Sunday, September 17, 2017

one hungry week in Galilee

Did you know parking is free on Sundays in Nazareth?

When you arrive Monday mid-afternoon, you have to pay 50 shekels for a parking spot, which you desperately skid into while dodging buses roaring down Paulus ha-Shishi Street. But if you tool down the hill to Nazareth one sunny Christian sabbath day, in time for early morning Arabic mass at the  the Basilica if the Annunciation (grotto level), then you can park in the cherished parking slots along the main drag. The street is still quiet at 6:30am, the corrugated gates which cover the entry-ways to the hummus joints and souvenir shops rattle in the breeze. When you arrive, the streets are sparsely populated in the soft light of morning.

When you leave mass, some of the shops have lifted up their gates. There are kebabs and sweets beginning to be cooked. Aromas wind their way through the morning air, accompanying the low roar of activity.

The journey from Mary's Well at the top of Pope Paul VI street down to the Church of the Incarnation in Nazareth is an easy journey, once you know the way. But I walked in the opposite direction, towards the nearest bank which took international cards in its ATM. I was low on cash. In Galilee, low on cash, and running out of gas on the Jewish sabbath day, I was hungry. I didn't have the conveniences of a city: shops open late, restaurants on every street corner, ATMs that took my well-worn credit card (only two years old now, really. His birthday was the day Videology charged me twice and fried my old credit card). So I was hungry--really hungry--by the time it was that Sunday morning in Nazareth, and I wolfed down that plate of warm hommus after mass. That was beautiful. I sat in the shop, and wrote while I watched a pistol-packing pater familias and his children enjoy their breakfast a few tables away.

I don't know if anything has ever tasted as good as that hommus, drizzled in olive oil and chickpeas. Dipping fresh pita into the tangy paste, and feeling an empty stomach fill with good, rich fresh tomatoes, tart olives, and spicy pickles.

I walked back towards Mary's Well, and ran into a man on a bike who needed to find the youth hostel.  He had been biking through the Swiss alps. I wondered if he had biked all the way down to Nazareth from Switzerland. I told him I was going to Caesarea Philippi that afternoon. He said he wanted to go. The fishing line of his unasked request hung in the air. I circled it like a wary sun bass examining my dad's fishing lure. I contemplated biting, extending the invitation to join me, as solo travelers are supposed to do. But I didn't.

Instead, after resting on the stoop outside the orthodox church that houses the mysterious flowing spring of the annunciation well, and write to the tune of Orthodox chant, I pack up a slice of knafeh as big as my head to eat on the steps of the hippodrome in Caesarea Philippi, overlooking the pounding blue waves of the mediterranean, as a summer camp of Israeli school girls race around the red sand of the track of the ancient race track. This is living, I think, as I sit alone on stadium seating hewn of giant stones, eating hommus, pita, and sweet, creamy knafeh among the ghosts of former spectators. After waiting the appropriate hour (or two?) after eating, I dip into the aquamarine waves, ignoring the trash, and dodge the sharp rocks of the ancient harbor, as the tide pulls the sun gently into the watery horizon.

Friday, September 15, 2017


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,
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
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,
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.