for Prince, in the style of Diane Wakoski
Peace Doves art installation seen in the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool in July 2021.
The doves - perhaps they are harbingers – float ever upward, touching the clouds.
Our lives are made of minutes and seconds that define us. As we are formed of and by the world, the dove is molded and shaped by the sky. Like all things of this world, the dove eventually floats back to earth. It does not share the lessons it learns as feathers brush heaven. The stories they carry go with them into the grave, where they are lost – the wisdom we might have found forever silenced.
So, what do we say of the life of a dove? Did our sweet Prince ask us to help him get through “this thing called life,” or did he instead break through the barrier of bird and man teaching us how to live, teaching us how to die?
Dear sweet Prince, you lived and died in a world that was often unkind to a boy who grew up on the streets in a land that treated little boys with dark curls and sparkling eyes as public enemies. You turned to music and found refuge, but even then, you were slapped back and slapped down. You stayed longer than most.
I wonder if you know what happened when you died? People who had barely knew you; who had never danced to notes you played; who had dismissed you when you changed your name as you quested to reconnect with the divine; who had never felt the Spirit move in every lyric, claimed you in the same way the recording studios once did. They took to the streets and suddenly you replaced Dylan as the hometown boy. In death they accepted you, but too often they denied you when breath was in your lungs. Even in death, they were quick to judge. They pointed at the drugs that corrupted your blood, and used them as weapons to limit your life. But those of us who found you decades before, did not all meet on the street to mourn. For some of us, our grief was too profound. How could we survive? Our Prince died broken and alone.
We called you many names when you lived. You were Christopher Tracy. and we escaped with you into fantasy to escape pain. We followed when you showed us how to live life not by the terms other people placed, but by our own truths. You taught us authenticity. You showed us hope. You modeled resiliency. You paved a path from the Pit up into heaven. To others, you were the Kid, and they tried to cleanse their souls in the chilly waters of Lake Minnetonka, never realizing that they stood on the banks of the River Styx.
Your voice echoes in the chambers of our hearts. We watched you live a life based on the divine dove who came to die and redeem. You took us down to The Holy River, and told us that if we “drowned we would be delivered.” We watched you embrace the sinner and the saint, even when religious leaders pointed and condemned. You told us to “surround ourselves with all the wrong faces, Spending our time in all the wrong places” and you showed us how to love each other just as He loved us and we loved Him.
You wallowed in humanness, but centered in redemption. Too many people were busy listening to the Rain, and never listened to A, “Now u say God made u God made me He made us all equally.”
I loved you once. Little [Girls] are taught to dream of their prince, and you were mine. I touched your hand for but a second, and dreamed of your lips as they kissed and caressed. Many years later, I boldly painted my back purple.
Under your tutelage, I reached out and grabbed my love with both hands, even as family and friends told me that salvation only came if I denied who I was. My body, mind, spirit re-centered - not in the book, not when I learned denial, but when I learned from you what it meant to be free. Like the harbinger you were, your voice reflected the adult faith I (re)claimed.
My sexuality, my sensuality, my passion, and my dreams. They made me whole and they made me human.
You led by example and showed me how to never regret being real.
But, my dear sweet Prince, I will never die for fickle love. there are more important things. Justice will be my guide and Hope my rallying cry.
You showed us that we each carry the potential to repeat the sins of the father. Anger, bitterness, greed, selfishness – Hate – you fought them all. We all fight them all. So here is our problem, how do we open our souls while protecting our hearts? How do we live with one another when all we see is the other? How do we keep building up when the world is designed to tear us down? How do we walk into the fiery furnace and into the lion’s den and let “Thy will be done” when our instinct is to jump out and jump back?
Forgive those who trespass against us. Forgive those who trespass against us. Forgive those who trespass. Forgive. Us.
You taught yourself to trust instruments because they never ridiculed. You taught yourself to live alone because no one ever stayed. You built a fortress and locked out the world, and we locked the gates and trapped you inside. Shyness became your armor. Again and again and again you cracked open a window to let someone special in, and each time they snuck back out without a good-bye. When you died, they all argued over the money you left behind. They never argued over you when you were still living.
Like the Man/God you emulated, there will be councils and courtrooms to determine what you meant and to debate what you left unsaid. Our arms were not around you but His everlasting arms were, when the cherry moon called. We can’t change your human life, but we can pray you felt them as you were carried Home.
I won’t die the way you did, dear sweet Prince. You never knew that an awkward child and a tormented adult listened and learned by watching and listening to you. I will live your lessons even if they failed you in the end.
I will continue fighting back. I will not let my demons destroy my potential. I will not let my ghosts haunt my future. I won’t leave behind boxes of unfinished songs. I will share them now, while I am still among the living. I won’t die the way you did, because you taught me how to live. I won’t die the way you did, because you taught me how to love. I won’t die the way you did, because you taught me how to be. Spirit, bring this truth into my heart.
“It’s been seven hours and fifteen days, since you took your love away.” The doves float away with you, and this time, they don’t come back down.
originally written by KFR for "The Theology of Prince" event at
United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, 2017.