Wednesday, May 30, 2018

small white signs

You are older now and the world does not offer itself up as easily, it seems. The world rises up to meet children with forgiving elasticity, but resists adults. Is that because we are not as skilled at receiving what leaps out to us with open hands?

My backpack beginning to weigh more heavily, I reach the first relief of a downhill stretch of sidewalk, and I let my feet fly off the pedals, as gravity pulls me forward into this small patch of woods.

As I begin to pick up speed around the tight turn, an albino squirrel scampers from the slick sidewalk into the cover of the rain-soaked brush. He is exactly like the ones that used to cross our path on the many ice cream trips we made to the store with my grandfather growing up. As the squirrel dodges my spinning bike wheels, I can only think of my grandparents pointing them out to us on our ritual expeditions.

Then, they were magical—how can a squirrel be white?—now they are sacramental, holding the memories of people now gone and routines laid to rest.

Perhaps this squirrel is magical—or sacred—and enchants—or blesses—this moment, as I speed through the lush overhanging trees of Minnesota forest, my legs spread out on either side, being pulled along at the speed of—

it is important, I think, to move through the world with the proper momentum. I do not like slow-walking or slow-moving. The world demands more from us than plodding. There is something correct, I think, in the joy of rushing through the beautiful, not for a utilitarian sense of getting to the end faster, but because the journey itself is utterly transfigured when you move through the world too quickly for thought. Details leap out from the scenery, apprehend you and transfix you, defying critical appraisal, wrapping you in the sum total of all their parts.

Moving quickly is not moving mindlessly, but it is moving without ego. Speed disabuses us of the fantasy that we are outside the scene, a qualified spectator of what unfolds. To find myself flying, legs splayed out like hopeful wings from the bicycle, praying for a gust of wind to life us off the asphalt, is to find myself intimately part of the beauty which surrounds me. I do not just see it, I am with it and in it, and that is strong consolation.

In this moment—for at least a moment—I am part of this thing which is beautiful. Which restores, for more than just one moment—

joy.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Gretchen's Last Ride

Everything about tonight is smooth—I think the poet would describe it velvet, but it is (thank God) not quite so heavy as that, the sun's delayed setting finally pulling down the mercury in the thermometers. Finally full, the moon shines through a slight halo, which means I can dub the evening "gossamer" and not be guilty of egregious romanticizing.

I guide Gretchen down the freshly-paved street (there was so much construction on these roads last summer), her exhaust pipe leaks creating an unintentionally disruptive roar. The radio is playing Taylor Swift, so that sort of dampens the muscle-y rumble, I guess.

I drive Gretchen (who is my car, by the way) through the moonlit navy blue sheet of night being pulled down over this little Rust Belt Nowhere, USA. This miniature city is a joy (aren't all cities?), and as I try to observe the necessary, proper rites of leaving, I find myself flooded with the impossible debt of love of belonging to a place.

College is a particularly blessed and happy time, but I wonder if our encounter with wherever we go to college is so intertwined with our own encounter with ourselves, that we cannot see the place very clearly. To return to this place where I became a human for four years is an unexpected joy. Because this place's sacredness, although not focused on, is not negated or obfuscated. This becomes another place where you can just live in, visit, and belong. The place becomes more apparent as it becomes less identified with your own experience or past and stands against you as its own entity, entirely.

As I gaze at the St. Joe's river, trying to stamp the sight of the shimmering lights and the roosting ducks in my heart, I am so glad. So glad that this river claims me as its own. That I have memories entrusted to it, which I cannot remember wholly on my own. A part of me is left here—and that, I believe, is the essence of belonging: to entrust yourself to an impermanent world and its contingent story. To link your own narrative with those of others, to weave your story into the same tapestry that others have begun. Where to love and who to love seem to be such risky endeavors with no guarantee—are we really in control of which places and people we fall in love with?

But we do. We catch small glimpses of home, if we are watching closely. And we turn our boats upstream, even, to follow them.

I cannot summon all the proper gratitude in this moment, to say goodbye to this small river. But the dryness and the effort are, in themselves, an offering of love from a heart stretched past capacity. I turn back to the car, remembering.

