Wednesday, October 31, 2018

raising paralytics

One might argue that all parents know that they are delivering their children from the blank constancy of nonexistence into a world that is certain only to change, and that it’s impossible to be sure of anything except that life is not permanent and is prone to radical, sudden revolutions. This is true, if a bit more determined, in the case of climate change. Bringing a child into a world staring down the throat of its own deadly excesses is both as reasonable and irrational as having a child in any other frightening epoch, and there have been many. — Elizabeth Bruenig, October 12, 2018

If you are a critical person, you are probably aware of two things:
1. How much better everything could be and isn't.
2. That things are not as they appear to be.

Two corollaries follow from the first awareness. First: you, unfortunately can easily tend to see the dark sides of the cloud—whatever the opposite is of a silver lining, you live in that world. You are able to see the ideal—the purest form—and you can quickly measure up the distance between that ideal and the milieu within which you are existing. What is weighs on you, because it is not what it could be. From your particular vantage point, you can see how much better things would be if they were just a little more ideal and less real.

Second, this idealism often constricts our imagination into: either it must be this right way, or it will be forever the wrong way. Once we have charted that terribly long and winding path between where we are now and where we ought to be, the sheer improbability of ever reaching that distant ideal often forecloses other, truly viable solutions. But they are not the ideal, so how can we possibly settle for them?

This second awareness causes a more subtle disruption. For if you recognize that things are not as they appear to be, then you realize there is a possibility the phenomena themselves are deceptions. If you are aware of the existence of deceiving phenomena, this probably generally means that you are unwilling to be taken in—and you will inevitably, like all humans, probably be taken in.

As an intelligent person, you are taught to cross-examine everything: from the statement your classmate made in seminar to your GRE questions. A test means a question is presented that is designed to make a fool out of the too-trusting person—"passing the test" means refusing to let yourself be duped. Those of us who have never been fooled are declared intelligent.

But the beginning of wisdom is perhaps at an altogether different point than the basis of critical thinking.

Wisdom seems to take not just as a possibility, but as a given, that we will be fooled. The wool is going to be pulled over our eyes, and that's just a fact. Good on you, deceiving world for taking us in with your endlessly marvelous bait.

Wisdom tends towards remembering that things could be better—but hypotheticals are a charming illusion for restless minds. What's good (what's best) is what is in front of us. Wisdom seems to remember that what is good is abundant, and really the only way to become wise, is to not make the good better, but to love better what good is in front of you— to offer the love you have to a world that will inevitably spit it back in your face.

We are trained to be intelligent and smart by being the people are who are always a few crucial steps ahead of hecklers, keeping several yards out of spitting range. But wisdom in the flesh was once spat at, so perhaps we are trained to be intelligent in vain. The smarter you are, the harder it is to let yourself be got. But the wise are constantly being gotten the better of—and I think they laugh, all the same.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Harlem Annunciation

There's a—well, just a sliver of light
in a very light little corner of the room.

There are plants, but they are sort of nondescript.

And there's a small ray of light, in the midst of the day.

Today has light in it.

But it's often difficult to see.

I resent the idea that angels just appear, like beams of light.

I think angels are the man at mass who hits his head with excitement while in communion line.

I am right | but also wrong.

If you look into the cup at a poor church,
you see white wine.
And Christ is so present in this small indignity.

the stained glass windows on the ceiling are full of light,
and perhaps angels—who am I to say?

I pray, with the church full of people: Viva Maria!

and laugh.

Monday, October 29, 2018


"Woman, you are set free of your ailment.”

After eighteen years of pain—a pain so heavy she could not even stand upright—I can only imagine the lightness and relief this woman must have experienced at Jesus’ words that caused her to burst into praise.

I remember moments I have experienced this joyful rush of healing and relief.

I remember the first run after months of recovering from a knee injury. As I ran over the packed dirt in the Minnesota woods, an uncontainable, childlike grin broke out on my face.

I think this is the healing today's Gospel describes. In moments of healing, we almost cannot help but thank God—there feels like no other appropriate response.

But after this surge of our newly lightened spirit upwards, there comes the slower, harder work of healing. I wonder if, after this Sabbath with Jesus, this same woman had to learn this slow work of healing, too.

