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
sidewalk.

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
prospering.

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.
But.
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. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

lo, the swaddled lettuce wilts

Akedah, she is easy.
Her yoke it is not that one which is heavy
and her many suitcases, dark they ain't.

We stop mid laugh and I think
but do not put to voice
the question from
an other Friday bed-
time ritual revamped.
But her answer sings
in the wind that blows
my napkin off the table--
twice--that hums beneath
the melody
harmonized in laughs between
our twin blue eyes.

Two souls, one body, Dr. Aristotle
scribbles on prescription pad
you are indelibly inscribed,
conscripted, even
into constellation Philia,
ancient, riddled with
supernovas perpetually
composing new suns from their dust.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dick Bewegung

My mother only loves me when I'm skinny: a love song
for a woman
who can only bear to see her bone—my bone—
flesh of her flesh—
when it is sparse and spare;
form attenuated,
physique trimmed
into sleek, sugar-free shapes.
My fat, spilling out of bony boundaries,
repulsive reminder of appetites pushing over inherited limits,
demands shutters: "keep it outside in the garage.
Don't drag your dirty toys into the house."
Keep your plurals singular
life will live you into the accusative.

But she has loved me into plenty,
to be a woman who is all plurals,
who really can't eat, love, or be
just one.
Who wraps life in the genitive,
loves with strong suppressed strings of affection
that cannot bind a body like
a foot, to collapse it into its own
black hole of appetite.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I don't know any of those words

Keen injustice: sitting in a Debart classroom
plastic chair
on a bright June morning as the glorious summer sky
rolls by outside.

I keep sneaking poetry into the margins
of a notebook which should be
solely German grammar.

I keep sneaking glances out
a window into fluffy-clouded-summer-sky
New mottled clouds are portraited in the window
sculpted beauties in a
sky blue Louvre,
fresh galleries appear with each stolen gaze,
pushed across my tiny window-frame of
reference
by mighty Midwestern winds.

Small molded clouds of
soft dove grays,
blanched and feathery,
chase mammoth cliffs of shapely water vapor.

You keep sneaking back
into a life that has no room for you.
I make space:
in the margins
in my grammar.
We can share this syntax.
Just for today.

Monday, June 19, 2017

swimming in grace

My shoes and feet and everything are tired of running. My fractured toe needs rest, and my knee protests another trail. So I dive into the pool and backstroke, staring at the uninspiring ceiling. I suppose the view from most lap lanes could never truly be called a vista, but these beige tiles seem particularly and spitefully bland. I think of old Roman baths with their ever-enduring mosaics, Turkish baths with their colorful domes, and I can't help but feel that contemporary America should up our gym ceiling game a bit.

Indicative of the population in the pool, Frank Sinatra is playing. I am miserable and my heart is heavier than a stone, which makes Sinatra sting like saltwater in a hangnail, and reminds my heavy legs, by contrast, of how poor chlorine is for buoying up one's spirit or its shell. As I watch my legs kick up a miniature wake, my toes just barely cresting the surface of the water, I think of how my legs floated on the surface of the Dead Sea. I smile (and swallow pool water accidentally) as I remember how the one-third salt water lifted up my legs so that they couldn't even kick. They would just splash impotently on the surface of the smooth sea. I remember my laughter as the water would roll me around and around, keeping me afloat, dependent on its mercy, despite my own attempts to stand. The Dead Sea feels like providence, and I was just rolling around in it.

I think of my last swim, in the Mediterranean, its marble blue-green waters rolling in thick, undulating waves. There, the piercing blue sky was the ceiling, and the lap lanes determined by the sharp spurs of rock, intermittent with the silky white sand floor. I dove under the waves, rolling around in the surf, glorying in the quiet, expansive intimacy of sea and sky. Experiencing myself as single, lone creature but not lonely, swallowed up in an infinite field of glory and wet, wild beauty.

--

Today, I ran again, my feet exploring the unbroken reaches of new running shoes, and the familiar, broken-in paths of familiar running trails.

But the sky was a sheer and startling blue, interrupted by molded white clouds, reflecting the golden radiance of the sun, perfectly gilded and shaded on their ruffled underbellies. The hot gold light burns my skin more lightly here. But the heavy air holds solar heat more permanently than the desert of Judea. I am landlocked, far from the sea. But, in the damp clashes of cold and hot storm fronts, I am still swimming in a wild sea of weather and grace.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

die stadt der schönen Freude

Full of uncomfortably undeniable hurt feelings, I make a winding way towards Washington Square Park, the gift of broken phones reaping slices of unexpected solitude. I alight from the F train at West Fourth Street and am greeted not by the discombobulating vague wash of nondescript dives and storefronts on the shifting streets of Penn Station/Port Authority’s neighboring avenues, but by the IFC center’s friendly façade, as familiar to last winter as Fred Armisen’s face. I smile and the combined force of that smile, that storefront, and the mismatched cluster of tourists outside the garish hookah window display of the neon smoke shop remind me why I love this city.

I love it for the slap slap slap of sandals moving over the sidewalk.
I love it for the swing in my hips as I traverse it with a freedom I no longer take for granted.
I love the woman eating pricy sushi on the pavement with her weird yuppie bar crawl crew, complete with lanyards ‘round their necks, smiling so joyfully and authentically with her friends. I love the Japanese fashionista with her thick orange eyeliner. The bent old priest rejuvenated, walks upright.

I walk up 6th avenue to St. Joseph’s church, so I can pray where Dorothy (Day, not Gale) once use to offer her own words of praise and hurt and thanks. I walk the path her feet have tread and think: this is holy ground. I walk into the blank white church. It’s newly renovated now, no longer filled with workmen and scaffolding. I see so clearly the altarpiece which was obscured before—Transfiguration. 



This is my holy city, my Jerusalem. And she is comfortingly the same. The cab driver takes me through Central Park—my park, where I have run through so many heartbreaks and heart aches and hurts like this—one thinks one would outgrow these things, that growing as actually left a mark of maturity, but here we are, back again, at the same old emotional junction, so run, run, run all the way around the bridle path, every single Saturday—he takes me past St. Ignatius—the translucent stone and stained glass shine like home—and up Park Avenue, which means I retrace my walks to and from that church, greeting each brick I've memorized on each penthouse corner. He takes me past Gourmet Garage—the scaffolding finally gone!—He takes me past Casa Blanca—its patio still dilapidated, its backyard tree in full leafy bloom. It has fancy new address numbers on the front. It has a new coat of paint. but it’s still mine. I am a part of its story and its mice, mold, and morning sunlight through my window are part of mine. To briefly greet that old friend once again is worth the $17.76.

But the city has grown and changed, too. Nothing living stagnates, this place least of all. The new high rise being built along my old walk to work is steadily rising. There is a new bar I meet the Cristo Rey contingent at. This city has grown and changed, even as it hums along its daily rhythm. Can this city, I wonder, ever exhaust my thirst for exploration? It swells always outwards. We shall not cease from exploration/And the goal of all our journeying will to be arrive right here, in There are other cities. The goal of our journeying is ever to arrive right here. Back at St. Joseph's Church in Greenwich Village and to finally see the altarpiece for that first time. To walk Through the unknown, unremembered gate/ of new adventures, and find that the last bit of ground we have left to discover is actually the Eden from which all our restless wanderings originated. It is that which was the beginning/the trees waving in the summer wind, the voices of the street performers in the sun, the children splashing in the fountain, clearly marked: no swimming.

This city's beauty blazes like tongues of flames in-folded into the utter ordinary, the voices of ex-pats, tourists, college students, into one glorious crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

the healing kind of the sickness

Hayley said this place gets under your skin, which sounds slightly pathogenic (yet true).
Raanan said that there's a name for it—they call it Tanturitis.
This place is not heaven on earth, but it's got a magic that's just a few shades short of eschaton.

The magic of Tantur Ecumenical Institute is not easily diagnosed or dissected. Its inescapable presence yet ineffable origin make Tantur's atmosphere endlessly enticing. Tantur is a place which feels larger on the inside, because of the abundance of mystery within its walls, beckoning to be plumbed.

