Lynn Morrissey is a writer and poet, who has written for The High Calling and numerous web sites, including Jennifer Dukes-Lee’s. She is the author of Love Letters to God: Deeper Intimacy Through Written Prayer; Seasons of a Woman’s Heart: A Daybook of Stories and Inspiration; and Treasures of a Woman’s Heart. We happen to belong to the same church in St. Louis, and I’ve actually served with her husband on the church Board of Deacons.
Lynn has written a fine poem about the murders of nine people at the church in Charleston, and I’m privileged to share it here.
by Lynn D. Morrissey
in memory and honor of the martyred members of “Mother” Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina, June 2015
Nine faithful saints met below a mahogany-lined,
in an undercroft meeting room,
Nine innocents assembled,
as children in a Sunday-School circle,
daring to entwine the stranger in their midst
in love’s caring embrace.
Opening their good hearts to him,
opening their Good Books,
their fingers traced ancient emblems on a page,
pregnant with power,
that birthed life and love, freedom and hope,
while he unearthed a pistol with nine bitter bullets,
threatening to unleash Pharoah’s racist vitriol
of centuries past.
(Didn’t he know that God commands to let His children go?
Didn’t he know that Pharoah and his slave-owning minions throughout the eons
always get sucked under and perish
in the undertow of hate?
Didn’t he know that Christ came and died and rose—
that He set the slaves, the captives free?)
Would that the stranger had unsheathed the Sword, two-edged,
and turned it on himself,
pledging to let it do its piercing surgery,
dividing his withered soul and spirit, tethered joints and marrow,
cutting to the quick his narrow thoughts and intentions,
his rancid racial dissension,
slicing out the bigotry hidden in his own subterranean, Satanic heart.
Would that he had subjugated his repugnant faux-supremacy under
the Supreme Judge.
Would that he had begged Him
for mercy for even contemplating what he was about
(He could have stopped.
Racists can always stop.
Instead, he raged on, firing close-range shots like cannons,
abandoning all humanity,
He left them there,
nine innocents below the mahogany-lined,
blood-stains on his hands,
slave-chains on his heart,
chains sure to drag him down and drown his soul.
But for nine faithful saints,
the waters parted.
They walked through to safety.
They walked through to higher,
Photograph: Emanuel African-Methodist-Episcopal Church in Charleston, via Episcopal Café, which also has a brief history of the church.