triptych

limbo

I. ABSENTIA

I wake to the wrong
in this unfamiliar,
for never have I known a day without breath, or
a moment bereft of Divinity.
It is all anti- and un- and non-,
a string of empty sentences,
a filmy negative:
Absence.

It sticks to me,
seeping in through cell walls.
Pitch and tar: a network of scars dissolving under
translucent skin,
as if blood was black
and black was blood.
Midnight is needling in my veins,
and for a moment there is
the violent silence between spark and ignition,
and blood bursts into consuming flame.
I, too, consume
the void.

II. LIMBO

Waiting was never easy.
The frequent settling frosts coat the fields in cobwebs.
My ancient static stations have (of old) been places picked clean, and
the cross circles my dead, suspended by a thread invisible.
What place do dreams have here?

To me it is less about
isolation or overpopulation
and more about the amount of me present nowhere and now.
To me it is less about
blinding light or stifling dark,
and more about who is blocking both.

In limbo, loss has a name, and you hear it echo
in the sobs of songbirds,
in the chimes of bell towers,
in the muttered mantra:
“He left.
He left.
He left…”

I notice the dive
more by motion than intention, as it stutters on my cheek,
and blinks an eyelash on my temple.
How close you are, and how far:
close enough to be tremulous, far enough to prove it:
What place does hope have here?

To me you are more about
incense and entrance through thicker smoke,
than you are about breathing easy.
To me you are more about
affection and caress and the touch of lips to life and limb
than you are about washing hands.

In limbo, loss has a name, and you hear it echo
in the weeping of the women,
in the ring of nail through bone,
in the splash of viscera on sand,
“Come back.
Come back.
Come back…”

What place does
love have here?

III. ABSOLUTIO

Once I dreamed
of a blackness silent but once, to speak:
“Release”
and all else fell silent.
In the after-echo was a gathering storm
of pinpricks,
as if the veil overhead was pierced by
a million falling angels
and filtered through the ensuing sieve a beckoning increase.
It was the edge of glory,
the very margin of a sweeping light.

Then the microscopic became fearsome
and tore the world from its hinges,
picked it up and shook it in joyous canine frenzy.
We were fetched, and brought forward,
and thrown far afield to return,
to ever return,
to ever turn.

And the light blinded us so that we might see,
through spit and mud, the ceiling we knew
split from side to side as a ribcage parted,
to reveal
the figure of Utter Fullness
ascending,
a Lamp to light the way and to gather all lamps in radiance.
In the train of rising trumpet blast,
there was a thrum of budding thunder
as infinity bloomed.

I paused,
remembering my hell.
My Lover slipped His left arm under me
and embraced me with His right,
and stripped me of my chrysalis,
and I took flight.

hatch

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(for Holy Saturday)

Much of life seems to be waiting,
In spaces between events.
And somehow all I want to do in those silences
Is fill them with speech.

Better yet to forego the making of many words
And instead sit quietly for a while,
Being, not doing,
Letting God do the heavy lifting.

Time waits for no body
But the one who hangs above the Skull.
I can wait a day,
And anticipate the hatching of the Sun.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7b

(Liturgical poetry during Lent is inspired by the Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Photo by Linnea Wheeler)

Words for the Church: Holy Week
battle-blind
all will be new
we gather together
black and blue
new wine

Words for the Church: Lent
the death of fire
tiny tilting towers
touch
via del vagare
kept
enrich the earth

black and blue

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(for Good Friday)

The gloves are off.
And on this black and blue day,
The earth is beaten systematically,
Bowed head to bloodied toe,
Bruise upon bruise and
Blow upon blow,
Until rips radiate from rendings,
Unsewable and unsalvageable,
And black and blue mingle to crimson
And the blood on the floor is
The blood of God.
Would that we groan under this gravity,
And buckle at the breaking of His heart.

Here,
Naked God is
Affixed to naked cross.
And in response
The clothing of the temple is torn in two,
Revealing all, to all, for all.
This is intimacy at its most shocking, and unashamed.
Here is God, the Exhibitionist.
Nobody wants to see that.

Look at Him.

See Him bleed.
It’s not pretty.
See Him suffer.
It’s not simple.
See Him die.
It’s not easy.
It’s never been easy.
It’s not supposed to be easy.