I wonder if it took this woman many weeks—years, perhaps—to retrain herself to stand upright. She must have had to remember each day that her muscles now had the strength to hold her head up high. She must have had to remind herself that God had done great things for her—and deserved her same thanks.

It is easy, in the moment of healing, to thank God. Being healed is one thing, but learning how to live as a healed person is another. It is too easy to go back to the old habits, the stooped posture, the same sins.

Living as healed persons means that we—that I—have to let go of the old, sinful habits I have formed.

To live as someone healed means that we slowly learn to turn what is hurt and broken in us into a hymn of thanksgiving to the God whose love, each day, brings us joy.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

surplus of form

It is very strange to me, I have noticed, how the word “conform” is seen as somehow dry. Someone told me they thought it was "overly technical" and cold. But "conform" is a word of deepest intimacy.

Forming ourselves into something else is a sacramental act. Forming ourselves into something that is other than ourselves is the most human action.

As I stood in the shower, and water fell all over my naked hips and breasts, I found, almost to my dismay, that I was not alone here. My body was no longer just a landscape of myself, but a shared topography. As I gingerly touch myself in the act of cleaning, my fingers turn into matches. My body flames with memories of you. My body has become a space that is a sacrament of the people who have been there, much like the couch that used to be in my living room or my kitchen table. My body is also a site of hospitality, but of a much more intimate variety.

I can not longer even touch myself without touching you. Your form is stamped on mind. Lightly, perhaps, but inescapably.

Memory is not just something takes up space inside our minds, or that inundates our hearts, it sinks into our cheeks and takes over the hairs on our arms. Our entire bodies become sacraments of who has been there. Our bodies become sacramental memories; but they are not orderly, categorized entities.

I cannot comprehend the sheer horror of having someone in your body you do not want there. You want to rip out the offending party, to utterly erase them from your life, and you discover that they are still embedded in your bones.

Our noses smell their breath, the squish of their coat on ours, and the pull of their arms on our back.
The memories, repeated as our skin cells multiply, encoded in each new cell's DNA, make me want to vomit or retch, or scrape away whatever layer of epidermis those memories hover within. I want to burn whatever it is that still holds these old memories. But the memories are inescapable—the memories make up me, not just my past, but the building blocks of who I am here in the present: I cannot erase the presence of his chest against mine, unless I evacuate my chest of anything that gives mine meaning.

Perhaps this is what the wounds on resurrected Christ mean: we are made up of scars. Christ cannot rip away the burning voids flaming through his hands and feet. The vacuum of skin caused by sin is stamped upon Christ's body, even in the perfection of resurrection. It is how the disciples know that it is him.

This sort of inedible physical presence is challenging. How can it be redeemed? Christ is not just scarred, but also resurrected.

We are not only our bodies and we are not tethered to the clay of simply our own lives.

Eucharist makes up a space where we can re-discover ourselves as spaces of memory not of who has visited us at night, but at the God who comes to save the human race through touch.
The Eucharist is a sacrament of anamnesis, where we do this "in memory of me." The body Christ gives us is his body in memory, and it becomes a piece of our own body's memories.

We do not transcend our bodies; bread is not vanquished in the Eucharist, rather, it is—they are—consecrated. In its intimate encounter with the holy our bodies are utterly transformed—they are conformed.

Friday, October 26, 2018

walking season

I am walking through Morningside park and thinking that this is the time of the year I love so much. Autumn is the time of year the world falls, like Rahner says, into the mystery of God, like all things that must die. The Upper West Side in autumn is quintessential Madeleine L'Engle New York.

There is a strange piece of street art by the 1 train stop on 157th Street and Broadway, that features an asinine Bottom gazing at a mermaid Titania in a fish bowl—it is certainly grotesque. But something about it makes me feel—in a very pleasant way, that I am living in a fairy tale.

I am walking through Morningside Park now and there are dark cloud banks descending from the northern edge of the park. They are not dropping rain, just atmosphere. I am beating the pavement with my heels at my usual breakneck pace, until I realize I do not have to this time. I am actually on time for Mass. I can slow down.

And I do. I pocket my digital atlas, and I breathe. I walk like I am simply walking. I do not walk at a snail's pace, even when meditating, so it not necessarily the shift in tempo that causes the greatest change. No, it is rather some intention that has shifted. There is a different purpose to the walking.

