief. The fear.
La migra know everything now.
Where they live. Who their children are.

Everything.

And she cooks in the kitchen, waiting for her
husband of 25 years to bring the children home
from school.

Posole, enough to feed the whole family and
their friend, who eats with them every night
so the friend doesn’t have to eat alone.

Enough to feed the tiny girl who lives upstairs
and has to take care of herself because her
mother is working and her father no está.

Her diminutive voice squeaks out an hola
to the other visitor at the table this night,
me.

They welcomed me in
like I had always belonged there.

Podemos invitarla para Thanksgiving?
“Can we invite her
for Thanksgiving?” the 9-year-old son asks.
The 12-year-old daughter proudly shows me
her song she wrote about the kingdom of God
for school. “Do you like it?”
Yes, it’s beautiful. But it seems
so far away.

ICE, how dare you rip this family apart?
How dare you give them PTSD, fear
that at every turn,
you will take him away?

She can’t live without him.

The white wedding anniversary party dress
hangs in the dining room,
a specter incessantly whispering
how many more years will we have
together?

In Mexico they have no chance at survival,
safety, security.
They want to raise the children here,
where there is opportunity.

This is
all
they
know.

But, ICE, you call them and threaten.
You give them false hope and you
pour on the fear like it’s icing on a cake.
Thick.
Poisonous.
Deadly.

How you wield your power.

This country was built by fear and force,
on the backs of slave and now immigrant labor.

You let them in, take advantage,
and then send them home
when you are through.

You with your handcuffs, stealing
innocent men
from their families that they have worked
SO
hard  to become established. Working two jobs.
Anything
to get the kids through school.
So they can have a chance at something better.

They are feeding others,
but you don’t seem to care
that if he’s taken away, the little neighbor girl will go hungry.

Your justice serves only
the powerful, monied, gated,
privileged.

The “everyday American” benefits from your work,
complacent, ignorant, implicated.
We are ICE, too. I bear guilt as well as the armed
agent, hunting for an “illegal”.

If only you could sit at their table with them
and see what a beautiful family they are. Surely
that would soften your heart
and force you to feel your humanity.

If only you could catch the jokes they tell
one another,
the way she scolds the neighbor girl to sit
correctly on the chair and not slurp her posole.

But all you see
are criminals.

ICE, leave this family alone.

If only you would accept them
like they accepted me: with hugs and
invitations to return anytime I want.
They sent me home
with at least three servings
of left-overs
and an entire cake
to share with those around me.

I didn’t have to eat dinner alone tonight.
They welcomed me in, and invited me back.

They adopted me.

But you, ICE, with your frozen heart
and your rigid system
and your unrelenting torture,
the way you hang over people,
slowing their hearts and congealing
their hopes,

You deserve to hear the words that you say to so many:

You are not welcome here.

Go back to where you came from.

WHEN I AM HERE, MY HEART LONGS FOR HOME, a poem and photo by Tammy Barthels, Final Year M.Div. Student

Photo of sun reflecting and meeting water

Photo captured by Tammy Barthels as a reflection of two worlds meeting.

Broken pieces

Shards of glass

Pierce my heart

Make me bleed.

Souls united

Now torn apart

Distance separates

                              Broken hearts.

Identity lost

      Among the chaos of classes.

                  Role of wife, mother, grandmother

                              Crashes.

Joyful sounds of baby’s laughter

      Now replaced with

                  Slamming doors

                              And that of cantors.

Commuter, Student, Theologian

      I’ve become.

                  Once whole at home

                              Here, reduced to half.

The only hope that I may have

      Holding on to the One

                  Who eternally

                              Calls me home.

You promise hope, grace, and mercy.

      Please give me peace.

                  When I am here

                              And my heart longs for home.

IMMIGRANT LABORERS, a POEM, by Rev. Minna Quint, WTS 2014, Capital Hill Lutheran, Des Moines, IA

For hands
Covered in callouses
Bruised from rough labor
Dried by a scorching sun
My God where are you?

 For faces
Tired from long hours
Worn by the weather
Hardened by oppression
My God where are you?

 For stomachs
Starving for satisfaction
Longing to be filled
Growling
Growling
Growling
My God where are you?

 For jeans
Torn apart by physical labor
Stained with pain and disapproval
Bleached in the sun of unrighteousness
My God where are you?

