Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree

Community

I am a man among a sharp-edged people
with corners like the rocks
that made this
mountain,
scattered on the slopes all the
way down past Hog Run,
tumbling through the
baptismal silt
to the Shenandoah
and beyond.

They are smooth by then,
worn by water and
collective abrasions,
banging,
bumping,
knocking against each
other on the
journey.

I am not enamored with edges.
I prefer more subtle curves with their
laughing reminisces.
I want the joy of the end
without the pain of the
sharing that makes
stones smooth.

O for the grace to be content
in the midst of this angry splashing of
love where I am learning to be at best
an awkward swimmer.

(Written January 14, 2006, reposted from July 2011)

Posted in Musings

There’s another way to build peace. And it doesn’t come from the top down. – The Washington Post

Here is an excellent article on the power of grassroots, community oriented peace building.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/10/23/theres-another-way-to-build-peace-and-it-doesnt-come-from-the-top-down/?utm_term=.c45fcccb1e1f

Posted in Musings

Even Further Beyond Vietnam – Towards A True Revolution of Values

On April 4, 1967, a year to the day before his death, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “Beyond Vietnam” speech. We would be wise, in light of the current state of our nation and the world, to hear yet again these prophetic words. King’s words are still eerily relevant today, the 50th anniversary of his death.

“Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments.”

King ties peaceful change on a global scale to our American lifestyle, which is made possible by our nation’s inexhaustable hunger for the world’s resources. In other words, if there is to be world peace, then we must reliquish our hold on our “privileges and pleasures” which inevitably lead to war and conflict as we strive to protect them. King goes on to say:

“I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.”

“We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

These words are a reminder to me in this era of the “internet of things” that I too can place a higher value on things rather than people. Such a reflection begs the question:

How can I on a daily basis begin to shift my focus from things to people?

Then and only then will I be able to fully join the peaceful revolution that Dr. King so eloquently still calls us to today.

Originally posted April 4, 2017

Posted in Longreads & Essays

Line

I am looking around for my picture of a naked lady not because I am a pervert, but because my artist friend wrote the directions on how I can get out of this city on the back of some nude painted by a great master. I am an uneducated artist and I know not the painter or the work.

I miss the exit for the tunnel and have to make a U-Turn back in the right direction. I am trying to listen to Zeppelin on the radio but once I go under all I get is static. I keep staring off into the strobe-lit darkness, waiting for the end of the tunnel. I think of the movie “Daybreak.” They are doing construction down here and all of us are on the same side, two-way traffic whizzing past each other. I hope I get through before someone goes claustrophobic on us.

Earlier I got gas at a Crown station where two white boys behind bullet-proof glass took money from a long line of black folks and me, though lately I have had a hard time figuring out what side of the partition I am on. I am in a different city now then what I am used to and all of the presets on my radio are useless. The familiar stations have a hard time getting through. Favorite songs like “Cinnamon Girl” fade in and out until all I wind up hearing is the beginning and the end.

Before I left the house of my friend, her German Shepherd started barking and three black boys walked by. We looked out of the window and she said, “Oh, it’s the kids.” Then, as if in explanation, she turned to me and said, “We’ve had a lot of break-ins lately.”

Eye Window by kmls

It is a strange thing. We like going to the woods to hang out and be on retreat for brief periods of time, but we are too afraid of the forest to make a home there alone with the darkness and the trees, too anxious to remove the curtains and blinds from our windows and leave our inner rooms exposed to the wilderness outside. We stay in the city where there are a lot of us, but we are still afraid. Except now we are afraid of each other rather than the trees and the empty spaces between them.

Either way, the fear is always with us. We are afraid of what we see and we are afraid of what we cannot see. Wherever we go, there we are and there are our fears. But the bottom line is we are afraid of ourselves and the empty spaces that linger within us.

Perhaps once we face them and find some peace to the civil war within, we will learn to look into the eyes of the person standing in line with us at the gas station, smile and say Hello. And in so doing say Hello to ourselves.