Rushing causes a tightening of focus to the point that we can no longer really see anything other than our decision about what comes next. If every moment we are seeking next is simply the next thing in the long list of things we have strung together like pearls onto the necklace of our self—what's the good in that? Or rather, how can we possibly see the good in them?

As I walk, I am absorbing what I'm walking through. The walk's purpose has become nothing other than to notice and adore the world around me—the ivy climbing up the trees, the quality of light above the pond, the wonderful, ridiculous slopes of the stairs and the steep cliffs of the park—it's like a playground and a maze in here—and the raccoon lumbering through the crepuscular leaves bordering the path. "Oh hello, sweetie," I say. Thankfully the raccoon simply glances at me and ignores the diminutive worthy of the cashier at Food Lion.

As I walk over to Domenic after Mass, we linger for a moment in the soft gold gloom of the church, staring at the Ave Maria script circling the dome of the church. He stands, and we begin, unthinkingly, to walk out of the church at a normal pace—the way you walk when you’re simply trying to move from point A to point B. But then—
he or I—or both of us, make the same shift to walking not like bankers but like monks. We walk very, very slowly through the nave to the door, swiveling our attention from side-to-side, taking in the Jeanne D'Arc statue, the terrible small statuette of Michael, and the curve of the pillars. Simply, for a moment, taking in what is around us—for a moment, really opening our eyes to see things clearly.

And this, I think, is closer to prayer than most things.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

twenty-seven blessings

It is easy, in the midst of noticing what's wrong (a lot!) what is upsetting (legion) and what is potentially hurtful (don't get me started) to forget to notice what is actually, objectively, and indisputably good.

- This morning, the light was bright. And I know "bright morning light" is an unholy cliché. But there's a reason that sub-par poets praise it. The world shines sometimes when there are no clouds in the morning. When the brightness of morning rises over the river, or over any body of water, it's even better. Because the water shimmers and glimmers and becomes part of the sky the way that water is always part of the sky but more so.

- This morning as I got into the shower I looked at my body, which for at least the last half of the twenty-seven years I have lived has looked foreign and strange to me, has looked like something that belongs to someone who is not me. It has been something I avoid looking at if not to find ways in which it can be improved. But this morning it greets me, as I step into the bath, like it is returning from somewhere far away: it is mine again and I love it. It is not easy to love what is not in your control—bodies are hard to love in this way.

- After the run in the bright morning light, my hip started to hurt with a stinging pain like this summer's, but more so. I sat in a coffee shop drinking a pleasantly acrid almond milk latte, and felt my hip join complaining every which way underneath me. The internet was on the fritz so I was using my cellphone as a hotspot, while on a video call for work, while feeling like a small crab was pinching six different tendons in my leg—but the cheddar apple scone I selected on a whim was not dry. It is an absolute law of nature that coffee shop scones, whatever their flavor are consistently as dry as tacks and this one was not dry. It had the slightly damp, pillowy consistency of my mother's famous cream scones. A sufficiently moist scone covers a multitude of sins.

- At the Cabrini Shrine in Upper Manhattan, the sanctuary is covered with beautiful mosaics of Mother Cabrini's life, surrounding the rather startling image of her body, in a Sleeping Beauty-esque casket that displays her body.

After Communion, the priest burst into song: a song of praise that just poured out of him as effortlessly as a response. It is simply joy. The priest who burst into How Great Thou Art after communion and harmonized with the music brought me joy.

I remembered in the midst of singing that I do not need to have all the answers. I am asking the same questions I asked at twenty-six: where to love and who, and I do not have the answers. But the questions should make you sing.

- I walked out of the Cabrini shrine and called The Insurance Lady—I think her name was Holly. She was one of those people who really does ooze Christmas. The sun was shining, and sometimes Washington Heights right below Fort Tryon is so utterly charming, you want to just pinch its concrete sidewalk cheeks. I walked to Uptown Garrison, walked inside and went to use the bathroom—it's one of those bathrooms they call a water closet. And now you have the perfect image of the sort of place that Uptown Garrison tries to be. Not what it is, though.

