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.

etch

mirroredsky

(Scripture: Revelation 21:1-7, 22-27)

These little lights of ours,
Candles, lit on the darkest days of the year,
Shining through the frosty haze on window panes:
These are antidotes to our doubts and fears,
These are hopeful sparks of a far future,
Etched in flame in mirror skies,
Called by His name, as we are.
Dawn will see us rise.
Do you hear what I hear?
“He is near,” The cosmos cries.

This City is our Home,
Made bright by the Begotten, leading Born Ones in His train.
He who was lit by starlight,
Is the Illuminating Sun.
He who was flanked by shepherds
Now shepherds everyone.
He who cried for Mary’s touch
Now wipes tears from our view.
He who once was fresh in flesh
Is making all things new.

Citizens and faithful ones,
Your names are known by God with us.
His dwelling place is here,
So that He can draw you near.

Prayer:
Jesus Christ, Word made Flesh,
As you have sewn love into the fabric of creation,
Etch hope into the walls of our hearts.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Suggested Hymn: O Come, All Ye Faithful

(from “Come As a Child: A Christmastide Devotional,” prayers by Pastor Mark van Stee)

Christmastide 1: Crush
Christmastide 2: Sift
Christmastide 3: Flicker
Christmastide 4: Spill
Christmastide 5: Stifle
Christmastide 6: Squall
Christmastide 7: Plunge
Christmastide 8: Kiss
Christmastide 9: Burst

strain

crackedpot

(Scripture: Hebrews 4:14-16)

We are weak.
And our weakness, as winter wind,
Cuts to the bone
And divides us asunder.
We know where we’re grown,
From soil on a planet infected with sin,
The stuff of Satan injected within our broken beating hearts.
Skin-shells are but the start.

You are weak,
Christ-babe, Christ-child,
Christ-teen, Christ-man.
In every season of growth plagued
By the very dust of skin and bone,
Earthy human: as us, for us, with
Head that knew fear,
Hands that knew strain,
Heart that knew love, so
Heaven could know pain.

Persevering Priest,
Place your scarred hands in ours,
Place your scarred self in hearts,
Tempt us anew with Your Divine-Human self,
That through all our Christmases, calendar and within,
Your sanctity and empathy would be reborn in skin.

Prayer:
Jesus Christ, Word made Flesh,
You were injured, so that we might be healed.
You endured pain, so that we might enjoy peace.
You bore the strain of human existence, so that we might rest eternally.
You died, so that we might live.
You are worthy; all praise and honor and glory to you!
Amen

Suggested Hymn: Once in Royal David’s City

(from “Come As a Child: A Christmastide Devotional,” prayers by Pastor Mark van Stee)

Christmastide 1: Crush
Christmastide 2: Sift
Christmastide 3: Flicker
Christmastide 4: Spill
Christmastide 5: Stifle
Christmastide 6: Squall
Christmastide 7: Plunge
Christmastide 8: Kiss
Christmastide 9: Burst

clothe

robestudy

(Scripture: Colossians 3:1-14)

We used to walk
In the ways of the broken
And stand in sin-riddled spaces
And sit in old-self places.
We used to leave love unspoken…
Church,
Kill it, murder the earth in you, the old self, the cold stiff soul of you.
He came with so much more, for you.

Look up,
To a sky packed with angels,
To a star drawing wise men,
To the Baby born and died, now risen and enthroned on high,
To the things unexplainable that are not impossible with God.

Clothe yourself in Him,
(As He slipped into your skin)
In righteous raiment, not of rules,
But of royal, gentle, patient love.
Bear with your brothers and sisters,
Their burdens, their brokenness,
For you are not rich or poor,
Male or female,
Old or young,
But one in Christ.

Christ,
Be born in our everyday Christmas lives,
As you were on that holy Christmas night.

Prayer:
Jesus Christ, Word made Flesh,
Cause us to shed…
The garments of greed, gluttony, and gain.
The apparel of apathy, insensitivity, and indifference.
The attire of anger, hatred, and rage.
And to clothe ourselves with you.
Amen

Suggested Hymn: Joy to the World, The Lord Is Come!