December 15, 1998

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree

Urban Garden

In this city scape
where we sow
the seeds of faith
some of us are
fertilizer

little hard white
beads
compacted by years
of manufactured
privilege

to be softened by
living water and
spread with wisdom
for too much will
burn
the fledgling plants

others are the
black
loam that knows the
memory of another
history
the reception of
pain

suffering soil
out of which comes
life

bitter fruit
consumed
by
compassion

we are prepared
over turned
spread out
mixed up
together

the sower
knows
the
composition

trusting us
who trust
those
earth-crusted
hands
with the
joyous harvest

November 2011

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree

A Ticket To Rise

The smell hit me soon after I got off the Metro.

On the sidewalk in the throng of milling red
I look over to see the dark mass of bags and clothes
curled up against the outer wall of the Verizon Center.

I am here because of a player’s generosity through
connections I was not aware I had.
I wait nervously at Will Call for a half an hour
before my patron finds me and suddenly
I am no longer on the outside.

In the afterglow of victory,
on my blurring return back to my warm home,
my ears stopped with earbud fiction,
I realize that I have forgotten the discarded one
whose life might have been changed
for the price I should have paid
for my free ticket.

November 7, 2011

Posted in The Sunday Driver: Life in the Slow Lane

Prayer of the Seeker

Sometimes, when the feeling comes upon me, I look up from this world of myself and realize anew, that in the place I stand in, many others stood and slept and worked, dreamed and died. The mist of memories, of strange lands and times unravels before my eyes, and the longing to know comes. How vast the knowledge and history of humanity . . . and my ignorance. My world, though important in and of itself, pales in the light of the incredible bigness of the world without. Why begin? Within we are depthless and without it is much more so. One life is not enough to learn all, no not even a thousand lives. And so I remain, unmoving, not content, yet seeing the end as a hopeless task and like a rock to stay thus.

Yet I will go on. For I am thirsty and I wish to somehow taste of the river of these worlds, its peoples, its past. I am afraid. To say that I am not is to be dishonest for what will I gain but a greater realization of my ignorance? Yet I must go. For to remain is to stagnate. I must search the rocky, windswept crags of myself and life and persons. And someday I will know why I roamed those lonely places.

Though wherever I go, no matter how rugged or removed, whatever secret trail or path I trod, I know that You have walked every place before and You wish to walk with and guide me. Any place You have seen. Every emotion You have felt. Any sea no matter how deep You have swam to its end. Since the beginning of time, You have walked these places. You created them and with your own hand you have searched them out.

And You wish to probe me, mind, body, heart and spirit, gently of course. When I yield trembling, You touch me awhile and when your fingers go, streaks of gold remain, like the streams curling down my cheeks, glistening in the pale glow of the dawn.

August 4, 1989

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree

Pretty Woman

Pretty Woman isn’t as pretty as we thought.
Julia’s head was placed on another woman’s better body,
decapitated like Medusa, her face and mind and window-eyes
held aloft and then thrown away.

The woman I worship on the cover of the magazine in the
cleavage corner of the grocery store is no woman at all.
She is a computer-generated image made perfect by binary code
with no flaws or imperfections to tempt me to be human and gentle,
or my sword to lie flaccid in my hands.

October 12, 1997

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree

Buzz

Conversations spin on in the night without me.
They rumble in rooms I know not how to enter
and gather like sticky strands high up in dusty corners
where the wall and ceiling meet.

Caught up in the buzz, I hover above,
listening but not hearing the murmuring sound,
a fly with one shriveled ear and no compound eyes
torn between the almost-but-not-quite-lucid-word and the know.

I tremble on the web but the spider doesn’t seek me.
She remains in her lair to watch and to wait,
refrains from the poison bite while I am left to
wander among the cocooned carcasses of friends
blind and alone.

Written November 23, 1996 while at a Men’s Retreat