the death of fire

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(for Ash Wednesday)

Ashes to ashes,
We all fall down.

We are born delicate and fragile,
By death of Fire.
The flames no longer leap on the hearth, spinning in skirts of heat,
To the wild music of a living dance,
To the beat of drums and merry human hearts.

No.
The dance is gone.
The laughter is an echo.
We repent in rags and bathe in soot for the sheer anticipation of
The death of God.

Brand your mark across my forehead,
Dying One,
Tattoo it here, on mind, on heart, on body.
40 days and 40 nights of
Remembering and mourning,
40 days and 40 nights of
Hunger in body and soul,
40 days and 40 nights of
Judgment by fire and flood,
40 days and 40 nights of
Silence that feedbacks in my brain.
40 days and 40 nights
Is not that much to ask of me except that
I’m hungry.

I’m hungry, Lord.

For soot,
For silence,
For sorrow,
For Salvation.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to weep, a time to laugh; a time to mourn, a time to dance…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4

(Liturgical poetry during Lent is inspired by the Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Art by Nadia Wheeler, photo by Linnea Wheeler.)

Words for the Church: Lent
2. tiny tilting towers
3. touch
4. via del vagare
5. kept
6. enrich the earth

slap

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Blessed is the slap
On one cheek and again across the other
Of corner-office saints
Sucking blood from the whip-tracked backs
Of beaten brothers and sisters too far away to defend themselves,
(Thank god, because the guy on the corner who smells sure doesn’t sell),
Valorizing and monetizing their pain
For advertising campaigns and book deals.

Blessed is the blow
On comfort saints who read those books
And weep to make penance
And go to their book club and talk about how this made them feel over tea and cookies.
The book will go on their shelves,
Alongside their Bibles and beliefs,
To be accessed in emergency.

Blessed is the trolling of
The media martyrs,
Those who talk big
Via graceless creeds and faceless feeds,
And won’t talk to their neighbors about Jesus,
Except to excuse political action
Or refuse socializing on Sundays.
Jesus was never so tiny.
Sometimes there is reason for rebuke.

Blessed are you, royals of a kingdom unfurling,
When the fact of your faith
Encounters real opposition,
Not well-deserved discipline.
When being a Christian stinks because you’re being a Christian.
This kingdom is coming,
And your preparation here
Is salty and harrowing.
The narrowing of your public platform
Is to be expected, not rejected.

Look to Jesus, your Monarch,
Watch how He suffers,
And know your destiny is the same.
Watch how He rises,
And take hope.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:10

(Liturgical poetry for the Sundays between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday is inspired by the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12. Photo by Linnea Wheeler.)

inherit the wind
rain-world
quitting
count my bones
let me be
here
careful of the cut

careful of the cut

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It shatters
And I struggle with clumsy fingers around fragments,
Careful of the cut.
This is too important to let lie,
This is too real to not try
But I end in blood and refraction.

What a thing to call a child to,
The sharp, queasy work of piecing some semblance of light from dark,
Of wholes from parts,
Children break more than they make,
And You send us to mend holes in hearts?
It takes steady hands and years of experience to perform such surgery.
We’ve hardly grasped gross motor skills.

Father,
Send us as creating, created whirlwinds of reiteration,
With our scotch tape and school glue
Into the fray of a people jagged with rage and hate.
And as we bloody our hands on their hurts and come away with scars of our own,
Make good use of this work,
This labor for wholeness,
This reconciling God to us, us to us, dust to dust,
A work partial until you set your scarred hand firmly round us
And mend us final.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Matthew 5:9

(Liturgical poetry for the Sundays between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday is inspired by the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12. Photo by Linnea Wheeler.)

inherit the wind
rain-world
quitting
count my bones
let me be
here
slap

here

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Am I pure?
The question is laughable.
I know I’m not.
I know the thoughts.
I know the inner walls of my heart:
Caked sins of the past,
Dark slime of the present,
And the ominous shadow of tomorrow.

Look inside me, O God.
You see.
You know.
Why would you put in front of me
An ideal I will never reach?
Maybe the mindset is wider and longer.
Or maybe You mean to drive me
By the sheer weight of my impurity
Into your arms.

Holiness
May be what I long for,
And what I need,
But it is not what I have,
And the weight of a day
(More often than not)
Outweighs the weight of glory even when it’s a good one.
Is this wrong of me to say?
It’s the truth.

So I come crawling back to a Love I know
The arms of the One who forgives,
Each evening,
And as the dark falls round my empty heart
I rest in Your blood-soaked Purity,
Tested, tried, near.
Here.
And I am made clean.

You lift my stain from me
As if it were but a garment,
And not my nature.
And in these fractured streetlights
Painted on these broken walls
Of this small place,

I see You.

This can’t be just me.

My whole life will be
The asking and answering of the question: why?
And the collapse of a broken soul
Into You.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Matthew 5:8

(Liturgical poetry for the Sundays between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday is inspired by the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12. Photo by Linnea Wheeler.)

inherit the wind
rain-world
quitting
count my bones
let me be
careful of the cut
slap

let me be

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(for Ordinary Time)

Let me be quick.
The reduction of parts of humanity
To single-minded organisms
Of little or no use to you
Besides a formless, feared enemy:
This reduction will not stand.
And I’m not talking about standing before
Web-wide talking heads or
Pandering preachers
Or even indignant citizens, no.
I’m talking finality.

Let me be clear.
When you stand before
A righteous, ruling King
Who came from a faraway land
And was rejected at the gates of this one,
And you look him in the eye,
(If you can)
What will you have said about mercy?

