Thursday, July 20, 2017

my new neighborhood

Cold, quick sprays of dew
splash off the tree branch
car exhaust which smells like weed
pine tree out my window
Sunnymedes expansive green

The sunrise over the Mishawaka trees
Gerald Manley Hopkins' skies
the river licks my bicycle tires
and sandal soles.

Joey and I split Ben & Jerry's at the fish ladder
and the neighborhood kids beg him to
Hit the Quan
He didn't live in Harlem,
he doesn't know.

I walk back alone,
in the dark of the trees
and St. Joe
and the mulberries splattered on the white

I cut across the parking lot
accompanied by two loping raccoons.
The world compresses into a quilt,
tucking me in with humidity and quiet.

I wake up to the tune of Eddy Street traffic,
some hard-ass gunning his bike,
and a garbage truck driving by at sunrise.
Rush hour.
But the sun hits my bed in the morning
white and Avonlea-pure,
and it cuts through the blinds in the evening,
golden and warm.

Just three weeks of summer,
in a little house on Wayne Street,
a small oasis of rainstorms catching you on the way to the car,
Oaken Bucket a river run a way,
and ferreting out new corners
of an old world.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

settlers of cat[a]

"I do not care" you protest, until you realize that you do. And that must be an odd sensation: to be met with truth in your denial. But you have never been a woman in possession of the infinitely large fortune of twenty-five years and not in particular want of a husband. Women with this kind of wealth—youth—are the Americas, constantly eyed by lascivious colonists, looking for fresh land.

Women who possess the freedom of life lived and more of it ahead to live into, are viewed as prime colonial costal properties. They are an expanse of virgin soil—unsullied by a homesteads or shanty boomtown blights—which cowboys wistfully pretend—play-acting—is their frontier to claim. They lick their lips from behind the borer fence—the land's boundaries are porous, but their visas have tight visiting restrictions. They tentatively try to stake a claim remotely. Like Russians with American elections, they itch to influence what they cannot conquer. They lob advice like rockets from Gaza, foisting their unwelcome flags onto the soil, which, despite themselves, they cannot claim. Their non-possession of the land feeding into the twisted manifest destiny they try to bleed from their own fates. Their fates, which have left them outside the land, which have given them their own lands, conquered, they have irrigated dry. The barren plots of soil they grudgingly farm, while lusting after the much greener grass next door. What harm is there in simply tending the land, caring for it until the foreclosure goes through? Surely, you do no wrong—in fact, it is your duty and your right—to care for this wild, untoward, untouched land. If it is not careful, it will end up in the hands of an exploitive and greedy, terrible farmer. You will care for it carefully, weed its hills, and tend her orchards, until slowly the land is yours, you think. When it slips from your grasp, when some new mystery of its terrain appears, a topographical surprise you did not expect, you grasp it tightly. You bind it like the land you've already tied down.

To be a twenty-five year old woman is to understand conquering and colonialism—one is colonized all the time. There is not accident, Manifest Destiny is an understandable desire: to see a woman and know she stretches from sea to sea, with room enough inside of her, which cannot be corralled. The thrill of that challenge is intelligibly intoxicating.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

the speed of Psalm 90:3

The grass grows and fades with sure same swiftness
of Ansel Elgort in baby driver,
flipping through his sunglasses
or what I call
an Israeli driver on his Monday commute

I am dancing bouncing in my seat to the tune of Taylor Swift
and my fake Ray Bans, feeling
fly af as
Ansel driving to the tune of
Queen on his morning heist

The air of South Bend sings
I bask in its benediction upon my
Yo Pro Commute to campus

Prosper this, I think

Prosper this commute: which is not a walk
which is not morning subway bus ride —
the missing of the bustle of midtown in the morning
strikes me:
to be again
grinding pavement beneath my boot heels
would be nice —
but I ride this car into the sunrise
pulling on the brakes
dipping around the slower eddies of cars
hitting the green lights as bars on the xylophone
of high spirits that chime on 92.9

Prosper here, I pray

each awkward meeting moment
this translation
from one congruent sphere onto the other
prosper the new languages
and spaces that have opened up
I think that I can live in this
Perhaps I can live here in this

Monday, July 3, 2017

descending theology, cf Mary Karr

But Thomas said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Thomas' ultimatum is a familiar one to me.
Stand down, o Mystery, I yell at the force that pulls me forward. Show yourself.
Not to others, not to a Church whose word must take, a body I must believe is yours by force of sacrament and sign, but to me. Talk to me in ways I understand, diminish yourself entirely for me. Speak my baby talk; I'm too lazy, young, tired, selfish, weak, stupid, indolent, self-absorbed to learn the higher language that you speak.
I don't want subtleties, I don't want your great music. Put away your symphony and play the pan-pipe I have made of macaroni.
They tell me God is imminent; well I want accessible. A mystery that it takes no ounce of askesis to uncover. If God is here, why can't I see his face? Show yourself, I pout, demanding favors of the almighty like the spoiled brat I am.

And God does.
God comes to Thomas, in radical humility. The Word goes in for a blunt and obvious kill: he appears in all his radiant wounds, exactly as desired.
God is pleased to acquiesce to his request.

And that's sort of spectacular. That's a sort of spectacular God, I imagine. The one who will cripple his own person in ways I never will. A sort of God who will diminish God's own self to fit into a personal pronoun or a body or a wound.

And yet, one gets the sense that even though Thomas' desires are answered, his expectations are shattered.

It's the Word, with a unique new accent and enunciation.

It's as if you have returned home from confession; you get to have all the same things you had before, they are all intact. But your approach to them is entirely new. They are imminent, but the access is completely different.

