Where We Stood

Dangling Conversation ~ Philip Brent Harris


Would I be willing to show you the shabby shelter
Which I keep hidden deep inside my head?
It’s not much except a place I can hide
When the world weeps and cries,
Full of our false and futile sound and fury.
People standing on their doorsteps
Screaming obscenities at anyone,
Everyone who does not look like them.

While in the streets all the children
Dance and play until one is roughly yanked away.

Walk with me into the working-class bars,
Where white men and women complain about others.
Smack the blacks, screw the Jews, bomb the Muslims,
Fuck the Italians, erase the Asians, kick the micks.
It makes me sick; where do they think we came from?
Forget the where and ask the why
Of all who came by choice, but shut your mouth
And listen to all the languages speaking in one voice.

While in the streets all the children
Dance and play until another is roughly yanked away.

The Christian folks crack all the racist jokes,
Praise their oddly-white savior, who
Was surely brown when he was born. Shhh.
We must not spoil their myth,
It will leave them most forlorn.

So I sit and wonder will I need to hide
In my shabby shelter, hidden deep inside?

I walk the streets behind my mask,
My glasses dimmed with mist.
I wonder why I clean them
When I see others who insist
It’s their right and duty
To put others in harm’s way.
Though they scream it’s about their freedom,
Their rights, the only ones that matter.
And god forbid, theirs at least,
Anyone might think them wrong.
If you do not look and act like them,
They’ll say you do not now and never will belong.

So I sit and wonder will I need to hide
In my shabby shelter, hidden deep inside?

Do you believe the righteousness
Of those who sit in church?
They sing praises to their dark-skinned lord;
Though best not to tell them the obvious truth.
Still, if god is white; I’m sure they think he is,
He could make the kid look any way
He chose, if the kid is really his.

I’d best shut up, wash my mouth with soap.
Not sure how that will help me survive
When the holy lightning smites, the AK 47 roars
Because I would and will walk with anyone
Although my prejudices learned when young
Sometimes still rear their ugly heads.

I say learned rather than was taught;
I do not remember it coming up at home.
It wasn’t hard to figure out, looking back,
When each group lived alone in their own enclave.
I, like those I knew, lived in the middle,
Not wealthy but without apparent needs.
Some lived on top, seen from far away, not in the clouds,
Some on the bottom in areas we learned to avoid.
And those we harmed the most
Are the ones who had and have it worst.
People we kidnapped and enslaved.
People we killed and stole their lands.

It is not merely intolerance
But the feeling we need to make amends.

Those people we are descended from lived
On the bottom or on the top, but who are we?
Did we crack the whip
Or feel the lash, sharp and leaving scars?
Did we shoot the rifle, feel searing pain,
Watch as our parents and our sons and daughters die?
Did we sell or were we sold?
Can we believe anything we are told?

From bankers, politicians, living in their gilded lairs
To the cops who daily walk their beats
And mothers in the slums, suburbs and those on silk sheets.
We are all responsible, whatever you may think,
And we all must acknowledge our blame.
Whether we are rich, sleep on piles of money
Work long hours, yet stay poor and steal
To feed our children, become
Addicted to escape our constant pain.

Like frightened children, many
Wrap themselves in Kevlar, carry weapons
Which were designed for war,
Carry them through suburban streets
Let them define who we are, our hatred on our arm..
When we all should stand together,
March, refuse to quit until we all stop.
We must listen to each other
Through our time-nourished hatred
And our existential pain.
Never accept the easy answers
Our callous disregard of truth despite
Our endless strain.

I have walked upon the land,
Dun and dry and poor,
Sailed the seas to be where I stand.
For me, I have been the oppressor,
It’s in my genes and blood.
I must admit the pain I caused
Though I was carried by the flood.

I have no claim to innocence,
Though I am detritus, left
When the waters of the past receded
Nor can I pretend my forebears
Were saints or heroes, regardless
Of the thin gruel served by our history books.
I know that the mélange of us
Will never nourish and cannot
Bring us health if ingredients are left out.

When all the parts of us are mixed together,
Stirred to form an even blend,
We will begin to understand our loss.
If even a single history or truth is removed,
We will be left with naught but dross.
Consume it and it vanishes, nothing left behind,
Though we believe we struggle mightily,
We do but stagger and stumble on
With no way to avoid our final fall.

When the anthropologists and historians
Examine how we rose and why we failed.
They will explain how we lost our way;
That’s how the story always goes.
When nations vie and empires clash
Suffer the rule of despots and charlatans
The least will feel the sharpest pain
Though they are equal to anyone and
They dream the same dream as all the rest

Money, ill-gotten gains and the body politic
Will not succeed to slow our demise,
Other than to hold the head aloft
Until it crashes, with a thunderous crack,
Into the ruptured ground, to be fractured like an egg.
Our eyes will blink for moments longer
Though our breath has gone for good.
The scholars of the future will say little,
Except to tell the future where we stood.

When we had the chance to play and dance,
We waged war against ourselves.
I tore down my paltry shelter,
Where I tried  to hide within my head.
Then I urged us to stop and talk and change.
Although my hope is nearly fled.

Will I let my fear hone the blade that pierces
My heart and dulls my eyes instead?


VOTE, November 3, 2020!


Peace is Purpose, Nonviolence is Strength, Diversity is Unity, Empathy is Empowerment


See more of my creative offerings and opinions at:

Brent Harris Fine Art

Philip Brent Digital Art

Vida Voices

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