Friday, September 15, 2017

Yellowstones

His careful footsteps
mark the ring of solid ground
circling the soft, thin crust.
His words are boardwalks,
on which I traverse
the delicate lacework of
terra firma's soft spot.

Even the earth has weak spots
in her crust,
Yellowstone, a playground of vulnerability,
attenuated lithosphere, barely capping a
swell of angry magma fuming below the
crust, which draws four million visitors
a year and then some, flocking to
her almost-wound like flies,
as it dazzles with its stinging,
hot, prismatic beauty.

Like the Yellowstone park rangers,
he marks the territory that is
solid, sure, weight-bearing
which the public is allowed to see.

But we are drawn to the
thin spots in the crust
and the cracks in the armor.

We learn them by heart,
slowly,
until each sore point becomes our Ol' Faithful,
comforting in his predictable eruptions
by which we keep the hour.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

half my class notes are bad poetry

There are birds singing
outside Francesca's winow.
We're learning that love
holds together faith and reason,
love writes together myth and philosophy
love melds together the sign and the signified
into symbol.
love brings the object of our quest—
the wonder of Being—
has set ablaze the shrubbery, and burns so brightly
we must doff our shoes,
and let the sacred sear the soles of our feet
because the Being we wonder at,
the Ground of our existence,
has come to meet us
on this small patch of earth—
Infinite belongs in finitude—
and that's a stunning revelation,
and this is Holy Ground.

Monday, September 4, 2017

what I should have said when you asked me

why is the moon orange?

Because she's jealous of the sun?
Maybe she's tired of only shining dull and lifeless silver,
reflecting the scrappy rays of sunshine
she gleans miserly from twilight.
What if she's tired of playing
second fiddle,
always a supporting
player to Helios?

Perhaps she's sad we're in the dark,
sorry for us as we stumble
in The Devastation's shadows,
so she's trying to make up for that.

What if the moon is actually orange?
Maybe these are her true colors,
on display only on occasion.

Perhaps (historically my favorite fascination)
she ate too many carrots,
so beta-carotene has saturated
her rocky surface with a vivid
orange sheen.

The lumens (splendor, kabod, doxa)
shines through her form (species),
says von Balthasar,
not at all explaining the phenomenon,
or addressing the deeper question
which no philosopher or astronomer can answer:

why is the moon orange?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

biddy crossing monday morning

I have a dream where I am in a long blue dress
and, in one broad act of petulant, childish destruction,
you swipe all the wine glasses off the table,
their stems breaking in half on the floor,
and the shards of their bowls sticking in my
dark dress and tablecloth, down which
a trail of cabernet spills,
like a trail of blood
from the white arm of a donor
at the Red Cross Blood Drive.

I stare at you, paralyzed by anger
you stare at me, trembling with self-hatred, a cold self-loathing.
Between us
pain creeps up thick and thorny
I can't see yours on the other side of mine,
and since you can barely understand
the world outside the snail-shell of your
own feelings,
the knowledge that you have wounded
me with more than wine glass shards
would pierce through you
if only you would let it.
If you did, it would break you.
So you let it rest out there,
in the dangerous inchoate world outside your own ego
and curl up inside your shell,
sticking your head in the sand
to keep the clarity
of an unhandsome reality at a fuzzy distance,

and wish that you could knock the wine glasses off the table.

I, stifled by pain you pretend doesn't exist, wish you would as well.

We're both trapped,
separated by a sea of broken glass.
I have the upper hand,
I know I do,
as I stand proud, beautifully made-up
—unmoving—
in this shattered sea of glass,
until you trap me into this again.
This hatred, this paralyzing anger.
Which is sooooo yesterday (Hilary Duff, 2003)
This dream of staring at you,
eyes boring holes into you,
sharp as broken wine glass stems
has become pretty dated.
But still I dream it,
Damn it.

So into this,
disaster,
I pray the cross.

I imagine, blooming from the soil of glass shards
a crucifix, like the egregious one that's sprouting on the
corner of South Bend Avenue/Highway 23.
It blooms there among the corner flowers.

I tell him:
I'm so tired, Jesus.
I'm so angry—
angry at//
pray for us
angry at//
pray for us
angry at—
an exhausting litany of anger
I've been stretched into a thin,
taught laundry line
from which I hang sordid grudges.
He hangs there
tired of it, too.

But still he hangs, bringing some sort of meaning
some logos
a thread of plot (and there's hope in that)
to all this wild, senseless anger.
He will always bloom there,
breaking through my dreams of
angry, shattered wine glasses.

