Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

In Cloistered Rooms of Trembling Sight

in days of shadow when the sun is bright and the wind is of ill
when all the world beneath the blight feels the fearful chill

in cloistered rooms of trembling sight we shelter from the kill
bodies bowed before the might as this plague works its will

be not dismayed o children of the light
while this tempest has its fill
the master of the day and the night
draws nigh and says
peace be still

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 Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

Encircled Cross on Painted Sky

encircled cross
encircling i
eastern sun
on painted sky

morning comes
to mourning eye
new day begun
from bitter night

encircled cross
encircling i
the risen one
draweth nigh

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

Miss Information

i must make the choice
it is way past time
the lure of being informed
has ensnared me again
i know enough
for now

the line between wisdom
and blissful ignorance
is a fine one indeed
and at times as in
this moment
i must refrain from
pressing the link or
reading the bold
headlines on the
front page
until i can read
again with a measure
of compassion
instead of rage
at the wrongness
of the right
the naivete of
the left
the power struggles
the lust for money
the shootings in the streets
and in places of worship

so it is time
again
for a Sabbath
a stepping away
from the media
not to forget about
this groaning world
but to enter into
a place of prayer
and reflection
and so receive
perhaps
a different kind of
story from the
one who knows
the end to
this one

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)

All that is Greek to Me

To succumb as did Socrates,

poisoned by hypocrisies,

and disregarded philosophies,

must I make peace with my mediocrities?

Am I enslaved to Euripedes,

a servant to Sophocles,

a traveler in tragedies,

fated to a future of futility?

Or like the ill-conceived bumble bee,

a waxy-winged Icarus cast into the sea,

or the golden-tongued Demosthenes,

will truth forever my guiding sun be?

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

Writing on the Apocalypse

there is a comfort that comes
with the scratching of the pen
the slow refinishing of a church altar
the precociousness of a child
who blissfully does not fully realize
the fearful nature of these times

my writing takes me into the day
old wood grain shines like new in the morning sun
the laughter of children playing greets me as I step outside