the meaning of life
revealed in masterful
each objective met
tightly constructed phrases
free of clutter
no extraneous thought
no unnecessary expression
in rhyme or not
dart around corners
one stanza to another
perfection on paper
he operates purposefully
on a sparse lexicon
the outline of branches
no leaves to obscure
a pithy linguistic
these are his
EVIDENCE OF THE MIRACULOUS
Miracles don’t carry with them
signed papers specifying the
time, date or mechanics of
this or that manifestation
of the miraculous.
Rather, miracles move about
in sheerness and stealth as
portals through which God
fulfills His desire to be near us.
As emissaries of God
they are charged with protecting
the inherent mystery
for without mystery
there can be no faith.
If we know everything,
there is nothing left to seek
and seeking is an essential
expression of our humanity.
To seek in faith within
the cloud of unknowing
is our genesis and teleology
our existential premise.
Miracles are hard to figure, however.
Their paradoxical psyche throws us off.
By nature they are hidden, clandestine.
Yet they are born for notoriety
wanting fiercely to be known.
Jesus sent healed people away saying,
“Go and tell no one.”
But the glory of God must be
revealed by God’s people.
Our telling is revelation
evidence of the miraculous.
Miracles rarely shout obnoxiously
or cause a scene in public.
Rather, they emerge
to clothe us in gentleness
douse us with comforting Spirit.
They lead us through locked doors.
Miracles announce themselves
in dichotomous identity as
timid tsunamis of grace
fantastical reminders of God’s
perfect unending love for us.
They smile and beam in secret
generating quiet sighs of
I breathed rumors of its fragrance
even before the purple bough
was shaken free and cut.
Beauty is effusive.
It travels like dust in a shaft of light
noticeable only in stillness.
Beauty floats, it swirls,
it slides under locked doors
to the other side
going undetected until we rest
then we see.
We are called. Not loudly.
Just a whisper is the invitation
to be free.
What holds us back?
Are we brave enough
to step out of our castles, jails,
porches, fallout shelters,
our cocoons, coffins,
our frayed and wearied selves?
And if we manage that, then what?
Will we be brave enough to Dance?
Like Aspen leaves applauding in the sun
caught in the sweep of unbound joy
our old selves put to rest in shadow and ash.
Our hair, clothing, everything will be
scented lilac; we become new (again).
The edge of life is the end of fear
and the beginning of everything good.
The white flag washes over us
like angels’ wings.
We are left holding the sunburst.
Empty. Open. Gorgeous in the light.
Olam is the world
the place where God hides
the place of shifting
colors and tides
where ecstatic forms
beg me to seek and
to seek exhaustively
and then to give in
go to sleep
go to sleep
and I do finally give in
embraced by this lofty day
engaged in warm breath
against the mountain
such a bold piece of earth
how it reeks
of the insidious relations of passion
that, lingering, do not give up
how it reeks of the whispers of our history
full of beauty
full of the sense of infinitude
but very past
very unknown to these present days
We used to search the secret places
the interior body of the mountain
used to swim in the moonlit bogs
out of breath
waiting for the other
to find us
and drink us
into the river of the soul
never to be found again
never to want anything again
as we had wanted one another here
in this clandestine valley
where, as mystics,
we scoured the sand, the wood,
and the faces of the other
in search of God
Olam is the world
the place where God hides
where God plays within the distance
an outstretched arm allows
the distance of an outstretched arm
away from our folly and sin
have we breathed God in
at various times
we have given birth to God
in our souls
from out of my womb
came the life and love of God
Yet even hiding moments away
God is oftentimes sorely invisible
to our parched and blinded eyes
how desperately we seek God’s love
how we long for transformation
in the furnace of God’s heart
Seeking eternal life, we fall
in love with one another
in the hope of redeeming
ourselves and the world
we fall in love with one another
in the hope of living this life fully
we fall in love in the hope
of rediscovering our true,
Behold, the baby’s cry
the intertwining love of creatures
the mountain that reeks of our passions
Behold, God is near
disguised in the pallor
of mundane life
but near nonetheless
embodied and free
is the world
the place where God hides
LIGHTNESS AND ROCK
You stand overlooking the sea
from a high plane on a brazen jetty
facing the chill tempest alone.
