Posted in Longreads and Essays

The Shapers

Last night I dreamed the Shapers came around again.
They dropped by the cottage as we were sitting down to dinner.
I invited them in.

Jesus and I laughed about the first time I gave my life to him down deep inside a sleeping bag trying to make the tears come while my mocking friend pulled the covers back to see what I was doing. It was he who had told me that I could not eat the Lord’s Supper unless I was born again.

A rocky start I guess, but honored nonetheless. Jesus loved me for who I am.
And I began learning
to love myself and everyone around me,
It and I always turning, turning from truth and back again.
Jesus loved me for who I am.
I still do, he said.
My Shapers and I bowed our heads in silence while the Prince of Peace broke the bread.

After grace, I turned to Dr. King.
“I’m Martin to my friends.”
He pointed at his head and then they all showed me the places where the bullets and the nails had gone in.
Loving your enemy is no guarantee he will reciprocate or give love back again.
I used to wonder whether I would go up and out like Martin.

I grew up in Mississippi and I met him though his people,
still getting used to the changes,
showing patience with the foot draggers,
paying no mind to the word daggers, the tut-tutters and finger waggers,
so willing to forgive and forget.
Martin smiled. “I have a dream,” he said.
“And the dream ain’t done being dreamed yet.”

Next I spoke to Gandhi.
“Please pass the Satyagraha.
I need some more spices from the mouth of the Mahatma.”
So we spoke of truth and love, with a dab of philosophy,
how the tooth for tooth just leaves everyone’s mouths empty.
“Did you like Ben Kingsley and the length of the movie?”
“Not bad,” Mohandas smiled. “Though I would have made it shorter with a little less of me.”

My church saw the movie together.
I was young, and it was long, but my life was changed forever.
I remember how I cried,
how it felt to be with the adults outside
at intermission talking peace to the cool Southern night air.
I’m still figuring out how to be salt of the earth and
where.

“How are you, Romero?” I asked.
“I’m well,” he replied.
I told him of the time I spent at the church where he died,
how I wore a black cross around my neck for years in solidarity with his people, who shared their hopes and
fears with a naive college student, how we cried and laughed,
how reading Exodus could make you disappear,
how the soldiers who killed the priests shot up his photograph. “Monsignor, you were more alive dead than
you were before.”
To which he said, “My son, that is the essence of resurrection.”

After that I spoke to Menno and thanked him for my heritage. “I would gladly have been martyred like these,”
he said. “But I did not have the privilege.”
“How does a mortal, fearful man have such courage?” I asked.
“Be faithful. Life is in God’s hands.
Do not take upon yourself what is the Creator’s task.”

After too short a time, it seemed,
they pushed back their chairs to take their leave from my dream.
“We have far to travel yet,” Jesus said. “And many more Shaped to see.”
So I bidst them farewell and thanked them for their lives.
They laughed and laid their hands on me.
“Freely given, child, freely receive.”

When I awoke, I lay still for awhile and listened to her breathe,
this woman whom I’ve known for a short time who is already shaping me with her love, encouragement, and commitment to peace
in our lives together and communities.

I thought of Mom and Dad, my friends and my family,
the shapers I carry inside from their stability,
the learnings and the laughings,
and our shared history.

These are my Shapers, the makers of me,
the famous and the not so well known
who have scribed these patterns on my bones.
There are many, many more unmentioned, and more shapes for me to see,
for I am a grateful man who contains a wonderful
geometry.

September 2003

Posted in Musings and Reflections

When Suddenly I Am Left Adrift

upon these roiling
seas of uncertainty
distanced from loved ones
whose choices give rise
to the screaming wind

my voice is a whisper
drowned out by the past
raw from its shouting
unheeded unheard

in the distance
there is a light
an offering of grace
a kind of letting go
where the storm abates

my little boat
sails beneath the lee
and i find i have
somehow entered
again into
the silence

Posted in Musings and Reflections

TWD – *TOH

some of you will continue your evolution towards fully
becoming the walking dead

you will think only of protecting
yours and your kind
you will buy more guns and ammunition
you will still drive
(and live) without regards to
strangers
you will prioritize money over people
women and children will still die
in the hood over your perceived slights
you will continue to place your faith
in weapons outmoded philosophies
conspiracy theories and a worldview
founded on fear
you will continue to weaponize your religion
you will make plans to weaponize a virus

you probably will survive
your humanity will not

the rest of us will remain human
we have been prepared for this
our hearts will remain open
we will sing from balconies
we will play cellos where
snipers fire
we will listen to the voice of
wisdom shouting in the streets
we will march forth in a spirit
of hope and sharing
we will give our lives if need be
we will love
we will choose to be kind
we will serve
we will tend the sick
we will give our ventilator to a stranger
we will die by the thousands

we may not survive
but our humanity will

(*the open hearted)

