As Long As It Takes — a poem

“They always say that time changes things,

but you actually have to change them yourself.”

— Andy Warhol

As Long As It Takes

Frogs 2 not listening
Coming next blog: Meet a passionate frogger–but not the sort who spears anything:  Dedicated to leading Amphibian Surveys, Ann Kastberg’s enthusiasm gets people out and into the wonder.

As long as it takes
As long as voices need to speak
As long as people feel unheard
As long as someone’s history
lies buried under other’s dreams
As long as someone in the room keeps moving
won’t pause or open eyes
to see us waiting
As long as some in the room stand in charge
make demands
without listening to raised hands
As long as Russia wants and wants
and the USA, too, and soil
blows into dust
and muscles in the young man’s arm
fail to move
As long as we walk in opposite directions
nod a non-okay
too weary to negotiate
As long as we look to the pulpit
rather than cultivate our own
As long as it takes, as long as we need
this land, its people, this vacant corner lot
voices over decades
laws that kept skin out of Oregon
As  long as it takes is worth the wait
As long as it takes
let us listen
let us wait
until the unheard voices
enrich these soils.

Deborah Brink Woehrmann
after the PAALF-led Visioning Sessions in Northeast Portland, Oregon
March 5, 2014

PAALF = Portland African American Leadership Forum

When plans for Trader Joe’s move into the neighborhood hit the papers, this organization questioned the sale of city land at a discount. They also question the use of this long-vacant lot for a corporate-owned store and continue to ask for more low-income housing as priority. In particular, the Leadership Forum wants avenues for previous residents of the Northeast neighborhoods to be able to afford to move back. The history here in Northeast Portland is painful, and voices want to be heard.

Another group of locals spent lots of time planning toward a more vital business-community in this area–some of them small-business owners: They also want to be heard now.

For more details, check out the Oregonian article’s linked below. So far, no resolution. Two Visioning Sessions brought a bunch of people into one room for hot discussion and some listening–and (we were told) a third should happen in late-March or early-April. The city hired Resolutions Northwest to facilitate the second meeting!

It all reminds me how tough it can be to simply listen. Lots of trouble happens when we don’t. . .

Notes: Since posting, more conversation has happened. If interested, check out the March 10, WW article below.

MLK Vacant lot


“Mayor Charlie Hales is Pushing a Revived Trader Joe’s Deal on MLK Boulevard

UPDATE: PDC pledges $20 million for affordable housing.” Aaron Mesh.  Willamette Weekly, March 10, 2014.

“Portland African American Leadership Forum to host second community meeting Tuesday.” Andrew Theen. March 4, 2014.

“PAALF meeting brought together supporters, detractors of Trader Joe’s project in NE Portland.” Andrew Theen. Feb. 26, 2014.

“Trader Joe’s pulls plug on Northeast Portland development after ‘negative reactions’ from community.” Andrew Theen. Feb.3, 2014.

“Portland African American Leadership Forum says displacement, not Trader Joe’s, focus of ire.” Casey Parks.  Feb. 3, 2014

“Trader Joe’s decision to pull out of NE Portland leaves neighbors, opposition dissatisfied.” Casey Parks. Feb. 3, 2014

5 Replies to “As Long As It Takes — a poem”

  1. I love this poem and the reminder that for the many important things that matter to us, bringing about change can take as long as it takes – we need to be in there for the long haul.

  2. “As long as someone’s history
    lies buried under other’s dreams”–I love this line…thank you Deborah.

  3. Thank you for these words, Deborah. A powerful poem for a difficult topic. Thank you for reflecting deeply on current events.

    1. Thank you all–and to those of you who encouraged me to share this poem! Thank you each for the good work you do in the world!

  4. A good reminder that we have more responsibility than we sometimes want to admit to create a humane environment for ourselves. We must speak out and act.I really like this poem.
    Glenna Cook

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