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 in blew it 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,
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.