Words Made Flesh

No more speeches or spin doctors, debates or diatribes—

Words.

Matter.

In us.

God’s love
made skin and bones
muscle and marrow
hands and hearts
God’s words.
Matter.
In us.

No more speeches or spin doctors,
debates or diatribes—no–
God’s nouns, adjectives, verbs
alive
welcoming
respecting
embracing
incarnating
belonging
in us.

Words
made
matter,

planted in salvaged soil
reclaimed
restored
valued
savored
saving
hope
in us.

Dwelling Place

She would remember to forget–if she could. . .

Many contemporary realities sparked this poem. Increasing homelessness in many cities. Failing churches purchased by real estate agencies and transformed into apartment buildings. Domestic violence. Nostalgia. Hope. And the awareness that human stories meet, overlap, clash, and sometimes heal.

“Don’t dwell on the past,” they said
When her fingers flew unbidden
To touch nostalgic eyes; Yes,

She would — remember — to forget —
If she could. Swipe away the wetness
Sliding down her face; worried
It might seep between her lips,
Unseal them so she breathed out
A salted stench of yesterday’s news:
“Don’t dwell on it.”

She had no dwelling anyway,
Door bolted; key flung away.
Windows boarded up. Rendered
Unfit for human habitation. Hands
curled, fists pounded, demanded entrance;
Fear said “no,” misguided sentry keeping out
Everything even shriveled up tendrils of
Purple deadnettle that trying to crawl
Through the cracks: “No-dwelling Zone.”

They moved in last Saturday, 129
U-Haul boxes crammed full of life.
“We’ll put grandma’s dining table
Here,” she said. Did she know
They would taste springtime
strawberries and snow peas there, bare
feet on the hallowed ground under that table
where a body was broken, blood poured out?

They sat, sipped grocery store wine,
Dwelling in the past.

Broken and Spilled Out

“Call for the mourning-women. To come.” Jeremiah 17

A reflection for World Communion Sunday, 2019

So many people today are disconnected from the necessity and power of lament. We resist facing into the reality of pain, unable or unwilling to acknowledge that being honest about the suffering we have caused or the suffering we have experienced is a vital step toward healing. 

When the daily news is as filled stories, essays, and editorials about violence and needless deaths as it has been in recent months, I yearn for the rediscovery of individual and communal lament. We need to mourn. To be honest about our humanity. To confess our sins against the humanity of others. 

Many Christian churches around the globe will observe World Communion Sunday this week. We will break bread and remember the story of the violent death of Jesus. We will remember how Jesus shared bread, stories, hopes, dreams, and desires with his friends just before he he was crucified. We will share bread around the Lord’s Table with our friends. Maybe as we remember that bittersweet meal Jesus shared we can take time to lament our communities’ sins and the wrongs perpetuated as a result. I hope this poem invites that. 

Broken and Spilled Out

Call for the mourning-women to come; send for
the skilled women to come;
let them quickly raise a dirge over us,
so that our eyes may run down with tears,
and our eyelids flow with water.
Jeremiah 17

Intending to comfort
(or is it to avoid lament)
they utter pedestrian platitudes
(with unconvincing certainty).

Don’t you hear the weeping?
(Really—how can they not?)
The wailing?
(This is no ordinary pain, if
there is such a thing
as ordinary pain.)

We gather around a table
to break bread,
to pour out wine
in remembrance of—

(Name them, the devastated ones.
Name all of them. No matter
long it takes. The ones we too
quickly forget. The ones we
don’t take notice of. Even the
undeserving ones? Even
them. Especially them.
Because of them.
Because of us.)

Hearts mangled.
Souls ruptured.

Bodies crucified.
Blood spilled out.

Bread.
(Wounded.)

Remember.

chasing artificial light

I long for authentic dreams that come like moonglow to illumine dark nights.

you sit in the night cafe
sipping lukewarm coffee
from a plain white ceramic mug
a half-eaten slaw mustard and chili
cheeseburger and three fries
on a discarded plate in front of you
i saw you there last night too
and the night before that

a neon sign out front beckons
“always open” except for the “o”
that blinks and blinks trying
to stay awake to the promise

what ambitions do you harbor in
that limbo of artificial light or
are you just one of the many chasing
sleepless daydreams of an illuminated life
forgetful that dreams that come true
are nocturnal pollinators
drawn to blossoms
that reveal their mysteries only
to a midnight moon