You stand among the sharp rocks
and point daringly up to sky
as if you are one of them
as if you exist beyond the extent
to which she created you.
I come to you, to that beyond
I look into you, not through
no one can look through
you are too solid
your bone like heavy rock
only your hair is light
for your soul is heavy too
though I have balanced it
on stretched fingers.
When I am with you
I touch both lightness and rock.
In raving scarlet and gold,
daybreak’s sheer wonder illuminates
the upward crescent of your neck
your sharp cheekbone (just as she described).
Poised on firm rock
you turn to greet me with red hair flaring
against the turquoise backdrop of sea.
Your sterling eyes survey my
body, mind, purpose for living.
Your self-assurance… dazzling.
I stand before you holy diaphanous.
The open collar of my sheer blouse
falling from my shoulder scented
lime verbena and vanilla.
I have never been afraid to be like you.
In moments of exultation
and pure love of existence
I have seen only the ocean, the sky
and your figure before me.
I could never loosen you from my
intellect, character, being.
Like the moon, I absorb your brilliance.
I contain you.
Even though she would never sanction it
and would disregard me with contempt:
I own you, Howard Roark.
I own you.
I never wait for you.
Even though she and you reject the concept
of someone owning someone else
it remains this way.
Her method was not fail-safe.
She created you.
Her golden offertory to the world!
She set you atop a pinnacle of granite
and made you laugh.
It follows me,
waiting for the
I am alone.
It comes then
to rattle and disturb
what is left of me.
When my shadow
leaves that moment
to engage the world,
people talk to it
thinking it is me,
though I am still
in the memory
of your holding.
You once shimmered
in the sun for me.
Your voice so soft
I had to lean in
to hear the
of your love.
THE MINISTRY OF BEING
A thousand birds
the new day
pale mist orange dawn
A thousand prayers
the dusky currents
of water and wind
our daily bread
A thousand desires
the false self
its chains asunder
A thousand breaths
the new self
renewed in Christ
emerging for You
across the cloven road
of tired twistings into war
and whole being
connecting dear life
a giant whisper
praying tomorrow into reality
in vision of Spirit
in sync with Calling
in view of birds
my heart seeks
the fire consumed
and when my heart
finally speaks of union
no longer am I seeking
but I am pure flame
rising like smoke through the darkness
TOO MUCH BEAUTY
A Poem for Vincent Harding
Speaking with pauseful ease
he intones the quintessential homiletic
infusing the momentariness of words
with soulful bodiness, lingering form
as if matter
as if something I could neatly package
and take home to show visitors, saying:
I received this gift on that night.
As thoughtful an act as a little girl’s
choosing of wild flowers from a
sunstruck rainbow field,
his deliberate choosing of words pours through me like hot coffee
on the other side of dense Aspen in the chill of autumn morn:
A warmth that runs so deep it feels like love with a capital “L.”
I take it in. I drink.
I listen and embrace as if it were the end and I had nothing to do but
stand with this kind of openness and absorb the truth into my entire self.
The end that is also the beginning.
I hear anew, breathy phrases, rhythmic silences full of mind
graciously uttered by humanity’s wise and loving father
whose going before us has been happening for seven decades
whose going before always includes a torch of blazing light
holding the way open for worldly transformation
and singular instances of healing.
The transformative quality of language re-emerges, determined
and bright, from the resonate throat of Dr. Vincent Harding.
Once again and as always, our teacher beckons us.
He moves and inspires us all to lift the veil of despair.
“Lift the veil!” He proclaims.
For there is too much work to be done
to consider ourselves already free.
Lift the veil!
Too much falling short
to believe ourselves morally infallible.
Lift the veil!
Too much reconciliation to accept
to withhold forgiveness from one another.
Too much hoping for tomorrow
to allow our graces and gifts to go unused.
Too much learning how to be deliberate about speech
to lazily say things we don’t fully believe
Too much of God’s will as yet unrevealed
to cease our sojourn toward Truth and Source.
Too much beauty. Too much goodness. Too much love.
Too much to be anything but wholly open and alive and willing
and vulnerable and awkward when learning to speak the truth.
Too much prophesy
to be silent.
O, there is too much of what is good and true in this world
to be anything but salt of the Earth and light for the Kingdom.
