This Holy Skin

This is a piece originally posted on my innerwoven blog on August 28th of last year. I thought I’d post it here, too. You know, for fun…

We stand and crane our necks

reaching for heaven’s bright smile,

upon shoulders of brown and moving green,

and in the act forget ourselves as one and there and good.

Made from unmade to make again,

these arms outstretched with fingers hoping

to touch the air and the unseen,

we hope for less than our skin suggests.

And yet, in this, there is no shame

since we ourselves are of the dust – rooted,

embranched and gnarled but numinous and whimsical

as the clouds and rain.

To escape from this is not as good

as other fingers poised to touch,

to show what we weren’t looking for…

ourselves, God’s fingerprints smudged

on the pane of humanity,

in the humanity of our pain-

on us.

Having sung with the choir – an evening examen

combined-3-choirs-singing-balaio-juiz-de-fora

Having sung with the choir, this evening’s venture

brings light to the night and a dark covering of

powdered stillness descending, descending still

upon these battered brows. Hear, O hear

the silver notes, sliding out from cleaving tongues

pressed up against our cheeks, the very cheeks

now flushed and warm with the post-song glow of

happy hearts. O Dancing One, how lightly you move,

alight and glide where clumsy old oafs yet banished in

the wooden feet of sin are forced but to watch.

But watch we will until, our laces loose,

we cast off iron shoes, and at last

our feet fall in time with yours.

Tonight, our songs have burrowed into

heads prepared for pillows,

hearts prepared for love,

eyes prepared for sleep,

souls prepared for eternity,

and voices prepared to sing once more the songs

that wonder.

Photo found here

.

I-You-Holy Ground

I am the dusty ground, low and dry

thirsty for the imprint of holy feet.

Despoil with radiant prints, this virgin ground.

___

You are the rain, falling deftly

upon my brown soil. Now is left

your footprint on this ground.

___

I am the ashen leaves, curling and broken

awaiting but a whisper. For only then

can I fall on solid ground.

___

You are the soundless wind, howling, still.

You creep up behind me and

exhale me to the ground.

___

I am the snow, disembodied worlds of cold

and chance encounters with hand, or tongue,

eye-lash or palm needing ground.

___

You are the frozen air in which I am held

aloft, drawn slowly down

to meet with others on the frozen ground.

___

I am the waning autumn death

soon to give way to the long silence-when one Voice

becomes the loudest ground.

___

You are the Voice that speaks

heard best in dying, power given for

rising from this shivering ground.

___

I am the distant hours, the midnight passing-

the refusing minutes, trapped in hours,

running from the years of ancient ground.

___

You are the many, and the one, and all time

and nothing and everything from nothing

where time has no ground.

___

I am the weeping, the squalid groaning,

the unrequited miseries of misery’s company

laying crippled and diffused in the ground.

___

You are the end of tears and years, the question

and the answer, the sutured nerve of joy, not suggested

but present, here, on this Holy Ground.

Driving school, autumn nights and thoughts on poverty

Poverty never ceases to surprise and disarm. What is truly alarming however is whenever I grow indifferent or worse, apathetic, to its crying dishonor. May I never be unaware or distant and always prepared to enter into the suffering of others. Lord, have mercy.

I

Don’t let me be found waiting when,

like water on a mirror, I slide

from corner to corner,

unwieldy and unpredictable,

the scab before the fall,

the tears before the pain,

the gain before the loss.

Running toward is always better than

running away when haggard eyes

silently proclaim my complicity in

the hollow halls of ownership.

II

I need to simmer long in cauldrons

of grieving for ones lost on the loom,

dismembered patterns refusing collision

into any kind of shape. Can you smell

the paint on my brush, richly bristled,

bent away from their needy canvas,

dry and parched, stretched too thin

to hold more than grey or black?

Colors here only reveal what stolen

chances never offered have done to ones

who just might wear them best.

III

Plumbing these altitudes, I grow weary

from my swan dives upward,

expelling all reason for some ritual,

denying them time for tome,

confusing their ache for my art.