So shut up for a second and
Look at Him.
It’s not Easter yet.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to tear, and a time to sew…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7

(Liturgical poetry during Lent is inspired by the Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Photo by Linnea Wheeler)

Words for the Church: Holy Week
battle-blind
all will be new
we gather together
black and blue
hatch
new wine

Words for the Church: Lent
the death of fire
tiny tilting towers
touch
via del vagare
kept
enrich the earth

we gather together

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(for Maundy Thursday)

Eat with us,
Here on dirty floors, redeemed with threadbare cloth.
We gather together
To eat with You,
People of dirty and barren hearts.

“Loyalty and courage”
Ideas of importance and impracticality,
Ideas that hold weight in our mind’s eye
But won’t hold water in Your world.
You know that stones scatter.
Despite all our grand and daring schemes
To be better,
To be holier,
To be closer,
We remain, scattered in dust.

But even stones can sing.

You,
Who nailed Your arms open
To gather the world under Your wings,
Gather us now in this place and the next.
The willful and the weak,
The pompous and the poor,
The ruined and the rash,
The hopeful and the whore,
As stone-hearted as Pharaoh,
As forgetful as Your people,
As fearful as Your disciples.

Break Bread,
Pour Wine.
That we might eat and drink of Thee,
And not just remember, but be.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 5

(Liturgical poetry during Lent is inspired by the Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Photo by Linnea Wheeler)

Words for the Church: Holy Week
battle-blind
all will be new
we gather together
black and blue
hatch
new wine

Words for the Church: Lent
the death of fire
tiny tilting towers
touch
via del vagare
kept
enrich the earth

all will be new

IMG_6665-2

Hello little flower,
Welcome to the world.
Spring is wide and full of wonders.
You are born of something wilder than it,
That shoots up through new stems
And pulses in the bud.
You will slake your thirst on rain
And curl your toes in soil,
And grow.

You’ll survive the bluster of summer storms in the company of many,
And push clouds back by iridescent proclamation.
You’ll lose some petals, and maybe even come away bent,
But you’ll still spread your fragrance and be visited by bees
In the long languid tracks of the day.
In the brief nights you’ll close your eyelids tight against the cool,
To wake again at dawn and be beautiful.

When autumn comes
And nips at your heels,
Muster your courage.
The days will shorten fast.
Knowing your end,
The bending down to earth
And the partaking in the fall,
You will curl your petals in close one last time,
And burst in brutal release.
Frigid dawn will see you hang, brown and withered on the stem.

White winter will cover you
In a snowy grave.
And you will be forgotten
Under drifts and pillows,
Solitude and iron earth.
Winter will think it has won
And mock at your death.

Wait until spring, little flower.
All will be new.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2

(Liturgical poetry during Lent is inspired by the Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Photo by Linnea Wheeler)

Words for the Church: Holy Week
battle-blind
we gather together
black and blue
hatch
new wine

Words for the Church: Lent
the death of fire
tiny tilting towers
touch
via del vagare
kept
enrich the earth
battle-blind

battle-blind

IMG_6789-2

(For Palm Sunday)

Trample our foes
Under metal-shod heel
Under ramrod doctrine
And volumes of steel.
You are, in our red-rimmed and battle-blind sight,
A war horse for nothing but wild-eyed fight.

Wield your savior,
Oh tyrants and slaves,
Sharpen him,
Ready your god for the war.
Forget all about how He came on a colt.
It’s foolish to think He would come for the poor.

Palms ready now,
To deliver the blow
To the face of an enemy
You hardly know.
Arm your children with verses
Hosannas arise!
Raise them up in the knowledge of
Shrill battle cries.

Brandish the Infant,
The Shepherd, the Lamb.
His Gospel is Peace
And Mercy toward man.
When He bleeds in a week
And your paradigms die,
Just focus on future pain
Etched in the sky.

When true judgment comes and you’ve spent lives in war,
And the blood of the nations drips thick from your sword,
Perhaps you’ll be shocked at His judgments that day.

Perhaps you forgot Whom He came down to slay.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time for war, and a time for peace…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8b

(Liturgical poetry during Lent is inspired by the Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Photo by Linnea Wheeler; illustration by Pauline Baynes.)

Words for the Church: Holy Week
all will be new
we gather together
black and blue
hatch
new wine

Words for the Church: Lent
the death of fire
tiny tilting towers
touch
via del vagare
kept
enrich the earth

enrich the earth

Worms

What would you have me do?
When brokenness is at the root
And worms through branch and breast and fruit,
And manifests, legion-like,
Rearing ugly heads;
Latching, leech-like,
In beautiful human beds…

What would you have me do,
My Cure?
I know but do not want to know,
See but seek darkness,
Hear but hold silence.
I am neither Love nor Grace.
I am unholy host.
I am the one I hate.