And I
am offered freedom
from all this broken glass
if I will fix my stare upon the cross
and not the shattered remnants of a world fashioned together
and fractured by sheer anger.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

an uncomely god

we are sweaty holocausts,
steam pouring off our bent backs,
ancient temple smoke rising
before the madonna in the rock

queen of mist in mornings//
hear our prayer

my toe cracks open,
thick blood pools,
like overripe paint,
in my sandal-bed,
clotting as the lamb's blood
must have in the gutters
of the tabernacle in springtime.

queen of hot afternoon Starbucks line//
hear our

there is not much to offer today
besides tears as payment for some beauty,
a racing heart when I think of you,
and steam that sublimes us into
pure burnt offering.

queen of moonrise over glassy lakes//
hear,
here.

Monday, August 28, 2017

oh but please not yet

Augustine, too, was good in bed,
lips and fingers seasoned travelers
in the landscape of a lady's legs.

His groin ached concave
as the sun began to set each Friday.
His skin was tinder
and her hands—ten matchsticks striking
him alight.

Each morning, squinting in the sober sunlight,
shaking off the ashes of
last night's spent flames,
Augustine overslept his fifth alarm.
King Intellect would chastise Queen Libido, and he'd pray:
I'll take one chastity please but not yet thank you

But—

eventually

—her legs, which used to
fill in all the spaces
between his,
became a tripping hazard.
He leaned his head against her breast,
hoping for a pillow
and found instead a stone,
weighing down his walk
like double gravity.

The freedom of the finish
became a shackle that contained
like my teenage retainer I haven't worn
since my last visit to the orthodontist.

Instead of being a skeleton,
a supporting structure,
which provided
a frame upon which
he could hang his growth and
sculpt into an actual shape,
that unconquerable
demand of desire
became a warden
dogging him,
confining,
cornering.

Augustine was too good in bed
to stay in bed.

He left behind his walks of shame,
sheets twisted off the mattress,
hot breath on cold mornings,
for more adventure than his mis-ses.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

love letter from the chaise lounge

My lover has given me flowers
that live forever
figs which grow sweeter
with time.

On a dark cold afternoon
I wrap soft sheets around
my naked body,
cold for the warmth
of his paper skin.

The day lilies
and my body
open up,
nerves trilling in
a fire of photosynthesis—
green life glowing in
a throbbing maidenhead,
crafting perpetual life
from his sunshine.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Northernness

The voyageurs thought the call of the loon sounded like a crying woman, which describes less the shrill honk of Minnesota’s state water fowl and more the image of utter loneliness these bachelors must have felt, starved of civilization and the sight and sound of female humans for many long Northern months. The loon conjures up loneliness in his very cry: a fitting anthem for these men who forged a slow and lonely aquatic path in these Northern water ways and woods.

On the other side of the island which Bernadette and I do not manage to hike all the way around, there is a very bare spine of volcanic rock peaking out of the clear water of rainy lake. But the stone is covered in some sparse wildflowers, and, most staunch and foolish of them all: a scrubby evergreen, lacking needles, which bares its naked comb of toothed branches against the cold Canadian wind, shoots down shallow roots into the non-existent soil it ekes out of the old lava in the rock, and grows. It just persists at growing and living, because that is what nature knows how to do.
If a seed falls on rocky ground, it does not give up the cause as lost. Instinct doesn’t even brook a doubt.
It goes on, because that is what it must. And it will often fail, the odds are not always in its favor, but it doesn’t much care for thinking in hard analytics before it sows itself.
And it manages to grow.
Nature has an insistence on survival that is miraculous in its persistent intensity.
Much like families, who seem to weather storms like we do today: hunkered down in our screened-in porch, and persisting until sunny skies appear again, which we can laugh under and splash at one another, floating like fruit loops in a bowl of milk carved out by old glaciers.

We speed across the lake, and I am inundated by sun and pale blue sky, lousy with clouds (and mosquitos), and the fresh spray of water, the horizon is hemmed in by pine trees, and it is utterly beautiful.