Posted in Prayers and the Sacred

The Gift of Seeds

this sabbath morning
finds me rising
from the underground
the words of the
virtual priest
in my head
stepping out into the
brightness
of the sunroom
to greet her
entering in
from outside
empty bag in hand
smiling
remembering
in these days
that life has
not changed
for our other
earthly
companions
and that she
with her
caring heart
will continue
to feed
the birds

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

Stuck with Some Bad Company

i am sure my neighbors
get annoyed
but it’s one way i
shout i am alive
i will not
give in to the
fear

the first thing i do
once i get in the
truck is roll down the
windows and crank up the
stereo with some
bad company

i leave for work
electric guitars
screaming
drums banging
bass thumping
waking the neighborhood
with what has become
my rocking prayer

i can’t get
enough of your
love

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

Giving Up Air

i wonder if i could be so gracious
if i could stare without fear into the unknown as my lungs cry out for oxygen
like my friend on the phone
who says if he was sick
he would let another have the ventilator
and move on into that other place
where there is no shortage
of breath

such are the choices that may
loom just over the horizon
while some discuss compensation
and the guns they possess
and others make soup and bread to share with those on the edge
i think of my loved ones who may not be with me in the coming days
the sadness that may await on the morrows

and yet i know that the spirit
blows where ere it will
the tops of the budding trees
gently sway before the
brightening sky
and now this morning at least
i feel a sense of peace
my heart expanding
like opening lungs
as the one who holds this
groaning world in her hands
breathes new life
and a love for all
into me

Posted in Longreads and Essays

Salvation From The Depths

There is a bridge in Washington DC that is named after an unlikely hero, a man who quite literally gave his life to save others.

Thirty-eight years ago, on January 13, 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 Boeing 737-200 crashed onto the 14th Street Bridge and into an icy Potomac River, killing all 73 passengers and crew. Four passengers and one flight attendant were the only survivors.

At least four of those people owed their lives to the “sixth passenger” as he became known.

After the plane crashed and began to sink into the ice-strewn river, six people could be seen clinging to the plane’s tail fin. A US Park Police helicopter arrived on the scene and immediately began trying to rescue the survivors. The helicopter rescued one person and then returned to the tail.

Arland D. Williams Jr. caught the rescue line and instead of wrapping it around himself, he passed it to flight attendant Kelly Duncan. When the helicopter returned to the wreckage a third time, it dropped two lines because the crew feared that the remaining survivors would succumb to hypothermia very soon. Williams caught one of the lines and passed it on to a severely injured Joe Stiley, who also grabbed Priscilla Tirado. Patricia Felch took the other line and was towed to safety along with the others.

When the helicopter returned, Williams and the tail section of the plane were gone. After the bodies from the crash were recovered, the coroner determined that Williams was the only passenger to die by drowning therefore he had been the “sixth passenger,” the one who gave his life for others.

Ninety-one years ago today a man was born who would give his life to rescue his people from the dark depths of racial segregation and discrimination. Fifty-two years after his death, the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is honored and acknowledged through his monument on the National Mall.

I will probably never have a bridge named after me, but I want to be a bridge between people. I may never have to pass a rescue line to another, but I want to daily live my life in service to others who may need a helping hand.

I will probably never have a monument highlighting my deeds, but I can make my life a monument that honors an ordinary hero like Williams and the extraordinary life of Dr. King.

Perhaps I can be the one who keeps someone from slipping beneath the surface into the cold depths of despair.

Originally posted January 15, 2012, dates updated to reflect present.

Posted in Prayers and the Sacred

Unbroken

I no longer wish to be unbroken.

Rather I seek to embrace my brokeness

in the hope that the Light will shine out through the cracks in my heart.

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

The Bloom

once
long ago
i reached
for a lovely
bloom
when
suddenly
there
before me
a pollinator
flew
and i
thinking of
life and
love
withdrew
my hand
leaving the
flower
to give
sustenance
to many
more visitors
than i
in the time
and place
where it
so simply
and beautifully
grew