Shape and Substance

meditations on faith and church

Month: July, 2016

The Face of Evil

He began, “The problem with this country…”
I ceased to listen. I grow weary
of scapegoats, cheap rhetoric, and answers
that promise much but cost me nothing.

She said, “Can’t we agree
that all lives matter? Why must
black lives matter more?” Because
until they do no life matters enough.

He said, “Let’s make this nation
great again,” and had a plan.
And I wondered at what price
greatness, and can we pay the cost?

The time is past for grand gestures,
for blaming great vexations
on vivid Devils. We must look
evil directly in the face.

You know the face I mean—the one
that fears the stranger, believes
its own truth truest, and knows
it must grab for all that it can get,

that thinks the past can be forgotten,
the future staked as claim,
that mine is mine by right
that it is someone else’s fault.

You know the face, but not the one you see
among the anti-heroes in the news.
Monsters dwell no more beneath the bed
but in the mirror.


She lived, so say geneticists,
a hundred thousand years ago—
or perhaps a quarter million—who knows?
Somewhere in East Africa—Kenya, Tanzania,
maybe not too far from Olduvai?—
she stirred and stretched and somehow knew
in the way women know, the way
her mother before her knew, the way
women have always known when morning
penetrates the veil of cloying night,
that there was a changeling in her belly.
The evening’s passionate coupling
had joined two X chromosomes
to make a womanchild.

How does it feel to stand at future’s edge,
to watch the distant morrow dawn, to bear
in folded moistened darkness of her womb
along the sinuous paths of the double helix
the same X-chromosomal messages
that will make us you or me?

How does it feel to bear the hope—
unspoken, unimagined—
of every daughter and daughter’s daughter
who will ever henceforth wake,
stir and stretch and struggle through the dark
to believe the morning sun?

How does it feel to know in ways unknown
the serpent must yet disturb the garden,
murky portents bode both pleasure, pain,
blood will not stay safe within the vein
but stain the ground and water hidden roots until
they bear a bitter fruit?

Arms held tight across her breasts
against the morning chill, still shuffling off
night’s anesthesia, she looked around
for a morsel yet uneaten, a bite to fuel her body
and her half-remembered dreams, not hers alone
but of the thousand thousand generations
at that moment wakening inside her, opening
hungering eyes to see the darkness,
hungering mouths to taste the emptiness,
hungering minds to learn the weal and woe
of living in this world. Let us call her
Mitochondrial Eve, mother to all mothers,
our Most Recent Common Ancestor.
We all are one in her.