Too much to be anything but hot coffee for our cold brethren:
Jesus, Buddha, Yahweh, Allah—theirs alms bowls hollow.
There is too much beauty in the world
to speak off-the-cuff, to shuffle without grace or awareness
into this raging century of missiles, racisms—all kinds of brokenness.
There is too much war too much innocent blood being shed
to sit without praying, to fill the space with words that don’t mean
anything, to simply brace oneself for the end.
There is too much at stake
to make choices without thinking, to intone anything less than the
quintessential homiletic ringing out for a lasting peace
There is too much beauty; of this you remind us,
O Centurion of Transformation.
From you we have learned
that we cannot let down our vigilance
nor allow our tender flames to die.
You remind us, Teacher of Justice,
to hold open the possibility of fresh beginning,
to stand before our world as new human beings
speaking truth in love with evangelical fervor
for peace, in awe of God’s saving grace, saying,
I received this gift on that night,
Opening these neatly tied packages for the world to see
so that it might receive God’s light
through our minor bodies
MY MOTHER MARY
A Poem of Gratitude
Mary, O Mary
the one who lives for God
who rests ably in God
who knows she belongs to God
the pain is gone
fear has dissipated
anger has no reason
there is no greed
there is nothing
there is nothing
nothing to hear
but God’s voice
in my heart
beating wonderfully, richly
in the Hope of Rising Again
What is the feast of the poet?
words, of course
Neruda added “peace.”
To fulfill the prerequisites of our craft
and be effective workers of the word
we must possess
a heightened perception of beauty
a comprehensive understanding
of the universe however momentary
a glimpse into how everything
connects to everything else
we must possess
a maniacal desire to collect random threads
and make meaning out of seemingly
disjointed segments of
we must possess
an open heart
Neruda added “peace.”
We live our lives hungry
for that brilliant second of
for the revelation of
magnificently free poetness
when the silt filters down
and the shaken water stills.
Our minds become clear
like a doe’s stare
relaxed and unafraid.
We melt before her
and become like God
beholders of life.
The poet lives a life of resistance to
entropy and death ever tugging
and tearing at the mind.
hurl us into busyness
instead of poet beautyness.
Insanity bestirs the soul
tendencies to spin rise to
the surface of our thin skins.
We are not cops after all
but soft prophets who long
to devour the world
drench it in words
beautify and heal it.
We are fighting for sane voice
in an artless, disordered world.
Our measured attempts to order things
into the medium of mosaic at best
are thwarted by society’s immorality.
Our lips go mute, hands cramp
refusing to indulge and capitulate.
In the end, the purse of our birthright
as poets cannot be snatched.
We begin again.
What is the feast of the poet?
I say, quiet
Neruda added “peace.”
after Sandy Hook
I am the mother who hears the news then
furiously drives, parks her car wherever, and runs.
I saw myself running up as close to the entrance
as I could get, pressing against the barricade
until the cops put out their arms
and told me to stop.
I stood in a line of parents facing the school.
The door burst open. One by one, kids ran out.
With fine-tuned homing beacons they
found their parents and jumped into their arms.
On both sides of me children reunited
with their moms and dads, fiercely-
as if years had passed.
I waited, my eyes fixed on the open door.
Waiting for my angel, the love of my life,
to come running towards me and jump
into my arms.
Then the flow of kids stops.
No one is coming out.
All of the parents, with their children safe
in their arms, are turning towards their cars,
tears of relief streaming down their faces
and into the apple-smelling hair of their
six year-old daughters and sons.
I look back at the door. Empty.
It is closing. There are no more coming out.
I suddenly realize that I am her.
The one who no one ever wants to be.
The mom who waits and waits
pressed against the barricade
watching the children pour out,
not seeing the one who belongs to her.
I am the one left standing alone.
I will not be standing alone for long, however,
for the sheriff is walking toward me.
I do not want to be with him;
he does not belong to me.
I back away from him.
“Go away,” I say.
I would rather swallow dirt
and have my legs cut off
than hear what you have to tell me.
But then: “Mom! Mom!”
a familiar voice yells behind me.
I turn and see him with a bandage on his forehead;
a medic has her arm around his shoulders.
My son! The one who belongs to me.
I fall to the ground.
He runs to me and jumps into my arms
shaking and sobbing.
