confessional

easterlily

Yesterday was Easter.
Like lilies we arched
our necks and sent
fragrance heavenward. We were full
as full can be after baskets and feasts; the feeds
filled up with family photos and we liked
and loved and shared. It was a season
of champagne. Monday came and I
greeted it with risen
indeeds, and my deeds came
not from the blush of a sunrise
empty grave but from the whitewash

maw. Risen One, Easter
has been happening for two thousand some years and so has
Monday, and Tuesday, and the rest of the week.
Would that single Sundays could change
forever

our solitary weeks, rituals our train rides,
feasts our hungry bellies. You are not a God
of “one-and-dones” but a lifeline. The fullness
we know
at times
is a reminder that You are indeed
filling, now, and again, and
again. If I was refreshed
once and for all, would I need
You each day? I wake

and receive, and sin, and receive, and mourn,
and receive, and rejoice, and receive. I would despair
if I couldn’t receive, but it’s funny how I wish
I didn’t have to. I am in need, I confess it. I live in a

body of death in a
place of death in a
time of death, and You are Life
Eternal. Remind me, my Easter, through my filthiest
moments, through my rainiest
hours, through my loneliest
days, that Easter is every
day, that Your once-and-for-all is a
presence, not a pact I need to
fulfill. How shall we then

live? By confession: grace
an evident
sacrament, a long-
ing and fulfillment
entwines.

familiars

lion

Old friend,
rest your head on my
chest again, weigh me down.
How you’ve grown since I last let you
rest at the edge of my bed.
(weight)
A lion from a kitten,
pads and claws from pinprick paws,
sinew and muscle and softest fur,
(weight)
Dogged, determined a hounding
Within, this familiar. Flee
The haunting, my twin.

Here kitty kitty-
how you have grown!
What big eyes you have
fixed on me. The inward home
Never tame, and always domestic,
And always on my chest
(weight)
awhile a week a year a life,
all those
moments you grew and I knew
you grew, and the fear of it was
(weight)

Will you ever leave me, beloved?
Or will prowling purrs greet me
bedside to wake and
defeat me each day
that I live, you eat
me and feed me, your
(weight)
crushing my chest with present choices.
I’ll let you nudge me til I reach for you,
gnaw me while I preach at you
scratching itching ears and comfort scars
claw to the bone. Yawn,
large and
constant companion, while I
(wait)
I will live with you
and learn from you,
and rule you and be ruled, and
(wait)

perhaps the sea

perhapsthesea

Foaming and violent as the wave,
we echo of beatings taken
on shores unknown or known too well.
The sea is as young as it is sage,
as seasoned in relief as in spite,
splitting sand and salt asunder
in its desperate grasp for land.
Within our breasts beat
echoes of land taken kernel by kernel,
we know not where,
we know not when,
we know naught, lest we see.

Leagues and knots,
leagues and knots rattle,
leagues and knots roll beneath us,
scraping our hulls, lulling us,
pulling parabola ripples back
and forth and back, forth
to conquer back, forth
to falling back, forth
to inky behemoth back, forth
to back, and finally forth.
We are parabolic too.

The sea and sky are each inside the other,
entwined in supine leisure,
boiling as aquamarine, fallible,
flawed and two things at once: one new thing.
The oldest things, perhaps,
the deepest things, perhaps, fail us
at the moment of resurgence,
for they shift beneath our feet and
we are walking on air with our heads in the ocean.
The upside will be down,
on all sides sea as far as the eye,
on every side beings of import and concomitant export believe.

We are waves and sand and sea and sky,
grey and blue and green and black,
and one day there will no more of us,
(by virtue or valor, the earth will be full of us),
and the sky will consume the sea and send it
back and forth on the wind
as judgment and serene volition.

On that day,
may we drink deep of the saltless nectar of clouds,
may we inhabit mist in memoriam of who we were,
may we wash mountain peaks and greenify gardens,
and revel in the rivulets.

Be still with me, and feel
the beating of the back and forth and
the fullness of a pregnant horizon.
Know the frailty of sand and time.
Place your hand in mine
and evaporate.

too small a thing

snowflake

“It is too small a thing
to shine light in the dark
of the days on the path for the dead.
And it is much too tiny
to give you a light, when
I can make you all lights instead.

It is too small a thing
to plant the seed deep,
and let your growth be up to dirt.
And it is much too tiny
to cease nurture of each
to be Life to all those who hurt.

It is too small a thing
to just give you sight.
I must walk with you so I might see.
And it is much too tiny
to provide you with eyes
and not a new way to be free.

It is too small a thing
to be Lord of your lives
and to rule with benevolent grace.
and it is much too small to
relinquish the rule of your hearts
and not love face to face.

It is too small a thing
to just be with you now
in the moment your sorrow is air.
And it is much too tiny
to not breathe it in
and be one with you in your despair.

It is too small a thing
to build heavenly homes
and to fit them for queens and for kings.
And it is much too tiny
to not make a place
for you here in myself, ‘neath my wings.”

Church:
We are too small a thing
for an infinite God
to fit into anything less,
so He came to us tiny
to capsule in bodies
His Love and His Truth and His Rest.

(from Isaiah 49:5-7)

mercifully

silverlining

Don’t you tell me
everything is going to be okay,
that silver slivers line the sky behind those brooding clouds.
Are your eyes better than mine?
Can you see past the present?
Wait, that’s right.
Your special knowledge grants you sight.
Let me clarify:

We are not thriving in the Garden,
we are dying in the desert.
We cannot reverse the plummeting,
we cannot catch ourselves.

Let me be discouraged.
I am one in need, to feel in my viscera
the disconnect, the anger, the problem,
so I can grow to know it, this Nineveh,
holding it in my hands and rolling it around my tongue.
Let me breath it back and swallow it up in my lungs.
Don’t you see?
Sweeping it behind the bright side
only conceals it!
It still exists.
Do you think, somehow, that’s final?
I’ve seen enough to know it’s not,
that left there, it will only rot.

Mercifully,
I can feel pain.
By grace I know
that something is wrong.
In Christ is hope not only of release and tearless eye,
but also that He’ll catch and hold us here beneath the sky.

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.