In part, I believe, the magic of Tantur springs from the immense right which every person possess in being here: the elderly couple, the pastors on sabbatical, the visiting scholars, the rabbinic student, the group of undergrads, the staff members of various organizations housed here at Tantur itself, the fourth grader practicing piano: each of them belongs here just as much as the other. There is a deep and gracious humility in recognizing the sacredness of each encounter with every community member. Any person can sit down next to you at a meal, and your conversation feels completely horizontal, there is no slant of inequality, even with the ten-year-old. This sort of humility is rare, yet is endemic to Tantur, providing the bedrock for its seemingly innate radical inclusion.

Tantur is, of course, not perfect. There is disagreement, there is not one single vision always. But, at least I have found here, divisions do not overwhelm the experience of the unity. There is still union, even in discord, and there is still acceptance, and more than a facile acceptance—celebration—of difference. (Not perfectly, however. We are so trained to disagree with difference its difficult sometimes to celebrate it. But perhaps this is only one of many occupational hazards for people trafficking in Ultimate Concern.)  Fellow pilgrims can easily annoy you; you tire of them, they are irked by you. But you still walk together. I think that is what Church means.

The magic of Tantur—which, perhaps I should more accurately name grace—is precisely in this miraculous journeying together. Tantur is a diverse collections of pilgrims, each with very different roads and a variety of maps and atlases by which they navigate. But the mystery of this ever-expanding space seems to upholds all of them. There is enough support to go around, enough room for all to meet.

I cannot help but contrast Tantur with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is a poignant architectural incarnation of the bitter and oh-so-human divisions which mark this human institution which springs from faith's central mystery. It is a church with hermetically sealed traditions, which only meet when shooing the others—made into very much Other—off their turf. It is a portrait of the Church which hurts to see, but it rings true. So much of my time here, I have been reflecting on our need for the real, for the genuine. Pilgrims come to the Holy Land with the simple question: Is this all true? Did this really happen? and the land meets them with a yes: this did happen. It happened here. The yes just doesn't always look the way we want or imagine.

So for all the dis-ease the Church of the Holy Sepulchre raises within me—annoyance at the boys' club pissing contests, great sadness for the scandal of Christian division—I find its mystery draws me back and back again, because something about that church rings true. Perhaps it is not as it ought to be: that church needs cleaning, repair, and some single, unifying and ordering principle; but its messy, piecemeal blend of traditions, architecture, and weird cavernous spaces sings a broken psalm of praise to the God who sustains it even in its human messiness. It is not right and just, but it is accurate and inescapably real. And I am here not for the reality I want to see, but things as they are. Even if they hurt to look at.

Tantur's grace feels like a salve for that hurt. Indeed, there is a balm in Tantur, a particular grace that answers the Holy Sepulchre's hurt—the grace of community. That's the sort of grace which is infectious, which gets under your skin, which pulls at your heart, demanding you leave your tent pitched here, right here. This must be the sort of grace which ought to fill our Eucharists and Sunday services. Perhaps this is a grace of unity which is the briefest appetizer—a stuttering, stammering, abbreviated articulation—of that final unity when Christ is all-in-all and all are finally, truly one in Christ. Perhaps if the global Church felt this unity, this is what our churches would feel like—we would never want to leave them.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Anastasios Kodak Moment


Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, May 27, 2017
~

The Orthodox-Armenian priest, solemn in his black cassock, beard and thin spectacles takes a picture of the stone in the apse of the tomb "kiosk" chapel. I am not quite sure what is so important about a piece of rock encased in gold, a quick google search reveals it to be revered as a bit of the tomb that was rolled away from the entrance of the tomb, accordingly, it is named "the angel stone."

The be-spectacled, priest takes his photo with an old digital camera. It makes a horrendous clicking-shutter sound every time he snaps a pic. The flash is on and it goes off each time he takes a picture--a blinding, sharp, disruptive strike of lightning being fired into the warm dark womb of our tomb chapel. I am not amused. Not amused at all, and slightly blinded by the blue lightning flash interrupting the cozy dim lighting of the dozens of golden lanterns hung from heavy chains from the ceiling.

Seriously, solemnly, the priest circles the truly unremarkable piece of rock, takin a picture from every possible angle, fastidious and carefully studied in his movements, framing each new composition with equal Surat-like care. Each flash is foreign and intrusive. By the fifth flash, I realize: among all the paintings that surround the tomb: cheap, gaudy, cheesy--emaciated El Greco Christ's flying through the sky--chintzy, and flat, this invading light, unwelcome and unsought for, is by far the best image of resurrection here.

Friday, May 26, 2017

How's Israel?

I don't even know what to call this land. Is it Israel? Israel is the Jewish name for the Jewish nation here, mostly populated by Western Jews in a land that's not the West. The land is called Palestine, too. It's Palestine, a state that Israel calls the West Bank, and builds settlements in, in an attempt to bulldoze their way back into its history. But the land's been called Palestine for millennia, ever since, in fact the ROMANS, another Western colonial power took it over. Okay, well who had it before the Romans? The Israelites. This land was Israel and Judea for hundreds of years before it was ever Palestine, but the Israelites were not native to this land, they wrested it from the Canaanites. It's rightfully Canaan, right? (Who settled here first? Abraham? his children? We're back in the hazy ground of pre-history here—is that just a polite term for myth?—so who can say? The Egyptians. They were around before history even began it seemed.) To excavate her identity requires and exhaustive and exhausting peeling-away of all the layers of history that have literally built up on this land, an effort that exhausts human capability. When hasn't this land been named by someone not from its own soil? If a land's been colonized, recolonized, conquered and despoiled for thousands of years then who, in fact, does this land belong to? Who has the right to name this place?

So do I just call this place the "Holy Land"? It seems to sidestep the fraught Israel/Palestine labeling, which I have no right or ability to decide, but then I've just smacked a religious appellation to this piece of ground, and if there's one thing that's controversial here it's religion. Religion divides this holy city into quarters, it splits it almost literally down the middle. Or is religion just a convenient cover for something else? For clashes between race, ethnicity, and culture? What are the real dividing lines?

But I find myself in awe of the physical land itself, of the ground which bucks anyone's attempt to give it a name not its own; like Yahweh, perhaps, whose given name is "I am who am"— no name at all, really. No gender, no limits attached to the name, Yahweh's chosen designation as limitless and ineffable as being itself. The land's sacredness lies in her mystery, in her exposing of human nature. Humans — all of us, Christians, Muslims, Jews — attempt to grasp at the sacred for ourselves. We want it to be neat, homogenous, clean, and ours. We want it to be one single story, and we the possessor and sole inheritor of it. 

But, I think, this land will not allow anyone that simplicity. And I find that a mark of the sacred. Because sacred lies deeper than all attempts to profane it. Sacred is often met by our weak human nature with violence. Because we sense the mystery, but are not good enough to let it be larger than ourselves.

If any land is holy, surely this one must be. This land that holds so many stories in it, that ties together many faiths, that has space for each one of them, as countless as Abraham's stars in the sky (Gen 22: 17). If any land has held God in it, surely it must be this one. God's dwelling in this land has not made the mystery any easier. Its clarity lies beyond human comprehension. Its holiness has become more profound, untamable, most intimately us, and not ours.

Friday, May 5, 2017

the nuptial life of ducks

The duck couple are roosted (is that word right?) on the concrete embankment of the riverwalk, side-by-dappled-side: drake's green mallard feathers shining in the sun, hen's blue wing-decal glistening like a shadow in his wake.

They notice my approach with the anxiety of creatures who possess too lowly a station on the food chain to afford Disinterest (n.: an expensive luxury for prey).

Following my departing form with beady, suspiciously shifting eyes, they turn slowly back to pondering the rushing current of the canal water as it slows down from the hurdy-gurdy of the churning man-made rapids of the locks and dams back into the slow drag of the St. Joseph river, flowing, mysteriously North, some drab Midwestern Nile falling upwards to the delta of Lake Michigan.
They are rare ducks who can afford leisure hours of simply watching the water run from their public front-porch-perch.

