acedia

We live life as no more than

the half-shrugged shoulder of

of a sleeping giant.

Let the wasp sting,

the filth stay,

the rodents gnaw

upon last year’s dinner,

prepared by another.

 

All has become

nature’s disavowal of its own

existence, the slowly turning

roots of black.

 

Flowers remain half-open,

squinting their heavy eyes

at the persistent sun.

Happy birds – I think they’re happy –

singing desperate songs

of unbidden encouragement,

scratch, scrawl, and howl,

like every happy voice – persistent, annoying,

useless, like a dare to a dead man.

 

Everything is good.

Is anything good?

What is anything but everything in reverse?

Oh, this melancholy, cottage

industry of romantics, poets, and

those with everything better to do

and no desire for it.

 

Life is good,

or so I’m told.

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Kathleen Norris, acedia, and uncorking the wine

I suffer from an all too common writer’s ailment. It is an elusive demon, refusing easy corral, and lives on in spite of my best efforts to subdue it. Kathleen Norris, a favorite writer of mine, stakes a claim on this little inner hurricane of acedia, well-known to the 4th century desert monastics, and suffering from much needed exposé in books like her bestseller, “A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life: Acedia and me.”

This thing is attacking me where it hurts, writer’s blah. Frankly, there are times when writer’s block would be the better option. Better to write nothing than derivative bullshit, right? At least that’s what the self-pitying artist might be tempted to say.

Now, to be clear, I’m certainly not in a huge doldrum necessarily. I still love to write. I think I’m fairly good at it. But, at times, I wake up in a cold sweat and realize that I just read a collection of poetry by a 17 year old more intriguing, probing, and disturbing than anything I recall writing.

This poem is offered from such musings.

* * *

Uncorking the wine

Breathless like wine, still corked and waiting

in its darkness, sits that one, a one, this one.

 

Wheezing and sick, that soul, a soul, this soul,

like leaden clouds coaxing out un-fallen rain.

 

Sometimes bitter is a sky, unwilling to cough up

her best stories and wait for an audience.

 

What little disturbances, these sagging wits,

trying in vain to see into the sap of things.

 

What small crescendo to so great a symphony,

the song-less word, peals back upon itself,

just enough to pair with a mind in domino.

 

What a blunted song, gutted and safe,

lost in its own impotence, a flaccid regale.

 

What a forgetful space, its shape insufficient

to bear the weight of dents and denials.

 

What fraternity of the inconsistent, sparing nothing

in pursuit of everything, to gain nothing.

 

What a pale sentence, well-intentioned illness of

the crouched and waiting, waiting for anyone to come

 

and speak.

 

 

On the eve of memory

On the eve of a memory,

when the daylight streams through

old clouds, carried in the bucket

of yesterdays, there comes

a clarity. A bidding of dues

in clues from tiny feet,

now braking for beer and girls

and the particular geistlieb that

only says hello to newcomers.

Severed as one gets from

the possibility of possible, of eventual –

of always – it’s never really

too late to ensure what little time

remains to pour out the slop

from the bucket that once held

our best intentions.

These two, grasped from out of

hands held tighter still

to our deepest dreams.

Two poems from a day at the Grunewald Guild

My family and I have lived in the Pacific Northwest for many years now. I maintain that it is readily the most beautiful part of the country, perhaps the world – well, the parts I’ve seen. The Grunewald Guild is a tiny oasis of assorted buildings, forest pathways, an old church converted to a library, and a whole lot of contemplative, liturgical artists. My peeps. After living in the Yakima Valley now for almost nine years, receiving their regular emails for that entire time, I finally decided that it was time for a visit. Of other poems to come, these are the first two.

Plain

The chuckachuck of sprinklers

slaking thirsty brown grass

drone me into an almost zombie-like peace –

a single note, unyielding, in its own

tonic harmony.

 

A thousand shades of green –

jade and emerald and pine –

line themselves up in the random scattershot

only found in perfection. Much too random

for the soldierish replants

of our brutish industry.

 

Even the highway wants a place

in this scene – wearing the yellow line

like a scarf around the neck

of its own movement and momentary digressions –

 

Like this.

 

The Smell of Grey

The smell of grey, old and musty 

books holding ten thousand curious fingerprints.

The dog-eared tales of dog-eared folk,

standing together like square-jawed

colonels of mystery, harboring

citadel secrets.

 

For so silent a place, how loudly

they shout for my attention.

 

These Lutherans have it right.

There is no distance or

false pings of conscience that

“The Exorcist” shares a shelf with

“The History of Israel” and something else on liturgy.

Here, my dangerously haphazard

story fits. Suddenly, my impractical 

arbitrariness feels intentional –

almost holy.

A morning in Malibu

Day creeps in slowly

like a child, uncertain, demure.

The disheveled hillsides yawn

themselves back to thirst again

in the dry, January sun.

A nighthawk, warblers, and sparrows

choir themselves out of the quiet night –

a morning dissonance at war

with nothing but hunger.

 

Down the slow road into town

a woman pegs up laundry, old school,

to dry in the hot ocean winds.

