Brass Tacks – Poem (reblogged from

May 10, 2012 § 3 Comments

I am one who loves the process of learning. I’ve been hurt by the information gleaned in this process, more than once, but I don’t regret it.

(Human rights is a topic that can grant stories you’ll wish you could wish to forget. But you can’t.)

 I still welcome new ideas and new information, and I hope to meet them with discernment. However, I also recognize that it is a proclivity (subconscious?) among us, to at times prefer ignorance and the status quo above the inconvenience of a fact.

This poem is  meant to wake us if we’re humming in feigned ignorance around facts (i.e. brass tacks) that we cannot bare to believe. It’s here to ask us to listen and look for truth wherever it is, with real intent to listen, humbly, and to remember…not to just swallow what we’re told or stop with what we see in our tiny spheres. This is a task that requires us to seek with many versions of our eyes, and from many perspectives, time and time again. It’s a task that must be done with a strong heart.

“Getting down to the brass tacks.”

 It’s a saying the grandfathers would have used; striking deals for broken wheels on their handcarts or for hearty meals while they walked with sunken eyes shining.

If you reach the bare facts—the fundamentals of an issue—you’ve reached the brass tacks.

Yes, tacks:

Those penny pins, used to prick walls and hang like creeds the posters of our periodic table in the classrooms of our youth.

And brass:

Alloy of copper and zinc; maker of zippers and locks…the bullets of a loaded gun and ting ringing of a bell.

Brass tacks.

our palms will bleed as they sink in slowly.

Brass tacks puncturing our eyes and blinding us even to the pain it causes.

Brass tacks scattered on the paths we choose,

stuck in the rubber soles of our manufactured shoes—made we know not where, by whom, or how.

Brass tacks we compare to another’s—asking them to be the same, wanting them to be the same, and then screaming insane from the pain of no gain and hating to know that they’ll never…be…the same.

Brass tacks upturned on every letter of the sleep-deprived, masochism of a graduate student’s keyboard; typing truth as they know it now, while the child in the playground by the park plays Jacks with brass tacks and twigs for arms, preparing in years to come to type truth as they know it then.

You see, brass cannot rust.

So it shines bright on the red dust floor of the thatch-roofed home burned by rebels in the war.

And it clinks in the empty purse of the woman—worn, ravaged, and ripped by the rape that called her whore.

Clinks to the sound of her cadence—sharp enough to pierce the heart and bleed it dry, withered and crisp like a dessicated fly.

Soft enough that we never hear it in the drowning of our clinking coins.

Brass tacks in the beds we’ve made, which is where we’ll be laid, and our memories will fade.

Brass tacks all along the way—real or make believe, undenied or inconcieved.

Brass tacks we can use to scratch the surface, if we choose.


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§ 3 Responses to Brass Tacks – Poem (reblogged from

  • Thanks for sharing this beautiful poem, for which I obviously have a soft spot.
    You’re absolutely right that aid workers have an immense responsibility to handle these tough situations with care because our presence as outsiders can and often does provide opportunities for people to tell their stories of suffering. It takes effort to cultivate and hone our ability to carry this burdensome, sacred role and work hard not to project or protect our feelings over another’s.
    With your permission, I’d love to share this next Friday on

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