invocation

snowdrop

We limped the last length of the year,
A year full of what could be
A year full of what wasn’t,
And the snapped promises of the past linger now
At the brink of another.
I am here, preparing for the plunge,
My breath fogging the future,
Glaring down the precipice to locate hand-holds,
Avoiding the inevitable.
This old year opened, like those before, with glint promise.
Years shouldn’t make promises they can’t keep.

The new year waits in an icy womb,
When color is drained, like the blood of the earth, into seedling veins.
We bubble with the announcement,
But she is now not yet among us
In the flesh of bud and blood of bloom.
Warmth rolls stones from crimson tombs,
And the dead will be born again.

Isn’t there inherent hope
In dawning, of things doing,
As there is in dusk, of death?
We are children of the promise
Long before we penetrate it.
We must live to the last before we begin.

Let the new things live a little.
Let the old things die.
Let all of it matter more, remembered and anticipated,
Pressed down, shaken together, running over,
An invocation,
A benediction,
A word.

what is a Christian?

fish

Perhaps a Christian is a fish.
Packed into like-minded schools and
Following familiar currents,
Fed to five thousands and useful for a quick couple-buck temple tax.
Maybe we gill-filter saltwater to get only the holy
While we swim in our own waste,
Maybe we gasp and die when taken beyond the sight of our seas,
But at least we still taste good roasted.

But then, maybe,
A Christian is a stream.
Living water flowing from living wounds
Refreshing to the spirit and
Necessary for life.
Perhaps without rivulets and raindrops
Fallow ground would remain barren,
Earth dehydrated of hope,
Withered fruit upon the vine.
Water sometimes tastes funny or requires filtration,
But nobody questions their need of it.

Perhaps a Christian is a cross.
Covered in the molten metal ornaments Of a million dancing idolators,
An instrument of torture and death
That, thank the economic gods and simpering saints,
Can still turn a profit on the shopping channels.
In the end we still might make our owners a couple bucks at a yard sale,
And become again a symbol of mixed allegiance
A chain round the necks of newbies.

But then, maybe,
A Christian is a symbol.
Something that is not the thing but is,
For all intents and purposes.
Esoteric, obfuscating, and erroneous all,
But the symbol still stands as a signpost pointing,
Upward and beyond the withering world,
Despite interpretations and graffiti.
Check the pulse: are they signs of life?

Perhaps a Christian is a tattoo.
Indelibly ink-written in pin-pricked skin
So we would #neverforget:
How trendy we are,
How much tiny needles hurt,
How difficult it is to find good coffee,
And the insta-sacrifice of buying overpriced shoes for those in need.
At least when we’re old we can regret our choices.

But then, maybe,
A Christian is salt.
Preservation of a species is achieved, not by strength, but spice,
Too much is overwhelming,
Too little leaves it bland,
None at all leads to rot,
But when applied with grace and balance all the flavors come out and dance.

Perhaps a Christian is a steeple.
A sword aimed at the heart of heaven,
Separating Spirit and Body,
Human and Divine,
We gut the vapory clouds
And stand tall in our denominations,
A disfigured, dissatisfied body hardly anything more than
Loud mouth and grumbling stomach.
At least our flag will wave even as our roots rot.

But then, maybe,
A Christian is a tree.
Rooted in the riverbank and reaching for the sky,
Granting shelter to all who pass it by.
Maybe the pollen makes some eyes itch and throats scratch.
Maybe ripening fruit is bitter and hard,
But wait for the shade of late summer, filtered heat and light by leaves.
Wait for the brilliant bursts of color and flavor at harvest,
And the surety that ice-fields will be broken up by life.

Maybe we are all these things together,
A panoply of problems and wonders,
One thing one day, one thing another,
With very little concept of which we are when, and why.

But maybe that’s because
A Christian is a child,
Tenderness and tempest in a single tiny form,
Uncertain of my place and searching always to belong.
Perhaps the very thing that makes my love unfettered and real
Is the same thing that provokes tantrums and hair-pulling.
I’m all broken and whole,
Learning how little I really know and what it means to forgive.
And I am desperately in need of my Father.