I walked out of the bathroom and saw Domenic. If you have ever seen a face you did not expect but always expect in a place you did not expect, then you will know the sort of joy that kind of surprise brings. It is trinitarian, really: to expect and be met is perhaps the closest we come to God. The trick is that you have to always extend your expectation—that is exhausting, risky, and inevitably will be painful. You have to do it (expect and anticipate and desire), otherwise half the joy of someone showing up is robbed.

- He showed up with a Levain Cookie. Those things are my favorite.

- I spent much of the day in pain, in stress, or being stymied in my attempt to get done all the tasks that needed doing. But, there were just these few small moments that reminded me that there are many people who bring many gifts into our lives. And often they bring them gingerly—they are not quite sure what they're doing there either.

But, in the thick of all the sunny Thursday stress, I realized: there is so much of the world that needs to be embraced. You can feel it, a vacant sort of gap in need of love. And really, all I want to do is pick up each piece of it, hold it close to my heart, and love it back into itself—strong, beautiful, and whole.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

prayers like turtles

“Why he should ask us to pray, when he knows what we need before we ask him, may perplexing us if we do not realize that our Lord and God does not want to know what we want (for he cannot fail to know it) but wants us rather to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us.”
—Augustine, letter to Proba

Too often we imagine prayer as transaction—not even prayer, simply communication: it is a pedestrian task designed for us to correspond with the other individuals in the world around us. 

But prayer, like most communication, is not at all about treating words as pack-mules to ferry our mental luggage from tongue to tongue.
Like most communication, it is about something other than just the content of the communique.
Like most communication—but mostly like correspondence.

Correspondence has always been a practice born of at least a small bit of leisure—composition demands leisure in that it demands a small space to breathe and nothing else: a sliver of space in which to think. Correspondence does not pretend that spatiotemporal distances are collapsed or vanished, but rather that they are irrelevant. There is something sacred in sitting down to pen a letter, whether that is really your only option and the speediest form of communication available to you in some Pony Express outpost, or whether you could easily pick up the phone to call them or text. A letter is not offering expediency, but a different space of meeting. In the intermediary medium of the page, a letter offers an eternal space of meeting, like a book, that will say the same thing, no matter the events of the intervening weeks between composition and reception.

It’s a superfluous means of communicating in a digital age, but, I think that letter-writing, really, has always been somewhat superfluous. If expediency was the chief concern, then the fastest and most efficient means of communication possible would be to simply send a messenger, even if he is liable to be shot.

Uttered from a hammock in St. Patrick’s Park, on an unseasonably warm spring day—the woods is suspended in a purgatorial crepuscular haze, like the last weeks of autumn. But it's May.

You know what I think dating is.
Turning yourself inside out.

It is making yourself as naked as a tortoise without a shell, and offering yourself up for another person's gaze.

Perhaps when they see you, foundering without any armor, their gaze will turn to close inspection, and you will be constantly measured up to a standard and fall short. Perhaps they will be the sort of judge who does not subscribe to the slow and steady win the race mentality which your family has lived by for generations.

But, honestly, most of us can make out the shapes underneath our shells, even when fully clothed. Humans are quite obvious, and we hardly need to turn ourselves inside out to see what is on the inside. It oozes out of us if not exactly with the gathered greatness of Hopkins' oil, at least with all its grand transparency. Human beings are not as opaque as we imagine ourselves to be.

We are certainly not God, and we cannot read each other's minds or hearts infallibly, but how often do we meet the revelation of another with: "I know." We very clearly did not know, because we could not read their minds and they had not communicated their mind to us, and yet, we knew.

But it is not this sort of knowledge we are interested in, nor, according to Augustine is God.

God does not want to know what is inside of us. For, God as whatever sort of divine creator he purports to be, must be at least somewhat responsible for whatever is inside of us. Nothing within us is news to God, we do not share our hearts with God because God is in some sort of deep need for the hearts which rest always in the divine hands to begin with, but rather because our hearts, if they are to be hearts at all, demand to be shared.

We do not want to know for the knowing's own sake. We do not want to turn one another inside out as some sort of practice of relational vivisection, out of the callous control of empirical certainty. We do not want to see what's inside for our own benefit, but because we are creatures made to be turned inside out.