I think they may be stuck in rut. They sit next to each other, a silence looming between them like partners whose bodies glue together two stranger souls. Perhaps their connection has lost its spark like over-used tinder strips on matchboxes from East Village bars. Perhaps the mating has lost its verve this spring. The hen is hesitant to mention it, doesn't want to hurt his feelings; but the drake knows it in his gut, feeling its clammy lump sticking in his gullet like a live minnow, flopping, squirming discomfort refusing to be choked down.

They've lost something -- the spark just isn't there-- she said this morning to her friends upstream; but they ignore it for now, and watch the river in heavy silence, pretending for a few running passers-by longer that nothing has changed. Not this spring.



Sunday, April 30, 2017

transequivocation

today, like each day,
I bring to you gift of
tawdry myrrh:
my shabby, pride-
ful hungry heart--
broken, poured out
anoints your soon-
wounded feet with
no genuine nard--
false, fickle frankincense:
shallow alabaster soul.

in return,
returning and returning,
repayment for my nothing-gift--
nothing but your Joy,
her fragrance seeping
into garlic-scotch-soaked
blood and breath,
overwhelming
stench of ego-tinted
memories,
which,

recurring, each week,
returning, I offer
same shitty gift of self,

which you bound towards,
munificence incarnate,
unceasing love,
endless grace,
returning to me,
turning me to some-stance
more fitting for a being
wearing last night's shirt
and scent of hangover
in church,
translated
to a joy more pure-
ly natural to a creature.
Astounding love that
creates and recreates,
turns me and returns,
direction implied in my very name
as creature,
towards you, creator.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

stars that do not give a damn

There are no events but thoughts and the heart's hard turning, the heart's slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times.
--Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
--W.H. Auden, The More Loving One

I wonder if, perhaps, our experiences of unrequited love, our all-too-frequent relationships of imbalanced affection, one-way intimacy, disproportionate vulnerability exist to give us just the slightestoh just the slimmest glimmerinto the mystery of Divine love.

How can we fathom the infinite slights Infinite Love receives from an endless stream of souls?

We cannot. Indeed, to grasp that we have crucified Love, we have nailed him to a cross, he bleeds from wounds inflicted by our selves is to begin to understand Him as victim. He stands not in solidarity with our wounds, inflicted by our own egos, a comfortable medic to salve our own pain; rather, our wounds give us an entryway into his. His cross does not transfigure our cross, our crosses allow us to experience the transfiguration of His.

The cross, as Rowan Williams imagines it, stands over and against us. It calls us to understand ourselves as oppressors, and all those who we hurt throughout our lives as Christ crucified. Our victims (and oh they are many) are the Crucified One, we the crucifiers, the deserters, the deniers. Who are we but Peter, whose reconciliation with the Risen Lord takes place in deep, intimate quiet of extra-canonical silence. Resurrection calls to us, the guiltyguilty of all before allbut forgiven. Christ crucified returns to us, Resurrected, and does not expunge the wounds we scarred into his side does not imagine them erasedbut incorporates them into His new life. Our guilt is not denied, but is forgiven.

I do not know what forgiveness looks like, it baffles my imagination. How can I comprehend it when it is rendered in such a mighty image? Forgiveness is ugly marks of torture still stamped on Risen Body, not erased, but glorified. Such victory tramples my weak understanding.

This God, this being of pure love who extends into the world, the God who has bound the divine self so intimately into creation, has experienced, since the beginning of creation, nothing but rejection. Even with those who love God more than I could ever dream of love with a love that is far from mutual. Our love is always lagging behind, our gift of self is always less than God's, our generosity in time, self, love, heart is miserly compared to the Divine's. Our love is response, not initiation, it is remuneration, not altruism, our love is a gift given, needy, dependent on the giver to provide the gift.

Perhaps even our own broken, selfish loves tawdry, typical, and patheticcan teach us something about the love that burns and moves the sun and stars. Our self-absorption, crucified, frees us to shout at the indifferent stars the credo of Beatrice love on, we will requite thee.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Buzzcut, USA

I stayed awake on this leg of the journey, because the flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas is only forty-five minutes in the air. The sun was setting behind us, and the sawed mountains cut through the earth up towards us. The clouds, shaded fluffy blue with pink highlights danced across the endless aerial sea, puffs of marine foam riding the crests of wind that sped us East. A silver stream of jet sped past us, miles across the sea-foam-clouds, an ocean away from us, a fish leaping sunward, into the yawning radiance behind us.

The mountains cut from desert earth, their stone sides raw cuts of steak bleeding from the green-brown earth. Flying across country is not the same as driving: one misses the feel of that great distance. You don't get the magic of the land's expanse while flying. You miss out on the magic of the West's sheer impossible vastness. But you watch it all stitch together underneath the shadows of the plump clouds, and that's another kind of magic.

I saw the pinked clear blue skies spotted by clouds reveal the sunset-stroked mountains of the Nevada landscape bleed into a dozen miles of clear farmland on the shoulders of the hills, bleed into the suburbs, bleed into the realization that Las Vegas is just a reg'lar old American City, with on strip of infamous down the middle.

We flew over the whole city, and only turned around when we'd crossed across the teeth of the mountains. Our plane banked and re-turned over the cornucopia of baseball fields. A quintessential slice of American wholesomeness in a city that plays loose and fast.

I'd always imagined Las Vegas as a sprawling, claustrophobic crowd of skyscrapers and neon--uncontainable, morally rotten metropolis. But Las Vegas just looked like Minneapolis: a series of home and laundromats that make up 90% of American cities, but dotted with a few more casinos. I glued my nose to the window and stared at the MGM Grand, the Big Shot, the pyramid and miniature Eiffel tower.

I was fascinated by this city of decadence I have so long derided. It was an informal introduction, certainly not an intimate encounter; but it transformed my image of this city: corrected it, in some ways. It contracted it into a panorama viewed through the lens of an airplane window; a comprehensive view of the city which can't be seen from the ground.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

sonder: September 27, 2013

This is what it is to love an artist: The moon is always rising above your house. 
The houses of your neighbors look dull and lacking in moonlight. 
But he is always going away from you. 
Inside his head there is always something more beautiful.
Sarah Ruhl, Eurydice


He became a concept. An abstraction. An idea.
He had been reduced, boiled down, to a face and a name;
a loosely strung together association of personality traits and enigmatic habits.
He was resigned to a contact card in her Rolodex of past romances.
He became a ghost--represented by ten digits and stale half-remembered conversations, punctuated by dropped calls.

She had forgotten what it meant to sip coffee with him and eat the burnt banana bread he baked.
He had forgotten how to say her name. It sounded foreign to his tongue.
She couldn't remember what his eyes looked like.
Her memory was lost in vast caverns between the axons and dendrites of his brain.
She felt his numinous presence, in the yawning chasms of her synapses.
His face was now an ephemeral scintilla that glimmered in the space between memories.
His heart no longer leaped at the sight of that visage.

She became a muse which is a fancy word for wraith.
There he found her, just another rip-tide swirling through River Lethe.
One day, he sunk into the river and felt himself in the clammy clasp of her now strange and soggy arms.
Her memories flooded into his inner ears.
She inundated him, filled him, pulled him to the riverbed of Lethe, which the locals call Mnemosyne.
She was just a ripple of water, caught behind his eardrum.
Her aquatic voice echoed in his ears for years after that.

He went home and made a chocolate cake, and burnt that too.
She found a french press on the bottom of the riverbed and brewed a fragrant cup of coffee out of Lethe-water.
He sighed.
She burnt her tongue.
And already, his face was lost in the echoes that floated through her synapses.
He threw out his Rolodex-- the river water ruined it.

But for them, it really was an ending.
--Sun Slower, Sun Faster

Sometimes the end is really the end.
But sometimes it is just the chance to begin again.
Beginnings and endings baffle us, for eternity is written in our soul, and beginnings and endings aren't part of eternity.
Or maybe is eternity a seamless flow of myriad beginnings and perpetual endings.
We are creatures of movement, and stillness is something altogether foreign to us.
Even as we sit "still" we are surrounded by movement.
Our bodies are propelled forward by movement.
A heart beats, muscles tense, blood flows, pools, clots.
Our very stillness is movement, our forgetting is a part of our memories, our endings lead to new beginnings. For creatures of eternity "stopping" is a foreign concept.


