I’m the last person to write about the quality of anyone’s poetry, though I did go through my e.e. cummings, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Hughes, Bukowski, and Emily Dickinson phase many, many years ago. Still, every once in a while a poem, or even a snippet of one whacks me upside the head.

That’s what happened the other night.  Went to see Superior Donuts at the Lyric Stage Company in Boston. (http://www.lyricstage.com/)  In the front of the playbill, the poet Countee Cullen was quoted:

So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds,

And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds.

At first I naturally applied the words to the play’s action and meaning.  The bottled-up pain each of the characters carried–the bottled-up hurt, desperation and hidden hopes each of us carry.

Then I flashed on a recent post (three before this one called WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME–01/23/2012) where I wrote about my concern for the Third World and the tragedies people living there face every day of their lives.  Do they harbor “seeds?”  Do they dream of a time with a better life?  A time with more?  Then I looked up Countee Cullen’s life and decided that Third Worlders must.  Cullen obviously had a different kind of struggle, a Black man born in 1903, abandoned by his mother, orphaned at nine when his grandmother died, became a recognized poet whose work lives on to this day.  That could not have occurred without the man clinging to his ‘agonizing seeds.’

Many of us Progressives who have more than either Cullen or people in the Third World, still live with hearts that bleed plenty–for ourselves and our times.

Many of my friends believe that we as a nation have no place to slide except down.  They see our economy as buttressed by smoke and mirrors, the hopes we held in the 60s shattered, the dystopian violence depicted in movies and television either a reflection of what is or a harbinger of what’s to come.  That sooner rather than later the ‘haves’ will have completely, swallowing those that don’t–even the middle class.

I understand their thinking.  It’s the part of my heart that “bleeds.”  But I prefer tending to my “agonizing seeds.”

I believe our world can and will become a better place for those with less.  It’s happened before.  The Great Depression were cataclysmic years where most people had little in which to hope.  Yet here we are, economically and even culturally better off.  True, the basic power paradigm of the country remained the same, still I doubt you’d find too many people who preferred living in the 1930s than the late 40s, early 50s.

It might be more difficult now to tend our “agonizing seeds.”  We are no longer isolated from the rest of the world, in fact, so closely intertwined with other nations that a troubled European economy has the potential to tsunami us.  And even with these interlocks we continue to consistently ignore or abuse countries that have the greatest needs.

Only, what if we turned the preceding paragraph on its head?  What if we take the word ‘difficult’ and replace it with ‘possible?’

Yes, it’s a gargantuan task.  Progressives live in a society that still rejects evolution, censors textbooks, continues its institutional racism (despite a Black president), and shovels money to the rich and powerful at a ferocious rate of speed.

But has there been a better time to realign the paradigm?   Certainly the Internet brings the people of the world together–not simply governments.  Just look at its effect upon the course of the Arab Spring or The Occupy Movement.  Change is in the air.  The only question is what kind of change will it be–floating with Greenpeace boats or…

And when Progressives put our voices together and no longer allow minor ideological differences to keep us apart, to speak to those who, up until now, we have ignored, this country will change for the better.  And progressive change here means change throughout the world.

So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds,

And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds.

We need not simply “tend to our agonizing seeds.”  It’s time to plant.  We need not “hide the heart that bleeds,” but show it to everyone we can.  Each of us to do and say who we are, what we believe in.

It’s too late in the day to suffer in silence.

Cory Booker: Enthusiasm doesn’t come by chance, it is generated by choice.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.