So we lie in hammocks and tell stories to each other we already know. So we lie in our bed and whisper back into the dark desires that came from the glittering darkness to begin with. Not because the dark is in the dark (as it were) about what lies at the bottom of our hearts, but because we are hearts only full when emptied. We ask for what will be given anyway, because the asking clears room for the gift we could not receive properly on our own.

Prayers, like letters and like falling in love, are inefficient, but eternal.

Friday, October 19, 2018

a monstrous weight

—December 20, 2014— 

One of the great beauties of St. Patrick's Cathedral is that the back doors are usually left wide open.
It's an extravagant gesture (and not just because it must add significant figures to the heating bill), they are flung open like an embrace, welcoming the City into the arms of the Church. They are New York's answer to St. Peter's colonnade; but instead of stone pillars lined with saints, they are gold monoliths flanking the entrance of all the saints and sinners who stumble into their sanctuary.

Through the open entrance, you can hear the bustle of Fifth Avenue, and catch a glimpse of the bustle of Christmastime in New York City outside. Most importantly, you can see the colossal statue of Atlas that stands guard in front of the Rockefeller Center. It is an imposing and impressive sculpture. The bronze titan's brow is furrowed, yet his body seems unbreakable, capable of bearing a globe on his shoulders without breaking a sweat.

If I were to worship a god, I would expect him to look like that—no, I would need him to look like that. If I were to lay aside all my own selfish interests and desires for another being, and declare that being not only lord of my heart, but lord of all the universe, I would want to imagine him vast, unconquerable, powerful: powerful enough to trample all my enemies, strong enough to carry me on his shoulders, powerful enough to be able to grant my every request.

Just opposite of Atlas, staring at him lovingly from the high altar of St. Patrick's, is a gloriously ensconced crucified Christ. Although the cross and corpus are gilded, the pathos of this image is not lost in the glamor of the material, or in its marble surroundings. The figure of Christ, so broken, so injured, so hurt—so very palpably, visibly wounded in his mission. He hangs on the cross, an image of failure, derided by the world. That is what love will do to you.

Fall in love, stay in love, and you will endure more slings and arrows than just the bright agony of a cupid's dart, whispers the crucifix.

They stand opposite each other, across the avenue and the nave: one god a giant in bronze, triumphantly bearing the globe on his shoulders, celebrating the success of human industry. And then, this other strange god of Christians: a broken man, bleeding to death on a cross, enduring all the evils that human industry can impose upon one slight figure. Atlas' gaze is powerful, penetrating. He seems so sure of his success. He seems convinced of his destiny: to bear the weight of the world without assistance, and to offer none to anyone else. He is untouched by the sorrow of the humans blundering about on the burden on his back and taking pictures by his pedestal. He is removed from them, and their lives—to him—mean nothing at all.

But the face on the crucifix is carved with sorrow because the evils that harm us matter. Our lives, touched with sorrow, with glory, with failures and with victories matter. They matter so much that a God more powerful, vast, and unconquerable than Atlas entered into them. This God was beaten by his enemies, as we will be. This God endured hardship and cold, insecurity and uncertainty as all of us do. This God was born not as a titan but as the most vulnerable of creatures: a human baby. This God's body, hanging there on the cross looks much like mine: fragile—oh so fragile—and pitiable. This God endured all this indignity to what end? For the small possibility that one day I might learn to love him back? What an unspeakable insanity.

If I were to craft an image of love, I would expect it to look just like that.  If I were to lay aside all my own selfish interests and desires for another being, and declare that being not only lord of all the universe, but lord of my own heart, I would imagine that face just as Christ's on that cross. His arms are open in a posture that Atlas seems to mimic, but can never fully imitate: outstretched in an embrace, in an offering—an offering of his own self—an an offering not just of strength or power, but of his very being.

When you are in love, you want to understand the other person's life: you want to hear about it—through a text, a letter, or a phone call, or even a dynamic story over dinner—but you know  that you have to get inside the experience to fully understand it or them.
If they like to knit, you don't just want to know about the latest scarf they're working on, but you want to know way the yarn feels slipping through their fingers; if they like riding horses, you want to know how the wind on your face feels galloping across a field; if they love their apartment, you want to know what the sunrise looks like from their window each morning. Love demands that we enter into the lives of those we love, not just admire them from a distance. It is messy, it is painful. Everything is clean and simple, like Atlas' strong, immobile figure, if we just watch from a distance.
But to enter into someone's life is messy. It will contort your body into a new shape that will look both like failure and like love.

