Archive for the ‘Poetry’ category

This Shall Be A Sign

December 29, 2010
Christmas 2003: The Nativity

Image by DUCKMARX via Flickr

I was haunted by these words, ‘This shall be a sign for you… a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger”, and also  this blog post by Matt Redmond, “Christmas Is for Those Who Hate It Most.” 

 

And,  to aid in understanding the imagery used, the manger was not a cosy wooden trough,  but  was most likely a niche carved from stone at the site, and the stable itself  was a grotto or cave

After the angel’s Excelsis Deos, the mess
of this ugly Nativity was so unexpected:
that the stink of dung, not frankincense,
had welcomed Heaven’s exile,
that the cave floor was so smeared with blood,
that the wan mother was fallen into straw–
With suffering His kingdom
began its violent advance.

Yet these smelly vagrants had little interest
in these parents unprepared for their visit.
Their gazes fixed on the mystery
wrapped like  gravecloths,
laid in an animal’s trough,
nestled in a hollow made in cold stone
like a corpse in a sarcophagus:
this was their Savior.

Why do we outfit them all with halos,
snuggle Him in cosy blankets,
sprinkle the scene with pretty angels
spangled in gold? We tell a story
voiced with British accents
for suburban wide screens, drenched in sentiment.
We take the good news from the losers: the orphans,
lepers, hookers, and demoniacs–

Those from the night shift
He was anointed for.
But He came for haters of Christmas,
and of Him.  Even Creation groaned
at His birth–and a dragon waited to devour Him.
That bright star leads to a tomb.
The sign for you
is  strips of cloth and hollowed-out stone.

Incident at 77th Street

April 18, 2010

Atlantic Avenue Tunnel, Brooklyn, NYC

 

While this poem describes a real event, the thoughts and intents of the heart relayed  cannot possibly be that of  the unfortunate woman described with great poetic license here, and are of the human condition alone–or perhaps only the writer’s own.

In that moment, before the
train hit–with her mute face
pressed to the tunnel wall;
was she knowing then the fraudulence
of that blind and foolish leap
from the subway platform to the darkness below,
that ridiculous faith in her strength?  Did she find

in the end, there was really no warm hand to hold
in its digital skin, in that piece of plastic retrieved
from those unforgiving tracks?
It bore only deceiving marks on a screen,
some reminders of important things?
Shamed, did she send back to that pandemonium
in the station, one last bleak look: Oh, save me?

In the relentless stare of a headlight,
in the horn’s three moans of warning,
in the horror of that engine’s thunder,
with the blast of air beginning,
was there now a recognition
that she had always longed for a lie,
had always reached for the wrong thing?

Now at her journey’s end,
did she call for someone to just leap down
and help her bear the weight of oppressive sound
with some warmth of common grace?
Now, was there just this chaos of shared terror?
Now no one to cover over her,
Now–was there really no Savior?

Or, in that last moment, before the impact,
did she turn, like another repentant thief
into His presence, in her aloneness?
So that our dread became a mere shadow
that pressed a kind of darkness upon her
and passed over her in silence, leaving
her breathless–but at last,  truly alive?

 

Lament For A Lost Child

February 16, 2010
Toy Store (1980) Size: Unknown Medium: Oil on ...

Toy Store (1980) Size: Unknown Medium: Oil on canvas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For my mother:
a child who fell
into the arms of the Father
March 14, 1999

I heard one morning my little girl
sing in the shower; and seeming so
innocent of what this meant
she sang, “Lead me not
into temptation,
but deliver me into the good stuff… yes!
into the good

stuff!” So sweet to hear,
it hurt. Drying in the sun
her bright hair
shone like a halo,
a shadow of heaven
surrounding her–
with purity so breathtaking
in beauty,
it pained my heart.
And I cried out,
Woe, Woe!
to the one who would stumble her,
Woe!

I looked for my grown-up girl on Capp Street
late one night; avoiding the vomit in the gutters.
I rejected invective and imprecatory prayer;
I remembered God’s promise to repay:
“Vengeance is mine,”– what comfort
to my beleaguered soul!
I never thought, when she too, used
to sing so sweet, that I could
so cherish justice, as I do now.
So I wouldn’t want to be you,
Mister Toy Boy
because you took her to that toy store
and made her captive to your will
with a strange fire burning in her veins.

