The Common Good
March-April 1996

Meditations on Breaking the Law

by Rose Marie Berger | March-April 1996

If we could split ourselves
If we could split ourselves
  like a crack in the cement
    (children's names written when wet
      a heart a flower a handprint)
  like that mystical bread
    (calloused hands holding up hunger
      and night sweats and the one we once loved) 

we would say in our first voice: Law 
          and Order out of Chaos
we would listen and obey what is right
  teach our children to look both ways
    (packing ourselves in a bubble
      paper wrap-safe for shipping 
        from this world to the next)
and this would be good and called for and proper

but sometimes we would say in our second voice: 
          Marcellus (age 9)
  Marquita (age 6) Titus (age 5) Regina (age 13)
    Debbie  Danisha  and  Diante
      it would be a candle song in the dark times 

  and when the winged parts of our democracy
    begin to topple off the pillars' heads
      crushing more than names on the threshing
        floor of the Rotunda

  and when to be a citizen is to be an autumn fawn
    caught at night in oncoming brightnesses

  and when the only hand that can reach out
    is the one that has already been reached to
      once before in a cold creek, in a white robe 

then indeed those hands must reach
because what seemed all order is chaos

it takes a delicate hand to hold the brush that daubs 
in the details of a country, a hand not weighted by a weapon 
(for such are the tools that construct chaos)

and yet with both tongues we would praise the balance-
that golden thread is all that holds us in the end

Rose Marie Berger is a pastor of Sojourners Community in Washington, D.C.

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