Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

Where There Are No Shadows

I go to sleep in the darkness
and awake in the day.

The sun on my face
bids me wake,
and chases the shadows away.

They flee into the corners
to await the coming night.

Yet they leave no trace,
tis no mistake,
when there is no light.

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

I Install Lights

an upper room
requiring renovation
long neglected by life
and other tasks
has now become
my pandemic
project

i work alone
my hands heart
and mind busy
contemplating these
strange rather
obscure days
the world covered
over with a kind
of film

and so
to illuminate
a forgotten room
and perhaps
a fearful world
i install
lights

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

Until Tomorrow Became Today

yesterday was a hard day
maybe that’s why my mind wouldn’t let me sleep until tomorrow became today

to say that i am dismayed at the
continued stupidity of members of our species would be an understatement

in one 24 hour period i have witnessed
the loss of a job
the endangering of elders
the lack of social distancing
the misinformation by a news network
the worship of avarice
the belittling of my advice
the cluelessness of a certain worldview
the angry response to a gift

this world is too good for us
and if history is any indicator
the lessons learned will be non-existent or the wrong ones

yet in the today that was yesterday
i was listened to
i stepped out of my comfort zone
i faced my fear
i looked into blazed eyes
i delivered food to strangers
i bit my tongue
i laughed
i did not have the last word
i did not take on the
irresponsibility of others
i felt the new hope of old dreams
i pieced together inlay
i cut beauty from old wood

o god,
this virus,
like the rain,
falls on the just and the unjust,
the stupid and those with common sense, alike, whether i wish it
were otherwise or not
and as i continue to marvel
at your infinite patience
with our idiocy,
help me to see the beauty
in all of this ugliness.

amen

Posted in Musings and Reflections

An Extinction Event

As is often the case during a pandemic, the discussion turns towards whether this particular incident will be an extinction event, namely that the human race will cease to exist as a result.

My concern is not that the human race survives such a calamity, but whether in the process of surviving, we lose our collective soul.

That would indeed be a quite different yet much more tragic extinction event;

the survival of a species devoid of its humanity.

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)