A word about the poem: Artificial light has been in the news in recent days alongside Greta Thunberg and her bold words about the climate crisis. Several articles last week explored how artificial light and light pollution are affecting the earth and our future. I happen to be reading Sue Grafton’s alphabet mysteries these days, and in G Is for Gumshoe (1990), Grafton’s main character describes her experience in a nursing home by asking “what ambitions” can people harbor in that “limbo of artificial light”? The question has stayed with me as I have thought this week about the climate crisis and about light pollution. Grafton’s description also makes me think about the artificial light that persists through the actions of many U.S. leaders, an artificial light that threatens the future of our country. I long for authentic dreams that come like moonglow to illumine dark nights.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge is in the news this week because of a controversial four-lane highway tunnel designed to be built underneath the ancient site. Reflecting on this mysterious monument and its much lauded geometric perfection, I wrote this poem in an experimental (for me) fashion–circular, with each three-word phrase containing seven syllables–for perfection or wholeness. The one-word lines each contain four syllables; on the fourth day, God completed the material universe. The beginning and ending lines each have fourteen syllables.

stonehenge

While Not in Other News

For the last six and a half weeks, my 81 year old mom has been undergoing radiation treatments for tongue cancer, cause undetermined. She finishes on Friday a “tour of duty” of 33 treatments. Her mouth is raw; her throat is swollen; she is weary. The doctors told her she would need a feeding tube to make it through the therapy. She said “no tube.” Her friends at her senior independent apartment complex, the generous cook in the kitchen of that complex, the kindness of an assortment of drivers, amazing doctors, nurses and technicians at our local hospital, and her desire to keep on doing what she does every day–eating with 102-year-old Lenora and her other friends in the dining room and watching her soap operas–has kept her going. She has grit. Now, with one treatment to go, she has lost 6 pounds instead of the 25-30 the doctors predicted. No feeding tube.

Many headlines have splashed across the news waves this week. I celebrate in this poem news that does not make the Times but that does make a difference. My mom said today what I think is true about life in the midst of so many troubling headlines: “Things happen to us. We are human. We just do the best we can.”

“Egyptian Air Plane Crashed into the Mediterranean”
the week the doctor phoned to break the news:
“Biopsy Is Positive for Cancer”
A life sentence, headliner understated,
one of many.

Eighty percent survival rate;
Eighty-one year-old woman with an
eighty two year life expectancy.
so the doctor said.

Stubborn senior citizen
expectant of everyday life until death
is escorted on the arm of a shiny blue walker
into iron man battle.

Thirty-three excursions down Radiation Way;
Thirty-three high dose zaps to the tongue;
Thirty-three days of taste wasting away.
“Pulse Nightclub Massacre: 49 Dead”
“Zika Arrives in the U.S.”
“Alton Sterling Shooting Sparks Protest”
“Five Dallas Police Officers Fatally Shot”
“Summer Olympics Begin with
Uplifting Spectacle in Gritty Rio”
and Tina in the kitchen
down at the Cypress Gardens
apartments for senior adults
stirs up milkshakes three times a day
even though they are not on the menu
or in her job description
so mom, boosted up, loses six pounds
instead of the 30 they all said she would
with no feeding tube against all life expectancies.

Fortified by 102-year-old Lenora,
91-year-old Doris,
91-and-a-half-year-old Ruth,
and 70-year-old Mary and her 2001 Buick LeSabre
with the extra-capacity trunk,
determined octogenarian perseveres
while doctors and nurses cheer, amazed.

“Hillary Broke the Glass Ceiling” last week;
while not in other news
mom shattered expectations, gained 1.8 pounds,
four more tours to go:
“I’m with her.”

A bill of goods

“What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried.     Tangled Web
“Who’ll start bidding for me?”
That’s the pitch
perfect  (if we believe perceptions of
perfection’s promiscuous promise)
prophetic perhaps
poetic. “Do I have a deal for you!”
Rhetoric reiterated until routinized
galvanized
disguised
“sharpened to a single atom” to slice,
dice,
overprice
what’s selling today
stolen tomorrow
sold again the next day.
“An eye for an eye.”
“Who’ll make it two?”
The feverish double-edged sword flashes
blinding glint binds
unsuspecting hearts and minds
on the auction block. Never mind the cost.
“Sold to the highest bidder.

Based on a news story from the U.S. campaign trail about Donald Trump’s favorite Bible verse
encountered this week while reading Charles Bernstein’s Pitch of Poetry http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/donald-trump-favorite-bible-verse-eye-eye/story?id=38416270).