Covenanting Justice. Covenanting Joy. by Margot Van Sluytman

MargotJustice as a lived and living experience is a poem. Is a song. And as a song it is filled with all manner of rhythm, of texture, and of sound via melody and lyric which affects us in an infinity of ways. The voice of poetry is the voice of The Song of Songs. It is a voice of invitation. Chapter Two of The Song of Songs is an invitation to strangers to Scripture. Strangers who want to feel a rhythm of joy, of loving embrace of tender and generous welcome. The gravity of the language is its graceful invitation to be seen, to be gazed at, to be heard.

My own vocation as a Sawbonna/Restorative Justice practitioner and a Therapeutic Writing facilitator, has blessed me with the opportunity to share words, via Word, in many different places and spaces around the Globe. The word that I use for justice as a lived and living experience is: Sawbonna. Sawbonna is a Zulu greeting that means I see you. You see me. I hear you. You hear me. Sawbonna contextualizes Restorative Justice in the crucible of our connectedness. Sawbonna, which is the essence of Chapter Two of The Song of Songs, clears the way for engagement, via words, with Word.

The piece of poetry that I have written is inspired by and infused by this Chapter. I invite you read it out loud and in the silence of your heart. I invite you to select a word or a phrase or an image that touches your heart of justice, justice as community, as kinship, as generous, as challenging, as provocative, as enflaming. As Wild-Womyn, as Wild-Men, who refuse the oft-times limited and limiting canons of what “faith” tries to tell us of who and how we are. When that word or phrase or image finds you, let your pen dance upon the blank page or blank screen. And in that dance with your words, speak your voice of justice. Speak your voice of joy. Speak your voice of Sawbonna. Invite your “Beloved” Source/God/Creator, however you understand that concept, to pen with and through you.

In the wild nights of shadowed-longing,
Of prescient grace, dwells my Beloved’s
Leaping voice. She who bathes me in
Light, sweetening my hair with Her
Perfumed justice, speaks me,
Sings me, invites me. “Arise, my love,
My fair one, and come away. For now
The winter is past.” Into Her beckoning
Embrace I delight, for She nourishes me
With Her tenderness, with Her warmth.
She sustains me. And guides. Where
Once only bitter balm fed my starved
Penchant for knowledge, She plucks fine fruits,
From bending branches. She feeds me.
And the day breathes. And shadows flee.
The scales of justness birth resplendent glory.
I am restored. I am reformed.
I am transformed, for my Beloved
Divines splendor. Divines healing.
And now hope resounds in my once
Too, too heavy-laden heart.

© Margot Van Sluytman, February 2015


Margot Van Sluytman is an award-winning poet, lecturer, Sawbonna/Restorative Justice practitioner, and therapeutic writing mentor. Her talks and workshops are shared around the globe, most recently at Cambridge and Durham Universities, UK. Her published books include: Sawbonna: A Real Life Restorative Justice Story; The Other Inmate: Poetry and Workbook for Restorative Practices; Dance With Your Healing: Tears Let Me Begin to Speak ; and, Somewhere Beyond: Poems Dancing With Godde, God, Pilgrimage, and Pulsating Love. While working on her second Master’s Degree in Theology, her first MA was in Integrated Arts Studies with a focus on Sawbonna/Restorative Justice and Therapeutic Writing, she decided that that school and environment of the that theology school were not in sync with feminism and far too androcentric. She left. Margot, whose Spirit Name is, RavenSpeaks, believes that the personal, the public, and the political are symbiotic siblings. 

Categories: General, Justice, Poetry, Relationality, Women for Peace

Tags: , , ,

6 replies

  1. Happily, some High School students in my previous town have initiated a Restorative Justice model and it’s spread to adults working in law enforcement and the court system. It’s very much a part of First Nations culture and is being revived there. I’m happy to have the word “Sawbona” which seems to sing.

    The first reading for tomorrow’s liturgy in the RC is an address by Moses in Dt 4. No where does he say: “Obey the law or you’ll go to hell and burn for all eternity”. Rather he presents the law as a gift to help people become wise. We’ve married law to the British system of obedience or punishment. Other systems focus on restoring people to the community.

    Thank you for sharing your poem and your work Margot. May it flourish!


  2. Thanks, Margot, for your poem, and for sharing that amazing, Sulu expression — Sawbonna! — and how much that says, really, and so deeply — “I see you.”


  3. Beautiful and inspiring! Thank you!


    • Dear Elizabeth, Thank you for your kind words. The moment I see the word “inspiring” I think of breath and breathing. Thank you for using that word.


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