Category Archives: Poetry

DESKCHAIR by Carina Schiltz, Final Year MDiv Student

This is a poem for all the people who have ever sat in a desk

I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America,
and to the republic for which it stands,
one nation under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for some

October 26, 2015 Spring Valley High School, Colombia, South Carolina
You refusing to get off your
Cell phone while in class
Posed a threat
Not only to “the authority”
But to all this
Country holds
Profit based on oppression.
You are a child,
You are a criminal,
Or at least that’s what they see when they
See you.
And so you were body-slammed
For the sake of the status quo,
Made an example of,
Your worth assigned to you
By society
Reinforced as you were flung
To the ground
While all around you, people sat

O God,
Unfreeze our hearts and hands and mouths.
The lie we are living CANNOT get any bigger than this.
This brutality that erases humanity.
God, it has happened again
And now I see this is not the exception,
It is the rule.
The rule of centuries of slavery, rape,
Lynching, segregation, Jim Crow,
colored only, redlining,
School-to-prison pipeline.
This is how black people
Black children,
Are treated daily.
And meanwhile
Day in and day out
For twenty years
I have sat in a school desk
And have never
Considered it to be a place
That holds the possibility
Of assault.

My white skin blinds people with my
Assigned innocence.

But maybe today, this desk connects me to you
You who aren’t safe even in a classroom
And me—
Who sits in a desk hearing about how God loves the world.

And now I know what I have to do.
Open my eyes. To my privilege, and your pain.

I have to ask forgiveness.
But I know forgiveness is dangerous
Because I know it will change me,
And I won’t be able to just sit silently in my desk
Any longer
And pretend like you are not beaten down

Forgiveness forces me to look
Into your eyes and see the centuries of
Pain under which you live
Opens my ear to hear your story
Your story.
And forgiveness
Then turns my head to look into
The mirror and see the layer,
A shield of invisibility
My white protection,
My instant “in”

But there is something else.
I reach up and feel the wet cross on my forehead and know
We belong to each other.
Forgive me for not knowing until now.
I’m sorry.

I AM . . . by Mytch Dorvilier, Final Year MDiv Student

I am a woman.
I am a black woman.
I am a non-African, American black woman.
I am a non-African, American black woman with a strong accent.
I am a Haitian woman.
I am a product of slavery.
I am a foreigner in a foreign land.
I am a foreigner with a strong French/Creole accent.
I am a human being created in the image of God.
I am a human being for whom the Son of God incarnates.
I am a human being God calls “my beloved child” the day of my baptism.
I am a human being for whom Jesus died on the cross.
I am a human being who longs for relationships as God shows us in the Trinity.
I am a human being who regards every other human being for whom Christ has died.
I am a human being who by vocation loves the neighbor as Christ loves me.
I am a human being who every day sees God’s work in the world.
I am a human being.

A VOICE KEPT SAYING … a poem and photo by Tammy Barthels, Final Year M.Div. Student

A Voice Kept Saying….Lake Superior

It took many years to find my voice.

Years of digging through the rubble that was dumped upon me.

A  Voice kept saying “You cannot be silent.”

So I dug.

My fingers bruised and scraped, bloody from pulling and tugging.

A Voice kept saying “This is not right, do something!”

A spark of light was revealed through the cracks of rubble.

I grasped toward the light.

A Voice kept saying “You must speak your truth.”

The light shone brightly as I stood upon the pile of rubble,

wearing a coat of courage given to me by my Beloved.

The Voice said “You are a beloved Child of God.

You have been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

You must speak your truth!”

And the Voice kept saying “Expose the darkness, so that the Light may be seen.”


“Do not be afraid for I am with you”

So I found my voice, and began to speak of the injustices being done.

~Tammy K. Barthels

UNCONQUERABLE LOVE, a poem By Roger Fears, First Year M.Div. Student

Starving for life,
Unbeating heart encased in stone.
Dying of thirst,
Afraid of pain yet suffering alone.

New pouring out,
Rock gives way to writhing flesh.
The curtain torn,
Dust and holy breath renewed afresh.

Horizon breaks,
Morning overcomes the grip of night.
Love rising,
Darkness unable to contain the light.

Restored to rights,
Hope arrives; fluttering on the dove.
Fully enthroned,
Victory realized; unconquerable love.

ADVENT POEM By Will Layton, 2nd Year M.Div. Student

Prepare the way, O Zion! Ye awful deeps, rise high;
Sink low, ye lofty mountains, The Lord is drawing nigh.

The wise man in the pulpit says,
“This isn’t going to be easy.”
His white hair and his reputation for truth-telling
(A prophet, maybe?)
Make us all suspect he’s right.
Wars and rumors of wars,
Wars and rumors of wars.

That night, in a bar downtown, a woman sings:
“A change is gonna come.”
She sings as if she knows
The change will be right,
But we suspect it won’t be easy.
Wars and rumors of wars,
Wars and rumors of wars.

A young woman, expecting
Watches out the window,
As the streets of Detroit boil
Rebellion, riot, protest,
Change. Suspicion.
A people divided,
Uniformed bodies
And uninformed arms.
Her little boy—will be a month late–
Not easy, coming into a world like this.
Wars and rumors of wars,
Wars and rumors of wars.

On the too-familiar bench outside the courtroom,
Already suspect, easy to condemn,
Another one waits for judgment.
Something needs to change.
Wars and rumors of wars,
Wars and rumors of wars.

Beneath the throne, the saints cry out,
“How long, O Lord, how long?”
Do they think this will be easy?
Wars and rumors of wars,
Wars and rumors of wars.

These things must come to pass.

On the morning the stars fell,
It caught us off-guard.
We were all afraid,
So we all went outside together.
And as Jesus Christ passed by on the street,
We suspected things wouldn’t be easy,
But there was a rumor of peace.

VIGIL FOR A HOMICIDE VICTIM poem by Carina Schiltz, Intern, Milwaukee, WI

Just up the street from the old
stone Norwegian Lutheran church
sits a dozen candles set in a cross

a few beer cans and tomatoes at the
makeshift altar where a small group huddles
in the cold, the wind whipping the ladies’ skirts,
words coating the watchers and wonderers:

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ “

Blood and ugliness has been erased,
washed from the street,
but the pavement will never be fully cleansed
or innocent again.

Perhaps the group is standing on the very place that he died.

His body on the pavement, unable to sustain the beating.

And somewhere in this city a wife
and two children sift through grief.

The produce company where he worked
has a newly sharp vacancy.

The unassuming neighborhood,
houses with sagging porches,
windows covered in shades and shutters
looks on.

A few curious cars creep by,
wondering at the group of church-goers
who look at the ground,
anywhere but each other,
because death is just too close right now.

The Bible-reader feels like giving up,
but something bubbles up in her voice,
pushing back despair and helplessness
so that the words continue to drift over the

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The pastor prays for God
to embrace the victim, the human, with mercy and peace.
“I’ve been waiting for him to come home,” the victim’s neighbor stutters
as the pastor pulls her into an embrace.

A breath, a pause, and the people
walk back down the
cracked sidewalks that have seen more violence
than they ever should.


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

(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.


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,

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

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

This is

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.

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
hard  to become established. Working two jobs.
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,

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.