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Monday, December 17, 2012


by Diana Woodcock

"Jazz Beat" painting by Debra Hurd

What can I write to shed light
on this dark December night?
A Connecticut town grieves for
twenty-six dead—victims of the latest
school shooting.  Tibetans are setting
themselves on fire for freedom,
ninety-five since February, 2009.
Listening to musicians walking the bass,
feathering the line, I let the blues take me,
wrap me in the Great Mystery.

All are one, meant to sing and sway
together, to love.  The blues is all about
love, longing, loss, listening,
improvising, sharing our stories and
struggles, recognizing each other
as sister and brother.

Look into the faces around you
moved by music—see how they
seem familiar?  What better way
to pray for justice, an end to violence,
than to sway to the swing of jazz?

A Pakistani girl shot in the head
because the Taliban cannot understand
her hunger and yearning for higher
learning; they do not recognize
she is their sister.  Let the blues take me.
shape my prayer for peace, lead me
to transcend nihilism, alienation.

Listening to the blues, to the sounds of
migrant workers in this oil-rich desert town.
Thinking about blood diamonds,
underground railroads, women and girls
sold into the sex trade.

This is Advent season, time
for preparing for the light.
Long dark December nights.
Listen to the blues.  Gaza.  Aleppo.
Keep listening.  The call to prayer
mid-day, the mosque.  Revisionist
Zionist leaders.  Jihad.  Refugees.
Cambodian children amputees
still playing among landmines.

Dear jazz drummer, please
keep feathering the line.

Diana Woodcock’s first full-length collection, Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders—nominated for a Kate Tufts Discovery Award—won the 2010 Vernice Quebodeaux International Poetry Prize for Women and was published by Little Red Tree Publishing in 2011.  Her chapbooks are In the Shade of the Sidra Tree (Finishing Line Press), Mandala (Foothills Publishing), and Travels of a Gwai Lo—the title poem of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  She has been teaching at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar since 2004.  Prior to that, she lived and worked in Tibet, Macau and Thailand.