Sunday, March 31, 2013

Apparently, I only post on Easter

Jill and I read the first two chapters of Mark at the vigil last night. I drove her and Zoen home at 9, and came back to write this. I read it just after midnight. Sam had just read chapter 15. It's for everyone who was there, and everyone who might read this. I thought about listing your names, but there are too many. But I held a lot of them as I wrote this. Consider this, then: your name is in the dedication.

Silk-Patched Canvas
Reflections on readings of the gospel of Mark, Easter vigil 2013

I wove these thoughts for you,
in the colors of words
because I hoped that when we cannot find hands,
you could hold on to the sound
of my voice in our dark.

Once, I would have flung hope at you,
set faith on the table and slid it across,
clicked shut my briefcase as you read the label,
asked you to pay in four law installments.

But when they were lynching Jesus,
him swinging low on the tree,
even he demanded to know why he couldn't touch God.

Earlier he would have said to
open your eyes,
especially the ones
you haven't thought up yet.
Come out of your closets.
Wiggle through dirt,
up from your coffins.
Burst through your seeds.
All you need is ears.
And then he would have told you
to keep him a secret.

And then later, he cooked dinner
and dropped off the keys.
But something else happens
when your wrists are opened,
and they're about to dump your body in a hole
only empty because you're not in it yet.

That was his blood day,
like now are our muddled days,
hands cold with old ashes, and
grasping for spring.

So let me tell you a heliocentric story:
green will rise again.
You don't have to believe it. It's true.

But let me also tell you another,
one you'll have to mull over
before you take it home:
I love you.
Each and together.
I hold your names like a yolk on my tongue,
pressed soft away from teeth.
This then, is my promise,
not the blood of atonement,
but this salvation: 
it is not finished at the burst 
of my eventual failure.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Death is green

I was asked to contribute another poem to the vigil this year. I think it came out as more of an Easter poem, though. Judge for yourself, but that wasn't my intention. Maybe it's because, as I suddenly realized at some point last night, I gave up Lent for Lent this year. I also think it belongs in context. I'm riffing off of the last two poems. Here they are: Immlamence (2010) and Roots all the Way Down (2011). The refrain comes from a line from 'Roots All the Way Down' that a good friend of mine latched on to and kept repeating all this last year. Thanks, Clara.

Easter and Lent. April 2012

Death is green.
She wears it like a cotton dress
wet, and soft as the earthing under a bed of needles.
Like maggots wear a carcass, or
iron through a man's wrists.
She can't escape it, try as she might,
any more than you can believe it.
Because you too are green
and all that is green must meet death,
linger late over one last cornerbooth coffee.
Or walk a mile of iron tracks
to find her in a watery ditch
and smelling of cinnamon and rotten peaches.
Or with the intake of breath
over an unpadded crib,
knowing safety is an illusion.
Every green tree, every green love,
every voyage and every contentment
has her number, calls death at home.
I cannot tell you she loves you. She doesn't.
I can't even tell you that she is good, remember.
That is a shortcut of a lie, but

death is green. And,
there is no God. I'm sorry to tell you like this.
But there. You are finally free to meet him now
in August fields where you once ran,
swishing against dry grass, crickets creaking
and burrs under socks.
Mind the thorns of the hedgeapple tree, and
bring a friend because
you will never speak with God
when the voices you carry alone drown him out.
So sit quietly together.
Throw the fruit at the trunk if you must.
Loft it to splatter in wild flowers.
Let it split and you can smell it.
Break it open to prophesy these truths.
There you will find him.
When we sat there, I had only one question:
You were supposed to be making all things new.
Why do we still live these carrion days?
And all he said was, When I met her

Death was green.
And she is green.
And when she heeds the word
and flattens hills and mountains,
we will all be green again.
But for now, I know your guilt is great;
even fifty-two resurrection rests cannot comfort you.
Forty days of light won't do it.
You're open wounds from head to soul.
And it's all of us.
Our protests of peace preach words of war.
Those who occupy fields eat too little,
and those who occupy suits eat too much.
And for all we know, we just sold our own winter
for a summer of storms.
Listen, they pepper-spray people to start a conversation.
I would like to tell you that there is an army readied,
messengers of God steady at the door
to come in firing
and put justice on a throne, throw
up a tent for shade, and
pave a highway through the desert.
But he long ago rose off the mountain
and left us to love for ourselves.
All we have for help is our synchronized breath.
And so there's nothing between us, I will speak plainly. I spent last year depressed. As a result, I got fired in October, the Monday after we confirmed Jill was pregnant. Our community house lost steam. A draft of a novel spent nine months unedited. I felt like a bad and a lazy and a stupid person. Who can't just show up at an easy job every day and do easy work? I felt like I flunked the whole year.
One morning this January I woke up and I felt okay for once. And the next day was good too. And then I had a week, and then two weeks. I was terrified to not feel awful. But I'm not depressed right now. My novel is filling out, but slowly. I don't really have a job. I'm doing this temp thing that's boring me to tears.
And Jill's still got that kid growing in her belly.
While I want to believe that all these deaths
will be fully green, I can only see shoots.
There's a swelling, like they say.
And I hope that April is only the cruelest month
if you fight it. If you expect it to save you,
instead of just letting it be,
instead of refusing to believe we need