What we call the end is also a beginning. The end is where we start from.
-T.S. Eliot

Monday, April 10, 2017

glasses and curls

The children born in the time of your 
bereavement
will yet say in your ears:
'The place is too narrow for me;
make room for me to dwell in.'
Then you will say in your heart:
'Who has borne me these?
I was bereaved and barren,
exiled and put away,
but who has brought up these?
Behold I was left alone; 
from where then have these come?'
-Isaiah 49:20-21

Today, the weather has been indicative of what's happening inside hearts: there's been something building. It's something incoherent, yet defined. Something solid and tangible that we are grasping for in the Indiana humidity. There's some shape clearly on the horizon that we can barely discern through the fog.

Today, the sun shone brightly above the ugly granite of Fisher hall. The sun touched the leafless tree tops in the courtyard-alley-yard. The early morning rays sliced through the blue cloud banks that crowded the sky.

The air felt heavy: perfect thinking air. The atmosphere was full of thoughts ruminating, minds stewing. It was the sort of weather that's almost neutral, but the currents of oncoming storms belie the seeming calm. I walked across the quad and, as the wind pushed against me, I noted that the early morning sun had quickly disappeared behind a gray that was not dull but dynamic. A gray sky full of mounting electricity, building up a charge.

I remembered that last night the full moon was clear in the sky.

A single drop of water appeared on the clean page of my book.
I noticed that spots started to speckle the sidewalk, dappling the dry concrete. I put away the book and began to speedwalk as the clouds started to crack open. In a whoosh, rain came pissing down. The wind was so strong it blew the rain mostly away from me as I pulled open the door and ran inside.

I remembered that last night the full moon had gathered a halo of fuzzy cloud surrounding it.

We walked to the dining hall, and felt the wind shift and small drops of rain begin to fall.
Something was going to go down.
There's a story here the weather is trying to work out. A story that's so clear, if you're on the other side of the clouds. There's a mystery in the ordinary events of the meteorological patterns. I can't quite make out what's happening, but all the fronts clashing will produce something. And I will look back and understand the weather patterns previously obscured. I have no doubt of this.

Tonight, the sunset gilded the ugly granite of Fisher Hall. It looked like the Chrysler building at dawn. The sun was perfectly rose gold and the sky was a pure, dark, angry blue. Storms were brewing. My apartment was a cozy haven in the eye of it. So many storms raging around us and inside of us, but here is place we can pop some popcorn and eat it together in the lamplight.

Dark sets in completely as we sit and laugh. The lightning flashes, through the trees in the courtyard. A veil of rain makes the lamplight shimmer. The gentle music about gentile love in a rough city clips along cheerfully as the rain beats against my window screens. The music tells a story of time moving quickly: a coffee shop meet-cute turns into rent-sharing romance which turns into a TV show sharing permanent love.

Time doesn't move that quickly here. Not in the heavy humidity of the Indiana air. But I believe, as the rain washes the day's inertia from the atmosphere, that the story is moving like the storm front on the local news' radar. It seems sometimes to be a 3 hour radar timelapse on a loop, circling over on itself ad infinitum.  But it moves, and takes us with it: to a broken tale rebuilt, to a new Jerusalem, to a fresh, blank page.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

time comma compressed

Intimate something,
lingering in the space
between my question and
your answer.

Intimate nothing,
underneath the granite
headstone
graveyard grass

Intimate someone,
hidden in a birdsong,
in wild wind whipping
across South Quad,
sunlight on my quiet book
in a loud dining hall.

Leaning on the slick
wood podium
in the dark apse of the chapel
a private altar of my own.

Robins egg blue fingernails
tap-tap-tap on the polished
surface. I lean,
moaning some sort of prayer
mixing with the darkness and wind.

I am the sacrifice--

slaughter me,
here on this table.
Break open something soft and strong
underneath the vulnerable.
Slice away impurities,
refine me into woman,
who am but girl.

Hercules, you answer.
Small dots of significance
connect our stars into
one sweet constellation.

Monday, April 3, 2017

daydream to-morrow's judgment

--
Having confessed he feels
That he should go down on his knees and pray
For forgiveness for his pride, for having
Dared to view his soul from the outside.
Lie at the heart of the emotion, time
Has its own work to do. We must not anticipate
Or awaken for a moment. God cannot catch us
Unless we stay in the unconscious room
Of our hearts. We must be nothing,
Nothing that God may make us something.
We must not touch the immortal material
We must not daydream to-morrow's judgment—
God must be allowed to surprise us.
We have sinned, sinned like Lucifer
By this anticipation. Let us lie down again
Deep in anonymous humility and God
May find us worthy material for His hand. 
--Patrick Kavanagh, "Having Confessed"

--

I imagine Purgatory as all the hurt we've ever caused another, inflicted back on to us.

--

Churches at night have a golden glow that swells in a stark contrast with the dark outside. The stained glass windows do not refract the sun into glorious colors, dousing the congregation in the nave with the light of the communion of saints. We are always soaked in the holiness of the lives who have gone before us. As we stand to pray, we are showered in the radiance of the saints. Our prayer is part of a grand and beautiful landscape of grace, distilled into light. 

--

I imagine Purgatory as all the hurt we've ever caused another, inflicted back on to us. Our hearts are so small, our empathy so lacking, and Purgatory, I imagine, is a school of love that demands we expand our hearts so that they can encompass the pain of the other. I imagine Purgatory as an exercise in empathy. A practice in unity. A way of being together that we feel the hurts and pains of those we've harmed as clearly as if they were inflicted upon ourselves. Heaven is something we become, the priest said. And, in order for us to become heaven, the body of Christ must become healed together. Each member must feel the wounds that burn the others. In order for us to dwell in that radical unity, in order that Christ really can be all-in-all, we must suffer all for all. 

--

Churches at night have a golden glow that swells in a stark contrast with the dark outside. The stained glass windows at night do not radiate color through the church. Their rainbow prisms do not dance on the pews. The high glass arches become portals into divine dark mystery. God is ineffable utterance, something utterly beyond. Our intellect falls into night as we try to comprehend our God. As we approach him to pray, we find ourselves lost in what he is, enveloping the golden church in the warm, dark mystery of love.

--

We are guilty for all before all, cries Dostoevsky, over and over again. Perhaps Purgatory is time--Only through time time is conquered--spent in the cleansing cold of that guilt, of the burning fires of love that kindles our lukewarm sparks. Heaven is something we become. How do we become it, if not by learning to love our neighbor, to suffer whatever is lacking in the sufferings of Christ together? We are so stiff-necked, so small-minded, so naively blundering through the world, causing small hurts, tiny cuts, bitter slights each day to so many neighbors. In Purgatory, we will learn to see. We will be able to pay attention to our sisters and brothers with the radical attentiveness of Simone Weil. We will understand just how much our careless words stung and how much victim we made each lamb.
--

The high glass arches become portals into divine dark mystery. In a church like this, golden light, dark night beyond, the orchestra plays Camille Sans-Sean's Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Opus 78. It is music that is full of charitas, sad, sweet philia and grand agape. I think this is the sound of a body that is wounded, but whole. This is the sound of Heaven. It is the sound of time--she protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure--this is time being played in a symphonic rhythm, time tuned into a glorious noise, which builds us, shapes us, molds us into one body corporate. This is the sound of bright, dancing flames licking at our thighs. This is the sound of love of neighbor unspooled across the cosmos. This sound is the sound of love unfettered. 

--
This church at night is Purgatory. A school of love, a school of sound, a burst of beauty that shows us, in one radiant flash that Heaven, that something we will become.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

private tabernacle

A slight tremor
from caffeine--
or fear--runs through your
nail-bitten hands.
It gives me strength.

A slight murmur,
like silk curtains moving
from the wind of
gold doors opening.

Hands reach into
endless depth of
tabernacle,
space where Limitless Eternal
dwells.

Kneeling, she
reaches her hands into
our holy of holies.

Trembling fingers--
like coffee in styrofoam--
reach through vast,
unbridgeable gap,
brush the ciborium's gold,
lightly,
fascinated by their own daring.

Hands grab tightly,
cling dearly.
Heaven and earth
kiss here--
cosmos and creation distilled
into one private,
intimate moment.

