Artist In Residence: CJ Morse

Clarence Morse Jr. is a man of many names and many faces. By 22, he’s led poetry workshops throughout the world, been a prodigal son and caring friend to those who know him. A student of the school of hard knocks, he’s spent his time trying to make sense of the world in the only way he knows how – poetry. His collection of poetry, The Concept, is available for purchase on Amazon.

CJ is writing and recording five pieces of spoken word poetry that will be included in South Church’s virtual worship. He is also leading talk-back conversations, as an opportunity to grow, learn, and be in dialogue together.

Interested in being a South Church Artist-In-Residence? Click here to email Pastor Dana for details.

Click images below to watch CJ share his pieces. 

"Cornerstones" 4/25/2021

"And So He Returns" 4/4/2021

"Mother" 5/9/2021

Mother by CJ Morse

When I was young
I barely left my momma’s side
See she was home for most of my life
And I’m the type to imprint easily
Missing the moments between grievances
It’s a lot to hold onto
Especially when you see how often kids in my city became targets
Running around like they done lost it
And I wanted to be just like them

As I got older and started running round Andover
Getting in with pretty chicks that didn’t mind my complexion
Intellectual conversations held over breakfast
I always thought it was important for them to meet my momma
Cause that’s who held the final word
And that’s just how it worked

But then she came along
Singing a song that sounded like blood on the dance floor
And I ran farther into the discordant nature of youth
Left my momma at 19, barely a man, really just a teen
Who fell in love with the way the guitar strings could ease his pain
I fell in love with the way the drums could push the blood through my veins
A microphone turned from a tool of imparting wisdom to my best friend
And I used to say it was all because of him

Man…

I’ve read the passage about the prodigal son
And when I returned I thought a kingdom would come
But instead all I found was the love of my family
Grown with time spent in the quiet hills of suburbia
Away from the chaos of urban living
These people I loved so dearly had changed

And my momma, sweet momma remained
She’s my day one cheerleader
Holding my flag in her hands
Pushing me to rise above these earthly demands
Reminding me of where I began
Before everything turned into dust

So now that I’ve shaken off the rust
I pay back every ounce of love
Writing these words in a parking lot
Every time.

My first Mother’s Day back home
And I thank God
That he brought me back alive

"Poor Man's Dreams" 5/16/2021

Poor Man’s Dreams by CJ Morse

Waking up on the couch I spent years of my adult life on
I watch as the haze of the morning shines through the windows
Dragging myself to the bathroom I catch a glance of myself in the mirror
A disheveled mess of a young man wearing broken glasses
Doing all he can to make it through the week
I got a flight to catch in 3 hours
Where I’m going, doesn’t matter
I just pray that the Lord keeps me safe as I wander through pastures

See you can go to any city in America and find somebody struggling
Cigarettes and weed, homeless brothers in need
They smoke cause it’s already hard to breathe
Choking on the reality of concentrated poverty
Where the kids play games in the dark of the night
Wondering if the pops they hear are fireworks or gun shots
Followed by ambulance and police sirens…
Guess it was gun shots
Guess that’s where the fun stops

Meanwhile in the burbs
The trees are all in bloom
Watch a cardinal land in the flowers on my way to move
Kids play in organized fashions, practicing their role
Thinking one day they’ll make it out this town and into the city
Where their apartments 20 stories off the ground will be home to extravagant parties
And they’ll gentrify a neighborhood for designer coffee

America the beautiful
America the depraved
Two sides of the same coin
At least that’s what they say
Finding the hatred of mankind running deeper with each day
That’s why we need love in this world, that’s why Jesus came

Asking questions of the Lord
I find myself like Job at the end of my rope
Knowing if I overstep my bounds
I’ll burn like Rome
And so I’ve been told
To stick to my path
Picking up the pieces of a poor man’s dream
I like to live life as if I’m watching on a movie screen
The audience of one to a natural disaster

Call up my pastor
Tell him I don’t know if I can do it
The day’s grow long and the money runs thin
Afterwards, I’ll keep myself from falling victim to sin
Passive as I watch my friend drown himself in gin
Passive as I watch my life repeat cycles once again
Is this where it ends
Or have I found a new beginning

America the beautiful
America the shamed
She wears her crown of broken bodies with pride as the youth cry with pain
Too busy politicking to notice her clothes aflame
It’s a shame

Our time is fleeting on this earth
A molten rock covered with the scars of mankind
But Jesus told you then and I’ll repeat it now
The poor you’ll always have with you
But you won’t always have me
So let this breathe for a moment
And maybe you’ll see
We all choose how to spend this time
Just like the nickels and dimes thrown for candy
I put my hands to the sky asking the Lord for clarity
Before I begin such a thing
As this poetry.