So I stoop to kiss this crushed man's feet, so close to me—so reachable—and I sit back on my heels to adore a broken God whose mission was to be failure, that my failures may be an avenue through which I can come to know him.

His posture is the grammar by which I form my stammering words of love.

Monday, October 15, 2018

free solo

Let us accept that we are lovable. Let us imagine, a priori, that we have already achieved and are achieving everything that has been set in front of us to do. Before we begin, let us feel quite firmly that we have nothing to prove.

 What happens after that?

Alex Hannold, it seems, has a lot of things to prove—to himself.
And a lot of cliffs to climb before he feels—personally—that he has established himself as what and who he wants to be.
 His girlfriend, Sanni, appears to have absolutely nothing to prove to anyone.
Apparently, she wants nothing but to sleep on a bunk bed in a van with this strange, ascetic desert father of a man.

She appears to be happy, sane, and with a sense of self-worth fully intact.

What can we achieve, when we are driven not by our desire to make ourselves into something—that ever-present phantom of what we might be, what we could be, the specter known as our ideal self which haunts us, but no one else seems to be burdened by—but when we have already accepted that we have everything we need?

Alex would answer: nothing.
Sanni would answer: anything.

Are we really living anything if we are still living in that terrible threshold before worthiness. Life can't be lived in a holding pen.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Sources of Inspiration

Do you know where inspiration comes from?

Angelo Roncalli believes it comes in waves of supernatural light on the faces of his audience. He knows that the January clouds are impervious to most illumination—but still light comes.

Light like Angelo’s breaks through the office windows of this slick Fordham building—its corporate neon of the news ticker in the tech lab two doors down softened by the Birkenstocks peeping out from underneath the desk.

How do you set routines so that inspiration strikes when needed? How do you teach your ribcage to open up in a rhythm so that breath can enter and eventually expire?

It’s a constant question by anyone who’s not a hermit or chained to their library cubicle writing their dissertation—or even by them, too, I think. How do we entice the angels to visit us?

As we wonder that together, the light bursts behind his head—perhaps that light is the angel.

Perhaps angels are the sort of people who you find playing drums on the subway to the tune of Psalm 137 or singing Andrea Boticelli songs at 9am. Perhaps these are people who have heard inspiration's call and heeded it.

Rain drips on the fire escape, a swollen, red sliver of crescent moon hangs over the Statue of Liberty in the harbor. I think it looks beautiful, but one man has decided not just to notice the beauty, but preserve it. To hear the word of God and act on it.

Does inspiration bubble up from giggling babies and dominoes players on your street? Does it hide in the shine of skyscraper lights on the river?

Are all these visions small apprehensions of angels—the muses we have circled around our Sun God—our symphony master and main melody.

Friday, October 12, 2018

why am I still speaking to you?

To you— a God who is not as sophisticated as my pride. A God who’s really quite childish, and simple. A God who doesn’t have the ability to nuance and finesse points to make himself look better.
You really are so on the nose—antagonistically obvious.

I just want to play a game.
And you are breaking all my rules—
Just like a child whose imagination insists that there are more ways
Than this one—
Just like grace.

The tender fingers of our God
Grab me by my throat,
And I cannot breathe,
My heart cannot beat.

I am slowly drowning,
Staring out the open window to the
Rain-soaked fire escape.
I am suffocating
Because your absence is a vacuum that
Sits heavy on my lungs.

I sit up in bed,
Trying to claw my way out of hell.
The night is so humid,
Without being hot.

My head throbs with exhaustion,
But I cannot sleep—
My heart itches in my chest.

Spirits move one breath at a time—
there is no absolution,
but a small island of consolation,
an oasis of sweetness in the midst of sorrow:
a glimpse from purgatory of a paradise,
unattainable but not entirely unseen.