Birds sing through stained glass--
Lenten Hallelujah for your trembling hands.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mozart at the Easter Vigil

Oh truly blessed night,
the Exultet's strains disperse candelit dark-mas
the child Wolfgang sings with Nannerl
an ancient hymn that chills his spine,
and sends goose flesh across his
God-fearing arms,
God-loving soul.
The Nannerl Nocbuch is already filled with Ks
but he would trade each one,
turn them all in
to whatever cosmic bank
would accept the bounced check of
his renounced child genius
and
Never again
will I play a note or
tune on harpsichord,
if I could claim authorship to this--
melody pulled from ancient rocks--
music shakes, quakes, fills his delicate fingertips with wonder
these ancient words of grace
and glory
dazzling is the night and full of
gut-clutching melody of gladness

Friday, March 24, 2017

Grushenka at the trial

Face pale, wrinkle showing
underneath our flowing
chestnut locks,
pinned up, away,
heart pinned down,
turned to rock,
steeling self,
feeling nothing,
except a burning
licking our insides.

We'd follow to
Siberia,
America,
to viper's pit
or iron mine.
Adamantine will
not iron out
the line between our eyes,
soldering wound between our hearts.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

an idea 100% stolen from Jenna

But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

What Luke didn't write (because he didn't have to) is how a person ponders before the prophecies are fulfilled.

You think the nutso lady in the back of Church just told you your son was special? Is she talking about your son? Is she sure? That old man that's always pestering people in the narthex started singing about how your little Yeshua fulfilled all the promises of God to the nation? Is he out of the mind? Or is this the voice of God? Can both be true at the same time?

These shepherds show up (so much dirt under their fingernails and like leaves? in their hair. That one is definitely the guy that harassed your cousin Leah the other day.) and are bowing before your little baby, his umbilical cord just cut. This is not normal. Your mother did not prepare you for this. In spite of yourself, you believe their story about the angels. So does Joseph. Joseph has become very trusting about all these angels showing up recently. Is he crazy? Are you crazy?

You just lost your son in Jerusalem. Oh my gosh, you are a terrible parent. How could you do that? This son was entrusted to you by a flippin' angel (right? that happened, right? that wasn't a dream. Right?) saying that he's the Son of the Most High; get. it. together.woman. How the actual gehenna did you lose him?

Oh my gosh. He's here. Thank God. Oh my gosh, Joseph, there he is. We found him.

How did you know that he would be here?
You knew all along. You had a sense that he was. You weren't really that scared. You were at peace. You knew he was in his
Was that an angel talking to you or
Why do you keep reading meaning into these things?
But you knew. You did know.

Lord have mercy. Thank God. This is so embarrassing. Everyone must think I'm a trash mother who can't even keep track of her own son. They probably think he runs off and hangs out with the drug dealers on the edge of town. Oh mercy. What did he say: this is his father's house?

Chills up your spine.

What did he mean by that?
What does he know?
Oh my. Oh my.
What does he know I know? What do I know I know? What do I know?

These are all very normal things, that I'm probably just reading too much into. Rachel will tell me I'm just imagining all these things. I should talk to Rachel. She'll talk me out of this. She'll show me how I'm just rendering a narrative from my worked up emotions that isn't even there. She's very sensible. This is all probably my overactive imagination.


I don't think I'll talk to Rachel.

--

And so you ponder, over and over in your heart, all the things you trust that you've seen, but you can never be sure until one day you are. And your heart that has been tentatively holding onto all these things, with such tenacious trust, that has been storing up little signs, small signals, tiny words that weigh like prophecies, bursts with all of them, as you gather up these lost puzzle pieces and put the picture together.

Until then, hold onto these small moments, slowly connecting the dots, quietly, doggedly hoping that one day they will fall together into something coherent, pure, and lovely.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

clambering home

St. Joseph's is the oldest Catholic church in Manhattan, low and square, with fieldstone walls, high white pillars, and a portico topped by a cross that stands out starkly against the sky. It is a kind of house blend of old and new, of city and country, of Catholic Europe and leatherstocking America.
--Paul Elie,  The Life You Save May Be Your Own


Do not be scared, Joey, that I love New York so much still. Do not be dismayed that it has seeped into my dreams, under my skin, leaving crisp, tarred lines on my back, and bright, bold dreams of subways in my head. This is how I love a place.

My two sycamoresor, more accurately, I am theirswaved gently in the snowstorm this morning and swayed gently in the light of the full moon, to no wind but their own. I thought of their brilliant green leaves in August, and their fluttering foliage in autumn. I love the way the sun bounces off the green of the trees into my living room. And I hoped that this moody weather would cooperate to allow me to see once again the thrust and scatter of light across my kitchen table on a sunny morning.  I already mourned leaving these trees behind, and losing their friendly light and color outside my window.

Isn't that silly?

But that is how I love places.

I already remember (even though it's not the past) with great fondness, reading in the mornings, the shapes of trees against the morning sun. Thinking, praying in the light of those trees in bright early fall-light. I wasn't even particularly happy then.

But I remember, with an unquenchable nostalgia, falling asleep in my little nook of a New York bed, staring up into the moonlight above the city and the apartment windows across the train tracks. I remember the sky-view from my little vantage nook. And I certainly wasn't happy then, new to the city, trembling and exposed like the brick of my bedroom. But those unhappinesses don't seem to dim my fondness for the places.

My mother cried: what will you do! Get every place you go tattooed upon your skin?! I think they already are, at least, upon my heart, if not my skin.

That is how I love places.


I passed the fence and the little grove of trees and I marveled that I pass that little glen so often now, which, for so long was one singular memory of kissing a fisherman under stars and blankets.
But the little grove became a playground; and it became ordinaryall these places become ordinary.
That is their magic.

The YMCA where O'Connor lived; Columbia where Merton was baptized, Perry Street, the Cloisters where they all walked, St. Joseph's in the Village, all these places are pilgrimage destinations, which become ordinary. Holy in their ordinariness. Ordinary in their holiness.

I love them for all the footprints that have walked over them. I love them for my past footprints, covered up by fresh footprints each day. I tread all over them, leaving behind the dust of the present.

I opened the window, and there were robins singing in the sycamores I love. They mark that spring will come, even though there are no buds on the branchesyet.

I will cry when I have to leave the sycamores behind. For the rest of my life, I will remember how happy I was living next to them. And the memories will be a little sad, because there's no going back to them or then. Nostalgia is a tribute to past beauty witnessed.

So do not be afraid, Joey. This is how I love places.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

two bubers

Your copy of I and Thou
is covered in swirls of ink
tornadoing over cream-like pages.
The spiral contortions
of your brain-workings
spill into the double-helix
prose of Martin's pen.

All life is meeting.
I, meet Thou.
Thou, meet my bed
room bookshelf.
Slipped between Shaw and Stein,
forgotten in the mess of
moving, spiral-like
towards old beginnings.

A new copy of I and Thou
was on an over-crowded shelf
in the basement of a cat-crewed
bookstore.

I was in a book-buying frenzy,
fueled by grandmother
birthday bucks,
I plucked it off the shelf--
a clean copy, unmarked by
coffee-weed-fueled runes
scribbled between your sheets.

Reader, I bought him,
thinking I had returned
thy I and Thou to Thou.
Several months pass, 'til

shock!--

a quick intake,
a double take,
a lung gasp --
a pocket of cold air in the breeze of spring,
Past reaching bony finger into Present,
hooking it,
crooking it,
dragging her back into his fold--

your Buber is still held hostage,
his scribbles un-erased,
hard-bound, clean cover jacket,
unreturned, untoward, unintended,
on my bedroom bookshelf.

Monday, March 6, 2017

light of miriam

Things are meant.
Death grips the meaning,
loses trees in seas of forest.
Bernadette is praying there.
There is someone
one beam of light
tender mercy-ed,
gentle iron-eyed
beaming in the
dusty dark rock shadow.

Smeared black ink,
lipstick stains smear crimson
writing their own sonnets
on clean white page.

Her sweet smile celebrates
love which breaks our
inward-turning,
stifling, self-sated sight.

