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I grieve the horrific mass shootings that occurred while I was recently out of studio. Had I been at home instead of traveling, I’d have offered you a timely word instead of material scheduled in advance. Even before my return, I was searching for what I might say.

What follows is part poem, part dream, part prayer, part invitation. It would probably work as a responsive reading. Feel free to adapt it for use in any group or community to which you belong.


Thus Will a Way Open

And we, the people, grow weary of the spilling of blood.

One by one, we lay ourselves down, right in the spot where we’ve been standing: country dwellers in the fields, town dwellers in the streets. We let our grief discharge into the ground. Our tears run in rivers. Our moaning and wailing shakes the earth. Our silent sorrows slip down into the crevices and break apart the rock.

And the ground cries with us.

We breathe our anguish into the skies. Awful sighs of despair claw out of our bellies and billow up into towering clouds, pushed around by wind.

And the heavens sigh with us.

We begin to sing—like confused angels, like scared children, like workers whose labor is hard, without end. The shared yearning in our singing wakes the birds, who take wing and spiral high above the trees. It wakes the fish, circling in the deep. It wakes every living thing.

And all the creatures sing with us.

We begin to reach up. We lift our hands. We lift our hearts and minds. We lift all the good we have left to lift. And what is lifted up in the fields is seen in the streets, and what is lifted up in the streets is seen in the fields, until this place and that place become one place.

And everywhere we rise.

The country dwellers take hold of the town dwellers, and the town dwellers take hold of the country dwellers. We pull one another onto our feet, and we bear one another up.

We hold on until our holding-on becomes a sacred dance.

And we, the people, do not let go.

We dance in our bloodstained schools. In our bloodstained stores. In our bloodstained houses of worship. In our bloodstained hospitals. In our bloodstained halls of power. In every bloodstained home.

We dance into every desolate space. Into the emptiest of hearts. Into the most indifferent, the most wounded and lost, the most lonely and afraid and angry. We dance even into the finger that itches on a trigger, to set it free.

Our dancing is a highway back from empty.

Step in. Step up. Step high. Step strong.

Thus will a way open, to end our spilling of blood.


Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash


Phyllis Cole-Dai

Phyllis Cole-Dai has authored or edited eleven books in multiple genres, including historical fiction, spiritual nonfiction and poetry. She lives in Brookings, South Dakota, USA.

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