Love has been burned way by love. Ego is emptied into a more gracious feeling of tenderness and care. Concern more for the other, unimpeded with obsession of self. It's the same feeling, he's the same person. But it's different now.

The confines which hemmed us in have broken down. Our blue funk turned to sparks.

This is what the Word is. Here. Yet always pulling us away.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

simultaneous compositions

My breath is uncontrollable, tearing through my lungs (which I think have a tumor in them) and searing through my muscles. I ask a lot of questions, and try to give my heart time to catch up to yours. Put perhaps it speeds ahead.


Nuclear: how odd that that's the adjective for "family." I mean, not odd, since it pays homage to the building blocks of our molecular structure. We honor kin by calling them nucleus of our atomic orbit existence. Now, "nuclear" cannot escape the connotation of "bomb" — of an atom we have split, a stability we have ruptured, a stasis we have disturbed. We have torn into the fabric of our nature and rent it down the middle. Our nuclei are no longer stable, we have split them into many different centers. What sort of instability do we inherit? What fatal central flaw is passed down through these nuclear bloodline unites? Instability is at our very core: molecular and familiar.

My breath comes in ragged tears, despite all my attempts to take deep yoga breaths in through my nose and out of my mouth. It's a breathing that leaves no extra energy leftover with which to speak and I finally feel a shard of sympathy for all those couples that I judge so mercilessly as they eat together at restaurant tables in silence. I think that is my nightmare: sitting in a restaurant in silence.
If you are just trying to keep pace with each other, sometimes there is no leftover energy for speech. Perhaps it takes all the effort of the partners to even gather together. Perhaps all their energy is shoved into the superhuman attempt to holding the nucleus together, when clearly it cannot hold. Gyres are widening, and falcons are spinning out of earshot of skilled falconers. In this environment, it appears, that all our fates end in the anarchy loosed upon us, some still breathe together. And that takes an endurance and a strength greater than what I can summon for this six mile run.

I have renewed empathy for the couples that silently share restaurant tables together. I admire their strength in simply showing up to share that space together. Because that is more than I can muster desire at this moment.

Friday, June 30, 2017

47 minutes

She wants to be an album in his vinyl collection
which he will play on a rainy Friday night
and remember her,
present in the velvet rain outside,
at the bottom of the tumbler,
in the last drop of bourbon—
a consumable experience of a person—
which will eat away at him,
contained in 47 minutes on a rainy Friday,
grating like a needle in the grooves.
He'll fall into bourbon sleep.
She'll be gone (again) before breakfast
leaving a slight hangover of memory
leaking off the________,
as the needle slips off polyvinyl chloride
and raindrops slowly leak off the leaves of trees,
shaking off that last bit of storm.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

pearls before homesick swine

After Lot had parted from him, the LORD said to Abram: Look about you, and from where you are, gaze to the north and south, east and west; all the land that you see I will give to you and your descendants forever. I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth; if anyone could count the dust of the earth, your descendants too might be counted.
(Genesis 13:14-16)

I am from this dirt.
Speeding through the green of the Bavarian summer landscape, I suddenly felt in my heart a powerful twinge of homecoming. This land is in my blood, I thought. Or rather those words thought me. The idea struck me from the outside, rising up out of the fresh earth and grabbing me through the windows of the Deutsche Bahn. These hills housed my ancestors, this is the dust that formed the bodies of the bodies of the bodies from whom I have been formed.

I think I finally felt an inkling of what all the hoards of Irish-American classmates felt when they returned to the homeland. I know why they raved about that Emerald Isle eternally; because this sort of instinct demands a rant of love.

Surprised at how strongly home eked out of the earth here, I pulled my gaze away from the window and into my cranium (or navel). Do I, I wondered, have a right to feel this way about this land? I had just come from land colonized by a people who have felt the dust of desert and rolling scrubby hills sing to their hearts, and it has caused endless chaos, perpetually swirling violence. This land, they feel, runs through their blood. They are a part of this land, and it is part of them.

So, too, do the native peoples who live there and will not depart from it. So many are refugees, strangers, displaced in their own home. The doors of their family homes are torn away, long-ago destroyed, but they retain the key. Because home can not be wrung from our hearts so easily.

And perhaps, I think, hearing the reading at mass, this promise of Yahweh—that mysterious, ineffable, unsearchable God—to Abram makes sacred that very claim. Land holds onto us. If we are made of carbon, if our bones are made of the common building blocks of life, then how can we help but feel a part of that particular land we are made of? Perhaps this dialogue of God and human, this bequeathing of the land to Abram as divine gift, blesses that sacred claim of land upon the human. No longer does land pull us from the vertical, that call of land to our hearts does not flatten our horizon. Rather, that call of homecoming opens us up to the Divine. God has entered into our temporal love-affair with land.

Perhaps God enters into this very human enterprise to break it open, shatter its small, measly limits we impose upon it. If land is no longer Ours, but Ours-from-God, that ought to (Oughts too rarely become Is's) shatter our human conceptions of ownership. The land is not property, it never has been. The land is gift. To see land as gift as well as home ought (again the insistent ought) to break open our mean tribalism, our petty possessiveness, and lead us to rejoice in the bounty of a land that holds us.

Perhaps this is what these promises mean. Perhaps they have these universal bents. But the universal is only at first accessible through the particular; the particular experience of a unique land, a unique place: the swath of stars overhead, the dust that sticks to our feet, the smell of straw and olive trees. It is a singular gift for a singular people, and nothing about that blessing is exclusive.

Perhaps that is why walking up Tantur's gravel drive, winding like the snakes I fear are hiding in the terraced olive groves, and gazing into the cup of land which holds Bethlehem and Beit Jala also feels like home.