One abandoned man,
hanging in shadow,
a shape of horror, pain,
twisted by torquing force of
torture we profess as love.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Something Stings/Transformation

You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. 
Though you may have to reprove him,
do not incur sin because of him. 
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
--Leviticus 19:17-18

Be careful, the mother never said to her daughter, men will package you up and try to consume you.


They’ll suck away your soul like succubi. They will take what you are and tear it apart trying to find themselves in it. Their phallus pulls all their energy away from the lush life inside them and into you. It draws their mind away from their soul, leaving their insides bare and dry. Inside of you, they’ll try to find a salve for their aching loneliness, their insecurity, their inadequacy. Instead of trying to stand on their own two feet, they’ll lean on you until you are crushed under the weight of bearing two people, unable to move, and sunk into the ground. They won’t notice that. (Her silence spoke volumes.)

They’ll blame you for their failures, passions, problems, misgivings, mis-steps, and inquietude. They’ll take all the pain in their own heart and pin it onto you. They’ll deflect whatever compunction pierces through their thick skull to their gnawing conscience, back to you. All human beings are guilty of denial, projecting their problems onto others, making others do their crying for them. Those men, (she didn’t say), do it with a lack of self-awareness that is utterly unknown to we woman who critique our every thought about a potential action in our mind half the day, and spend the other half diagnosing how it went.

They take up your space, spread their legs wide in the subway while the old lady stands, encroach into the private sphere of air you call your own with their hands on your knees, touching you and never even thinking twice about it. Touching you because they need to feel a solid body outside their empty souls. They’ll overcompensate with bluster, harshness, inane prattle. Anything that will prevent them from that terrifying silence called listening. Listening that will force them to acknowledge that insistent, vociferous presence known as you.

Don’t let them package you away. They’ll want to parcel you off to a man who will manage you for the rest of them. Keep side-stepping their hugs, peeling their hands off your knee, back, thigh, arm, breast. Smile, listen, learn. Speak when there is anyone interesting worth saying something to, and know you can suffer fools, but don’t owe them precious time. Listen kindly, but disagree, even about mundanities. They aren’t used to anyone voicing an opposing opinion just because there are other opinions in the world besides their own. They’ll take your disagreement as a personal attack, because they’re right, and people are supposed to agree with them on all things, and a disagreement cannot be a quotidian occurrence, it can only come in the appropriately dramatic tone of a coup or revolt. For them, to have someone question their innate view of the world is tantamount to revolution. They are not used to the world pushing back at them. They have never been pushed by the world. They are the ones being lifted as the world pushes us down, and we push back.

They don’t have a right to your time, your heart, or your body. They place no claim on you. Declare your space, your independence, your freedom. Push them out of the inner chambers. Pluck out the thorns they spear inside your heart, and watch the surface scar and close.

Deep inside you, cultivate you. Cultivate the light that shines in the quiet of your heart, that radiates from your closed face. The light that hides behind your not-smiled smile. Do not let them dictate how you approach the world. Swat away the suffocation like so many gnats. Fill your bedroom with pictures of your loved ones and the beautiful spots of the world where your feet have and will walk, and stuff your heart and mind with poetry.



Her mother said all this in silence. An object lesson in its absence. Speech, subtracted; noise negated; negative presence.



The little girl ran to her grandfather. She asked him to show her the world. He did. He provided a globe for her to explore. He opened up the doors of the world, a stairway to the sky. He showed her birdsong, he caught her carpentry. He read her all the stories of the earth, of the world that existed far before her, around her, behind her, inside of her, before her.

Hurt people hurt people he said, looking not at all the other men, but into her eyes. And eyes that see the world through anger, bitterness, or fear are missing more than half the picture. To see without the eyes of love is to be blind. And the world is too beautiful to be blinded to it.

He wrapped her in his arms in a hug so safe and tender, no deer ticks, rattlesnakes, death, loss of memory, love, or home could reach her there.

He taught her to stand. To sweep up the hurt of the world in one giant motion of hands clasped, fingers stretched with kindness towards the smallest hurting thing: a rabbit, a spider, a man. To live generously, looking not his sins, but on the faith of most people.

Friday, March 3, 2017

chiefly visual attractions

Our unconscious is so honest with us about what is filling up our hearts. We can trick our waking minds into pushing something away, into covering up a hurt or ignoring a pain. But our dreams will not obey our commands. Our unconscious is so brutally honest with us about what’s on our hearts and what is occupying that vast underbelly of iceberg mind we can never really see.

Old pains we thought we outgrew, past loves we thought we left behind all pop up there, in that strange playground of our minds known as dreaming. Fears we have not conquered turn into nightmares, desires we haven't even awoken turn into flash portraits of passion.

The cast of characters changes so swiftly, based on whose images are in our waking minds. Our dreamscape is always adding new characters, as we live, work, fight, and love with new people. But old characters are never really gone. They'll always be recycled in an unexpected storyline, pop up in some surprising dream B-story. I find that interesting. Our world are always expanding, but our dreams never abandon anyone permanently to oblivion. They reach deep into our well of memory to pull out a forgotten face just when you least expect it.

I don't know what else our dreams are except perhaps a way for our selves to demand our attention without our pre-frontal cortex in the way. Perhaps they are sometimes other spirits demanding our attention. Sometimes, I feel I'm in a dream that is the other person's there with me. It seems impossible that this is a reality only I am experiencing, that only my brain has cooked up. Perhaps dreams are prophecies from our intuition; sometimes, perhaps, love letters from our darker self we'd rather not receive. Perhaps dreams are the truths we glean silently from operating in a world whose truths are all connected. Perhaps we know things in dreams that we have learned in waking life, but of which our reason demands ignorance.

Dreams are sleep's great gift of honesty to us. Stripping us of our waking exterior, so that our imagination's eye can roam freely in the vast expanse of synapse-neuron images that fill up the endless ocean of our mind.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

your wedding will be in Jerusalem

The whole point of the New Testament rewrite of Christ's life is to make it speak to this new awareness: that the new age was to be not a quick end but a new holy history. —Robert Taft, SJ

I think one of the most marvelous images of early Christianity is the early Church awaiting Christ's return any second now.

When I was younger, it was simply another example of the stupidity of past ages. Silly ancients, the eschaton can’t come yet, because Benedict, the medievals, Christopher Columbus, and Napoleon haven’t happened yet, you see. There’s so much history in the history books between you and me. And all of it seems to push the historical event of Christ into a watershed of history—a  vital crux, of course—but one watershed among a whole village of them.

But now it seems so natural, dynamic, and miraculous—a relic of that first electric force of resurrection pulsing through the air.

Of course if someone you knew and loved rose from the dead and told you: i’m leaving, but I’ll be back, without specifying when exactly of course you’d think: well, he’ll be back soon. He’ll be back within our lifetimes. We can’t imagine someone returning to a world where we are not. That’s just not how human minds instinctively imagine things. Our first instinct is to imagine a reality that we will witness.

What a mysterious but significant footprint of the Resurrection, stamped into the theology of the earliest Christians, pressed into their history.

And what a thrilling liturgy has been born of that crisp, pure longing for what-will-be. The Christian life is not a celebration of the past. The liturgy—the life-blood of the church—is not an endeavor of nostalgia. Christianity began with the advent of something new, a new event entirely, and it continually celebrates the newness. It celebrates the new, unseen, that is here-with-us. The future we long for that is already among us.

The tension of this faith, inherited from the first faithful, is the tension between historical and the eschatological, between the past and the future, between “m memory and hope” as our liturgical theology professor says.

Of course these first followers were imbued in an eschatology that was immediate, sudden, and piercing. They awaited the return of Christ as we await the return of those we love most dearly. They await the person who has been here, who has walked with them, we have seen him, touched with our hands, and he has assured us he will return. There is no reason not to think that he will come back tomorrow, a kingdom without end will be established, and that our wedding will be in Jerusalem next year.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The ENTP’s Prayer

For the LORD is one who always repays,
and he will give back to you sevenfold.
But offer no bribes, these he does not accept!
Trust not in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion.
For he is a God of justice,
who knows no favorites.
—Sirach 35: 1-12

An ENTP knows how to play the system, as someone who knows how to play people like harps, pluck their strings to get what they want. An ENTP uses their intuition to feel out the cosmic design woven around them. In an ENTP’s eyes, the entire world is a Rube Goldberg machine for those who can feel out the strings, maneuver them gently, and watch the entire mechanism waterfall into motion.