I kiss his soft cheeks, cry into his hair, and breathe in
what is left of his innocence.
We are here on the ground for two minutes
until my bent knees go numb on the pavement.
I look at his face, press my palms against his cheeks.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes,” he says.
I stand up with him still in my arms
(how it will be all night) and start walking
to the car to take him home with me.
I look back over my shoulder at that landscape of horror,
and I see her: the one who is pressed against the barricade, waiting.
She is the one who will be waiting forever, not me.
The sheriff walks towards her in slow motion
to tell her the words no mother ever wants to hear.
She backs away from him.
She would rather swallow dirt.
She turns and stumbles dizzily towards her car,
her arms heavy with the weight of emptiness.
She is pretending to be like the other parents, like me.
Yet the sheriff is on her heels.
How will he tell her the emptiness will never go away?
I used to race the crop duster
in golden fields
on dirt roads.
Almost won on two occasions
when his engine sputtered
and stopped midair
the plane suddenly adrift
serene like a silent glider.
Not even the evacuation
of dirty oil made noise
only my footfalls
as I took cover
under the Cottonwoods
evading the downpour by inches
my white summer dress spared.
In general, it seemed good exercise
a brief respite from my
rigorous summer schedule of
syrupy lemonade and
crunchy green beans snatched
from the untamed roadside vines.
My best friend and I napped in our tent
a sheet knotted to the strongest branch
of our favorite Weeping Willow tree.
Unsecured corners fluttered in a breeze
scented by fresh watered garden
We dreamed of becoming elementary school teachers
enjoyed the feel of papers in our hands
passing them out to pretend children
with whom we would get stern
only so we could show mercy later on.
When the lazy din of the
cranky biplane woke me up
I’d part the eaves of the tent
and jump out excitedly
full velocity as if
were at hand and I would be
the honored first to see.
No one ever told me to run in the
opposite direction of the plane.
Never warned me not to inhale.
No one knew better then (our excuse).
Looking back, I should have
in Pam Miller’s bulkhead
and played Old Maid until the dust settled.
Instead I danced in the July snow
raced full throttle in Paradise Acres
Gleefully I chased with mouth agape
the slow-falling candy prisms.
Early on the pilot would laugh at me.
Flash his gay low-flying smile
speed up and slow down
according to the ambition of my gallop.
A real race I fancied.
I could see the pattern of his teeth
and the way he parted his hair.
He flew that low.
He was my friend.
At least it seemed
until the wind changed.
Five summers into our playful duel
I could no longer muster
enough air to run even
half the length of cornfield.
As I grew older and slower
he showed less and less affection for the race
as if he had grown tired of me.
(Though he too was getting older.)
He would pass me no problem
as my feet jogged clumsily along
my heart feeling as if it would erupt
lungs burning with every sip of crystalline air.
I was no longer a challenge
for the man simply doing his job.
His exuberant countenance gave way to
the occasional rigid salute
given just before he would pull up
through his poison vapor trail.
By the time I turned eleven
he had forgotten me altogether.
Never acknowledged me.
Flying low overhead
he would simply open his shutters
let scatter the ashes
into the pregnant thundercloud
leaving me behind
to pant and heave
bent over my knees
until the rattle settled
and the burning went away.
JEWEL IN HIS EYE
Dragons, skateboard, Mama
the beautiful boy
lights up the world
stepping out onto
tiptoeing to the ledge
looking back at Mama
before dropping in
the 12 ft. wall
blue eyes smile
the jewel in his eye
before he goes
I see it glimmer
my baby boy grows up.
SUN THROUGH THE GRAPE LEAVES
A Meditation on Taking it Easy
life lately has left me
my affection for being
I have to drop things now
my noble commitments
to people, projects, mind
a self-release from life
I must open up time
with intentionality seek
serenity with a fierceness
that sets me on fire towards
cinders of grace wrenching
time open for nothingness
time to categorize the clouds
to notice the sun framed
by grape leaves twining
blossoming fruit dangling
space for the Buddha within to arise
to evaporate my stress hormones
integrate them into the world
into God who has the capacity
to transmute them and me
I must pursue time and space
with focused vigor
to calm my body down
from the race it has been running
from the trauma it has been holding
the involuntary high of crisis
because life lately has left me bone-dry exhausted
with just enough energy
to manically anticipate the end
when sleeping goes on forever
and I am a free-floating whisper
whose only responsibility
is to look straight into the sun
through shaking leaves
and discern the promise of sweet
Bethlehem Lutheran Church, August 2012
“I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to Him and the blessings fall down on me.” 17 year-old Gabby Douglas proclaimed this two weeks ago when she won the Olympic Gold Medal in women’s gymnastics.
