Ministry of Poetry

by Frederick Drew Robinson
Otisville Worship Group


Many times I feel that I am carrying a heavy stone that I cannot put down. It feels eerily like the same stone my African ancestors carried when they first came to these shores. In my spirit I can hear them groaning under its weight.


This of course is both a past and a present day grief. I am dismayed that so many years later, and now with a terrible health crisis disproportionately affecting my people, we still find ourselves in a similar situation.


I have lost dear friends to COVID-19. Some died in prison, others did not. I felt helpless to find adequate words to comfort their surviving loved ones. I eulogized them in a poem, on page 4. The pandemic has made me intensely aware that my personal loss is miniscule compared to what the world is losing; the loss of human capital, the loss of decorum and civility in our politics, culture and interpersonal relationships — as well as the loss in some cases of our reliance on faith.


Overall, what has been revealed to me is how fragile this thing called life is and how we are all interconnected in our striving for peace, justice, joy, love, harmony and dignity.


I have had to let go of petty disagreements and worries. I have had to let go of impatience and the feeling that I must always be right and in control. I have had to let go of thinking that I have to have all the answers — because if this pandemic has shown us anything it has shown us that no one has all the answers. And, I have had to let go of the fear of death.


Yet, what has lifted me up is my reliance on faith and my personal relationship with the Divine Spirit. I know that GOD is alive and active in the affairs of his children, and though the trajectory of human history was never straight, there have been and will continue to be crucial moral lessons that GOD is teaching us.


This pandemic will pass as have those that came before it but the true vaccine for all our ills will be peace on earth.


It was the Quaker testimony of peace that attracted me to The Religious Society of Friends and those I have met who share this fervent belief have strengthened and sustained me in good and bad times. I have lost much contact with my birth family but they have become my new one. My only disappointment is that being incarcerated I cannot commune and worship with the larger body of Friends who I know continue to pray for me and hold me in the Light.




by Frederick Drew Robinson


For those who walked this planet wide

Who now have crossed the huge divide

and sit where only gods reside

we pray for your safe passage


For those of us now left alone

who grieve with heavy hearts of stone

your absence we do now bemoan

and miss your presence dearly


For those who fought the battle great

when strength and courage could not wait

to tempt the fickle hands of fate

when danger came a-calling


For those of us who knew you well

your stories we will live to tell

how great the power in the spell...

of the magic you bestowed us


For those who seek to reason why

that some must live while others die

we have no choice now but to try

and search for Heaven’s meaning


And those whose lives were filled with hate

know when you stand at Heaven’s gate

that all the venom which you spate

negates your true redemption


But for those who lived a life of peace

know that our efforts shall not cease

until the bonds of love increase

for those who know God’s blessing


So now for those we say hold fast

we will unite with those who passed

as Gabriel’s horn sounds one sweet blast

and angels come a-calling!


For Benjamin Smalls, d. 5/04/20, aged 72, while waiting to hear about medical parole


Join the Inside-Outside Letter Writing Collective

Connecting incarcerated Friends with outside Quakers

Visit or write to Judy Meikle at the yearly meeting office (15 Rutherford Place, New York, NY 10003)