THE GIFT OF MY HATE - Buddy Wakefield
At the Concert for New York City in Madison Square Garden five weeks after 9/11
Richard Gere stood in front of millions of viewers and said
We have the possibility to turn this horrendous energy we are all feeling
from violence and revenge
into compassion into love into understanding.*
as if to say,
We will not be caught dead acting like Jesus Christ.
As if Christ only published concepts he wanted us to thump instead of experience.
Granted, compassion is a wounded word. It gets
banged around in the junk drawer.
It is not an entitled driver. Would not survive in California.
Compassion is often the last player picked. So maybe Richard Gere
should have used the word rest to suggest that we curb the poison of reacting so fast.
But journalists insisted Richard Gere’s proposal for love and understanding
was the wrong time, wrong crowd, wrong message.
I remember being 27, watching this, feeling
like some fathers do not tell their children I am proud of you,
like an entire city had learned the language of a well-disguised suicide
smothered in clever headlines and a swarm of stagy news reporters
who failed to mention that a French man named Antoine Leiris
lost his wife and the mother of his child—
with whom he was madly in love—
to the terrorist attacks in Paris last week.
It was no more excruciating than what happened in Baghdad, Beirut
or the West Bank during the same 24 hours. The difference
is that five days later Antoine Leiris was the only man
to post a love letter for his son on the BBC,
an open message to those responsible for killing his wife.
He looked directly into their hungry little pain-bodies and told them
I won't give you the gift of hating you.
The insults that followed Antoine’s moment of peace made me realize
Love – wounded a word as it may be – Love can see all of it
but Anger – anger is only concerned with what it thinks is fair,
narrow like the barrel of the NRA,
like the blueprints to Russia’s femininity, to China’s childhood,
to North Korea’s private parts, to the bruised music of the Confederate flag states
still singing like a drunk Englishman in a Tibetan monastery, loudly, louder, Hey!
I’m the Over-Compensator! The Great Annihilator!
Cross me and you will know my pain!
In each of us
lives a small man
and an ego the size of
Why are we not fighting fire with water?
Compassion will not make us lazy.
It is okay to cross these borders. It is okay to stay awake
to love our own ignorance enough to look at it square in the wise guy,
in the bright side, at the parts we are terrified to acknowledge
because of the work it will probably cause us
because there is a chance we have been your own terrorists.
There is a chance we are a failed relationship.
There is a chance that every single day
we are the reason millions of animals actually weep before slaughter
and we do not get to make up for it by watching adorable YouTube videos
while stuffing our face with their death.
It is more than some sellable cliché that –
through these bodies – we are rooted to the same source,
that we have arrived on this planet to experience form.
Now that we’ve had some time to do that, please,
let us reintroduce the idea of questioning everything.
Excessive packaging. Planned obsolescence. Breeding... Planned obsolescence.
Identity. Fining people because they didn’t have enough money in the first place.
Anything impractical to the eradication of suffering.
Like denying refugees. Like putting a fence around freedom.
Like the oceans of care we keep for this world getting so landlocked in our chest
that when the answer tries moving over all the God dams built across our flooded hearts
to surprise us with consciousness
it might look like we are spitting back entitlements at the Earth.
Stand down. Stay still. Gather your wits. Find their ends.
Pull out the slack and say clearly
Go ahead. Call me another cliché.
Stick your violence in my meditation.
The worst you can do to me for not joining the gangland war on Christ’s behavior
is shoot me in the look on my face, the one that says, I am not afraid to understand you. Or to stop you.
In A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle calls us the noisiest humans in history.
Some things do not need to be fact-checked.
Stop backing up so loudly. You screaming siren on a cell phone.
You heavy-footed upstairs neighbors. Bloated bodies of anger
belting out boos the size of Madison Square Garden rejecting Richard Gere,
who I know very little about,
but who I suspect, like most humans, is part saint
part fraud, and who reporters had to admit rebounded rather nicely
when he acknowledged that what he had to offer was apparently unpopular right now—
Like taking away your child’s assault rifle.
Like the color white.
Like the color brown. Like supporting
the man in Nigeria who found the cure for HIV.
Unpopular is compassion. Like a savings account in Greece.
Like the topic of trafficking Stockholm Syndrome
all the way back from New York City to right here down the West of me
where I am determined to see all of it
because I don’t get to go blind again, not without
carving the word coward in holy brail on every pen I will ever use
to point out how pain cannot digest love. It works the other way. My body
no longer loves writing poems for mass consumption.
It does not believe in blowing apart.
But I am still right here behind its habits,
stacks of ground down teeth and a mashed-up forehead of rolling credits,
working to see all of it, which I suspect is more productive than giving you
the gift of my hate.
Buddy Wakefield is an American performance poet/slam poet. He is a two-time Individual World Poetry Slam Champion whose latest works have been released by Righteous Babe Records and Write Bloody Publishing. https://buddywakefield.com/