(originally published in the Qara’ Shem Zine, the Literary Companion to the 2017 Gallery Tour, by my friend and incredible artist Josie Koznarek)

hell on earth

autumn
May autumn
Tinge me inward,
Dip me in the colors of death
Under heavens of brass,
And hang me out upside down
To wither and dry in the shivering sun.
For then I’ll make good eating when winter has come.
All of the earth is bloodied and bruised,
And the purple smell of the over-ripe
Hangs everywhere by a thread,
Ready to tumble to rot,
To fall from living to dead.
And I smell it’s brother on the wind, the woodsmoke hovers and seeps,
Soaking my clothes like cider,
Spicy and warm and deep.
The earth is crispy, and
The bushes are burning.
Hell on earth is oddly holy, as incense,
And the impulse to remove my shoes
Rises within me as the northern wind.
I could howl with bloodlust.
I could rend my flannel to shreds
And leap and kneel and fall prostrate in the ashes of the dead and dying,
Lying strewn about my unshod feet,
Scattering in the air as I fling them.
My heart releases in hilarity at blatant disregard,
In the crush of fruit and limb and leaf,
In heavenly hodgepodge and cool relief.
I will take my delight in the death,
with my dear ones and cider,
As this bounty sinks into us all, ever deeper and wider.

blanks

blanks

Patches are missing.
But I catch something blurry in the space.
I don’t even know that I miss it until I dig up past days.
(It moved so fast)
And presence isn’t a strength of mine so it’s probable (not impossible)
That I just didn’t impress each length of time,
As wildflower or fallen leaf,
Between the pages of my mind.

The mild power of most memories
Isn’t freeze-framed like the family photos,
Isn’t captured on VHS, in stunning granularity.
Even when I watch the ones I own, they seem trite,
As if I wrote down the wrong things in my journal,
Or I’ve kept the memory without the meaning.

But there must be meaning to those blanks,
Not just noise with no impact,
Because sometimes they suddenly appear, intact,
With the wild power of familiarity:
A face, a smell… oh! and the pace of a yellow atmosphere
at a certain time of day.
Most of my fears cascade in curtains of rhymes between me, myself, and I,
But the ones that ambush me
Part the sea, my hell, and the sky.

It could be, like existence and wonders unexplored,
That this thunder by the door, these bullets to the brain,
Are kept in cabinets for safekeeping till the fullness of the day
I am most in need (most days, it seems).
Most days I could use a dream, or two or three,
(Especially knowing they were real, once).

So you and me?
Let’s leave them lie, let them sleep.
Someday every fragment will have risen from the deep,
And the puzzle will be complete.
And we, memory-dancers all, just maybe, we won’t care.
Since the ephemeral “ANSWER” seems to be in Getting There.

receive

receive

It’s taken years of You
Reversing my fears, of me
Inhaling the tears of a cursed world unhinged,
Lunging in my lungs for each salty breath.
It wasn’t enough to believe in grace once and move on, an honorary member.
I needed to receive grace twice, thrice and forever
Until I knew my need so thoroughly
That only the gifted whole heaven would do,
And I would wait, uplifted soul, to You.

We do not live and move and have our being by the courage of our hearts,
But by the coronary explosion of His,
Who gives and loves and grants us seeing eyes and willing hearts to detonate,
Willing lives to watch and wait.

So body, take a step,
Sing a hymn, take some bread and wine
And live, read some Words,
Get to work, get some sleep and love
And give.
We need these inner rhythms of exhortation to our souls
To combat the sinner schisms of expectations versus reality,
To be made whole.

And so each day
Is a reminder that life itself is grace,
And each day
Is the treasured kind, to be measured at heaven’s pace,
And each day
Is where I find that I am found, and tethered fast to You,
Weathered and broken and blue.

I am a bird perched in persistent song,
Who thirsts for the sky,
Empty and full and true.

julep

julep

There is sweat on the glass
And sun on the grass,
And it’s greener than believable.
It’s all green everywhere, but taking different shades
At different lengths and heights and widths.
And I wonder why You chose blue and green and brown to be what I see today,
And why they heal me so.

The wind is in the treetops
And the white noise of a million leaves shifting in their seats
Lulls me to content in my porch-swing cradle.
I don’t have to be anywhere right now,
So I’ll stay here forever…
Sipping bourbon and mint,
Infusing into tea by the minute
Like my drink.