I think that this is sort of what life’s adventure means: it means attentiveness to beauty in the small and large moments, it means embracing an adventure from hiking Mt. Tabor to clambering over mossy rocks in one's back yard, it means diving into the Mediterranean alone, and off the back of the boat, even though the water’s deep. It means loving those immediate kindred spirits, and those perhaps hidden from your instant recognition, and it means embracing all these movements of grace as gift. Sacred, divine gift, which you will not clasp onto in fear, try to control in your paranoia, not clamp down on, trying to cling to them as buoys, nor shove them into the mold you had intended for your life. It means embracing this wild adventure—its sad loon calls, its dangerous portages, and its surprise turns—knowing that life is only a preparation for that which comes next. And this life doesn’t have to turn out exactly as you imagined it would.
But it must be beautiful.
And it must reach towards that heavenly vision of communion you can taste in the faces of the congregation at the our Father, in praying together before an empty golden tabernacle, in holding court with friends at sunset on all that’s right and wrong in this world. Our lives must point towards that, if nothing else.
And if we have that firm direction of growing, let the winds land us where they may: be it on the lush fields of the Galilee, or a scrubby Northern rock, not even deigned to be called an island.

I wonder what sort of adventure the voyageurs had wanted, how much of it they had chosen, and what they thought about what they had received in return. Did they ever get to sit in their chairs, surrounded by grandchildren and hear the cry of the loon which reminded them, not of a woman crying into their empty lonely frontier lives, but of the vast Northern skies they forged a path through, and the horizon that constantly spread from underneath their fingertips whenever they called it theirs.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

10 items from a run after the rain

1. I watch my dog cant across the green grass, muscles rippling under his brown silk coat. I've let him off the leash, and he chases geese into the cold water of the lake, until I call him back.
Pippin. Come back.
He only listens if I drop my voice into a lower chest register. But he returns. Unquenchably excited about his foray into the reeds and scummy water, and how tantalizingly close he got to those sneaky water fowl.

2. The man reaches out a fist and I go for the fist bump, because I assume he's not trying to punch me. He seems surprised, and awkwardly splays his fingers so my loosely clenched fist does not produce the satisfying thunk of knuckle-meeting-knuckle, but goes through the gaps in his fingers. The clammy physical revulsion that accompanies a greeting gone wrong shivers through me. As I bound after Pippin, straining on the leash, I consider his midstream change of course may have resulted from the plastic bag I hold in the same fist. It is not yet filled with dogshit, but it looks as though it might be. Certainly an object to shy away from.

3. There is a baby sock, still a fresh white, lying in the middle of the slick asphalt sidewalk. Pippin sniffs it and his roving nose brushes past it.

4. I realize that I am overwhelmingly angry about the fact that women, for millennia, were not treated as men's equals, because they weren't men's equals. Like, metaphysically, perhaps they were. Ontologically, I suppose. But practically and culturally, they simply weren't, because they were denied the power and the education necessary to become so. It must have felt like talking to a child; talking to a woman who depended on you for her social and physical mobility, just as it feels talking to a teenager today. And I am angry that it is only within the last century [not even, if we're taking Mad Men as a guide!] that social pressure has shifted (shifted infintesimally, almost imperceptibly) towards treating women not as chattel or as property, but as other humans. And I am angry that men (and, even more mystifyingly women) have the gall to suggest imagining that that means all work is done, and that there's nothing to talk about, work on, or [heaven forbid] complain about, you whining bitch. Look at how great you have it. How does one imagine that centuries of being treated as second-class citizens can just be easily reversed, sans the slow, systemic conversion that we each have to apply to our own most deeply-rooted sins? How would a society experience conversion any differently? What if we treated micro-aggressions as we treat venial sins: small symptoms of deeper spiritual ills, which must be attended to and confessed. And only can regain their proper perspective within that sacramental act of self-aware acknowledgement.

5. I remember that when I ran down these paths in high school I was not angry. And I wonder how it is that we learn we have need to be angry. I remember how I listened to Colbie Caillat and really didn't concern myself with a larger world outside my own head. There was enough going on inside of it to occupy me, and I splashed in its depths, conveniently and blessedly ignorant of the entire universe. If anger is a price I pay for being saved from living my life in the box of my own context, I will gladly pay it.

6. A man raises his eyebrows, about to address me, as me and the newly-leashed Pippin approach him. I am wary: is he going to rebuke me for some rule of etiquette I am unintentionally trespassing upon? Does he have unsolicited advice about how to control my dog better? If you're continuing down the trail, he says, in the hushed tones of enthusiasm used by acolytes of Marian apparitions, there's a doe and her fawn at the end of it. Thank you! I whisper in equally hushed tones, his excitement catching, as I motion Pippin into a quieter gallop.
This would never happen in the city, I think. It is good to share excitement over nature with another human.

