Tuesday, May 12, 2020

"My Arms Are Empty"

My Arms Are Empty: A Song of Lamentation
for Ahmaud Arbery
When I saw him die
                                      I no longer
cared about the trembling    the tears
no one  walks these streets    except
the very few
                         and the solitary runners
choke me    I cannot breathe against
the rhythm sorrow beats into my

             I moved into the morning and I will
sit   against this tree
                                        seven days   they say
seven days of tattered shirts    I no longer
care    let the holes be seen   seven
times seven   I have found this place   and I will
         No    I cry   and   no    I whisper
and no one
                       cares that I am
become the Pietà without a child
even that  
                    even that
                                        And I hum   ‘Oh, Mary,
Don’t You Weep”  and she is now
                                                         here with me
saying    No   you will    you must   drain your heart
until the others come
                                    and the others will

This tree is not shelter   not from
the devouring fire    it burns
forever   and our scars
with the rage that cannot sound

when the others come
                                       I will
know that we will
                                  then unclench
our swollen fingers

Our hands will drum our sorrow
into this ground
                                Yes    I see
you glance at me    yes    I am
the one who whispers each
child’s name   if I cannot hold
them to my breast    I will
hold them with my song
live   child   you live
                                     and this
tree and I  will be the place where
no lie can live



  1. Joseph - another moving outcry speaking truth to anyone who will listen! Thank you again!

  2. The tree becomes the resting spot for grief...and a place to gather remembrance...thank you for these images.


  3. Joe, I thank you for sharing and inspiring me, and so many others to keep looking to the sky as hate continue to burn beneath our feet and shoot pain through our hearts.The hate that killed Ahmaud is rooted in the legacy of slavery; mankind's original " Sin against God".

  4. Joseph, this poem came on the day we end Nurses Week, because May 12th is the day of Florence Nightingale's birthday. Blend the themes of nursing and caring with your image of holding the grief and bearing witness at the foot of the cross, while in the torment of the moment, not aware that yes, in time, this death slowly raises up the value of the individual to new heights.

  5. Joseph, wow. Just another brilliant poem..."brilliant" in the sense of the bright warmth it brings to us.

  6. How wonderful, Fr. Brown. Thank you for the insightful poem. I could feel her pain.

  7. Beautiful poem Father Brown. So much symbolism to decode, I wish we could discuss this in class!

  8. This is so lovely and so painful. Thank you.