death to be green.
Because we do. Even if there's no romance
in her stench. Even if you can't wash the glow
off Fukishma and Chernobyl, or
the slime from the shores of Indonesia.
Even though we are all death times death. Fat off
plagues and rich off wars. We're Lannisters and Hitlers,
and we come from strong stock.
But we're also Days and Ben-Jospephs.
We've had a long love affair with trees.
We are dead stars breathed into life.
So all I ask that you give us your hands, and
we'll be friends becuse we are not slumbering here.
I won't claim to be Puck, or Tiresias.
Or even Isaiah, who accused us
of being grasshoppers while
God lounges on the horizon.
Because something changed when God ripped
the curtain down to show that he wasn't Oz
pulling at levers. He pulled it down to show us
there was no one there at all.
You didn't need to keep trying
to make that leap of faith.
The word of God became green.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

thanks² 18

Blessed are those who pull for shore. Not for the peril of dry land, but the safety of the deep.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

thanks² 17

"Let's go."
"We can't."
"Why not?"
"Because we're waiting..."
"Oh yes."

thanks² 16

We only gather together in order to scatter together.

thanks² 15

We're all patchworks of each other.

thanks² 14

Once abandoned, some things grow beautiful.

thanks² 13

Everyone's a mess under there.

thanks² 12

Dry leaves wash up on the roofshore, the apostles of the gospel of winter.

thanks² 11

Someday, I am going to die.

thanks² 10

I weep with, and I laugh with. Not so good at keeping a straight face with.

thanks² 09

Who says pessimists get all the emptiness?

thanks² 08

Go to the theatre. Play the part. Sing and raise your hands. Pretend to love. Then wear it home. Maybe your heart will stick like that.

thanks² 07

It's dangerous to go alone.

thanks² 06

We are afraid there is nothing there. But flip that switch anyhow, friends. The light itself is good.

thanks² 05

William told us and Chinua told us.
And we have to believe them.
But you can sew a satin lining, too.
And then when you come home to a dark house,
you aren't afraid to find it
and half a closet empty

thanks² 04

Deep down, I wanted to be fired.

thanks² 03

To unravel is to destroy, I know.
No more to be held and hover
in the echoes of spring, sleep quickened.
And a couch shared
does not make more than friends.
But those intent minutes among
untwisted ropes would be glorious.

thanks² 02

So much have I not lost.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

thanks² 01

All mornings are windows too bright to see through.

thanks² prime

My friend Bet Mercer invited a bunch of people to contribute to a project on thankfulness for the month of November. Every day, take a picture with Instagram or RetroCamera and write a line of prose or poetry about it. I've been posting these to the Facebook page, but I want a central place to archive what I've been up to these last few weeks. Here comes what I've been and will be thankful for.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Lenten poem

I was asked to contribute a piece to our church's Lenten table this year that centered on the Main street corridor near our house. In the midst of the earthquake in Japan, and the Love Wins controversy, and the Arab Spring, and everything else, I wrote this poem for that first week of Lent. I rewrote it for the last week, and then did some slight revisions for here.

Roots All the Way Down
Elemental reflections on Lent, 2011

I. nero
Rushing water invades spaces,
all of your gathered
broken-home friends,
crushing like week-fresh teenage infatuation
dashed, sneaks under the doors, rats
bringing a new plague, nipping at your toes
under blankets, your bed was too low, friend, your house
built too close to the sand.

I always imagine Death is green, glowing
like in paintings of Chernobyl
that hung in our church hall in Minsk,
lumbering with his scythe, skeleton
sweeping through skinned skeletons, the helpless
and the helpful, and I'm sorry Irina, and
I'm sorry Andrei, you don't get to have legs. Or
a mother besides this cold crib, one more
in a cubicle sea dropped in an ocean of dry white
buildings where they can't afford enough nurses.
And yeah, yeah, amazing grace. But also,
what amazing destruction.

Minsk made it through. They seeded the clouds with cannons;
you could hear them booming in the morning.
It was only the country that died.
And I'm sure Japan will make it.
Okuma isn't Pripyat, I tell myself,
whisper with all the courage of
God is now here.

II. gi
I walked the earth to Main last night,
the light turned down to amber,
wanting to be plucked by a great hand
off to a valley chock with metaphor
where God would ask me a question I had no answer for,
and he would answer with breathing
life into death,
and I would finally have a good word for you now.

And I know Main isn't 27th, isn't Detroit, I know
some businessman will breathe life into these bricks again,
replace rock-emptied panes. The sunshadow
of long-dead Auto Parts signs will
be filled again, life abundant. I believe, brother.
I believe, sister.

But if God met me there at all, I couldn't touch him like
I held a flaked shard of a concrete window sill,
broke it, thought to taste,
laid it back to rest instead.

