Tag Archive for: death

What is America?

Yesterday was All Saints Sunday, and during the prayers of the people, I prayed for the departed saints in Sutherland Springs, Texas, all 26 of them, including no less than three children, a woman who was 5 months pregnant, and the the elderly who could duck, or run, or whatever.

What good is prayer? I genuinely wonder sometimes, but in that wondering, I prayed for America, too. America the wasteland.

**************************

 

Who are we? What is America?

America–land of insanity, of gun rights and rage, of itchy trigger fingers.

America–land of politicians with their soothing words signifying nothing, the genetically-modified weeds growing among God’s wheat.

America–where a good run up in the stock market or consumer confidence or the coming #BLACKFRIDAYDEALS or positive cattle futures or any news of prosperity numbs our collective consciousness to death, death, death, death.

America–where we pay lip service to the life of the unborn but shell out big bucks to preserve the capacity for one man to commit mass murder and infanticide.

America–where rifles spit bullets into the Body of Christ. On a Sunday. In November. Blackest of days, again.

America--you are heartless, and where is the soul when there is no heart, beating?

**************************

***join me***

Do you like the content here or in my bi-monthly Tiny Letter? Do you read it over morning coffee? Want to help defray the costs of the veritable coffee plantation that fuels my writing? Then JOIN ME in the lab, the fun factory, the place I try out new things to see if they’ll stick. (Ahem… my Patreon community.) What is Patreon? It’s a way for you, the reader, to become a patron, a person supporting the arts (my art to be precise), and receive behind the scenes content in return. Visit my Patreon page for more information. And, if you enjoy this website and haven’t yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, feel free to sign up below.

powered by TinyLetter

 

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

A Good and Proper Slaughtering

John, Winn, and I have been talking about the human experience, about writing, and about recording the things that are real, sans fluff. This is a passing attempt. (Warning: this gets gory.)

***

The straight-run matured into a veritable flock–ten hens and eleven hackled and cocky roosters. Ratios being what they were (one rooster for every hen, with only one hen to spare), and cocks being what they are (territorial and full of the stuff of life) our lady birds were receiving quite a bit of attention (hint, hint; wink, wink; nudge, nudge). One might say the free range at the Haines Homestead had become bawdy, prurient, or lewd.

27557242300_9e66d98b5f_z

If you are not well-versed on animal husbandry, and I count myself as no expert, you might know that over-sexed hens tend to skittishness, fits of anxiety, and perhaps self-doubt.  What’s more, the over-sexing roosters tend to chest puffing, fight picking, and plucking plugs out of their brothers’ feathers. On a smaller scale (one to one, or some such ratio) this sexing and fighting becomes a quasi-comical metaphor of sorts. At the ratio of ten to eleven, it creates nothing short of a farmyard ruckus.
27223423703_4e1fa960a6_z

Last week, the roosters matured to a braise-worthy size. The season of harvest had come. A good-and-proper slaughtering being necessary and appropriate, I sharpened the reaper’s blade and hung the noose from the Cypress tree overlooking the pond.

(This is where things get gruesome. You’ve been warned.)

27557249750_f33cf0aa00_z

Experts explain that the most humane way to dispatch a chicken is to hang it by its feet allowing it to relax into a near sleep. This induction of sleep and the ensuing dispatching is often made easier by the use “killing cones,” in which a chicken is placed upside down, head and neck extending through an opening in the bottom, wings compressed against the metal sides, and legs protruding from the top. A gentle kill–so these same experts tell you–involves a deep, quick slice against the jugular, opening the blood spigot. The heart quickens, pulling and pulsing blood from the meat, through the neck, and onto the ground. The pain is minimal–again, per the experts–and the cock-sure soul wakes in the land of eternal morning, of endless cock-a-doodle-doos and capitulating lady birds.

All this said, I had no killing cone for this good-and-proper slaughtering, and I didn’t intend to spend my spare change on such a device for the sake of ten birds. And so, crafty gentleman farmer that I am, I strung the young roos by their feet, allowed them to relax to the point of sleep, turned their necks, and made the cuts. The blood spigot opened, sure enough, and the stream ran red down the side of the cypress, pooling at its base. Within minutes, green-backed flies congregated in the pool, one on top of another, hundreds of living sequins winking at each other in the sunlight. (Hint, hint; wink, wink; nudge nudge.)

Life and death pulse along an infinite loop.

In the last seconds of a chicken’s life, there is a final shudder, the quickening of breath in the breast, the spasmodic and violent flapping of the wings. There is a last lifting of the neck toward the sky, a searching for the sun. It is intimate, primal, perhaps holy. Mindfulness turns the moment to both sorrow and gratitude, toward other juxtapositions I haven’t quite sorted, might not ever sort.