Eucalyptus, snapdragons, and primrose compete

for what little water is left

after years of drought.

 

Shakes of uncommitted clouds

stoop to the margins of

warm sky. That’s where the colors are,

a shock of tapioca time in love

with the lilacs, blooming only

for themselves to be the judges.

 

The town at the bottom of the hill

smells of competing sea-salt

and cheap tourist breakfast.

Those ladies looked out of place

in their broqued jeans and high heels,

that push them up above the

flip-flop culture encroaching –

like the sea.

 

Runners, running, so many runners,

running apace and aloof as the uneven

shoreline. They are chased by

over-confident gulls and the sad

feeling they can’t outrun something.

But still the water dances with sun

and dreams and there is time.

 

 

 

Losing inhibition

Just about the time the afternoon had worn off its edges enough to let the daylight leave, there came to mind a certain wave of thought. Lovers made love. Haters made hate. The rest of us huddled in between where incoherence meets yearning and found each other’s company. It was first names only but, cheek to cheek meant mouth to ear, and tales got told before long. So, about the time the afternoon had frayed its fringes enough to wink at us in passing, we found ourselves left-foot dancing to right-foot music. It had a good beat but lost itself in too much s  p  a  c  e between notes. That’s where we met each other. Bump and shuffle. Step and slide. Groove and grunt. We moved in moments like hands looking for each other to clap along. Things only got weird once the music stopped and we were left with nowhere to hide our inhibitions. Funny how musical awkward silences can be. Maybe that’s when we really got to see something other than feet and our eyes told the better stories. 

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Image found here

How lambs become bullies

It is rare that any of us are exactly who we think we are. We all project some complex combination of who we are, who we hope are, and who others say we are. Since self-knowledge is among the greatest of all gifts given by God, the lack thereof is perhaps the most dangerous weapon we wield. He hurts most who thinks himself one thing but in fact is something quite different altogether. This poem seeks to explore such an idea.

* * * 

A time there was when all were free

to breathe in your simplicity.

And everyone your name would call,

your words could all their fears forestall.

 

You lived behind the gaze of eyes,

and hoped no one would you despise,

but feared if no one knew your face,

then none would come to share your place.

 

You lived behind your polished days

where no one hurt, if all had paid.

It was no way to live a life,

but more a way to welcome strife.

 

You stood aloof enough to say,

“How lovely are all things today,

my heart is glad, my stomach fed,

all sadness is most surely dead.”

 

“Perhaps if I can sit and stare

just long enough to fool despair,

there’ll be a chance to run and hide,

should love become what I decide.”

 

You sat alone, a king or queen,

and hoped to God you stayed unseen,

unless of course you felt a need,

and then, by God, your soul must feed.

 

As time progressed, you callous grew,

to all but what bedazzled you,

or made you safe from pain or harm,

no lost control, surprise, alarm.

 

A choice you made: all friends ignore,

if souls are threats, keep hate in store.

You barricaded all but doubt

to stop your heart from getting out.

 

Though gently spoken and demure,

you fooled us all with charm for sure.

For underneath the face of smiles

was stealth, suspicion, schemes, and wiles.

 

Your words of warm felicity,

instead hid hate’s capacity:

“Prepare the stake and bone-dry switch

and burn to hell this devil’s witch!”

 

We dared to think you gave a damn

’bout more than life as telegram.

When really all you wanted then

was life unburdened with a “friend.”

 

What started right and true enough

was all untrue, a ruse, a bluff.

You hid behind such glowing eyes

in apathetic trickster guise.

 

Perhaps one came to help unloose

the tightness of your sorry noose;

some love and conversation brought,

to teach you songs your heart would not.

 

But, stay awake my sleeping friend

for pain shall be your sorry end,

your heart’s entrails upon the ground

where once a wholeness there was found.

 

For you’ve been found by one whose needs,

includes a narcissistic greed,

that scorns and mocks, ‘twill crush and bleed

till nothing’s left but pain and weeds.

 

‘Tis said, “to thine own self be true,”

but this supposes one who knew

what gifts are others, time and chance

for one to share life’s solemn dance.

 

So, this is how a bully came

to be set free to taunt and maim,

but to the eyes a gentle lamb,

who practiced how to give a damn.

 

If only time would e’er stand still

‘twould teach us that we mostly kill

whenever we refuse the time

to turn and speak in honest rhyme.

 

The greatest damage always comes

through danger in the tedium,

reminding all, who truth would seek,

that truth is found on lips that speak.

 

The constancy of time’s parade,

is proof enough that days are made

in moments pregnant with the ways

that pause we must, on others, gaze.

 

We hope to know love’s alchemy,

frustrated not by parody;

sometimes are those who will not see

the pain of silent apathy.

 

But still through Christ, the living Lord,

like falling on a sharpened sword,

our lives are made to bear such pain,

our loss is oft another’s gain.

 

And now I’ve stooped to tell this tale

that blessing come to those who fail,

for all will sing and all will rise

whose hope abides in paradise.