Ruth

(For George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, 
Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and the countless others.) 
 
I want to tell their stories, 
remind the world  
how they were 
murdered by the system,  
but when I try, all 
I can think of is 
Ruth. 
 
The whitest white and the 
blackest black are found 
in churches and their 
affiliated colleges.  
I remember three Black 
people in the entire school 
my freshman year,  
and one was my 
assigned roommate, 
Ruth.  
 
I was 18. Twelve hundred 
miles from home.  Everything 
seemed strange, but Ruth seemed 
strangest of all.  I was homesick. 
I was sheltered. I was incapable 
of seeing beyond a self I barely 
knew, and I devised a way  
(it wasn’t hard) to get reassigned,  
moved away from  
Ruth.   
 
Every justification 
I can offer (and I’ve made 
a long list over the years) 
drips with privilege. 
Poor white girl far 
from home, feels 
uncomfortable, and every 
administrative cog in a  
great machine lurches  
into action to set things  
right for her.  

I was unawake,  
but aware enough to be 
embarrassed.   
Every time I saw Ruth,  
she gave a sincere smile,  
and she waved  
and she said hi, 
and she acted like 
nothing had happened, 
and I would feel  
the disgrace 
anew.     
 
I silently bore the shame 
of my inadequacy. 
It was my secret.  
 
Years later, I 
finished two degrees 
at an HBCU across  
town, “the Black school.”   
I learned the  
greater part of all  
I know from Black  
scholars.  I got smart 
enough to shut up 
and listen, to observe, 
and to learn. 
 
Then I began teaching 
at my alma mater, 
and to my knowledge, 
not one of the Black  
students in my classes 
ever asked to be reassigned,  
moved away from  
me.   
 
In order to share the 
Story of Tamir and 
Alton and Ahmaud, 
I have to start with  
Ruth, and I have to 
understand that the 
same system that  
killed them is the one 
that found a new 
roommate for 
me.  
 
If I could find Ruth, I would  
fall to my knees and 
beg her forgiveness. 
And the Ruth I remember 
would give it, I have 
no doubt.   
I have looked for 
her and I have hoped 
for a chance to 
be absolved. 
 
It has not arrived, 
and I’m glad it hasn’t,  
for I need to stay 
unpardoned, 
unacquitted.   
That is the energy 
that fuels me now. 
Ruth owes me  
nothing.  I owe her 
a lifetime of fighting 
the unpardonable.   
 
I don’t equate  
my actions with a boot 
in the neck, but I have  
come to accept they 
are siblings. 
Were they not, Eric and  
Philando and Michael  
would not have  
told me from the grave 
that I have to start  
with the story of 
Ruth.  



© 2020 Deb Moore, All Rights Reserved 

Sunday Morning

As a child, it was a fishbowl.
Any misdeeds in among the
second graders would
reach my mother’s ears
before the benediction
like a miracle.
After, at home, the
roastpotatoescarrots
were served with a side
dish of solemn reminders to
act like the example I
was ordained to be.

It has, at times, been a job
in my adulthood.
Greeter every first and third
or standing with the altos.
Season after season
of Easter musicals and
Thanksgivings and
Christmas carolings.
One stint on the board, oh
god, and that’s enough
to make the Apostle
Paul lose his religion.  

At times I actually believed it
all. Other times I’ve
seen the whole works
as a chalice filled with
snake oil. God loves me
could be replaced
the following week
with all the reasons
she might not. Even
still, I never felt
forsaken.

My heart still loves
the mystery, though
my sacrament is
usually now a biscuit
and a cup of tea.
What I believe is not
as small as what I know,
but close.
The uncertainty
and unknowing have
grown into the most
beautiful portions of this
holy journey.  

On a Sunday morning,
my face is not likely
to darken any door
unless brunch is being
served. But somehow I still
hold sacred the idea
that I am an example (I
think it’s why I teach). It
gleams as brightly in my
memory as the reflection of
stained glass morning light in
black patent leather shoes.
So I try to do what’s right,
and if they have it,
I’ll order the roast.  

© 2020 Deb Moore,  All Rights Reserved

Fighting the Good Fight

All right, I know I haven’t blogged in, like, forever.  Hey, school’s out for summer.  And besides, it’s too damn easy to throw a quick observation onto Facebook.  But this past week has offered the perfect opportunity for me to get a good rant on.

I’ve been inundated with Jesus freaks this week.  The weather report in Mt. Juliet:  It’s raining Christians (Hallelujah).

Item 1:  Wednesday afternoon.  I was coming out of Target.  Two middle-aged men wearing golf casual clothing and looking incredibly Republican approached me.  One held out a pamphlet and said, “I’d like to give you some information about a local church.”  I started to reach out my hand (a natural impulse when someone hands you something), but then held it up in an Indian “How” posture.  “No, thanks,” I said, smiled and kept walking.

Item 2:  Friday morning.  I was sitting at my desk working when the dogs started barking their fool heads off and somewhere in the midst of all the growling I heard the doorbell ring.  I answered the door (still in my pajamas, mind you) to two people who I KNEW, before they even opened their mouth, were Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They tried to make small talk about my dogs.  You know, door-to-door saleman rule #1: Get them to like you.  Finally I said, “What can I help you with?”  The woman held out a pamphlet.  (Apparently, no one is getting into heaven unless they have a pamphlet.)   I read the headline as she spoke.  It said, “Will you survive the end of the world?”  Since there could have been a slight chance they were environmentalists, I let her speak for a few sentences until her motive became clear.  At her next breath, I interrupted her.  “I don’t proselytize my religion, and I would appreciate it if you gave me the same respect.”   They smiled, said okay, and left.  I think maybe they were pretty used to this response.

Item 3:  Thursday afternoon.  I pick up The Chronicle of Mt. Juliet, our local free weekly newspaper, from the end of the driveway and bring it in to my desk.  On the cover is a blurb which says, “Calling all clergy: The City of MJ needs You (Page 5).”   I was intrigued.  On page five I learned that the city leaders of my little burg were holding a “special city update brief for leaders of all Mt. Juliet churches.”   It was announced that this update would include information on police activities, infrastructure work, finances, and economic development, among other local issues.  The Mt. Juliet City Manager, Randy Robertson, was quoted saying the reason for this meeting was that “these men and women touch and influence the fabric of our city.”

Of course, I fired off a letter to the editor of the Chronicle jumping up and down about the First Amendment and the Jeffersonian principle of separation of church and state.    I argued that this kind of “exclusive” offered to church leaders in a city with an overwhelming preponderance of protestant Christian churches was a de facto “estalishment of religion.”  I wondered in print why the city leaders couldn’t simply hold a town hall meeting open to ALL citizens interested in local politics.   I reminded city leaders that there were indeed those of different religions or even no religion who also constituted the “fabric of our city.”

Now, all we have to do is wait and see if they print it.  Publication of such a letter in this neck of the woods is certainly not a given.

(Sigh.)  I really want to like Christians.  But, they don’t make it easy sometimes.