Fixed, stuck am I on stolen intrusions

of short memory too bent to sort,

too cold to move, too sharp to soothe.

But forward brings me closer

than any other path, not placating,

or even prosaic but parallel with promises

unveiled only through the repetition

of laughter, laughter and

the solemn, sweet, irrepressible smiles

of the poor.

nighttime songs our fears erase

a story lived, now story told

we, early young, now later, old

see stranger things than daytime held

but not without our sorrows quelled

____________________________________

we fluff and tuck and yawn and brush

pray God remove all sinning blush

the air now cool in silver glow

what dreams may come we do not know

_____________________________________

divested now of time and chance

we bid adieu and leave the dance

till thricely woven round with grace

the nighttime songs our fears erase

Learning his name

The ending to all beginnings

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the reprisals of our souls,

too young to love, too small for pain,

repeat their mistaken ventures into

the uncolored light of mistaken journeys,

then it is that the walls whisper

their ghostlike songs of ever after –

sighs of the imperfect.

* * *

Here there are no endings,

only endings of old beginnings

that transform by a refusal

to submit to the indentured servitude

of the hollow and broken,

preferring instead the ancient newness

of Cistine handshakes.

* * *

In the cowls of earth, her ears of stone,

hear fathomless time, tonsured and teased

from her birthplace deep in

embowelled truth whose Name Is.

Encompass within yourself this

faceless sojourner only now

learning his name.

Photo courtesy of my friends and fellow monastic-creatives at Abbey of the Arts. Thanks Christine Valters-Paintner.

Surrender – a prayer

Here, in this place awash in daylight grace,

I live my entire life on the head of a pin

on which is inscribed a single word:

surrender.

When todays are saturated in

a low, crawling, redeeming sadness:

surrender.

When the all-pervasive pall of a greening grey

removes dead soul-skin and tastes

like eating raw sewage:

surrender.

When the bitter pill of leafless desire

gets stuck in my throat and

stops up anything nutritional:

surrender.

When the wafer thin moments

of happy times bought at another’s expense

rob me of me:

surrender.

When my lover who shares

my bed, my skin, my guts, my hopes,

becomes nothing more than a side dish:

surrender.

When, in convenience, I sidestep

responsibility to another

and choose the busy road of non-involvement:

surrender.

When I’ve surrendered all I am and have,

all I’ve been and will become,

all that was, all that is and all that is not:

surrender.

When I’ve surrendered all,

I gain the one thing,

the Pearl of Great Price,

the Lily of the Valley,

the One who is in all,

who is all

and who needs no introduction because…

my soul knows him.

Help me to forgive you, God

I recognize this is not the first of its kind. Others have also shared just such things in the wake of the recent, horrific atrocities in Syria. I feel impotent to change much of this. But I can write. And I can pray. Here, I do both. Join me…please.

syria

 

 

 

 

Lord, they did not ask for dusty feet

sandaled and sore

to walk over the flesh and bones

of neighbors and friends,

of brothers, sisters and parents.

They didn’t ask to be brought before

someone else’s tribunal on imagined

charges of being what they should not be,

what you created them to be.

They did not seek out this desperation

that found them huddled, fearful and crying.

To see the bloated bodies of fellow pilgrims

floating down the river, under bridges,

stuck and floating on rocks jutting out

and shaking bony fists at you for justice,

is to see a God too small to save.

Or am I missing something, Lord?

I am not smart enough to know

the fancy talk at long, important tables

where cigar-smoking men carve up

the world with a wink and a handshake.

I am not wise enough to understand

how to discern what most is needed.

I am not strong enough not to hate,

nor still enough not to stir up

my anger, my outrage.

Lord, if I am forced to sit and watch

what looks like the refuse of hate-filled politics

paraded before a God with weak arms,

and no stomach to move into the fray;

then, help me to forgive you, God,

if only long enough to dive in myself.

Who knows?

Perhaps we’ll meet each other there.

Picture: www.blogs.common.georgetown.edu