Monday, October 8, 2018

three acts

here we are:

April 27: God, you are a dense and tangled Lord—with many meetings, patient sufferings, learning that ears can open wider than you created them to and our tongues can actually lie still. You are built of small things: possibilities and fishing. Two oranges in the hands of men with whom we're incompatible.
You are a dense and gracious God—architect of an earth thick with meaning, of threads of persons, signposts and stop gaps. You offer an abundance, of laughter, sunlight, and offer. Even rain showers, quickly.

May 10th
It’s a grapefruit-colored world and we are glowing in it—
Skinny dark—
The boys smoking clove cigarettes,
The strong man with a gentle heart,
The police officer stopping in his car on his beat to watch the sun go down.

Eventually, the light falls behind the horizon and the dazzling,
sparkling fire on the lake resolves into a sleepy and subdued rose.
Night falls heavy, like the weight of a lover’s body on your lungs,
on the earth surrendering helplessly to the dark which follows sundown.

May 25
What God has joined together—
bonds of serendipity,
perichorectic glue of happenstance,
very much accident, but now necessity,
an exterior fortress miraculously mimicking
the congruent construction of one’s interior Gormenghast—

no man can tear asunder.
But rather, with a woman's careful touch,
gently dismantle
its painstaking, loving bricks.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

soundtrack god

I tentatively approach this God
I treat as soundtrack but who
Really is more like heartbeat—
the quiet rhythm that
founds each day
impels each breath
and inspires every
The beat I rarely bother to listen to unless
I lay my head down on the pillow
and hear it pound in my ear,
unless I feel it through the fingers of another on my wrist.
I love you
addressed to the God enshrined in corpulent gold on the cross.
AndI do not know how to love.
I do not know how to love someone broken and tarnished,
even though 
I, too, am broken
and also a little bit tarnished.

I cry because my heart is hard, but love is harder.

I cry because I wonder if the God on the cross has come to be broken,
so that he might, with us, love broken things as a fellow fragile, patched-up person.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

first parents’ first date

There’s a waterfall in Eden, where Eve goes each day to wash her long hair. She was born with a full head of curly locks and a ripe set of breasts—imagine her shock when her daughter (omitted from mention in Sacred Scripture) is born a red, crying, half-made mess.

There’s a pool beneath the waterfall, perfect for soaking her never-tired feet. There’s no dust yet in Paradise, unless you count the specks which glitter in the 5pm sun—Eve doesn't. She calls them little people, thinking they are small villagers of her sweet country dancing each evening. Such fanciful ideas of Eve will cause great confusion for future generations.

Contrary to common wisdom, Eve was born alone—a lost rib without the context of her cage—and she senses she is part of something, but what, exactly, that thing is gnaws at her mind, a daily question she can’t shake.

Eve is at the waterfall again today, and she is about to step in—but there is a person in the pool.
His head pops up with a splash under the white roar of waterfall, and he turns his shoulders, noticing the empress in her secret paradise.
— hello
— hi
What is he doing here?
—I think you’re my rib.
—your what?
— my rib. I’ve lost one.
— that seems improbable.
— I think it’s very probable.

Eve was, for seven short days, queen of Eden by default. And in six quick seconds she has been promptly de-throned. For here, upsetting her quiet, happy, week-long understanding of her world, is this handsome stranger who is not one at all.

Adam rises out of the pool, and stands so that just the labyrinthine veins arching underneath his feet's thin skin are covered by the emerald water. Eve takes in every bit of him, each corner seems as familiar as the skin on her hand. She notices his strong rib cage undulating with each breath beneath his speckled skin is missing a bar, right underneath his heart.
Oh that’s me.

I’ve never seen you here before, she says.

I've never been here before, he says.

Eve is quite sure that this man is unraveling, even as he speaks, her illusion of a self-contained Elysium. His presence is an altogether different paradise, which will demand of her something she's not quite sure she knows—partnership.

Come join me, says Adam, and Eve follows him into the pool, and back underneath her waterfall, where the noon sun sparkles on the currents of water running through her hair.

—I think that we should name the beasts.
—I've already started.
—Really? Any good ones so far?
—Those are armadillos, says Eve, gesturing to the family of critters gathered by the poolside.

That's a ridiculous name, laughs Adam, the "l"s tickling his tongue as they tumble off it. She could have chosen anything and she came up with armadillo? In this world rich with curiosities, Adam has found, he realizes, the richest.

—It's Spanish.
I thought so.

