Peace is not a verb

New Orleans street art by Brandan Odums / Photo by Sasha Martin

Peace is not a verb

Peace does not twist or rush
between bodies of water or flesh;
There is no giving
or delivering of peace.

Peace is not the catch in a mother’s throat
before her scream scales the body
nor does it rise from vacant eyes

Peace does not love or die.

Peace does not lift,
does not hoist.
There are no weeds peace uproots
and replants with purpose.

Peace is not something I do to you
or force upon you;
Though a lover makes love
and a rapist rapes,
Peace is without clambering,
bargaining, begging for change.

Peace is the weed being the weed;
Peace is mourning all morning
– if that’s what’s to be done.
Peace is knowing things aren’t well
and scraping breath over lung anyway.

Peace is stillness in the storm –
Finding the eye, the gaze;
Lone requirement for clarity
Lone requirement for change.


This poem came to me last night. My cat had just brought in a mouse, which my husband and I proceeded to chase around the bedroom before we finally caught and released it. Afterwards, I couldn’t fall asleep. I lay there as these words swum in formation, not wanting to ruin the spell by getting up to find a pen. In the morning it was as vivid as ever.

This poem is the result of feeling helpless in the face of tragedy – watching people shoot, watching people hate, watching people judge. I want there to be peace, yet I can’t, like some fairy godmother, bestow this gift upon the world. There is so much hurt and we all have a stake in it.

I can love you, but I can’t peace you.
If I could, I would.

Here’s the important bit: Since peace is not a verb we must start by cultivating peace within. Finding inner peace helps us gain clarity and act with love in the face of tragedy. When we can see each other with clarity real change has a chance. Peace of this sort might even be contagious, but that cannot be the condition for seeking it.

All my love to you and yours,

P.S. Here’s a poster of the poem if you’d like to save or share it. The art is by Brandan Odums – I stumbled upon it in New Orleans during this summer’s road trip.

"Peace is not a verb" by Sasha Martin


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