 For wallets
Soggy from a day’s sweat
Empty
Old
Frayed
My God where are you?

 For hearts
That struggle to be loved
Screaming at inequality
In a country that shouts
“The land of the FREE”
My God where are you?

“REFLECTIONS ON INTERNSHIP, WEEK 2: I AM PETER” By Carina Schiltz, M.Div Intern, Milwaukee, WI

Sitting in my white-walled office,
there is always a bustle outside
in the hallway, yet
I still feel safe here.
It’s home base.
Galilee.
I’m with the seemingly popular
and victorious Jesus, who
teaches and feeds and heals.
I know who he is–The Messiah
The Son of the Living God.

But then he told me that
we’re going to Jerusalem.

And that I have to leave my office.

He talked about death and a cross,
and naturally I said, “No.”
But we’re going. Crosses as our yokes,
slogging one foot in front of the other toward…something.

Next week we’re doing a neighborhood
clean-up, and today
in the church parking lot there were
wrappers, and
used
condoms
snaking along the pavement.
Someone will have to pick those up.
What will they say to their children
who will inevitably ask, “Mommy, Daddy,
what’s that?”

What does this have to do with following you, Jesus?
I walk past the filthy parking lot,
carefully avoiding the empty Magnum wrappers
and snaky plastic,
and I listen to sad stories
and frumpy individuals who have everything wrong
with their lives, and I drive to the next,
almost-closed-up church
on this road to Jerusalem, and the cross.

As powerless as I feel
I am pulled like a magnet toward
peoples’ sorrows, and they tell me,
and I can’t fix it.

Sometimes I deny you, Jesus, and
I do try to fix it by myself. Sometimes
I doubt that you know what you’re doing.

I mean, look around.
It’s bleak here.
But you say to follow, so I do:
out of the office and into the neighborhoods
where I sometimes lock my purse in the trunk,
my brain making judgments until I am
paralyzed with fear,
but people live here everyday
and you are there among them.

The ugly and the beautiful all
wrapped up into one.
And sometimes I am unwilling to see you in it.

Pessimistic.
Judgmental.
Glass not even half-empty.
But here I am.
The rooster is about to
crow again, isn’t it?

SHACKLED By Jean Peterson, WTS Archives Volunteer

When he was here, “Uncle Bob” named a bit of history:

Centuries ago the insane were shackled, chained to institutional walls – jails, dungeons, oversized crib rails or beds.   Centuries ago?   Did it stop then?

Not so long ago.   Still,  now, in our lifetime!

II   Two centuries ago you could be shackled to a tree and whipped… for no good reason, just because your skin is darker than mine.   Yours, clean, shines, but us dirty folks of my hue thought we should dehumanize, torture, and humiliate you.

Then Good Abe said,   “STOP!”   “Let them go!”   150 years ago.     Did it stop then?     Good Abe said, “Let them go!”   Some were set free, but they did not escape  the misery of slavery. They “owed their souls to the company store,” just a different kind of bondage and   Many were set free only to encounter the Lynching Tree.

III- Confined   A lifetime ago (within mine) you could be herded into a train – a cattle car, withnospacetomoveorfreshairtobreathe untilthetrainstopped,then pushedproddeddowncattleramp intostockyardsconfinedbybarbedwireelectrified toopenairputrifiedbypollutedstenchfrom smokingchimneysofgasfurnaces, queuedinspectedlikemeatselectedby wavingrodpointingtoleftortoright toshowersortemporarysurvivalslavelabor identitystrippedsoulsstolen shovedsqueezedintobarrackstosleep? oncrowdedhardbunkboardslabs shelvesinrowssharedwithstrangers fourorfivebodiesinonebox, somedeadsomelikeyoubarelyalive, nightmareshiftssharedbynamelesslabormates… upatdawntorollcallshoutyournumberor startoveragainstandingatattention,thenlaborallday inrockquarryorbeforcedtoshovethecorpsesof peopleyouonceknewfriendskinyourownmother fathergrandmothergrandfatherssisterbrother babiestoo intotheovens burntheirsoulless emptiedbodies turningtoashes yourfellowhumancattle beaten objectified dehumanized de-souled,   just   because   you were   a Jew.

