Divided, Standing

March 30, 2017

I haven’t been writing much lately. No poems or journal entries. A few social media posts that mostly quote other people. It’s okay to be fallow every once in a while, so I’m trying to enjoy the silence. This poem is one of the last things I wrote before the words evaporated, written on Veteran’s Day, a few days after the election. My dad is a Vietnam vet, and thinking about him and his experiences was especially poignant this year. Whether the last lines are optimistic or pessimistic I will leave for you to decide. They haven’t settled one way or the other for me yet.


we are not the first to be divided

we stand on the bloody inheritance
of separation–
dark eyes fleeing ash and rubble,
human cargo in boxcars
divided between ovens and starvation,
lines drawn in Selma
that still live in hearts

we are not the first to be divided

before us was Berlin, walled
Korea, divided
Jerusalem in quarters
smoke covering the green of Ireland
heads rolling from the guillotine in Paris
a Confederacy, seceding
colonies with a declaration
that all men are created equal

the prophet Isaiah,
who spoke of beauty for ashes,
placed in a hollow tree
and sawn asunder

we are not the first to be divided

division itself being prerequisite to life,
the genome incapable of reproduction
without a thorough and complete
and birth itself
a violence

we are not the first to be divided

but do not speak to me yet of unity,
as though it were possible for a mosaic
to exist without lines

speak to me instead
of survival among the severed

give me time to find the edge
of this wound

we are not the first to be divided

a desolate truth
offering the only hope we have:
that we will live
to see another breaking

Melissa Y.

(Emerita) is a native of Utah and lives in Mapleton with her husband and four children. She currently teaches English at BYU's English Language Center (for non-native speakers learning English) and also works with Project Read, which focuses on adult illiteracy.


  1. Reply


    March 30, 2017

    Hauntingly beautiful, Melissa. Yes to times of fallow in writing and other pursuits.

    • Reply

      Melissa Y

      March 30, 2017

      Thank you, Sage

  2. Reply


    March 30, 2017

    I am basically optimistic, but I read your beautiful poem after reading some horrifying news reports (which I generally avoid, because it makes me so sad) and right now, I’m not so sure about Unity being a possible (much less probable) outcome. Our country, our planet, our church, our families —
    all seem deeply divided right now. I do maintain this hope, though, based on my perceived reality — while the chasm between “good” and “evil” is growing, the good feels stronger, more likely to “win.”. I’m betting my life on it.