Archive for category: Poetry

For Jude (Advent Poem #1)

I’m starting a little poetry series for these waning days of Advent. I’ll be posting a few here. For the entire series, join my Patreon community for as little as $2.00 a month.

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For Jude (Advent Poem #1)

A year will come when December looks less like Christmas and more like Advent, a hidden promise waiting in dark waters, a buried body sojourning in the womb of an immigrant woman, pregnant.

In that year of our Lord, childhood music will hollow out, and you will be left with the muted shells of drums, a memory frosted to fantasy, the want for the peace of staying.

When that day comes, know this: In the darkness, a great light shines, even if it is shrouded by the womb of a holy mother or held in two cupped hands, bread crumbs sprinkled on the chapel rug like stars scattered in the night,

either way, body of Christ in the world without end, Amen.

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To My Sons #4

We call America the land of the free, but hasn’t it become the land of the powerful? They chase after underage women then sweep it under the rug. They grab women by the genitals, or at least claim they can. The powerful purchase elections, or try to, anyhow. The powerful take and take and take and leave the rest of us to clean up their messes, sometimes the bodies. America—some have called it a Christian nation. I’m not sure what that means anymore.

The Haines family retreated into the heart of the Ozarks a few weeks ago, hid in the heart of the stone. With no cell reception and spotty internet connections, we did what came naturally. Skip rocks across shallow pools in the near-dried out creek bed. Watch herons and kingfishers hunt in those same pools. Kick up dust on a long walk down a dirt road. Bathe in the musk of black walnut husks. Watch the paint run laps through the ragweed. Be.

The natural world is a gentler place,  somehow freer than the world tethered to media, to CNN, Twitter, Facebook, this blog. The natural world is every epiphany that matters. It is  a garden.

I followed my sons down a country road, and considered the world we’re giving them. It’s bleak, even in the beauty of autumn. And in that contemplation, I jotted a few notes about my hopes for them, about the things I hope they learn. Those notes became the first draft of this poem.

To My Sons #4
Life—a thousand presents
to pull from packages
to take, to own, to show.
The Successful motivated
me, us, them, everyone,
with words and slogans:
Yours for the taking;
Bull by the balls;
Women for the Victors.
They lied through
chubbied cheeks,
taking our ambition first,
Our money next,
our dignity finally.

Sons, I could teach you
to use those lies
for advantage—yours, ours.
But this is dignity:
remember the joy in
the diving kingfisher;
laugh at the blue heron belch;
mourn the bleaching
crawfish carcass;
taste wild honey.
Know how the world
of the men named Success
is not this world at all.
It was never mine or yours;
it is ours and our sons,
and it’s not for taking
but for giving.

 

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A Monday Poem (Yes, You Need Poetry)

The world is off kilter (if’n you ain’t noticed). There’s no need for me to provide the laundry list of proofs. You feel it, don’t you? These seasons beg me to remember the gentleness of faith, and today, I’m offering this poem as just such a reminder.

And as a brief reminder, let’s discuss how to read a poem. Consider the title, what it might say, or foreshadow. Then, read the poem slowly, line by line. Using your imagination, see the text come to life. Then, move to the next line and do it again. At the end of the poem, ask yourself: How do I feel? or What was the takeaway?

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To my Sons #2

Some days you will race toddler tipsy,
water balloon between your knees,
against children more adept at
the awkward waddle of boyish games.
Carry best as you may–careful, careful—
these sorts of events occasion failure,
joy falling like eggs from the sky,
spilling into a pool of whoops and tears.
There, let your father’s faith be gentle,
like that of a mother lifting last born
from the embarrassment of empty can’ts
and into the crook of forever
where life’s perfume lingers.

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Tomorrow, I’ll turn my thoughts back to vocation. These posts, as it turns out, have been among some of my most popular. Why? Who can say, but there seems to be a universal itch when it comes to the careers we choose. I hope to see tomorrow.

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The Poem For Redeemer, Kansas City

A few years ago, I stumbled across the poem “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke. It’s a villanelle, a nineteen line poem characterized by rhyme and repetition. Roethke does something with the form, turns it into a sort of personal devotion, and when I read it for the first time, it seemed to work its way under my skin, got into my veins, did the thing any good drug does once it found the proper neural receptors.

This is your brain on poetry.

This spring, I spoke to a group of pastors in Kansas City. Before taking the stage, I sat in the greenroom, praying, light music playing over the speakers.  A song began playing, and I recognized it two notes in (bass lines have a way of sticking with you; yes?). It was a deeper cut from Kurt Elling’s work. It was his musical interpretation of “The Waking,” and it seemed the perfect song for the moment.

“God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.”
~Theodore Roethke, “The Waking”

The week after that conference, I sat in the quiet of my office and penned this homage to Roethke’s “The Waking.” I hope you enjoy it.

Ages and Ages (The Poem for Redeemer, Kansas City)

We watch for signs of life lived youngly sweet
and take by this some memory of being
too small to know the sun’s burning color.

Imagine soft clover on your laughing
cheeks, as a child, and in another age
remember signs of life lived youngly sweet.

Until this waking to noon heat, were we
smiling with carefree children faces raised,
too small to know how the sun’s color burns?

Now we raise cups to living old concerns,
like knowing good, evil, not remembering
to watch for signs of life lived youngly sweet.

Of all the things that come from forever
our laughing child’s shining eyes were most pure,
innocent to how the sun’s color burns.

Age brings knowing that cannot be unknown,
like how lovers hold hands, walking, silvered,
Watching for signs of life lived youngly sweet
And lifting eyes to sun’s burning color.

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Now, enjoy this version of Elling’s “The Waking.”

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Rejection, Dementia, and a Really Bad Breakup

I took the month of July off (more or less) because I needed a break, a vacation. If God took the seventh day off, couldn’t I practice his character by taking the seventh month off?

Okay, that’s a stretch. I ain’t that holy.

I’m scratching out words again today, but it’s really just a toe-back-in-the-water attempt to break my mini-sabbatical. I’m here to draw you in, to lure you to follow me elsewhere.

I wrote a poem a while back, a poem for my friend John Ray. I submitted that poem, “Dementia,” to a poetry contest for a magazine which shall not be named because I did not win, and if I’d dead honest, I’m still feeling as if I were just dumped by my crazy ex-girlfriend. Sure she’s nuts. We all knew it. My friends tried to warn me. But she was so pretty and artistic and promising and how could she dump me? 

This is the wretched and regular feeling so many of us in the writing world feel. Rejection: it hacks our egos into tiny, buriable pieces.

I was lamenting how my poem managed to swindle a rejection letter from that magazine which shall not be named with my friend and fellow writer John Blase. He liked the poem, I suppose, and posted it on his site of stupendous poetry. (You really should spend some time there.) So today, I’m here to ask you to go there. And if you need a bit of a foretaste of my non-award winning poetry, read on:

 

Dementia

He asked for the third time who organized this dinner,

who scheduled its courses of salad, the pizza

with whole basil leaves; who’d ever seen pizza

with whole leaves of basil? This He asked

for the third time.

 

His thumb and forefinger held a tremoring fork;

the back of his hand shivered, even in the blanket

of April’s warm humidity. Skin thin as purple onion peel

stretched over bird bones, everything forgetful of youth—

this is the way all men grow into dust.

 

To continue reading “Dementia,” visit John’s place.

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