In today’s reading from Ephesians, Paul exhorts: “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything.”
Gabby’s performance in the Olympics was music from her heart; her statement a song of praise. What I love about her statement is that it characterizes her relationship with God as reciprocal. This has been my experience, too.
In this sermon, I’m going to talk about Process Theology: a way of understanding God and our relationship to Him that was crafted by 20th Century Theologian Alfred North Whitehead. Gabby Douglas’s quote gracefully epitomizes Process Theology: “The glory goes up to Him and the blessings fall down on us.” I hope that by the end of this sermon you will have an understanding of how her testimony relates to the very dense and heady rubric of Process Theology.
Theologians offer us ways of conceptualizing God. But there are always gaps—questions left unanswered because human intellectual understanding is inadequate to explain God’s miraculous workings. We are imperfect beings dancing in the Spirit, steeped in the mystery. Still, we have much to learn from the fruits of academic discourse. Theologians challenge us to see God with fresh eyes and open hearts. They are learned in Scripture and steeped in prayer; most often they are inspired by the Spirit and led by Jesus in their work.
When I attended seminary at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, I took a course on Alfred North Whitehead. Whitehead was not only a theologian, but also a mathematician. His scholarship and his ideas are dense. I had to stretch myself to just pick up his books. He made up his own words and phrases to describe things. The few sentences in each paragraph that I did understand, however, led me to a commitment. I was determined to understand what this man was saying. I was mother of a two year-old, research assistant to two professors; I was going to school full-time and working one job. I was Superwoman and I wasn’t going to let one old theologian get the best of me!
I was like an Olympian who would not give up. At the end of the quarter I received a B on my final 18-page paper, which, according to the professor’s PhD students was absolutely incredible and rare. It was the professor’s comments on my paper that left me both humbled and thrilled. He wrote: “This is a good paper for a non-specialist. You have Whitehead’s concepts basically “right”… The full dimensions of Whitehead’s aesthetic are elusive, but I believe he would come to much the same conclusions as you have.” My work had paid off. All of the student loan debt I acquired was worth it just for the fulfillment of that hard-won understanding.
I would like to share the basic structure of Process Theology with you because, when I finally understood it, it made a big impact on my life and in my relationship with God. I will present my interpretation— which is the basic, simplified version— because, of course, I am a non-specialist.
In Whitehead’s process, there are two natures of God. Before you call the bishop on me, let me tell you that Whitehead was a Monotheist. Like you and me, he believed in the one God of Judaism and Christianity. If you think about it, God is so vast—God is everything—that it is not a stretch to imagine that He has manifold natures. Thank goodness for us Whitehead narrowed it down to just two: The Primordial Nature and the Consequent Nature.
The Primordial Nature of God is the source of creativity, the bank of all yet-to-be-realized potentialities. It is permanent and is akin to our traditional notion of God. It is this part of God that is continually interfusing humanity with parts of Himself.
Multiple times every second, the Primordial Nature of God sends us what Whitehead terms “initial aims.” I think of initial aims as holy opportunities or callings. Within an initial aim is God’s hope and vision for human progress and growth.
Since initial aims are coming at us so frequently, we filter many out. When we accept one, we have to decide what we are going to do with the opportunity. How are we going to act? Are we going to turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it? Or are we going to resist God and flounder? What gifts will we give back to God?
Human beings are inventive. God trusts this about us. We are richly creative; we seek progress and advancement. Humanity expands the world through ideas. This is the process. For Whitehead, qualities such as wisdom, adventure, spontaneity, love, and truth propel us forward. He has faith that there is inherent goodness in this process. He writes that “the teleology of the universe is directed to the production of beauty.” More simply put: Beauty is the road on which we are journeying. Certainly God did not create us so we could destroy things. He created us with the hope that we will make good decisions and contribute to His beauty. We are to take God’s initial aims and create something beautiful for the world and for God. The Primordial Nature of God gives us these opportunities.