An ENTP categorizes people, labels them in order to understand them. Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple is the perfect literary example of an ENTP. She cracks whodunits by cracking the mysterious code of personalities. She solves mysteries by solving people. She’ll notice: Oh that sweet old lady next door is exactly like my maiden aunt’s murderous maid. Or that kind grocer exhibits the same personality quirks as my erstwhile criminal gardener. She intuits patterns and similarities between persons, and treats them accordingly.

Much like Dante, an ENTP is simply just trying to order the chaotic world into a system that appeals to their natural logic. We put the nymphomaniacs in the 2nd ring of hell and the simonizes in the 8th ring, and thus we have turned this surprising universe into something our small minds can wrap around.

Much like Dante, an ENTP’s spiritual journey is moving from our attempts to grasp the universe into simply an embrace of the mystery. We have this instinct that the universe is logical and ordered, we catch glimpses of the mechanics, we gain flashes of insight into her workings, but, ultimately, the cosmic order is a far more surprisingly complexity than we can understand.

The eschatological bent of Sirach and the Gospel from Mark today impress upon us that God is not to be approached as someone we can box in our own order of the universe. God’s ordering of the universe breaks open our systems, our maneuverings, our manipulations, and welcomes us into a reality of gift and generosity that we cannot control or even fully understand.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

spring cleaning

This morning, as I was preparing my room to be cleaned by the Walsh Hall cleaning staff, I thought of our cleaning service last year, which made us, I'm sure, the only communal volunteer program in the history of ever who employed help. It was embarrassing. I felt like a fraud each time an FJV would reminisce about the challenges of "Simple Living," but we suffered through it, while murmuring vague sympathetic noises. ("mmm yess hmmm oh yes yes oh yes such a good challenge. yeah oh uh yeah...we use a grocery delivery service?") We self-deprecatingly called it "Princess Service," shrugged helplessly, and poured ourselves another glass of bodega wine to drown our gnawing guilt over being privileged and guilt about our guilt about our ingratitude for our privilege.

The maid marines left our wood floors and our irreparably grody carpet spotless. They tucked in our beds and cleaned our showers (kind of). But they never cleaned (as I'm sure it wasn't their job) the terrifying cabinet underneath the sink, or the mice droppings that littered the floor of our pantry. They never vacuumed the horror movie wasteland underneath the couch cushions, nor did they touch the mind-numbingly dusty basement. Like I said, not their problem.

I remember one day, in a therapeutic cleaning frenzy, Joe had cleaned out all the kitchen cabinets, scrubbed them down, and organized them. They were spotless. This, I thought, is exactly the sort of cleaning this place does need. We're all adults capable of making up our beds and scrubbing our own toilets, it's this deep clean that this house needs. And once it's done, it's so much easier to maintain. Why is it so terrifying to do?

--

It's so easy to get caught up in my own system of how grace and sin work. In part, this is due to the fact that a great deal of (necessary) time is taken to learn how to see our own sins. Which is silly, isn't it? It seems that sin dogs my footsteps; I can hardly escape my incessant proclivity towards bad behavior. But the flagrantly terrible sins are not the really vicious ones. It's the deep, hidden, underlying systems of sin in my heart that manifest themselves in slight quivers of selfishness that take attentiveness to identify.

But once identified, what then? Once we have discovered our sin, now what? If we live in a constant state of scrubbing, it seems to me that something is lacking. Awareness of sin, without grace, becomes simply a psychotic paranoia.

We pray: Lord, help me to know my sins.

And we pry underneath the surface to clean underneath the cabinets, scrub below the sink. It is this cleaning that will finally vacuum up all the hidden crumbs. We will make the kitchen finally clean.

Once clean, each spot and speck becomes more obvious, each displaced and blemishing molecule will irk us. And we must, of course, scrub, sweep, and mop them up before the dirt accumulates again.

But the cleanliness that washes us, that cleans us is not a once-for-all, but a once-and-always. It was there before the dirt came, it was there, even in the midst of the mess, and it awaits us, unfailingly. Grace is not the climax, denouement, or reward. Grace is not the achievement of the hero of the story. Grace infiltrates the dirt. She preceded it, no dirt ever came to be before grace was. And she is staunchly unfailingly present, even there.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

who knows her subtleties

And with him it remains forever, and is before all time
The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain,
the days of eternity: who can number these?
--Book of Sirach

We went on a detour in class to try to understand what time the day started: sunrise? sunset? midnight? For Greco-Romans and we pagans, the day begins at midnight, but, really, our day doesn't begin until sunrise. In Judaic thought, the sunset is the start of the new day. The more you discuss time the more like a Lewis Carroll novel it means. The more you try to identify what "time of day" "3AM" counts for, the more you realize how arbitrary and capricious such a time as "3AM" is.

Time, you realize, is a particularly human construct. We set up time to perhaps fill our lives with an order that has no claim on us, but it is reflective of a time that already exists in the pattern of the day. No matter how we count time, the sun always rises and sets in an order. Time is our attempt to order and understand the inbred patterns of nature. We put the rising and setting of the sun into measured rhythms we understand. They allow us to dwell in the utter mystery of creation on autopilot. Someone has calculated the times and seasons for us, thus, we can wander through the world without wondering at it.

Our week is divided into days, our days are divided into hours, our hours into minutes, and our minutes into breathable seconds. We can grasp a second each moment and understand time only in the passing of these seconds streaming through and past us.

Our weeks build up into months, we repeat the same months each year, but we number the years differently. The years build up on each other. Our months repeat each other each year: March, May, June, they all march along, unvarying and constant (February the odd outlier who form fluctuates every four years). But we have this sense that time builds up. That we are two thousand and seventeen years older than Mariam of Nazareth was when she knelt to read her book one sunny day in a warm Galilean March. Our time cycles repeat themselves, as we see natures time continue without fail. Yet, time seems to be building up, and we call this accrued temporal weight "age."

But there isn't a goalpost or ending point. Age builds up, but to what end? We feel our lives lead towards a climax, but whatever dramatic tension builds to a breaking point is generally followed by extensive and dull anti-climax. The climax of time has its footprints in the past, but we celebrate it each Sunday, as the climax of time has washed over the endless accretion of years. Time itself has been altered by the event of Christ. Although we no longer call the years "Anno Domini" the Common Era's years still tick of the years since Incarnation. Time has been transformed.

Accordingly, we must transform time. And the liturgy of the church--the Liturgy of the Hours: matins, nones, vespers, all of them, make an instinctual, visceral sense. Each hour of the day becomes an hour to sanctify. We are living in time transformed by Resurrection, the dreary succession of moments that the world marks away in calendars and schedules and strictly ticking atomic clocks are not the time in which we are forced to live. Time, touched by the Christ event, has become a new mode of union with God. We live to turn time into a ceaseless liturgy of praise.

Monday, February 20, 2017

the saltiness of bread

Pain sits heavy in the room,
quietly, unspoken sorrow seeps into the
cushions of the chairs,
vague potential tragedy
filling out the spaces between our words.
Sadness spills through the window with
the dying sunlight, still leaking
in slatted shine through the blinds.
Just then's when I notice it's 5:58
and the sun hasn't set yet.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

in its reflected view content

Heaven is found not only in my eyes
the wonder of the universe
is stopped in the tree
in the flying plastic bag
watching in the dark library
basement American Beauty
images unclear
desires all confounded
a presence so sweet it causes no pain or confusion,
but a new vision
a totally remade view of some
cosmos, gasping, our eyes grasp
for, squinting, making out in the distance
a form of elegance and order
our bodies do not keep apace
the snow falls, but I
crumble, voice faltering
unable to live into
this vision of swirling leaves
my eye is scratched by some small smell
of sandwich, meat, or other
nauseated by elation
sick on saccharine-sweet springtime sun-soaked atmosphere.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

sweet hail for you

Keep singing, sister said,
like an abbas giving little brother monk
his cherished word.
Keep singing, she winked,
her eyes twinkled
underneath the strip of sky
that lined her sari
and lifted our eyes
far beyond the sea
green walls of the courtyard--
above Tangra,
above Kolkata,
above the JetAir-ruled
skies
to loud empyrean,
stung with star-songs
of Shanti Dan voices

Keep singing, sister said.
So I did
--wondering why--
wondering what
grand imperial,
majestic magic place
the song would lead.

