My Prayer (August, 1980)

OzBy Oz Cole-Arnal, former professor emeritus at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary

In his work on his manuscript-size memoirs, charting a life between the two Poor Peoples Campaigns, Oz Cole-Arnal (photo right) has reached the decade of his early to latter ’40s, the most broken period of his 78 years. He recounts betraying virtually all his values, barely able to sustain his faith & vision toward radical equality, stumbling along in brokenness, hurting all those he loved most.  One help in such tumbling was the turning to poetry, which he has rediscovered & re-absorbed. This is the first of two poems to be posted on RadicalDiscipleship.net. 

Agonizing over bills, wanting more money, always more.
  Always hungry, often empty, craving the offered promises.
              Success, manhood, recognition, love,
              Happiness in pills, food, the quick win, casual sex.
              I deplore it, yet want it all.
                             Forgive my bourgeois ways!

Will I consume ideals?  Will articulating utopias feed the poor?
Exchange of ideas; titillation of debate, this luxury of the few,
              Categorizing the oppressed,
              Castigating the system,
              Guilt instead of change.
                             Forgive my bourgeois ways!
Half my prison, always my reality, this world of the middle class.
May its curse become a blessing; its gifts become its tasks–
              Ideas as well springs of resistance.
              Listening ears combating the cheapness of words,
              One protest confronting fear-blanketed smugness,
                             In order to forgive my bourgeois ways.
I am bourgeois–awful mingling of blessing and curse,
Indebted to others for my freedom; condemned while others remain enslaved.
              Let me know myself step by step,
              See my limits; give of my strength,
              Join with others to transform the earth,
                             And thus change my bourgeois ways.

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