Once we act on an idea, it goes into God’s Consequent Nature. It is called “consequent” because it is made up of the results and consequences of our ideas and actions. The Consequent Nature of God drinks in all the creative acts we have achieved from the initial aims. God stores what we have done and remembers it eternally. Whitehead calls this “objective immortality.” Our bodies perish; however, our ideas, once spoken and shared, will endure everlastingly. It is in God that we have eternal life because God remembers us. God knew our names before we were born. He knows the number of hairs on our heads. Nothing of us will be lost. All will be remembered in the mind of God. This is what I find most beautiful about the process.
While God’s Primordial Nature is permanent, God’s Consequent Nature depends on our existence and regards human effort and creativity as gifts given to God. In sum, it is in the Consequent Nature where the actions that flow from our ideas become objectively immortal. It is here where we gain eternal life.
Each processive moment comes full circle in the following way: Our gifts that are received by and stored in God’s Consequent Nature are then added to God’s Primordial Nature. What does this mean? Human creativity – what you and I do here on Earth—actually expands the variety and quality of initial aims that God sends out to humanity. Our goodness becomes a part of God; then He is able to release new possibilities out to the world. New possibilities that we helped to author. Not only will we be remembered in God and have eternal life, but our actions on this Earth will inspire others to do good in every second as the process goes on.
A few sentences can sum up Process Theology. It presents our relationship with God as reciprocal. Through God’s Primordial Nature, humans receive initial aims to expand the world and proliferate beauty. This happens through ideas, adventurousness, novelty, truth, love, kindness. Then we participate in the very existence of God through His Consequent Nature who remembers us. Lastly, what we have done becomes part of God’s shower of blessings upon the world.
As human beings, we long for three things: we want our lives to have a purpose, we want to be loved, and we want to be remembered. What does Process Theology teach us? That we matter. And that we change lives. It also dares to go one step further in suggesting that we change God.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” In the Book of Proverbs, bread does not always have a positive connotation. Proverbs 4:17 reads: For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. Proverbs 20:17 reads: Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.
In every processive moment, God is sending us opportunities. Whitehead calls them initial aims. Regardless of the language used, one thing is certain: God is calling us. How are we going to respond? Which bread will we eat: The bread that fills our mouths with gravel, or the bread that gives eternal life?
As disciples, we imitate Christ by actualizing our love and ideas in the world. Because we are imperfect beings, we routinely forget God. Yet God will remember us. He will forgive us and love us—and He will do these things perfectly.
We are prone to go astray, thus we need beacons along the path—signs that emerge through the mesh of mystery. We can take our cues from other imperfect beings, like Gabby Douglas, who model for us not only excellence in their crafts, but true grounded-ness in God. People revel in the mystery in different ways—some through performance, as Gabby does, some through intellectual inquiry, as Whitehead did.
At the end of my academic struggle, I came to realize that Alfred North Whitehead was speaking to me with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. He believed in the goodness of humanity. I am convinced that both he and Gabby are saying the same thing. It’s just that she says it in simple terms that we can readily understand: “The glory goes up to God and the blessings fall down on us.”
LETTER TO SUPERMAN
for Christopher Reeve
I was six years old when I saw
the movie Superman in the theatre.
My unbound child-mind
could not reconcile the difference
between actor and character.
Weren’t we just watching other
people’s lives, only magnified?
Isn’t this what life will be like
when I get a job and fall in love?
I crushed on Superman in a flash
Aflutter went my young girl heart.
That night I wrote Superman a letter
inviting him to dinner at my house.
“What should I write on the envelope, Dad?”
“Just Superman, Honey. He’s so famous
his mail doesn’t need an address.”
Dad assured me Superman would get my letter.
I waited faint-heartedly months on end,
my imagination turning wildly
over Superman’s handsomeness.
A cute crush: Sincere and slightly
obsessive, sweetly anticipatory too.
Even though I was just a girl,
I was still pained to wait.
Regrettably Superman never showed.
Crestfallen, in a sort of true love stasis,
I could not come to terms with it.