(from “Come As a Child: A Christmastide Devotional,” prayers by Pastor Mark van Stee)

Christmastide 1: Crush
Christmastide 2: Sift
Christmastide 3: Flicker
Christmastide 4: Spill
Christmastide 5: Stifle
Christmastide 6: Squall
Christmastide 7: Plunge
Christmastide 8: Kiss
Christmastide 9: Burst

belief is to feed

Digital Capture

Answer!
We’re too fascinated, fastened to our fashions,
Stacked ads and rancid fads,
Flaccid in our patched passions.
What matters most isn’t plastered
On our fast-latched flash-goals,
Or packed onto our flack-stashing, fatty souls.
Catch Him if you can, cracked ones, or crash.
Your cash won’t make you whole.

Listen!
He invites you in. Light glistens,
Bickering in the spinning night,
Filtered criminals sitting, grinning,
Lit as fitting subliminals, bright.
This time is thinning, my sinners, it’s imminent.
Brim with your winnings, flicker as filaments,
Find in each divine pigment your own,
Simplicity, finitude, filigree, home.

Come!
From grueling suns, foolishly roam,
You crumb-combers, polished bones, boxed ones in zones.
Hone your honesty, honey, hold on when it blows,
Blossom slowly and lovely, more room for more growth
For more thorough thorns, force forging, foraging forms.
Forgo foolproof and long-tooth and lonesome and low,
Fold your cold fortunes forward, foes, flow to more floors,
Full forfeits and forgets will open more doors.

Feast!
For fasting will cease when we die,
Taste these teasers of years spent careening through sky,
The unseemly seekers see clearer, seed nearer,
Flee deeper, ye feeble bleating fearers. Here!
O Dearest, see tears swept swiftly aside, keep keening
In a single weeping Weakling, this Sheep-King.
Know need, Jesus-readers, teach each creature to heed;
For the fleet and the gleeful, belief is to feed.

“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” Luke 14:16‭-‬24

(Liturgical poetry during ordinary time after Pentecost is inspired by the parables of Luke.)

Words for the Church: Ordinary Time
eat the song
smallness
sisyphus
ninety-nine reasons to stay
before you kiss him
shrewd
exitus acta probat
i am thankful
midnight
sense the butcher

sense the butcher

butcher

Violence in the bone
And silence in the stone
Heart at the cry, we are party
To the crime, parting comfort
From the sigh,
“Come and buy, souls for sale,
Discounts for the dregs, wholesale
Bitter pills,
People killed by kindness withheld!”
Weeping filled with findings revealed:
Our hearts.

Our hearts are violence, pestilence.
Restlessness lingers on our lips.
Listen:
Can you sense the butcher in your head?
Lopping limbs from all the dead around you
(Labeled as such, and losing value
By the touch of our tongues and toneless virtue).
Hear ye: “I am here to hurt you.”

Will we always cast out and
Beat down the Named
For the sake of cash cows
And rebranded fame?
It’s by pity the death of the last
Brought us in, and fitting
His breath blew away every sin.

You,
Who hate.
See yourself in that vine,
See you selfishly climb
On the backs of your kin,
Watch the jostle to win.
Now let go and fall,
Frail bundle of bones.
Now cast yourself down
On a Savior of stone.

He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!” Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” Luke 20:9‭-‬18

(Liturgical poetry during ordinary time after Pentecost is inspired by the parables of Luke.)

Words for the Church: Ordinary Time
eat the song
smallness
sisyphus
ninety-nine reasons to stay
before you kiss him
shrewd
exitus acta probat
i am thankful
hell on earth
midnight

midnight

midnight

Midnight, O midnight: when will you be mine?
I’m weary of letting my little light shine.
I fear that I’m getting a bit more aligned
With religious nuts everywhere, calling for signs,
With fidgety monks, covered hair, falling in line.
The people You tend to catch aren’t my type.
They’re flimsy and fatuous, less substance than hype.
And then I remember, I’m one of them too.
When I dismember us, I mutilate You.

