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.