Friday, May 10, 2013

sunday morning slam

Last month I shared poems written during Religious Education classes at my UU congregation; last week you got poems in the key of kindergarten.  This week I can leap off from both those points to share a piece from a couple of Sundays ago at the annual Youth Service, where high-schoolers take the whole service and the seniors leave us something of themselves and then cross over into young adulthood.

There are always impressive performances of various kinds at the Youth Service:  musical offerings, reflections, skits, dance numbers, and yes, poetry.  But I was surprised this year when senior Alek Zherka stepped away from the lectern and delivered a subtly powerful performance of his piece, "Strive to Be Me."  I wish I could share with you a video of his moment--it was brief, since he didn't include the long last section--but it sure sounded like a poem to me, and that's what Alek calls it. You'll see that it doesn't look on paper [or on screen] the way I expected it to when I wrote to ask for a copy.  Still, while Alek's delivery wasn't showy or stagey, he moved to the composed music of his words and created, for me anyway, an experience that was Louder Than a Bomb.

Strive to Be Me | Alek Zherka
Where is home? Home is where your heart is. The size of one's fist, yet it has so many parts that very few can list. The wrist up, seems pretty small, but it answers the call when you call on it to keep you living; breathing the same air that Lincoln breathed while thinking how to bring two halves to make a whole. One plus one is two, or so I've been told. Are we different, him and I? His goals aren’t mine, because his are his and mine are mine. Mine are for me and me only. That’s why I strive to be me.

Why can’t addicts stop? Why do kids want to be cops? Why do people destroy one another just to reach the top? Because that’s life, no meaning, just meanness; madness yes, but seamlessly so. The to and fro, the ying and yo, of the daily life we live. Living is seeing, and seeing is believing. Therefore people live to believe. That’s why I strive to be me.

How does one define the value of a life? Is it what one can give to a wife? He buys a diamond, stained with blood. Every kiss begins with slave. Taken away, over the waves, to a cave. Mining them, cutting them. Cutting fingers. The children’s screams linger. It's daunting, forever haunting those who know. But the feelings go, when one sees the bright shine of a diamond. So we say never forget, but we never do anything, something we say we will forever regret. But in reality we barely care. Girls will always want a reason to do up their hair. So a diamond is bought without a thought, it is always sought by those who ought to know not. So the small kids rot away, day by day. That’s the value of a life. The couple is forever happy under the sun. The kids can’t remember the last time they had fun, or even saw the sun. Does the ring fit? The closest thing is a candle once lit. If it doesn’t fit don’t fret, a new one only costs four kids. Next time you see one, a diamond that is, think of me, think of this. I hope I have made some difference today, talking about those not yet free. That’s why I strive to be me.
I'm thinking a lot about slam poetry this week because I've organized the annual visit of Gayle Danley to Daisy's school for a performance and workshops, and then Teacher Appreciation Week isn't complete without another viewing of Taylor Mali performing "What Do Teachers Make?"

The Poetry Friday round-up this week is at Booktalking with Anastasia, I think...


  1. Powerful.

    "people live to believe" -- YES.

  2. Very powerful poem you're sharing with us today, Heidi! I imagine seeing Alek perform it must have been heartrending. "Next time you see one, a diamond that is, think of me, think of this." -- I will!

    (I got a little bogged down in the "why do kids want to be cops" line, because it sounded like he was saying it was meanness. So I was like, "Wait, what?" and that interrupted my flow, but the rest was amazing.)

  3. Powerful! Thanks for participating in Poetry Friday! (at today

  4. I haven't seen much poetry slam, but it seems to be a different way to present poetry, much more rhythmic, rap-like. This poem is powerful in its message. I can hear the performance when I read it. Thanks for sharing.


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