the meaning of life

My life means nothing
to the world

White men still murder Black women
in church
even after sitting in their pews
Confederate flags still fly
at full mast
in the aftermath
Politicians still lie
with their black eyes
and gun powder lips
Dim-witted masses
still cheer wild and blind
for their Savior

They want me to think
my life means nothing
to the world
Their gnashing teeth savor
my beaten-down bones
and tired flesh
My fierce optimism and tender heart muscle
nourish the fiery acid
of their putrid bellies
like forsaken bodies
in concentration camp ovens

I will become poison in their bowels
refuse to break down
kick my way out the other end
intact and fortified
I will shake off their filth
like a muddied dog
The growing throng
of kind hands around me
will midwife my rebirth
the pushing out of this rotting membrane
of constriction and intimidation
I will continue to speak truth
now turned up louder
I have been forged in the crucible
of their patriarchal terror
their shortsighted self-serving

I am Bigger than that.
We are BIGGER than that.
They are a blip
on the radar screen of history
a burp
during a long banquet of progress
long view trajectory over time
of increasing freedom and equity
We are the future
we won’t live to see
it doesn’t matter because
to our children

I don’t know what happens when we die
no one does
those who profess this knowledge
accept a comforting deception
to stave off this uniquely human affliction
this recognition
we are mortal

if my life means nothing to the world
I will make it profoundly meaningful
to me
It will be a radiant statement
that NO I was not complicit
in our self-annihilation and
YES I was afraid but


I was not silent
and I did not lie

© S. Rinderle, 6/20/15

8 thoughts on “the meaning of life

  1. I am truly trying to find the words to comment on this piece, but language has gotten up and left. All I can do is nod my head over and over and over. This poem is that powerful. Thank you.

  2. Yup, I hear ya, friend.

    I also find myself hearing a great cry of hope and love in the way that community reacted, with love and forgiveness, I was more stunned by the community than appalled by the sad little guy who killed 9 of them.

    Maybe i am influenced by my life in a tradition which believes that pain can be redemptive, but I do believe that—emphasis on the “can”.

    Another nice irony which you may already know—the AME Church is quite really born out of racism and slavery, a fight involving a Methodist bishop who owned slaves (through his wife)—the African-American Methodists decided to form a “Church of their own”. My ex and I were very impressed at their hospitality when we went to their Churches (weddings & funerals, mostly). Exceptionally good folks, out of an exceptionally bed origin.



    • Thanks Friend! The poem started out pessimistic, then turned into something else! Thank you for adding to that glint of hope. And no I didn’t know the history of the AME church more broadly, thank you for enlightening me!

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