Midnight, O midnight, when will you be mine?
I’m weary of letting my little light shine.
Lord, all I receive is never my own,
But I’m told: believe, and I’ll give you a throne.
You give and You take and You won’t let me be,
I live and I make and I sow: don’t You see?
If You’re God, the question remains: why not act?
But You’re rocky; You reap Your refrains, and I lack.
Stock up on struggle, heart, leap to the fray,
The One Who will part you is the One Who will stay.

Midnight, O midnight: when will you be mine?
I’m weary of letting my little light shine.
Lord, the work must be done. The light dims,
The fields are rich, and the work force is slim.
I need Your need deeply (You gave me that too)
To plant Your seed freely (true faith comes from You)
When night comes, Your people will sleep as the dead.
I’ll triple Your goodness, then lay down my head
On a breast full to bursting of patience and grace,
And rise in the morning. Oh, lift up my face!

“Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”
Luke 19:12‭-‬27

(Liturgical poetry during ordinary time after Pentecost is inspired by the parables of Luke.)

Words for the Church: Ordinary Time
gold dust prayer
receive
eat the song
smallness
sisyphus
ninety-nine reasons to stay
before you kiss him
shrewd
exitus acta probat
i am thankful

i am thankful

pharisee

I am thankful I’m
Not like the Pharisee in
This week’s parable.

 

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9‭-‬14 

(Liturgical poetry during ordinary time after Pentecost is inspired by the parables of Luke.)

Words for the Church: Ordinary Time
something fearsome
gold dust prayer
lamps alike
eat the song
smallness
sisyphus
ninety-nine reasons to stay
before you kiss him
shrewd
exitus acta probat

exitus acta probat

lazarus

Opaque,
And reflected darkly,
This person, this place,
This paralysis of my soul in a state
I deem final.
I know when I’m licked.
I see little and know little,
By seeming binary binoculars
Ones and zeros, codes and pixels,
This or that, no others.
And the same seems true of my sisters and brothers.

“We are here, we are here!”
It’s the cry of the crumb,
The doxology of dust,
To reach out and seek bigger beings to trust,
Raised in utter awareness of us as we are,
Tiny specks in a void.
Molecules. Stars.
We are Here,
And this “There” is fairy tale rot
Of beggars named princes,
Of rich men named not.
This Reversal is real to all who can see
The God behind flesh,
The Christ within me.

Wait awhile, wanderers,
Just beyond that door
Is fire for the deaf of heart,
And mercy for the poor.

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” – Luke 16:19‭-‬31

(Liturgical poetry during ordinary time after Pentecost is inspired by the parables of Luke.)

Words for the Church: Ordinary Time
knock
unveil
something fearsome
gold dust prayer
lamps alike
eat the song
smallness
sisyphus
ninety-nine reasons to stay
before you kiss him
shrewd

before you kiss him

justice

I’ve been here for years now,
Fulfilling my duty,
Willing, that You’d be
Proud of all I’ve accomplished,
All that You’ve wished of me, this and more:
I’ve done it.
If it were a contest with him and his whores,
I’ve won it.
What’s the matter with You?
You never change toward me,
No matter what I do.

My character reads like a resume, listen:
Excellent ethic,
Determination,
Discipline.
I enforce Your rules
(Loyalty) as I would my own.
To think that You’ll hold me
By the hand til I’m home
Is to misjudge my duty of walking alone.
(Self-starter)
So let me speak truthfully,
(Candor and ardor):

This ingrate,
Who comes to You empty-handed
After making You so,
This sin-slave to his passions,
At least make him go
To the fields and produce something of value, some yield,
Before You kiss him.
Don’t pretend that You missed him.
Make clear the difference between the two of us,
Somehow, so he knows (so I know) that You’re just.

I wear my merit,
(Experience)
It’s woven through years.
Don’t be moved by this sinner’s presumptive salt tears.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:25-‬32

(Liturgical poetry during ordinary time after Pentecost is inspired by the parables of Luke.)

Words for the Church: Ordinary Time
difficult, divine
better
torrents of my making
mine to forgive
now does the earth
when blood
when blood
knock
unveil
something fearsome
gold dust prayer
lamps alike
eat the song
smallness
sisyphus
ninety-nine reasons to stay