CANTO I

 

 

A Rose in Outhwaite

 

(Moderato Con Moto)

 

 

FROM HERE, THESE HEIGHTS

 

 

 

 

(Child’s laughter… babbling…)

 

 

I am the son of Michael Hood

Of Baltimore and

Yvonne Walker of Elkhart

 

Two, who met here

In the center

In this heart shaped state

 

Best known

As the heart of it all

In this Great Lake city

Of Cleveland

 

Where I was born,

Like many from here,

On Martin Luther King Drive

 

From here, these Heights,

The Great Lake

Is almost imperceptible

 

Save the predictable coolness

Blown southeast

From our northern shores

 

From here, these Heights,

Kinsman, Buckeye, Woodland

Dive in elevation

 

Into a lowland basin

Formed millions

Of years ago

 

A space that cradles

A relatively young Lake Erie

Of only about 4,000 years

 

A lake born yesterday…

 

Just as I

And you all

In the scope of time

 

From here, these Heights,

The Great Lake is hidden

Like many of our local histories

 

Down through

Our Forest City,

Down through Kingsbury Run,

 

Down through the soul

Of our city,

Down the Way

 

There is so much history

All around us

Hidden in plain view

 

History that requires

The light of love

To be revealed

 

From here, these Heights,

Where I stand

Just off this intersection

 

Of Avalon and Winslow

Are the crossroads

 

Of my childhood and

Where I now live

 

Here, is the heart

Of my hometown,

Shaker Heights

 

I am a son of these schools

A son of these parklands

A son of our idealistic heritage

 

Of the North Union

Of the Civil Rights Movement and

The Student Group on Race Relations

 

 

 

INVOCATION OF THE ROSE

Today

We are present

With the past of this place

 

And perhaps

We are also

Present in the future

 

A future that is contained

Both within this day

And in time past

 

Present also

Are the echoes

Down the corridors

 

Of our memory

Of missed opportunities

Of all that might have been

 

Doors we never opened

The doors

To the rose garden

 

Today we gather

To consider the rose

And metaphor…

 

When people gather

Such as this

We often other

 

Who we are missing

And who we have

Lost

 

Here today some of us may consider

Marcia Jaffe,

The co-founder of the Student Group on Race Relations,

 

A very special student organization

Here in the Shaker schools;

And we are sad she is among the later

 

Whose dedication

To creating a better community in Shaker,

Was incomparable and

 

A monument

Of commitment

Who challenged an entire community

 

Who challenged a generation

Of parents and children

To stand for higher ideals

 

While deeply understanding

The deep roots

Of bias

 

Who became the root

Of culture in Shaker

A culture she challenged us to protect!

 

In this city,

This place,

For years,

 

There has been

A persistent call

For higher ideals

 

And is fundamental

To the meaning of this place

It is truly the community spirit

 

Marcia Jaffe

Captured this spirit best

And her love

 

For this place

And for its people

Continues to move us

 

Although she is no longer with us,

Her spirit

Is still very much alive

 

In our

Classrooms,

Many of our living rooms

 

And even travels

The world within

So many of our hearts

 

She is on my mind ‪this morning;

Among the others

You are considering also this morning…

 

What I mean is,

 

This call for love and justice

Is a call that is common

To this community

 

And I do so

In honor of

This place and its meaning

 

Today,

We remember

Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Who spoke here,

At this church,

In 1965

 

Who supported Carl Stokes

In his run

For Cleveland mayor

 

Today, we remember

King’s message

Of love and justice

 

Today, we remember a generation

Whose call for civil rights,

Was a call for higher ideals

 

Who saw the best minds

Of their generation

Destroyed

 

Whose call for civil rights,

Is same the persistent call for higher ideals

That is essentially the American spirit itself

 

It is the spirit of our

Declaration of Independence

And our Constitution

 

A spirit,

Of which each of us

Has inherited equally

 

And are bound to maintain

And protect together,

Such is the duty of the people…

 

Martin Luther King’s place

In our Democracy

Is special,

 

His message of love and justice

Gave greater depth to the very meaning

Of the American Spirit

 

His message moved the

American Spirit

Forward

 

His call for higher ideals,

Is America’s persistent

Call for higher ideals

 

The same call America made to British rule

The same call women made for suffrage

The same call for higher ideals

 

Was made new

Again

By Martin Luther King

 

This man made martyr 

Helped many of us live

To be whom we are

 

So we celebrate

We speak

We sing

 

But quietly still

We suffer

A cultural loss

 

A suffering that is both

Missing

And in plain view

 

Even this long

Into a new century

We are still a nation

 

That is haunted

By a past

That also our present

 

We remain moved by tragedy

And inspired by the act

From which we suffer

 

And if truly so moved

We cannot also reject those actors,

Although we reject their acts 

 

In a call for higher values,

A call for love

And justice

 

For the heart is not a fortress

And love is not a rose

Without thorns

 

I ask you to take in this moment yourself

 

To no longer take things second or third hand

 

Or look ‪through the eyes of the dead

 

Or look through my eyes

 

I ask you to listen

 

To all the sounds

 

And filter them yourself

 

From here

 

 

FROM HERE I CALL

 

From here

I have considered

Where from love comes

 

And why?

