Lawton, Oklahoma: Four Quartets

Lawton, Oklahoma: Four Quartets July 24, 2019

τοῦ λόγου δὲ ἐόντος ξυνοῦ ζώουσιν οἱ πολλοί
ὡς ἰδίαν ἔχοντες φρόνησιν

I. Burnt Sage

 

The abandoned car wash shelters the ecumenical assembly

orange vests become beacons of anarchist coordination

and as the drums drum and the chants chant

the righteous anger of a people proud of who they are

 

cries out, “You want to send us back but our back was always here.”

 

Back here is here, on the far side of an interstate

inhospitable to anything but trucks with climate control

and unrestrained rage over ten minutes of slow traffic

just never about cages, no rage about cages

 

And so sprouts a small revolution, the kind with matching t-shirts

and unwashed sweat, and cold fruit juice in bottles

distributed by masked medics anticipating what’s really true

that old men, and ailing women, will still walk for truth

 

While a lone loony with flag and camera

violates first amendment rights exercising second amendment rights

and the antifa guy with a belly, and another skinny teen

interpose their bodies between him and crowd

a meta-discourse of the present salient moment

 

II. East Ochre

 

Fort Sill held Japanese-American bodies during the Second World War

out there in red dirt country we detained our own in cages

Their descendants (Tsuru) arrive to march and chant

dressed monastic, monastic black, many ages, mostly agéd

 

I watch them. I’m in clerics too, though of my much more Western line.

I can’t help but feel deep solidarity with each liturgy

(the tribal chant, the Buddhist prayer, the marcher’s slogans)

but when I watch the prayers and don’t know Japanese

my mind wanders and invents the prayer, wishful thinking…

 

Itseemsourracismrunssodeepwe’llcageourowncitizens

whenthey’rebrownandsuspect,butwhenthey’rethepresidentoftheUnitedStates

andhe’swhiteandrichwelethimbetrayournationcommittingcrimeswith

Russiansandcagingyoungchildrenandthat’salljustfinebecausehe’swhite

andtheDowJonesIndustrialAverageisrising.

 

Some monks make their way back to the underpass,

seeking shelter from the sun. Even while wilting they smile.

The equanimity of their protest storms the gates.

ὁδὸς ἄνω κάτω μία καὶ ὡυτή

III. The Dry Salvages

 

Three days earlier our little group sat in the Fellowship Hall

discussing the effectiveness of milk to counter-act tear gas.

 

There’s this strength, this strength, this strength,

this inner strength that comes across in awkward vulnerability

 

Perhaps that’s just me projecting, the pastor in his church

comparing the organizational strategies of a protest caravan

 

to worship arts committees and Spit & Shine come Monday morning

or the typical settled scripts of the ecclesia before secularization

 

First aid kits, ACLU legal observer training, 5 a.m. departure,

how many charging ports, who rides with who

 

who is paying for gas, oh my there are generous people paying for gas

and maybe a little left over for coffee and Vietnamese soup in Fort Smith

 

IV. Little Victory

 

Three days later we learn Fort Sill will no longer house detainees.

This is the good news we’d hoped for even while we hear the

bad news we’d anticipated: somebody probably bought the contract.

 

Pressure is good, but pressure relieved somewhere increases pressure

elsewhere, and the pressure of bodies up against a nation

that was never Christian and only sometimes democratic…

 

Well it’s a little victory. It might mean there’s still burning to do

under more mid-day suns because the changing climate means

white bodies need even more lotion than previous.

 

Maybe the sheriff will come down off the over-pass and join us.

Maybe the fortresses will turn inside out in peace.

Maybe we’ll greet migrants with hugs and water at the border.

 

Maybe there won’t be borders anymore.

Maybe the victories will stop

because no one will need to win.

 

"anyone can do it but passerbys are free to criticize."

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