7. How spicy is the slaw?
Uhhh I don't know, the cashier counters, embarrassed flush coloring her cheeks like sunset. She's embarrassed for me, as if I just asked the most foolish question in the world, like there's a joke I'm not in on yet, which everyone else in the softly lit café has understood already.
She shrugs.
like medium I guess?

8. A silver-haired grandmother, holding her grandchild in a baby carrier on her breast, a seat from which her big baby eyes can take in the entire world. They are staring off into the Bambi-underbrush of the woods, into which I imagine their cervine counterparts have disappeared. They watch the woods with an unvarnished intensity, and the grandmother smiles.

9. I realize once you lose faith in someone's good will, everything they do becomes suspect. The latin chant becomes pretentious, their recalcitrance is selfish, their enthusiasm is possessive. Trust is so easily lost. They tell me that once your tank actually runs out of gas, your empty meter will register empty later so that you have less time once your meter hits empty to refill your tank again. I find this mesmerizing. It is as if my car has sprouted feelings and sentience, and her small revenge on my inability to hold up my contract to feed her regularly is to play fickle with the gas meter. My car, it seems, will no longer completely trust me. I have reneged on my commitment, I have wounded her with my casual disregard for her needs in my selfish haste to get from A to B and she responds as I respond to everyone else: small acts of distrust. Burned once, she will not be so injured again.
Perhaps that is where anger arrives: I trust that I can sink into the world and it will receive me as hospitably as Colbie Caillat music and the rich imaginations that swirl inside my head. The world proves me wrong. This place does not promote my flourishing, in fact, it wants to make me fodder for the furnace which keeps it running. No way in hell. Enter mistrust and anger, pursued by bears.

10.
if you have ever felt a small, cool breeze in midst of the most shadeless, scorching summer day
if you have ever felt the first drops of rain break through constipated barometric pressures
if you have ever felt the delicious surprise of a stranger or a friend speaking out loud words you have only heard in your heart
if you have ever seen whatever home you have rear up out of the horizon, or pop around the corner, or emerge from the tangle of city streets, to swallow you up in its familiarity and safety,

then you probably understand how grace feels as she roots new space in the rotten soil of cynic thoughts, as she ripples through the stagnant swamp of self-righteous nursing of old wounds, tired spin cycles of the same grievances. She is so gentle to welcome, and her gracious self floods over these festering internal hills. After building up inside of me fast strongholds, stubborn stone towers, there is nothing more fun than finding that chink, that hole in the dam, and let grace flood through, rivering refreshment as she goes.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

playwright at work

Playwright at work:
talk at your own risk,
date her at your peril
otherwise
you'll one day
walk into a theatre
and as the lights dim and couples
on dates begin to hush
and clear their throats in
the dusk of curtain-rise
you'll find your quirks and cadences
your slight verbal tics
and idiosyncratic talking patterns
your preoccupation
with super marathons
your 30-year-old
celibate naivete
your clumsy charm
and tired pick-up lines
your blue eyes sparkling as they catch mine
will play out in front of you
on stage,
art reflecting,
refracting,
revealing
you back to yourself
in one warped funhouse mirror.

Friday, July 28, 2017

this is galilee

As the golden hour-almost-sun-set light hits 35W, Ed Sheeran's Castle on a Hill is playing—fittingly—and I speed down it faster than I ever did coming back from play practice late at night. Israel has really done a number on my defensive driving skills—now I am the driver my mother warned me about. Coming home feels like a long time coming: perhaps it's been longer than since January.

My jaw drops as I drive into the sun, the trees on either side of the highway over sloping hills tricking me—for a second—of thinking I am driving the little white Toyota Corolla (like the one I just passed) I drove from 77 down to the end of 90. Who knew that the Northern woods of Wisconsin and Minnesota look so much like the Holy Land?

I blink. Trying to erase the feeling of déjà vu from my eyes and clear my imagination of such foolish, fanciful impressions.

But, as I drive down 169, I suddenly feel like I am driving down 65, and as I drive over the flat reeds and past the trees shaking gently in the humid winds, I remember that last small stretch of road I would always hit at this time of day, returning to Ilaniya, after a day of hiking, swimming, or wearing out my sandals. Their appearance is undeniably alike. I have always held home as holy, so no surprise there that it bears such resemblance to the sacred. But it is silly to travel to the heart of the world, and realize upon your return to your own little native corner that what you went to see was always with you: that the woods where you went on your first runs in high school are just like those that surround the village, simply surrounded by fewer IDF bases. It makes one feel like a fool to travel so far into the foreign and find that it really is just familiar.

How did I never notice then, how much like home it was?

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. But 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.