Indict me now by this plea:
As I forgive, forgive me.

We were created whole,
To be loved and to love,
And now we are taught, too, to adore
These worm-eaten apples of your eye,
Despite what writhes from sockets of flesh.
Should we not hate the infested, but that which infects?

How difficult is the difference,
For worms enrich the earth.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to love, and a time to hate…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8

(Liturgical poetry during Lent is inspired by the Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Photo by Linnea Wheeler.)

Words for the Church: Lent
1. the death of fire
2. tiny tilting towers
3. touch
4. via del vagare
5. kept

kept

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At some point
Having nothing to give got to me.

So I gathered stacks of artifacts
Crusted crowns and stolen thrones
And (hoarder that I am)
Hoped they could make me feel at home.
I’m chock full of treasures
And my heart sits here with them,
Waiting to not be alone.

It’s all collecting dust.
I still haven’t swept.
It seems I don’t know what it means to be kept.

And it also seems that
Nothing I possess brings back
That feeling as a child:
Tucked under watchful eye and weary smile
And warm beneath blankets that
Act as armor to the dark,
The low glow of night-lightning
And the echo glow beating in my breast.
I knew who I was, for I knew whose I was.

Perhaps being kept
Is becoming a child again,
And believing that my Parent is
Supernatural,
And Kind.

Keep me close,
(Castaway that I am)
Hidden in the hold of Your heart
And safe.
Nestled in the hole of Your hand.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to keep, and a time to cast away…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6b

(Liturgical poetry during Lent is inspired by the Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Photo by Linnea Wheeler.)

Words for the Church: Lent
1. the death of fire
2. tiny tilting towers
3. touch
4. via del vagare
6. enrich the earth

via del vagare

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Prone to wander
Via wilderness;
We are
Little lost lambs,
Fluffy-headed in and out
And reeking of our own waste.
There is no time for sheep to sit still,
When the grass is greener on the other hill.
So we trot and stumble
Away from You.

Prone to wander,
Via nurture and nature;
We are
Shedding, shoddy sheep.
Nestled in the nooks and crannies
Of the rocks,
Needless and numb and
Heedless and dumb.
Shivering in the silver slivers
Of the mountains of our making,
Far from home and far
Away from You.

The Shepherd had 99 who were perfectly fine,
Yet took the time to seek us,
To become dust.
He hooked us round the necks and dragged us bleating back
To pleasant pasture and stream.

Prone to wonder,
Via dolorosa;
We are
Fuzzy found flocks
Of infinite worth,
From infinite birth.
Time to search, to give up? It stood still at the death of the Son.
We live and breathe and have our baaing
By your seeking and losing in one.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to seek, and a time to lose…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6a

(Liturgical poetry during Lent is inspired by the Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Photo by Linnea Wheeler.)

Words for the Church: Lent
1. the death of fire
2. tiny tilting towers
3. touch
5. kept
6. enrich the earth

touch

touch

The physicality
Of Your reality
Is nothing less than incredible.
It’s incredible that skin could even contain the ineffable
GOD,
The I AM of the cosmos tied and dyed
In the melanin of a Middle Eastern man.
And just as, that You chose to touch and be touched.

Touch, ha!
It’s a dirty, complicated sense,
Amid this dirty, complicated mess.
It’s full of problems all too present,
Like odors and rashes
And odd shapes and acne,
Like memory and pain
And intimacy.

Yet,
Frail flesh curtained a Holy of Holies
And touched the unholy hordes, let alone
Lifted them hand in actual hand
Wiped away tears and
Embraced the sinner and
Did this all as a man.

And then,
You tore two curtains,
That what was inside was let out
And into us, a closer touch,
A union, such
That separation proves impossible.

And then,
The Skin of God left.
Swept away, kept for the day,
When embraces will end: never.
But it still feels like forever.

I wish I had been there.
Maybe I would press this Messiah-flesh
And be convinced of the miracle of skin,
Enough that I could look upon any face
And embrace the Him-image within.

We are lepers all.
Made whole by the embrace of the Son.
GOD didn’t just make himself touchable.
He showed me I wasn’t un.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 5b

(Liturgical poetry during Lent is inspired by the Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Photo by Linnea Wheeler.)

Words for the Church: Lent
1. the death of fire
2. tiny tilting towers
4. via del vagare
5. kept
6. enrich the earth