Roos plucked, processed, and packed, the meat now lines my freezer. Meat aside, the killing floor by the old cypress welcomed me into the experience of life, into the fragility of it, into the undulations of nature’s sexing, birthing, and dying. This world is fierce, violent, and sometimes lacking in mercy (such as we define it).

This, I suppose, is the point: if the world were all daisies, roses, and unicorn flatulence, I’m not sure faith would be a necessary thing. A fairytale life, a life celebrating only love, joy, peace and mercy is just that–a fairytale. Sex, birth, violence, killing, provision, death, and the fear of dying–these things beg imperative questions.

What is life and its end?

What is the last gasp, the craning of the neck?

What does it mean to kill and to die?

What does it mean to find provision through death?

How does the heart find gratitude in sacrifice?

How does it feel to be alive?

***TINY LETTER***

Thanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. If you sign up, you’ll receive my free eBook, Coming Clean|Austin OuttakesAnd, if you enjoy this website, or my Tiny Letter, consider signing up as a monthly content supporter.

powered by TinyLetter

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Grandma’s Passing

My grandmother slipped behind the veil last week. Slow, groggy, feeling a little too tired, she laid down for a ten-minute nap and woke in eternity. My parents said she went with a smile on her face. She was 95.

As my friend Karen said this morning, “weddings, births, and funerals tend to turn people toward reflection.” Yesterday, a few handfuls of celebrants gathered at Moore’s Funeral Chapel, and we reflected on the passing of a saint. She was a woman who used her 95 years well. By all accounts she was a student of scripture, a spiritual mother, a living prayer.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to share a poem at her funeral. Today, I’m sharing it here.

*****

For Grandma Upon Her Passing.

At 95 we thought she might live forever,
suspended between nature and eternity,
the passages caused by old age
or accident, whichever God gifted first.
Brow folded over brow, wisdom lines
tracing trenches until her 90th birthday,
then no more. (One can acquire only
what wisdom is acquirable.)
Thin-skinned hands, veins light purple
the color of queens who seem
to outshine the lot of us.
Affections turned toward home,
toward husband, and children,
and children’s children,
to mother and father, to friends
who visit in late afternoon memories.
In well-worn age, the world’s weights
became helium balloons, releasable,
laughable, floating things.
Memories, family, faith, hope–
these are the anchors of age.

95 and we thought she might live forever.
Perhaps she did.

IMG_4733-600x600
Image by Amber Haines.

***TINY LETTER***

Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In the first of edition of the June newsletter, I’m giving away Chapter 2 of Dear Little Brothers, a serial eBook. Sign up in the box below to receive Chapter 1 and look for the June Tiny Letter in your inbox to download Chapter 2!

powered by TinyLetter
Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Doulas

A short poem to those who’ve labored with the dying. Yours is the kingdom of heaven.

*****

doula (/do͞olə/) (noun): a woman who is trained to assist another woman during childbirth and who may provide support to the family after the baby is born.

Doulas

I’ve known doulas
of new mothers,
who’ve labored with;
through whispered doubts
and the burning spring
of new life weeping
into this world,
they’ve served.

Their reward is this:
to taste the miracle
of innocence born.

I’ve known doulas
of the dying, too,
who’ve carried spirits
from world’s womb,
who’ve spoken
stories of hope
for dimming eyes
and waning smiles.

Their reward is this:
to taste the miracle
of innocence reborn.

*****

In the most recent Tiny Letter (my once-a-month, insider newsletter delivered straight to your email), I’m discussing the Lenten season, the darkness of my heart, and the discipline of quiet reflection. If you sign up today, you’ll receive a FREE DOWNLOAD of the song “Train Wreck.” It’s a song I wrote about pain, loss, and the love of God.

*powered by TinyLetter

 

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

On the Occasion of Mourning Death (Gather You Fires, Part II)

This week, my community lost a life too soon. I am sorry for his passing.

(This is part of the Collective Poems.)

*****

On the Occasion
of Mourning Death
(Gather You Fires, Part II)

The memory of
the frailest soul lost
burns like a tiny sun,
and we together carry
many tiny suns,
are warmed by
many tiny suns.

Gather you sun-bearers
by the funeral pyre;
gather again–
awakened in
the collective–
rare though we gather,
here as we gather,
together in memory;
We are.

We are nothing
if not for remembering
the way face reflects
joy immeasurable,
or soul reflects
God uncontainable,
or death reflects
hope interminable.

We are nothing
if not for carrying
the legacy of that joy,
stretching the
legacy of that joy,
remembering the
legacy of that joy.

We are nothing
if not for marking
ourselves with ashes,
for remembering that,
as the poet said,
lights are
again and again.
Memories are
unsnuffable things
if we let them be.

So gather you fires best–
awake in the collective–
together in sorrow,
together in feasting,
in communion wine—
and there find that
memories are
more than ashes.
And by this, even the
fallen are at last part of
the brilliant, unforgettable
constellation.

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.