These are small moments,
Captured not by intellect, but by sense.
Yet,
The color green,
Mint juleps,
And summer warmth on cheeks
Might just bring us closer to Him
Than a thousand systematic theologies stacked skyward.

shake it out

shake

There are days when the weight of it all sits on my chest.
Always and evermore
There are emails
There are meetings
There are plannings and ideatings
And the myriad things that come from them.
This, that, and the other
Always and evermore
The making of the dollar and the scheming and the plan.

My heart is in forward motion, truly, and my vision is my cloak,
But some days even I wish I could drop it in the lake
And run around naked in the sand.
Maybe I’ll dive in and fish it out after it’s good and soggy
With the real, glorious weight of real, glorious water,
Not fake vistas and tapping keys and ballpoint pens and cancer lights.
I’ll squeeze the last drop of goodness out and shake it in the sun,
Then hang it from a high point to dry fresh in the breeze.
Maybe then this vision I had of changing the world
Will refresh me like I hope it will others.
Maybe I’ll wrap it round me to keep warm when winter comes.
Or maybe I’ll leave it there and go for another swim.

union

dance

Two were made one
To ancient rumblings
And tied together, right hand in right,
And the people who witnessed wondered,
Aware of something beyond the flowers and ties and symbols and smiles.
The Word made union a present reality,
And by crumbs and slurps
We feasted at your table.

Something of heaven peeped through and illuminated the nature of things,
There in that place of stone and wood,
As a sunbeam reveals the luminescence in dust.
And it was very good.

We traveled through traffic and fought for parking spots,
Wearing the best and hoping for the same, and checking our troubles at the door.
The bread and wine continued to flow, sacramental
And holier than we thought possible in the tiny pub.
To the tune of pounding feet and warm shouts we rejoiced as one in the oneness.

Something of heaven seeped through and backlit the body heat of the assembled saints,
There in that place of metal and glass,
As a fire warms the bones and wine gladdens the weary heart,
And it was very good.

I saw you, two-now-one, on the frenzy of the dance floor,
Yelling to each other the lyrics you were gifted:
“I’m only gonna break, break your
Break, break your heart”
And I laughed at the naked truth of it.
You see more than most, and still made your vows.
In this, dear ones,
You are fire and you are fearsome,
And the dark ones will quake when you approach.

(on the occasion of Hattie and John’s wedding)

tiny

galaxy

There was a giggle and a flash of a smile,
Red-tinged and wild for the release
Of something she’d prefer not to show
And couldn’t help but let go.
And behind the eyes
The simple phrase, a tiny
“I think he likes me.”
And it struck lightly a blow
To my soul, memorized and remembered,
Of the moment I realized that of You.
Something so infinite
Capsuled in a feeling so tiny
That it was the only place it could fit.

arbor day

arborday

We are two trees,
On a hill overlooking a lonely planet,
And our roots run deep to waters unseen but known to those who trust.

And by some serendipity,
We got planted nearby each other,
Transplanted, perhaps; grafted in…
And over these years of plenty and loss,
Our roots have grown deeper into this rich soil,
And our limbs and trunks have leaned inward and entwined,
A single soul, but distinct when it matters,
Flowered and flourishing,
With little saplings by its side.

Today is Arbor Day around the world,
People planting trees and caring little for their growth beyond the day and fleeting feeling.
The day matters little, yet matters all.
You and I are here where we’ve been for years now,
Resting in each other’s arms and watching the stars and our saplings,
And we are content, because we are one.
Somehow Someone granted us this place, and I’m stunned at the grace.
It’s something to celebrate, this tree-ness.

Grow with me, my darling,
Through the days and nights ahead.
Whether the sun kisses our crowns or darkness gathers round about,
Whether we are supple or creaky,
Naked in winter or clothed with the glory of spring,
Be with me.
We will grow for now,
And one day we will wake to the eternal dawn and be lifted, branches all,
Into His vine, together one.
Perhaps we’ll burst into bloom,
Petals mingling in the eternal dance.

I don’t think we’ll forget this hill or our oneness,
For forgetful hearts will be remade remembering,
And the warmth of this embrace against the cold of this night
Is not easy to forget.

(for my wife, Linnea, on Valentine’s Day 2017)