Posted in Prayers and the Sacred

Leviathan’s TWomb (a reluctant prophet’s song in four parts)

face pressed
against foreign sand
reeking of fish spume

soul cast
by divine’s demand
to where my enemies loom

body risen
in a strange land
birthed from whale’s womb

voice shouts
a jagged command
be freed from leviathan’s tomb!

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

After Hearing the Death Tape

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be wise
to the lies
of he in the disguise
of a prophet

who urges haste
sweet death to taste
from the bitter race
of life to stop it

the children knew
innocents often do
killed by guardians true
to a false prophet

truth is a strange thing
it can be twisted like a ring
round your neck choking
catastrophic

the distorted goal
takes its toll
if you lose your soul
where is the profit?

Originally posted September 10, 2015

Yesterday, November 18, was the 40th anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre.

The year was 1978.

I was 11.

Posted in Musings and Reflections

Words from the Prophet Townshend – Yep, We’re Getting Fooled Again

I don’t give a flying ikthus whether you’re conservative or liberal. I’m not interested in how great your particular God is or how sophisticated you are to supposedly not believe in one. I don’t care whether you think you’re a great songwriter/music critic/DJ or that your music or playlist is the s***. But please tell me where are the musicians who are, and the music that is, saying what needs to be said like what The Who sang in 1971!?!! Almost 50 years ago!!!!!

(A brief note: this song peaked at 15 on US Billboard Hot 100 in 1971. Currently, #15 is Delicate by Taylor Swift who used to be a good songwriter before she went all crossover, writing meaningless drivel like everyone else, and I’m sorry folks but look how far we have fallen in 50 years).

We are living in a moment when we must heed the words below. We need to blast them from speakers as loud as we possibly can in hopes that they will get through and be listened to.

Most of us are so stuck in the rut of what we think we believe that we are getting fooled again and again and again; reactionaries, mercenaries, missionaries…. visionaries? If this song doesn’t piss you off, you need to be.

My friends, this song more than any other for me right now is my mantra, because it reminds me to be very cautious about who or what I give my allegiance to and what new/old movement/march I choose to participate in. Because tomorrow it may be just the opposite. And will anything really have changed? “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” I could apologize for being so pessimistic but I won’t. What some folks call pessimism others might call wisdom. Although I don’t presume to be a wise man. I just can’t seem to get past the idea that we are mostly spinning our wheels and wasting our time protesting and resisting whatever someone has decided we need to be protesting or resisting today.

(It seems like all I can do right now is pick up my guitar and play and get on my knees and pray).

But enough of my rant. I present to you The Who. Disbelieve at your own peril.

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song
I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war
I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again, no, no
I’ll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?
Yeaah!
There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight
I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again, no no
Yeaaah!
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss
Songwriters: Peter Townshend
Won’t Get Fooled Again lyrics © Spirit Music Group

Video link (please crank):

https://youtu.be/zYMD_W_r3Fg

Posted in Musings and Reflections

On A Reading of Isaiah In Front Of The White House

On a reading of Isaiah in front of the White House: Prophesy to the wind concerning the inevitable in hopes that it will come a few days early (3/2/92).

In the early 90s, during my first sojourn in the Washington DC area, I was convicted to stand in front of the White House and read the entire book of Isaiah aloud. The reflection above arose out of that experience. I remember that as I read I was astounded at how pertinent the words of this ancient prophet seemed to be to the current state of the country. While I am quite sure the president at the time was unaware of my presence or the words I spoke to the air, there was a sense that the words had an innate power that was released in their oration. Somehow, I began to believe that the retelling of these prophecies had the ability to shift something in me, and perhaps, in the world around me.

A few years before in that same place, on the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, I had chosen to help build a Central American village on Pennsylvania Avenue to call attention to the covert US war in that region. Along with several others, I chose to be arrested as a further sign of protest and solidarity with the people I had come to know during my travel to Central America and work in the US Capitol.

The Bush years did not seem so very different from the Reagan years and perhaps that is why I stood before the wrought iron gates of the White House on a cool morning in the fading days of winter. I opened my Bible, turned to Isaiah, and quietly began to read.

I doubt the Hebrew prophet had any idea his words would be written down, let alone be read aloud in English in front of a different kind of palace in a kingless nation by a Mennonite man from Mississippi. Isaiah of course was speaking to a very different people, time, and place. Any attempt at getting at the meaning of his words must first be grounded in the historicity of the prophecy and why the prophet spoke the words to the hearers of his day. Yet, Isaiah is no less different than other scripture in that while having one meaning within the original context of its writing, it can continue to resonate with current hearers of the word. While aware of the original meaning of Isaiah, the early church also found new meaning in the prophet’s words as they read Isaiah within the framework of their encounter with Jesus. The Servant Song in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is one example of this. Isaiah is speaking to the nation of Israel concerning its exile, saying that its suffering will have the unlikely outcome of “astonishing the nations.” The church saw this suffering servant in the person of Jesus whose life, death, and resurrection exemplified the continuing liberation of all peoples by YHWH.

Fast forward hundreds of years later and you find me outside the White House reading these same words . “See, my servant shall prosper . . . kings shall shut their mouths because of him” (Isaiah 52:13, 15). At that time, new meanings began to be revealed and they continue to be revealed today.

Recently, I have begun to feel an urge to make another pilgrimage to the White House and take along a certain prophet with me. The beauty of scripture is that it is big enough to contain multiple meanings that are not necessarily contradictory. Isaiah and the other voices of the Bible continue to speak to God’s faithfulness and God’s never-ending love and saving work throughout history. It is a word that we need to continue to hear each and every day, regardless of our particular moment in time and space.

So perhaps not too long from now you may find me in front of the White House again, reading aloud from Isaiah, “prophesy(ing) to the wind concerning the inevitable in hopes that it will come a few days early.”

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

Jonah’s Son

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I am neither hot nor cold.
What is the chemical that when lit burns with an icy fire?
I do not know but that is what I am.
I am not lukewarm, but if God should see fit to spit me out, let me be a vomit-covered prophet in a world infested only with Ninevites.

March 30, 1997 (after seeing The English Patient)