I drive Gretchen back up to the small fairy-tale house where we lived last summer. Cut the engine, and tuck her in underneath the trees which arch over the sidewalk, reaching toward the road.


Sunday, May 27, 2018

peripatetic perichoretics

What God has joined together—
bonds of serendipity,
the glue of happenstance:
accident, now necessity—
builds an exterior fortress 
from which God creates, 
loves, espouses, and diffuses

The Economic Trinity is a fortress, from which God loves the world. But the Imminent Trinity is, too, I think one sunlit Wednesday on a bench in shade, under the sunlight of the trees. Certainly, their relationship is one in which they balance and check one another, they meet, support, and translate the being they receive to the world. But do not the taxes balance and complement each other. They are a fortress unto themselves, protecting the Godhead from collapsing into the interiority of the two. The pair is natural (e.g., Adam and the Beasts, the Occupants of Noah's Ark), but where three are gathered in one name, how can this be? For to have relations with a man is to meet him face-to-face. Can we meet two gazes in one moment?

Whatever else it demands, Trinity demands faith. To believe, as hearts fail and bodies crumble, that there is a God who is not angry or cruel, but ultimately love, is a great risk. To believe that there are certain sturdy castles one can anchor one's kingdom on is a leap of love.

But whatever is divine—whatever is made up of the natural and its supernatural fruit, whatever meets our expectations and exceeds them, whatever offers both cross and resurrection, whatever offers a foundation deeper than sand and a happiness and wholeness beyond a grasping comprehension, whatever demands more than we know how to give, and provides us with a rooted place from which to love the world—

let no one tear asunder.

May no single hand dismantle
its painstaking, long-suffering,
loving bricks.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Things That Fall Apart:

a brief catalog.

Hearts
Phones
Scrapbooks under influence of water
Cars
Plans
Bodies
and Dining Room Tables

Resolutions
Good Intentions
Sleep Schedules
Dreams You had When You Were Twelve
Families
Communities
Routines
and Possibilities

Chairs held together by glue
The doll's head mended by an amateur
a butterfly in the hand of an eager toddler—
which is how we're held by God, sometimes.



Monday, May 21, 2018

Song of Scaffolding

Fold the creamy linens,
like bread dough on the countertop,
kiss the wooden altar,
where I have left my heart.

You have held a life here,
on brown-paper-glass floor,
through phone calls with Balthasar,
rendezvous on tear-streaked mornings,
guilty Christmas wreath-packings.

Women meet and pray here
in the hush before the day springs,
in the quiet as night stills
to a heart-beat halt.

Your arms, spread wider than the heavens,
scatter old wounds to crumble
in condemned chapels.
With such a gracious host,
scarred hearts and wounded hands,
can welcome new loves and guests
with the enthusiasm of Elizabeths.

I hold your hand in mass,
and feel your body,
rooted to the hardwood floor,
grow tall and strong next to me.
A tree who I can grow with,
lean on, and find shade in,
here in this chapel of visitation.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

bike lane resurrection

He vanishes like ascension,
leaving into Resurrection,
like clouds melt into air.
Craning my neck
like men of Galilee,
I see just one footprint—
not Christ
or the prophet like Mohammed's—
just the fossil negative
of a boyish black Nike
stamped upon not
only my arms
which gesticulate in imitation,
my tongue,
who swirls new patois like pinot noir,
but burned into the hardest core of me,
the deepest space where binding,
loosing,
keeping covenant
(with china cabinets and breakfast dates)
take place—
the deepest heart of me
where a new face lives:
intimately me, and I, his.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

it's over now

and I hoped that I would have been smarter,
more diligent,
timely,
precise
and sleep enough to be virtuous
with ease.

I would have hoped papers to have been written
with strong theses
impeccable internal coherency,
logical argument,
and inner necessity.

I would have imagined that I could
keep my room tidy,
dishes washed,
and my notes neat.

Laundry lives mostly draped on drawers,
couches (!), the table in my bathroom,
and my bed.