IV- (Nisei)   Early in my lifetime, we took your property and kept it despite your 2nd or 3rd generation good citizenship, then put you away with meager jobs and poor schools for your children, just because your grandparents were born in a land which has become our wartime enemy.

V   Four centuries ago Massasoit hosted my pale-faced forebears from across the sea  — hungry after a long sail from a strange land across the ocean.  His hospitality to rude guests uninvited, your home now overrun by land-greedy pale faces pushing ever westward, shoving Native hosts aside, all the way across this continent with no  respect for Native Nations’ sovereignty, disregarding hosts’ good care for woods and soil and animal species; greedy, pushy, selfish pale-face with no respect for Natives’ humanity.

My  ancestors stole your land shackling our Native hosts’ descendants (of many nations) to untillable soil, tearing down forests housing food supplies.   We ingrates pushing, shoving you to ever smaller, reduced barren dry arid land strips, shackling you to areas which cannot sustain life for any tribe and leaving you invisibly shackled to a tiny patch of land in a dry, barren, arid soil worthless for growing any food or sustenance.

VI   Centuries ago?   “Let my people go . . . “   My skin is black. I am a Jew.   I am insane.   My Grandfather was born in Japan.   My native grandfathers welcomed you     Shackle me –   Let me hang.   Force me to burn my own kin.   Confine me to untillable barren land.   Take our property and keep us silent despite our good citizenship.     Centuries ago?   Now!    Has it stopped yet? No!     “Let my people go!”

Let us go free,   Now!.

GOOD FRIDAY By Dr. Beth Leeper, WTS Prof. of Church History

We are in the Easter Season; however the following poem incorporates the darkness of all people every day which we bring to the cross all year long.

Safe home, caring parents,
Jesus had it easy some would say.
Three years of travel, crowds who cheered and jeered;
A fleeting moment in a life of love and comfort.
A nasty week, no doubt – no hymns of pious devotion then.
Flesh torn by whips, thorns, nails;
Betrayed, denied, who needs such friends?
Desolate, forsaken, abandoned by his Father
in his time of need.
But for how long?
Three hours.
Excruciating hours of anguish;
but only three.
How dark could his darkness be?

What was that darkness in which he lingered?
Whose pain, whose suffering, resounded through his frame?
Shrieks of children raped,
screams of soldiers shot,
cries of women beaten, men tortured.
The whimpers of the innocent and the damned
filled those three short hours.

Darkness covered the earth,
But deeper darkness filled our Lord.
The black whirlwind of swirling madness.
The depths of death-craving distress.
Blind, lame, plague-riddled, rotting with disease.
Sunken cheeks, jutting bones, eyes clouded with hopelessness and flies.
The sick and dying, the world’s refuse:
The essence of darkness,
the substance of pain.

A lifetime of torment
multiplied by a billion, a trillion, a quadrillion living creatures.
Countless lives, endless ages,
anguish from the dawn of time.
Overwhelming misery crashes down,
swirls in,
engulfs those three short hours.
Unspeakable darkness crushes the life
of that once-cherished son.

Does Jesus enter into my darkness?
Or I into his?
In the union of human with divine
two are one, forever inseparable.
Locked in swirling blackness, I remain helpless,
unable to escape the pain.
Clothed in eternal light, the Son unlocks the blackness,
enters in,
freely embraces the grief that is mine.
How great the cost, extinguishing life and light.
Three short hours,
but a multitude of lifetimes compressed;
A neutron star of suffering, darkness, and death.

A PSALM: LAMENT FOR CONSOLATION By Wade Brinkopf, Final Year MDiv

A Psalm: Lament for Consolation

In you O Lord, I have put my trust.

My words wash away but yours will stand forever.

There is no one but you O Lord who could feel my despair.

Take this sorrow from my heart, release me from my shame.

Reason stands but for an instance;

yet, your word stands the test of every moment.

Turn me from my pathless way,

in your righteousness I can face the unknown.

Mine is too quickly faded away in morning glare,

but, brightly shines your gleaming stream turning darkness into light.

Ever present, your right hand stands before me.

Your glorious throne to adorn.

Crush this oppressor my Lord, this darkness in which I stand.

Push back this dark deception that creeps uneasily near your truth.

Only a breath of your Word and it fades completely away.

Your Word breaks the dark; the bright gleaming stream brings me life where there was none!