As an adult I have entertained
the archetypal Superman:
This one sitting across from me
must be him. Or this one lying beside me
or the one opening the door for me
As a girl, in ribboned pony tails, I did not understand
that Clark Kent and Superman were the same person
suffering from Associative Identity Disorder.
Clark Kent isn’t my type.
It’s not that I am opposed to vulnerability,
only to weakness.
Vulnerability can be sexy, whereas weakness
connotes an unwillingness to live courageously.
Unforgivable in my eyes.
Alas we can’t all be perfect.
But we can be brave in our imperfection.
I am a woman now, not a girl
a writer of many love letters scented
kept under the pillows of men
in a lovelorn diaspora.
Flowery philosophy, passion
and playful assemblage
of words caught between pages.
Stories of the heart catalogued.
These do not die as love dies:
They stick to memory.
It takes 100 years for paper
to crumble or melt to the touch.
The particulars of my childhood linguistic
are lost to memory. Still I imagine
that my letter to Superman is
the most tender, unabashed piece
in my archive of prose
for it expressed my belief
in a promise to be fulfilled;
my trust that love will win out
no matter how fictitious or silly;
my notion that in the end
we will fly above the cityscape
buoyed by the urban glow;
my conviction that it is never too late
to be innocent again.
WHAT I REMEMBER ABOUT MONTANA
or CONVERSATION WITH ETERNITY
The sky opens up to speak.
Through wind and rain it rumbles.
Its refusal to conform to the decorum
of landscape, though noble, is sometimes
rebellious to the point of annoyance.
Sky here scorches the fragrant land
with tongues of fire
wispy clouds, orange bright
like a prism splitting light
in vectors one to the river
one to the hills.
Trees and brush loosen at root
in desert flame
like old bleached bones
waiting to live again.
Then in sudden sweetness of dusk
the rebel firmament lights down
upon our faces calmly, as if medicine.
It speaks not in puzzles, myth or rhyme
but in the etymology of infinity
bearing fruit of future memories.
Ashen seeds of Paintbrush
and Columbine bloom
from our mouths
in silent psalm
under darkening sky.
Dutifully I await an encore
of this fire earth opera.
Especially in Montana
is the sky expansive
across the plain.
Scent of Aspen
wondrous and clean
the gentle deer graze
in my backyard
new coats shimmering
white tails twitching
eyes of peace
eyes of peace
He returns to Camp Taji every Fourth of July, to his 4 x 4 tower where, for the dark portion of 92 days, he was not allowed to lay down his sword and shield, or sit. It has been 36 months yet still he returns to Camp Taji every Fourth of July, his least favorite holiday, when eager men fire-up their mega gas grills and go around asking: Hotdog or hamburger? Hotdog or hamburger? When culturally-memorized songs proclaim freedom and liberty. Freedom and liberty. When fireworks deafen and stun like mortars and IEDs.
Mortars and IEDs.
The former soldier sits in a lawn chair looking leisurely in shirtsleeves, swirling the ice cubes in his lemonade. He pretends to be like them, but is dreaming of sand, armor, 110 degree days and frozen nights.
He must get up and circulate, protect. Check corners of the property, the neighbors’ roofs for snipers. But he is suddenly a still life portrait unable to move even his forefinger. His internal systems, however, are alert and ready. His eyes survey back and forth. Eyes, in combat, become vigilant sensors of defense.
He is derelict. He should be barking orders at these rowdy civilians. “Stop being loud!” “Return to your homes!” Security phrases well-rehearsed in case a firefight breaks out and indiscriminate bullets go flying. The level of jubilance here is eerily identical to the wedding in Mogr el-Deeb, May 19, 2005.
“This was a wedding and the planes came and attacked the people at a house,” said witness Dahham Harraj. “Is this the democracy and freedom that Bush has brought us? There was no reason.” U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmit said, “There may have been some kind of celebration. Bad people have celebrations, too.”
At today’s family celebration, he will be ready at the drop of a hat, or a child’s slip and fall, to save or take lives as necessary. How could his brother host such a gathering anyway? Endangering everyone like this. The kids come out holding sparklers, snapping Black Cats. “Look Uncle John! Look!” calls his red-haired niece Caroline, four years old. He remembers four year old Amira whom he pulled out of char. Beautiful girls, different worlds.
Caroline and Amira.