It lead nowhere.

But the words kept pounding,
so I kept singing.

It lead, Virgil-like,
through dark nights,
inescapable rings
of lonely desert self
It lead to Beatrice-pink skies
enclosed in one pure chapel
of delight,
shimmering with all the radiance
of dawn, alien to Indiana February
yet knit into its shining flesh.

It lead to joy. It lead to self-doffed
harmonies, shy symphonies of gift
--loud but trembling.
It lead to prayer when other words ran dry.
It lead to healing, peace, and Ireland.
It lead to home-heart hearth burning in my breast once more
It lead me back to unadulterated child,
too full of life for inhibition,
too full of wet world wonder to be scared

Keep singing, sister said.

Sometimes you must live stories before you can write them,
so we sing,
song writing story as its sung.

Friday, February 10, 2017

8am Mass at Stinson-Remick

Baby face in front of me
mirrors our hosannas
singing on the lips of
mothers, cradling her child,
suspended by nothing more
than love from her thin
post-partum frame.
The face of the father,
so young in class,
is gaunt and old with that foggy
tired of the mornings,
exhaustion rendering
him a new majesty.

Fr. Heppen tells stories about his sister,
who became a mother,
not bearing babies
like she who smiles back at me,
but carrying souls like himself,
holy sister for priest souls,
like himself,
who walks with a cane,
his voice a rasp-worn
wraith of smoke and lung,
choking slightly,
on the memory of a holy sister,
rendered in incense and homily.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

morning storms

Thunder quickly follows pink snake-snap of lightning
sharp electric swords cut from rose dawn
shirring clouds of grey morning gloom
rain drops pound into showers, beating down each
cutout bank of smog pea soup fog.
Lightning rills again, thunder booms--
closer this time,
nearly on the lightning's heels.
the lines fork just above my head
I run, past trees, through lush succession of shower drops
I hunch, crouched, crunched by the electric force
huddled by the fence, rabbit-like,
cowering in the vast maw of field and sky
by pine tree, electric line, improv lightning rods,
counting Aves between lighting lash and thunder crash
as rain soaks through my shirt, hair, and eyes.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

talitha cumi

The would-be believers who sometimes ask me for help with prayer often say it seems hypocritical to turn to God only now during whatever crisis is forcing them toward it. But no one I know has ever turned to God any other way. ... Maybe saints turn to God to exalt him, from innate righteousness. The rest of us tend to show up holding a tin cup.
--Mary Karr, "Facing Altars"

On the rocky shore, the crowds crush in around Jesus, alighting from the boat. As he faces the sea of faces on the shoreline, the man of sorrows is already bearing the burdens of them all. He steps off the boat, into the throng of smelly, sweating humans, into their lives, into the hopes shining in their eyes, the curiosity lurking around the corners of their smiles, the suspicion, consternation, doubts, and fears creasing between their eyelids. The pains that wrack their limbs and weary their hearts. He senses the weight of all these lives, and bears them on his young shoulders, like so many lambs.

A man is elbowing his way frantically through the crowd. He is clearly a wealthy man, a fellow who ranks. Normally, perhaps, the crowd would part before him, but there are too many people, too unconcerned with others' problems to make room. The man bursts through a mother holding her son's hand, collides with a disciple, and falls to the ground. Is he injured? Is he mad? Jesus reaches towards the crumpled figure as the disciples lift him off the ground. Rabboni, he cries, catching his breath between words, as a man who is not accustomed to running does after a long sprint. My little daughter is at the point of death. Tears threaten to spill out of his eyes. One escapes. It trickles down a gully on his face, a route clearly blazed by many sister tears before her. Come and lay your hands on her, I beg you, he grabs Jesus' sandals, so he cannot walk away. Come and lay your hands on her, master, he looks right up into the face of God, Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.

Jesus considers Jairus, clinging to his feet, pleading with his panicked eyes. He is Jairus' last resort. That much is clear. This is a man who is grasping at a last chance, reaching for a miracle, even though he is a skeptic. He has no where else to turn. Jesus sees he is the last resort, and does not resent that status. The Alpha and Omega is accustomed to serving as the final recourse for those who prefer to stand on their own two feet, forgetting from whom those feet came. It is to be the final hope for the hopeless that he has come into the world. He lifts Jairus to his feet. Take me to your home, he says. Jairus crumbles at his feet again, to kiss them in a wordless thanks. Quickly, says the Master, as the disciples lift Jairus to his feet, kindly, with a reverential compassion. Jairus turns, and barks instructions to his servant, as he shares directions with Peter. Jesus follows, surrounded by a swarm of souls, swallowing him up in their crush of life, their interest now doubly piqued. 

A woman is in this crowd. This woman is unclean. She wraps her skin around her frame tightly, careful not to touch the righteous ones around her. She wraps her cloak around her, as blood leaks from her body underneath her dress. She has sought for healing everywhere, and has alway departed with empty hands. She has sought for something to fill this emptiness inside of her, for something to staunch this eternal flow of blood. She has held so many men on so many dark nights, feeling emptier than loneliness. Her empty arms are less lonely than their embraces. None of these doctors have remedied her ailing heart. Each walks away, carrying a bit of her away with them. She has been depleted. Each new love tearing new holes, leaving new cavities of emptiness crying for something--or one--to fill them. They have taken all that she has. There is nothing left.

And still the blood flows. 

She has darted and bobbed and ducked through the crowd. She is--her breath catches in her throat--she is right behind him. She should call out. This man can heal her. Right? Surely he must be able to. She should call to him Rabboni. Master. Sir. Make me well. She cannot dare. What will this crowd say, knowing such a putrid woman is in their midst? He will send her away. He is a righteous man; he cannot touch her.

He has stopped, stooped down to speak to an elderly cripple with a gammy leg. She is right behind him. She cannot speak. With a flicker as quick as serpent's tongue, her fingers dart forth and clutch the rough wool of his cloak. A flash of something runs through her body. What is this? Some lighting has charged her blood with life, has rinsed through her sore and broken body and touched the vital spirits of her heart. What is this new feeling?

Who touched me?

The question is gentle, curious. A power has left him. He did not will it to do so. Not, at least, consciously. Most of the crowd does not hear his question, as the man has simply addressed it to his disciples. They are peeved with the ubiquitous crowds. They did not sign up for this. You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say "Who touched me?" says the man who looks like the Master. This man has his hand on Jesus' shoulder. The Master removes his brother's hand. Who touched me? he says to the crowd around him. 

Does she dare to come forward?

Who touched me? 

She cannot hide now.

She steps forward, trembling. Trembling in fear. What will this man do? He is a righteous man. Her touch has made him unclean. 

mysterium tremendum et fascinans
Trembling in fear of this new life inside of her. What has happened inside her blood? What holy mystery has miracled inside her?

Sir, I touched you. 

The crowd parts around her.
She falls to the ground. He is opposite of her. Looking into her face.

She cannot meet his gaze. But she knows he already knows the story. He knows about the men. He knows about the emptiness. He knows about how cracked and dry her heart is, empty. No doctor can heal me. Nothing heals me. I am desert. Desert, irrigated by blood.
He demands the truth, although he knows it all already.
She tells him.

I am unclean.  I thought, 'If I touch his garments, even, I will be made clean.'

He kneels down. He is squatting in front of her, and lifts up her chin, looking into her face. He is, again, the last resort. And he is not bitter at being so, he does not begrudge her this one last recourse.

Daughter: your faith has made you well: go in peace, and be healed of your disease.

Now that she has seen his eyes she cannot look away. She takes his hands and kisses them, burying her face in them in gratitude. He rests his hand upon her hair in blessing. No doctor can heal as this man, no embrace has felt as sweet as the blessing that flows through her blood.

Here is what she has been seeking all her life.