So smug! You thought you stole
the smile from her Father’s
face. But there’s bad news for you:
He smiles at her– still!
So be careful little man, what you see–
A Jealous Lover follows you down that dark alley.
He has a millstone for your neck,
and a strong bared arm, and He is not smiling
He is filled with wrath..you will weep then,
as I do now. You will gnash your teeth, as I cry out
Woe, woe to you! And, what a wonder to me!
Toyboy– you were someone’s small son
once, too! And this mother–woe is me!
she weeps, she weeps…for whom?

Conversations after Eden

January 6, 2010

Jan van Eyck- The Ghent Altarpiece - Adam (detail)

“Why do you blame me?” This night,
she held back no longer her need to assuage.
“You were with me
when I ate!
You heard that wicked creature’s enticements!
Why did you not protect me? Why were you silent?”
Bitterness ricochets off the cavern’s walls; even
punishing did not satisfy, nothing did.
The accusation echoes —  then she is wrenched
with guilt at the muffled sobs of the man. He never
wept.   Always that flinty gaze, even when
exiting the garden.

Then Cain wakes. She turns from the man’s side
to the child; he nestles at her comforting breast,
and slumbers again. Adam murmurs, finally, “Woman,
I forgave you, as I named you. You are ‘Giver
of Life’! Eve, forgive me — or  the promises
will wither, as all our crops have done.” She hears his plea,
she ransoms fear, her fingers drip with liquid myrrh,
to open the handles of the bolt, yet he has risen from their bed.
And another day she must endure of
her soul failing when he spoke.

He groans, feeling his body’s bane, the chill of Fall,
and an ebbing fire. He sees an ebony mamba,
a sneering glint, slithering away
towards the field’s briers, and though he knows
her seed would smash its head, he will taunt a snake.
“You are finished!” His voice sounds ridiculous in
the empty silence. So Adam wearily waits for
more light, yearning for that dawn
when the sting of thorns will be ended, and
his children will not return to dust — only be made new.

An Expensive Gift

December 26, 2009
unwrapping the gift

This is real love: imagine a gift,
one thing you treasured for self,
and you weep as you wrap–
you cry, “Oh, must I give it, Lord?”

Such excruciation only ornaments
the celebration of a birth
that was only ever meant for death–
wrap, and weep, oh you giver of gifts!

Package undone, your sacrifice–disdained?
Grieve again for love unrequited. Yet turn
your cheek– then turn your eyes — to adore Him!
O Cry, “Thanks be… for His inexpressible gift!”

For Broken Things

November 7, 2009

to Josselyn

Glory be to God for broken things:
for a tunic of skin covering nakedness,
for a rainbow of a robe become torn and bloody,
for a veil hiding fading radiance,
for a harp hung on a willow by a river,
for a water pot forgotten near Jacob’s well,
for a net torn by its load of fish,
for a flask that released some fragrance,
for linen strips unbound from a body,
for a curtain torn in two.

Glory to God for all the scattered shards, bruised reeds,
for every sparrow’s feather that falls.
He gathers them, and in a heavenly alchemy,
a nail splinters wood,
a bitter cup is drunk to the dregs;
and those contrite who have
mixed His words with faith
are strangers no longer, are knit together
with the power of an indestructible life
to then reflect His beauty.

Glory to God for those ransacked souls
admitting their bankruptcy:
the madman gnashing the skin of his tomb,
the blind man shouting above the crowd,
the bad woman crashing the pious man’s party,
the proud ruler begging for his dying daughter,
the unclean one touching His hem as she bled,
the fisherman cursing as a rooster crowed,
the nailed thief’s poignant plea and
an exiled king, head covered, weeping on his barefoot ascent.

Oh Glory to Him for every wretched heart
set on pilgrimage;
for all those who fail, then fall on that Rock,
and come to Him in pieces.
O Glory to God for all the wastrels
coming to their senses, still stinking of pigpens!
He has called out these broken bits of earth,
they have become the living stones.
It is not many noble the Father has welcomed
to His gleaming home in Zion: Praise Him!

Elijah Is Fed

October 17, 2009

Does only splendid light hide You? This
dreadful body of death covers just as well;
Oh, such heaviness since I said, “I, only I, am left,
who follow you wholly!” Such darkness always comes
from self-martyrdom and man-fearing!
Now I am abandoned, forsaken,
facing her fierce wickedness, alone.
Except for traitor memory that
dredges up all my Jezebels– again!
And did I really forget that You are

not in fire, not in wind, not in tremors?
No, You are only in a delicious stillness
that rescues  humbled men;
Repentant, I  fall into the splendor
of the Father now; in His embrace I
exchange impoverishment for
promised rest, a prophet’s mantle
for nourishment of bread.
Another will be anointed to wonders;
I am taken up by a Voice that feeds.