We’d already earned our security
before turning to divine grace, but it
arrived anyway, putting us to shame.
The shame didn’t hurt us half as much as
we hurt others—like absolution from
a sin, it sat on us gently. But I beg you
to let me pay, to let me suffer well
the chains and obstacles I allowed you
to bear, torture me with reparations.
Compared to yours, this pain will seem too brief
as if a get-out-of jail-free game card
but I beg it of you anyway, please.
Amazing Grace, how sweet reprieve should be
and yet without a way out of the tree
of knowledge, I cannot ever be free.
I know some in my tribe laugh at us both
for letting them profit and forgiving
too, but I want surcease of pain, I want
the difficult friendship that arises
when pity dies, and we wash in riversof forgetfulness side by side by side.
Copyright © 2016 Susan L. Chast
"Amazing Grace" was written by a reformed British slave trader in 1779:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.
"John Newton wrote the words from personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction, but his life's path was formed by a variety of twists and coincidences that were often put into motion by his recalcitrant insubordination. He was pressed (conscripted) into service in the Royal Navy, and after leaving the service, he became involved in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel off the coast of County Donegal, Ireland, so severely that he called out to God for mercy, a moment that marked his spiritual conversion. He continued his slave trading career until 1754 or 1755, when he ended his seafaring altogether and began studying Christian theology." (Wikipedia)