Good Trouble

            for Congressman John Robert Lewis (1940-2020),
                after Isaiah 11:1-9

A shoot came out from the stump of slaves
       and a branch from the roots of sharecroppers
The spirit of the divine rested upon him
       the spirit of wisdom and understanding
       the spirit of counsel and might
He did not judge by what his eyes saw
       or decide by what his ears heard

              We Serve Whites Only
              Whites Only Beyond This Point
              Colored Only Served in Rear
              No Dogs, No Negroes, No Mexicans, No Jews

but with righteousness he judged the poor
       and decided with equity for the meek of the earth

              Peace cannot exist where justice is not served

He struck the earth with the rod of his mouth

              Get in good trouble, necessary trouble
              and help redeem this country’s soul
              When you see what is not right
              not fair
              not just
              you have to speak up
              You have to move your feet
              Never be afraid to make some noise

Righteousness was the belt around his waist
       faithfulness was the belt around his loins
and freedom was the robe upon his shoulders
       worn in pulpits and on the streets
       worn at lunch counters not meant for his kind
       worn in forbidden seats on public buses
       worn across the bloody Edmund Pettus Bridge
       worn in beatings, in shackles, in jails
       worn for the March on Washington
       worn straight into the halls of Congress

The wolf shall live with the lamb
       and the leopard shall lie down with the kid

              It’s not enough to just dream
              You get out and push
              And you pull
              And you preach
              And you get men and women
              of goodwill
              to act

The cow and the bear shall graze
       and the lion shall eat straw like the ox

              Create a society at peace with itself
              We all live in the same house

       and a little child shall lead them

              You are the light
              Never let any person or force
              dampen or diminish it

They will not hurt or destroy
       on all this holy mountain

              Release all bitterness
              Hold only love and peace in your heart
              Lay down the burden of hate and division
              It’s too heavy a burden to bear

For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the divine
       as the waters cover the sea

              We have been too quiet for too long
                      This is the time

Play Notes: I felt a tremendous loss when I heard that Representative John Robert Lewis had died last Friday. He was a vital force for good and "the conscience of the Congress" to the very end. One of his favorite biblical passages was Isaiah 11:1-9. To form the core of this poem, written in homage to him, I decided to interweave some of that passage with his own words. In a way, this is yet another "response poem." Have you tried one of your own yet?