Let me be practical.
Did you give to the needy?
Did you open your door?
Did you visit the sick?
Did you feed the poor?
Did you give anything tangible or intangible to people who didn’t deserve it
Or warrant it
Or have anything to offer back?
When he separates us out, it will not be by immaculate theology, but by righteous action.
If those who show mercy are given mercy, what happens to those who show none?

Let me be merciful.
If only for fear that on that day no mercy would be shown to me,
But mostly because it already has been,
In stunning, cross-bloodied fashion.
Listen.
He came for the tired, the poor,
The huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
And the tyrant, the pundit, the muddled maddening persecutors of the weak.
Before you stand as ruler and judge of the enslaved world,
Wait.
Did you pray for those you hate?

Let me be honest.
There is a special place reserved in hell for all of us,
And the only cancellation is by replacing your name with another’s.
Be careful how you use that Name.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
Matthew 5:7

“Isten hozott,” a Hungarian welcome, literally means “God-brought.” We received this door sign from a dear friend who used to live in Budapest.

(Liturgical poetry for the Sundays between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday is inspired by the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12)

inherit the wind
rain-world
quitting
count my bones
here
careful of the cut
slap

count my bones

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I hunger
For a rightness
I find nowhere in my fallow furrows,
For a justice
I find absent in our global grave,
For a freedom
I will not find, so I cease to look.
Apart from Him, we are utterly empty,
And scraping the sand for manna
Will only fill us with the dust we’re made of.
This stone is not a well.

Count
My
Bones.

And tell me, can you cover them with sinew and with flesh?
Long dead shards of burnt-out tries
And truth-like-lies,
And malnutrition of my eyes,
This is not nourishment!
Feed me, or I die.

I am child, who knows nothing but empty tummy and the cold.
Warm my body in the folds
Of your love, of your life,
Of your rightness.
For this place is not right, and
We are distended.

Roll away this stone
From the well of your resurrection,
Discard the scorpions,
And the fools who insist that they are eggs.
We beg,
Give us bread, not stones,
Give us flesh, not bones,
For you are Father,
Bread, and wine.
May we feed on You,
Intoxicated by your fullness.

Chew on this:
We are not empty.
For He is ours and
We are His.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Matthew 5:6

(Liturgical poetry for the Sundays between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday is inspired by the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12)

inherit the wind
rain-world
quitting
let me be
here
careful of the cut
slap

quitting

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Why wait?
Why lie in silence
Like the silence of this long night of the world,
Where sleep doesn’t come,
And I search the ceiling for signs,
For worry that maybe the silence means something unsaid.
It seems that
Waiting should be done by the dead.

Why shine a light?
Candle-flicker in a window frame
Seen by people I cannot name.
I speak with words trembling, but
Grace in graceless places
Is deemed old and crude, and
This is no place for us.
And when I fail, I wish I could trust.

Why turn the other cheek?
It only makes me weak.
And isn’t truth what we say
When we’re hurt?
Silence before the shearers
Is giving in to fears, isn’t it?
And it’s only ever fitting that I’m only ever quitting.

Why pray?
Casting cares up into thin air
And I know You hear,
But it isn’t quite clear
If You leave me hanging to teach me a thing or two
Or because my will doesn’t match up with You.
(Perhaps there’s something to be said
For the power of a Word).

Why rest?
Sitting still seems only empty
When weights are heavy on your chest.
Will I miss the will of God?
Will your Spirit pass me by?
You say soar on wings like eagles,
Should I flap my wings to fly?

Struggle not, my soul,
Unless you struggle long with Him,
Unless He dislocates your hip,
And leaves you clinging.
Wait,
Shining and turning and praying and yearning,
For a salvation You cannot create.

One day
I’m told
I will inherit the earth.
I’m not sure I’ll know what to do with it.
But listening for the beat of Your heart
Might best be done in silence.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Matthew 5:5

(Liturgical poetry for the Sundays between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday is inspired by the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12)

inherit the wind
rain-world
count my bones
let me be
here
careful of the cut
slap

rain-world

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Blessed are the tears,
Stored in bottles upon shelves
In God’s study.
Cherished mementos of every time
Sorrow knocked droplets loose.

The shatter
Is beautiful,
For rain is truth and grace in one
Salt and water of life from opened eyes,
Oil of heaven flowing from our heads
In blessing,
And it waters the ground of our souls
That we may heal.

Wonder at the weight of these.
The mystery of this rain-world is ever unknown, the why,
Understood by none but the One
Who didn’t just feel, but cried.
He grieved for His friend, and knew
Us.

One Who Weeps with us,
for us,
in us,
Gather our tears.
And tear the clouds asunder as You did the curtain,
That the Comfort may come
And enter through the salty eyes
Of those who watch the watery skies.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4

(Liturgical poetry for the Sundays between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday is inspired by the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12)

inherit the wind
quitting
count my bones
let me be
here
careful of the cut
slap

inherit the wind

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Blessed is the dust,
Walked upon and kicked, into clouds
Of witnesses.
The mangled body parts of Christ,
Bruised heirs of a kingdom beyond our wildest dreams.
This wildest scheme:
To take gutter trash,
(Aren’t we all?)
And make the paupers royal;
To clothe shameful in Unashamed,
To heal the sick and cure the lame,
To give the nameless ones Your Name.

We, the poor,
At least we had our pride.
Then you knocked it from us as a breath,
(Aren’t we all?)
You chose to inherit the wind.
Stunning, surprising, and true.
And here we bow our heads, our shame,
To the humblest of us – You.

We, the poor,
Look to you, the Poorest, and adore.
For you embraced our poverty to make us rich and undiminishing.
And left your Spirit in the gutter with us
To finish, dust to Dust, our Finishing.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:3

(Liturgical poetry for the Sundays between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday is inspired by the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12)

rain-world
quitting
count my bones
let me be
here
careful of the cut
slap