Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In the Valley of Life: Stories

I have been reading John Goldingay's reflection and remembrance of his wife, Remember Ann. I have had the book awhile and have been fearing reading it. I knew John and Ann during my days at Fuller. Ann was 
diagnosed with MS early in their relationship and John took care of his wife throughout their forty year marriage. I made the acknowledgements. But I fear reading it on two fronts. First, my son has NF-1 and it may be a severe form and I don't know if I have the strength to go through if I know what that means. Better in such journeys to only dealing with whats in front of you. I remember when a friend from Colorado was looking up at the top of Mount of the Holy Cross mountain. Seeing the top he could not imagine making to the top. I had been on the top already, by taking on step a time. I did not what to deal with seeing the top from John's story. Second, I am dealing with a persistent Glaucoma problem. I fear being a blind husband to my wife, and undue burden up her, especially if our son also might need care. It was to overwhelming. 

Last night, the three of us, wife, son and me, sat a the dinner table and laughed. My two year old laugh with a deep laugh that filled his whole being over something little. I saw God in this moment. I found the courage to read a friend's story. Tears mixed with laughter, this is what I am grateful for. This does not change the devil's choice that my wife and I will have to make. Nor does it change the possible terrors my son will have to face. But sharing the story, as John does, somehow makes more alive. Below is a poem I wrote when I found out Ann had passed away. In it I remember what many forget about the Gospel is about being fully alive and fully alive with others.

The Early Church Father St. Irenaeus of Lyons famous quote about the meaning of Gospel, comes to me through the giggles of my son, “The glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God”

In the Valley of Life
In memory of Ann
The music exists
           in time, in silence,
     and in the valley of the bones before the prophet,
               the mortal, spoke. The dryness of the land
    lacked the wind of life before the God’s

question. God
          asked the prophet if the bones
      could find flesh again and dance as a living
              people. Demanding an answer,

We become
         Mute to the fractures of our time.
      Snap, and we are orphans. Crackle, and life
             Dissipates like the smoke

From an extinguished
         Beeswax purple candle. The still hot
      Liquid of stilled blood longs to move as if
              It remained a springtime brook.

On the crossplanck
          Where the points of the valley meet,
      We answer with a song, only God could know,
            of cold loss in our marrow.

God asks the prophet
        Again, and we defer our different
      Ignorance. We speak to the bones of our past,
          Finding memories, finding

Sinew attaching
      To our stories. Will they spring up
    From out of the ground? Will they speak to us
         In a new voice.

The mortal speaks
      To the brittle dust and water begins
   To turn to blood. The skin needed to contain
          The red wine colored

Fluid covers
      The memories. Notes of forty plus
   year marriage begin to play the dignity of Ann.
           Through the silence,

She heard
      God’s s libretto through the voice
  Of the mortal. The mortal proclaimed the words
       Of life, of body broken

For new being. Alive,
     Again and for the first time,
  We remember  and give thanks and sing
     For sweet Ann given to us.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Pain in my Thoughts and Thighs

 The Pain in my Thoughts and Thighs 

I start my morning with a cliché,
a lukewarm one at that. Walking
on ice, my reality.Trending on ice
that was once was snow, but tires
and time turned into a sheet of a mixture
white and black ice, another overused
metaphor of good and bad. So, here
I was pushing, with likeness of a beer
induced dance, toward my morning bus
stop. In the wide middle of the street
there was a path cut by tires, I meet
the moonlight of the walk and snow dust,
making sure of the planting of the heel,
the best way to avoid slipping in real
time. The red lights of warming cars
with exhaust breathing into the darkness,
became markers in my not falling.
Already, I ave pain from the ape walk
that I use to walk on the ice. Being
a meaning making machine, I wonder
why? The best I can come up with, due
much to the weakness of my morning coffee
yet to hit, and the knowledge of so many
thousands of year of poems, predictions,
pacing on ice, both black and white,
is that sometimes it snows in November
and being prepared to start earlier
will keep you from missing the bus.
Luckily, I did not have to run on ice,
another cliché altogether.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Going to the Well in the Middle of One Hot Day

Going to the Well in the Middle of One Hot Day
a mediation on a question about the purpose of a Sunday Night Bible Study

You ask how, on our emerald
and blue ball, I would direct
the coming of God, fearing
if we are doing right. I know

the temptation. Just gather under
a name and wait to see what happens,
while for others, home watching
a football dances on TV? Really,

that’s it? Better, let us go
out and conquer for the Kingdom.
Pull out the sword and cut the ear
of those who do not hear.
Dance upon the waters

through faith and trust of the message,
less we fall into the murky sea.
Adventures in the cross, yes,
but patiently pounding the book,
timid in talking about timing and tempo
in our prayers of pows, wows and hows?

Again, that’s it? Sitting in stillness
of the darkness of a random Sunday
night? What would Jesus think?

Feathering the threads
of our individual lives
into a joint blanket, what’s the use
when so many are crippled?