 

I ask you to consider

Whether these questions are as fundamental

As the meaning of life?

 

Whether love is deeper?

Whether love

Is the meaning?

 

Love overwhelms

From concept

To physical response

 

It is at once

Enlightened and visceral,

At once joy and sorrow

 

This paradox, this complexity

Is specifically

What makes us human

 

In my preparation,

In my reading,

Even while walking the dog

 

Often around

This church,

I wondered

 

Is it the poem

Or the meaning

Of the poem?

 

Another question

That leads me to ask you

To consider

 

Whether it is being

In the moment or the meaning

Of the moment?

 

And from where

Do we derive

Meaning?

 

Today, I say

It is the meaning of the poem

It is the meaning of the moment

 

That, also

 

At the heart of meaning,

Beyond all complexities,

There must be love…

 

That love is the meaning,

Love is the language and

Love is the best measure of humanity

 

The heart

Of anything

Is the center

 

The heart

Is also central

To the concept of love

 

Where

Love in action

Brings us to center

 

Love is connection

 

Love is the bliss

Of communication

And understanding

 

For love

To be what fundamentally

Brings us together

 

In our homes,

In our communities,

For what supplants our very humanity

 

Love is surprisingly absent

From civil discourse

And public policy

 

Too often we demean love

And compassion

As weakness

 

As though love in action

Is not the great work

Of humanity itself!

 

When we know well hard work

Is not truly completed

Without love

 

Knowing well

There is much

Hard work ahead

 

It has become clear

To me

Truth’s pact with love,

 

Its promise

To reveal suffering,

Is fundamental to humanity itself

 

It has also become clear to me

Love is in need of

Restoration

 

Before justice can reflect truth

Before justice can be truly meaningful

As love in action

 

For love and justice

From here, these Heights, I call

For love and justice

 

For there is

Also a rose

In Outhwaite

 

 

A ROSE IN OUTHWAITE

 

When you lose

Something you love,

It changes your life

 

Sometimes that loss is great enough,

It inspires you to seek change

For the lives of others

 

Such is this love

 

Outhwaite

Is one of the oldest public housing estates in our country

Dating back to the early 1930s

 

Located in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood

Between 55th and 40th

And Woodland and Quincy

 

I had the opportunity

To serve its residents

As property manager, last year

 

I knew the estate’s history

I knew about the Stokes brothers

I heard stories about how it used to be

 

I considered this position to be an incredible opportunity

To work in the community

To make a difference

 

My first day on the job,

We had what was a typical morning staff meeting,

But for me, it was new and introductory

 

I can recall

Our property leader,

Ms. Parker,

 

Saying directly to me

In my eyes

When the meeting started

 

“This team here,

Is a family;

And it’s all love”

 

That’s what she said,

I know,

I take great notes

 

I looked at the team,

And they were like that’s right;

And that’s what it was, really

 

As an accountant,

Coming from the finance department,

This was out of the ordinary

 

More so, it was transformational

And to Ms. Parker

I am so thankful

 

Only, she did not tell me

Truly how large

The family was…

 

It was

February

And soon spring

 

Outhwaite

Is seriously a place

 

Where it is

As though

Early spring blossoms

 

Seem like they may

Last forever

 

Where summer

Just seems

To appear one day

 

I learned the estate grounds quickly

And began to notice any changes

 

Anything broken

Or anything requiring

Attention

 

When summer is at its peak,

Deep within the courtyards,

There are roses

 

Not many,

But are spread throughout the property;

Planted some time ago by residents

 

The more I got to know the grounds,

I got to know the community

And listened to stories of love and loss

 

Soon these roses became a metaphor

For what I learned

And to whom I listened

 

That love

Is beauty and pain

It is joy and sorrow

 

That to possess

All the beauty

Is to leave others in pain

 

That love

Is the only way

To see a path to justice…

 

It is not my intention here

To tell a story

That is not my own,

 

Nor can I

Give you the feeling

That leads me here today

 

I can only tell what it means to me

That it helped me to live

And love truth

 

That true justice is love in action

 

I call this day for higher ideals

 

My name is Michael Hood

 

Will anyone respond?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 14, 2020

....

 

Written for the

Rally for Love and Justice

Heights Christian Church

Shaker Heights, OH

February 15, 2020

References

North Union – North Union Shakers were early religious settlers of Shaker Heights.

SGORR – The Student Group on Race Relations is a student organization in Shaker Heights started in 1983.

Eliot, T.S. Four Quartets. 1936. Reference to Burnt Norton.

Ginsberg, Allen. Howl and Other Poems. City Lights Books, 2001. Reference to Howl.

Whitman, Walt. Song of Myself. Penguin Classics, 1996.

Reference to lines from the first stanza of the poem.

Eliot, T.S. Murder in the Cathedral. Harcourt & Brace Company, 1935. Reference to the Interlude.

King, Martin. Strength to Love. Fortress Press, 2010. This is the book I purchased when I began the campaign. It was recommended to me, I suppose, in a lecture I saw, on YouTube, by Cornel West.

Komisar, Lucy. The New Feminism. Franklin Watts, Inc., 1971.

Baudelaire, Charles. Windows. New Directions, 1970.

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