In the thick of things,
it’s easy to let things slide
like manicures,
dentists,
folding laundry
and phone calls longer than 10 minutes.

But
I could not have ever have imagined that I would have felt
this joy—
deeper than rusting cars,
or missing fillings,
or the vulnerability of uncertainty—
a joy sated not with the moment,
but in eternity.

Friday, May 4, 2018

to establish ties

There’s a rupture in the Trinity—
the Father sees a non-kenotic rift develop,
a new and tragic distance,
between
Son and Spirit, and his self.
Some angst has
hampered perichoretic harmony,
disrupted trusted denouements
of their divine comedy.

Spirit, prone to blowing where he will,
is hard to pin down.
His wings so used to flying,
hold in them—he thinks—a dictum,
a haunting kind of fate,
to wit:
that he will be perpetually a-gust,
blown about by gales
and never have a place to rest.

Father’s heart aches for Spirit
who holds (and is) his heart.
He watches Freedom himself run its course
whose current bend, it seems,
leads far from him.

How very odd it is, he thinks,
sipping coffee on a windy night alone,
to be a principle of unity,
pure being willed into ever-existence
by the absolute freedom of love,
and wholly at the mercy 
of another.

It’s the sort of joke no one could imagine,
yet the sort of one I am.

He laughs.
But his heart beats irregularly.

Even the Son images dimly.
How lonely a number—two.

The Father's cup pauses,
removed before it hits his lips—
Am I at fault for Freedom's flight?
Son is broadly advertised as
"only-begotten," "most-beloved," and 
"in whom I am well-pleased,"
but in the thick of messianic glory,
did I neglect to tell you that I love you?

Son sends his angels to woo
his sweet, shy Spirit back again.
They sing, for their own maker,
a psalm straight from the lips of God:

"Ah, Spirit, you are wrong:
It’s the foxes of the field,
and Son who have nowhere to lay their heads.
You are not a tame God,
but a taming one.

The clay of cosmos, wholly preoccupied in their
unholy toy shops,
find themselves needed and necessary
for nothing but to play pretend.
But you are responsible for more.

Come at 3 or 4, or whatever hour
the hunters dance with women
and chickens free for snatching have grown scarce.
My heart is ready, oh Spirit,
my heart is always ready
to greet you with the proper
and truly humble rites.

So come rest your head on the bosom of my love—
you may flee as your Spirit moves you,
but you cannot escape the place where you belong—
where what is invisible to so many callous eyes
is found essential, unsubstitutable,
and seen."

Thursday, May 3, 2018

we are underwater

The other day, we walked into my room, turned into devastation.
Rain had soaked my chestnut floors and covered my bible and Pablo Neruda driftwood poem in water.

We clean it up with dish towels and I refrain from tears to keep the flood from multiplying. We close the windows. I keep them open, because I like to remember that I am part of what's outside, and the membrane of what's between us is permeable.

I dream at precisely midnight that the rain came through my windows again, all over a room which was bare, the water droplets speckled over the stripped wood floor. The man said to me: This is what comes of putting your books on windowsills. You need to keep them in bookshelves. 

What was odd was that it hadn’t even occurred to me that the issue was in part the fact that I do not keep those books away on shelves. Is that where books belong?

He seemed quite sure they did.
Really? I thought.
All of them?

I didn't feel a failure, the way dentists make you feel about your teeth when you present them with your cavity-striken molars. Rather, I felt a new way of seeing.

Perhaps the way to keep books from getting wet when rain blows through the windows horizontally is to keep them on book shelves, perpetually.

On book shelves, far from windows, they will transpire lives of safety. They will be protected from the elements and preserved for progeny to come. If I am conscientious enough, they will last 500 years and end up in a bon mot enthusiast's living room in Milwaukee to round out his literary reliquary.

But books are made for living. They are not trophies to stock shelves and collect the dust which would otherwise scatter, but companions to steer you through rough seas.

I will risk the rain-soaked page to keep them at my fingertips, lining the corners of my living room, and rounding out what of life can be gleaned from rain, swamped rugs gently laid to dry in kitchens, and literary keys.