Behind his suave demeanor, his cool attitude (he is, after all, only 23 and handsome), eyes of fire dart in a continuous circuit assessing these people’s level of vulnerability and risk. The men congregated at the grill talking softly with their heads down, and Mike and Samantha on their cell phones will make this situation appear suspicious from the air.
He is screaming inside but no one sees him, no one says a word. They are wary, ignorant of war. Last week, an old high school buddy shook his hand and said “Thank you for your service. Can I buy you a latte?” A double-tall extra foam latte, when all this former soldier wants is to forget, to meld into these people’s ordinary lives, to have their struggles, not to have seen what he has seen. To be erased, absorbed into their black noise, to blend into the veneer of doldrums where concerns revolve around boring, manageable things such as work, school, laundry, grocery shopping, picking weeds. Hotdog or hamburger?
His tongue presses rogue grains of sand against the roof of his mouth – a desert habit he acquired to count down the hours to his freedom. That and tapping his forefinger against his cold magazine for hours. These tactile routines comforted him. He would imagine BBQs, sunshine, his lovely long-haired wife winking at him from the patio on the Fourth of July, his favorite holiday.
Will he ever be like his brother, playful and polite, innocent of horror? Will he ever return to his old self content with flipping burgers and texting love notes to his wife? He frets over the impossibility for he is tortured by wicked memories of children in flames; of signing divorce papers, sweaty-palmed and in tears, from across the desert. They were newlyweds, for God’s sake! Newlyweds. Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. Where’s my barefoot girl? What about my walk in the park? My high school sweetheart, Julia.
His still life image cracks, there is movement in his joints. Relief. He gets up and makes his way for more potato salad. The Iraqi mud is still packed into the craters on the bottoms of his boots. Tonight he will climb his tower in the howling environs of war
and sleep until the orange desert dawns. Alone and shivering he will twist and turn, toil and spin thinking of the bride and groom, of their organist Basim Shehab, of Amira, Caroline, Julia– all of them drowning in his freedom and liberty.
Freedom and liberty.
or Scars as Signs of Life
Once a saber hit my face
spinning really fast.
It broke my nose
cut open the skin
struck a quarter of an inch
from my left eyeball.
A quarter of an inch from
blindness and disfiguration.
I walked out somber over
the stitches and the scar.
When I reminisce about it now
I realize something magnificent:
God has been following me around
this whole entire time
by a quarter of an inch
letting me slip narrowly
on either side of danger
nudging me casually
time and time again
from blindness into light.
Each of my scars another life
that would have gone unlived
had it been any other god
altering my movements
by a slight breath
the weight of a strand of hair
delaying a sneeze here, tilting
my head a few degrees there.
I dare people to mess with me.
Bring it on Fire, Lions, Spinning Metal
People With Nothing to Lose.
Stitches disintegrate into the body.
I absorb fear and nothing clings to me
We celebrate a resurrection of spirit.
Our chance today to refresh our souls
Begin anew, wipe clean our slates.
To define with gentle guidance
The kind of lives we want to live.
To be radical seekers and finders
Open to the important moment emerging.
On this morning, Peace will be.
It will arrive from the place within our selves
Where Peace has always been germinating,
Dancing, flirting with visibility,
Awaiting our invitation.
So today we shout “Welcome” to Peace and
Continue the work of unveiling our best selves.
We shout “Welcome” to Peace and
Continue the work of building a just world.
Let us announce Peace
And claim our roles in its fruition.
To doubt our power is to blaspheme,
For if we are filled with Divine Spirit,
Gift of Light, then our doubt undermines
Its efficacy and its ability to transform
Pain and tragedy into the greater
Compassion that calls us by name.
Let us announce Peace
Not as a vindication
Sought after at any cost,
But as an accepted equanimity
In which we find joy and rest.
For this, we need each other
With our various charisms
Our Divinely-inspired gifts.
We need each other
To rise together in this
Newness of spring
Gathering crocus and daffodil
Under the shelter of birdsong,
Delighting in children’s laughter
Unbridled by sunshine and butterflies.
We need each other to forgive.
And to proclaim the resurrection of
Possibility for ourselves and the world.
Let us announce Peace
And release its blessings
Into a world that awaits.
(c) 2010, Easter