III. aer
On a walk like that, when you don't meet God,
you expect the devil, coming along with
look at her walk, why can't you afford
this bauble, turn that
unused parking barrier into bread.
But I didn't hear him either,
just the voice of the city,
the vast empty rush of tires on pavement,
dirty windows, NO standing, get a loan you'll never afford.

This also I heard: the spaces between waves of cars and buses,
drywall hung -- not finished, and will it ever be?,
black windows further up than a man's throw,
and the alley between a pair of houses condemned.
And if he's not up there somewhere in the sky,
looking down on us, causing tsunamis and breaking all our hearts,
maybe this was God.

IV. pyr
There's a fire burning in the womb of the world,
it's a pool they can't cool before it steams,
pouring and pouring, can it ever be filled?
And it's people walking the earth, out into streets, asking
for a voice, crying for a voice,
and hearing bombs in return,
our bombs and their bombs, and who couldn't pull a trigger
in a place like that?
And it's a city divided by a street and a color and a state line.
And it's all the things you can't hear, even straining.

I hear hope lives. I pray hope lives.
But there isn't a man on a hill,
right here, bushy beard, smelling of campfire smoke
and a long second mile
to tell me don't be afraid,
selling all I have and giving it all away
will wake me to a new view, a new kind of crushing empire,
an empire of love the Leader killing you like you love your brother,
like you love your own self,
and if you were the one hurting you, what would you do?
All we have is alleys, lovers' whispers you can't quite hear,
waiting rooms, and wind chimes,
and the long silence after the shaking stops.

V. aether
So we huddle lonely on the mountain,
waiting for the waves to come,
afraid only of now, of when,
afraid of everything,
then. Even living.
Asking what we'll do
when the fire consumes us,
the silt and mud suffocate,
the wind topples over the edge.
Saying farewell to those who dare think
we could have a scrap here and now,
the only question to ask is when to jump. Not if.
All the paths directed to the same damned place.

Unless, there aren't any questions anymore because
there aren't any answers except
reaching over and clasping hands.
God off his throne,
in the warmth of our fingers.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I've never bought the end of Job

I wrote this at the vigil, between the stations of the cross and the end of the open mic time, and finished the second draft it in time to read it aloud. I had waffled on posting it, especially since it's very Saturday, and we're all into Sunday now. I considered writing a Sunday piece to companion it, but that felt like I was betraying its truth. But Tony Jones posted today about a musician named David Bazan, and the song that David is singing in this video has some parallels, and I dig global synergy of artistic statement, so I thought I'd go ahead and revise my piece and add my voice to the conversation.

( Holy Saturday Vigil, 2010)

I've never bought the end of Job,
he's dust,
wrapped up in sackcloth
lying in dust,
and you show, whirlwind or no,
all haughty and proud, after all that time,
like this guy's the one
who's got something to answer for,
like he was the one done the betraying,

and you're casting another stone:
brace yourself, bucko,
answer me like you're a man
like you haven't been being a father,
where were you when pressure and heat
made physics break down,
like you're breaking down now,
femto and femto, and everything BANG,
or when I separated waters from waters?,
like you're separated from daughters and sons.
Do you know what it's like to swim the Mariana trench,
the pressure would pop you like a ripe boil,
or lay down Armstrong's steps for him,
traced out in fine white dust like this ash?

I see why you needed Jesus,
if he'd shown up like that,
we'd've killed him sooner.

And since Job never answered,
awed by questions and presence, they say,
but maybe more broken by oozing sores on his back,
and a wife laying down track for his suicide,
in the wake of crushed, rotting loves,
I'll speak for the downtrodden,
for those with no voice.

Who is this that obscures your counsel without knowledge?
It's all of us. We only know what you've given.
Brace yourself like a God,
and I will question.

Where were you when Uday beat those men's feet,
for losing a match?
And where were you when the men's souls had died already,
so it was nothing to push another hundred into the showers,
living gas, not water?
And do you know what it is like
when soldiers sent kill themselves because
protecting their loves from babbling beards in towels,
fresh from a life of dollars a day,
doesn't protect them from having their hearts scraped out
by their own automated trigger pulls?
And when the girls won't eat,
because daddy's leaving,
he's found a weekend girl,
easy to play like a Final Fantasy,
and mommy's already surfing for
the eharmony of a fill-in-the-blank replacement,
were you there?
What good is good news to the dead?

Surely, I speak of things I don't know about?
Surely, these are things too wonderful to know?
Right? Your ways are not our ways?
Maybe. But they're the ways you laid
on your foundation.

So, what was the deal?
You had to win a bet against an accuser?
It was because you had to be right when he was wrong?
Is that it? Is that what all of this is,
just a cosmic game of backgammon,
where at the end, after chastising them
for laying on the board,
finger picked and hand placed,
you're just going to cast
white stones and black stones
together into the sea?
Or, do the white ones get to file home
on the soul merit of skin's tone?

How about this:
were you there when they hammered railroad spikes
through a god-forsaken man's arms,
like they were blood draining a hog on a tree?

Because, you were supposed to be.
That's supposed to be you,
stepping into the way of suffering,
like cheeks we're told to turn.

And if it's not,
if, like with Job,
pain you inflict,
is pain you deflect,
darkness is our only God.