When so many need to be lowered
from the roof to meet the God
incarnate they so desperately need. Feed

the hungry. Yes, 
God is with us when two
or more, but Martha knows the work
still needs to be done.  Come,

and follow, 153 Sundays
and what will we know?
So, I stop and sound
your question to the wind.
What is the use?

I know the terrible secrete.
It blows in the upper floors,
His question, “Do your love me?”
leads to life, the unknowable risks
and at times to an upside down
death on a cross. 


Friday, November 18, 2011

Not Another Telemarketer

Dime Day Doubts

When the history of world is written in blank verse,
as all true history is inscribed in iambic pentameter,
the main roll will go the ghosts of telemarketers,
telling your to buy the telegraphed past you’ve strive
to forgot, and who show up when you make love
to your wife or when you are playing pick up basketball,
or even at dinner. They will have to take three nos
before they leave, any less and their supervisors write
them up for lack of efforts. They will burnish all their
techniques of the trade, tone deaf fears of step-fathers'
murdering fathers, of dark Dane days of indecision 
and keeping you in their world. They will do anything 
to keep you in your past. "Leave me alone," you shout
and they still appear, and appear and appear. You son
will be on stage as a pilgrim, black hat doubling
his size, and you will be wanting to hang up
on the persistent past pestering you with problems
of the seven year old you were. Then, on follow up calls,
pointing you guilty for not paying attention to you child’s
part in second grade play of Thanksgiving.
Why, you think, do we lack a National Registry of No
Calls for the ghosts of Telemarketers.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Read Mine On My Ipad

 I Read Mine On My Ipad

Codices, then a technological advance
of the young, were leather, vellum
and papyrus butterflies fluttering
in the wind throughout the Roman
world. Compact and carried by Jews,
missionaries and faithful slaves,
these first bound books became
the pollination for the destruction
of the Trinity of the Roman
Gods of their Golden Age:
success, wealth and fame.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Limitations of Local

The Limitations of Local

Chanterelles, yellow chandeliers in the wild,
have the look of brains as the butter
and balsamic vinegar sizzle on a new coat
of flavor. While we hunted for them
in the shadows of the Grand Traverse, we
found alpine strawberries smaller then the nail
on my ring finger. I recall the taste of the wild
mushrooms with shallots, clams, and linguini
to girls in Los Angles who thought the Milky
Way was a candy bar and never seen the spray
of stars. Of course, they were appalled we used
can clams and not fresh out of their beloved ocean.

Monday, November 14, 2011

History Repeating Persistent Patterns

History Repeating Persistent Patterns

Most of us will miss our rightful place
in the Book of History. If we do achieve its ink,
probability proclaims we merely will be

an endnote, a footnote, or a nameless allusion.
Few get a headline, let alone a chapter. Some,
fed on the illusions of exceptionalism, self-love

and been told since birth that they are
extraordinary, discover this truth as a tragedy.
Yet, to go missing from the Book of Life

tasting the acrimonious sourdough straight
out of the hundreds of degree heat or popping open
a petite syrah colored like the purple of Ceasar’s

robe, yellows or reds our green leafs in preparation
for falling.  But, is distracting our future offspring
from their dreams of importance really a requiem

of suffering? I mean I remember when I started
school, age six with coke bottle glasses, I want to them all
to like me. Strange, I can’t recall any of their names.

The Interlocking Chains of Command

The Interlocking Chains of Command

When a bird is no longer in flight
he dreams of worms to eat. Might
he fantasize of freedom’s glide and glaze
of flying? We humans speculate. But
for the bird, the air is just a means
for finding food. Dinner—not escape.
What, then, do the worms dream
as they pick our bones white?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Poetry, Nobel, the stream of life

I have not been posting as I have been pushing in getting a book of poems. I am going to see if I can write a poem a day for the whole of 2112, and think that there is nothing like the present to build the muscles to write. When I heard that Tomas Transtormer won the Nobel prize for his poems, I was affected. Twenty years ago in my writing program in Texas, he was a visiting poet, and very few people went to hear him, then a unknown poet from Sweden. I remember how intrigued by hm I was. He thought in metaphor and tried to capture the flow of life in his quiet poems. He is the first Nobel writer I have touch with a handshake. Now, I look to turn my poems as a testament to life, finding voice for the quiet moments that make living, but seem to be neglected in the course of biography and story. Below is a poem about going out with a group of young fathers and fathers to be from my small group from our church.   

Church Boys’ Night of Beer, Fun and Football

On the table, all the buffalo wings left: one.
And the battered wheels of onions
the diameter and color of a grapefruit left: one.

Of the flatbread, the latest craze, baked with pieces
of shredded Romano and Parmesan left: one.

Though its tomato, olive oil and sweet basil dip
long gone into the tummies of the young
fathers of preschoolers. Fear of appearing
gluttonous to each other left this plethora of ones. 

“Bonding” what a strange way of putting it,
as if stuck by together by Gorilla glue or black
duct tape binding us into a group in front
of a big screen. Hittites, who now only exist
in others’ accounts and archeological digs, would

use just one word to say hello and goodbye
that translates from their dead language into,

“Be alive.”