Eve is not sure if she is being taken seriously by this man whose eyes sparkle amber when he laughs. Adam is not sure what to do with this woman whose sense of humor inspires her to name this small cluster of creepy-looking mammals a term of general endearment—who has a face and mine that mirror his and yet is absolutely unplumbable.

Both of them silently marvel at how natural it is to talk to the other. When you have never spoken to another person before in your entire life, speech, one would imagine, would take some learning. But they internally wonder at how effortlessly words float off their previously mute tongues.

Speech is intuitive, thinks Adam, coining a new word—and proud of it, too.

This man really gets it, Eve decides. A thought crosses her mind—perhaps they can join forces. The thought takes root in her imagination and grows into a hope. Her bed of moss isn't getting any less lonely at night; and she is not, she realizes, as her lips find his underneath the waterfall, getting any younger. In fact, it strikes her now, as their youthful bodies meet, just how old she will one day become. She wonders how much more of Eden he has seen than her. She is curious. He has seen things she hasn't yet. But he will tell her all of them, she's sure of that.

Perhaps she has not been de-throned so much as offered a new kingdom to reign—a kingdom she has yet to discover, that she will make not on her own but with this sweet stranger whose eyes glitter gold and beard catches the rain on his chin, who offers her a world beyond simply the music of water falling onto rock.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Mosquito Kisses

I am biking South on Fir Road in Mishawaka. It’s sunset, and I am on the border of farmland. It smells like Galilee here. I am meeting Evan, but stymied by a train that separates my Lime Bike from his Audi. We are on our way to Jesus—not the second person of the Trinity—but Jésus, Mishawaka’s newest Latin grill and tequila bar.

A mosquito brushes against my face and I swat it away only to discover her stringy wings and legs on my fingers. A few seconds later, a small medallion of a bite appears on my lip.

In the car, we laugh about it.

I wait outside Crooked Ewe for Marie-Claire to get her bicycle. The Lime Bike is exactly where I left it, in a small patch of gravel next to the overflow parking, which dangerously abuts the concrete bridge with flimsy barrier above the little drainage creek that flows into the St. Joe river.

A Lime Bike waiting faithfully for you two hours after you have locked it is quite a testament of loyalty. I am beginning to feel fond of these tech age monsters. Even aesthetic nightmares can become Sirach’s faithful friend and sturdy shelter. (They are not very sturdy, to be frank.)

We bike to our homes which are across the street from one another. We go a different way than I came, and I don’t protest, but simply follow where she bikes, because sometimes the conversation is more important than figuring out where you are going. You’ll get there eventually, regardless. The path, while being quite material, is relatively irrelevant.

“Have a good night” I call as I continue on past her house across the street back to my house. As the words leave my mouth, I get the cozy sense of summer nights.

Summer nights offer a simplicity of childhood where you can stay out late with the other neighborhood children until what seemed like ungodly hours at the age of ten, before you are called back home. The essence of summer nights is freedom from a deadline. There are no trains to catch, there is no assignment due, there is no machination that requires anxiety or the constant humming of mental exertion to try to stay one step ahead of whatever task is looming.

Biking across the usually busy street in the quiet of street lamp twilight, I feel a delight which I think is best described as the delight of being competent or perhaps just content.

That delight is the feeling of having everything you needed for the journey: (Item one: iPhone to unlock Lime Bike, Item two: Lime Bike), for those tools to not be very much, and for the journey—one you never did before—to have been completed successfully.

The stars are liquid happiness, crystalized, and feel quite close in the chilly September air.

Monday, October 1, 2018

trojan gas pump

Helen’s stopped her Prius for a top-off,
just across the pump from a pickup with a jack-off
screeching she looks “really pretty”
In the dress she wore today.
Really, really pretty.
Helen rolls her eyes, there’s little she can do.
She never asked a thousand ships to launch.
But Hector and Achilles have a pre-determined duel,
and she’s a plausible excuse as any.
This is the duty of the young and pretty,
Her mother told her—
You’re there to provide some distraction
From the dullness of the world.
And sure,
What better gift could you give an honest man
Than a glimpse of the Elysian
by a gas pump at 10am?

I’m not flirting, pickup boy protests,
It’s just so good to see a woman in a dress.
Helen yawns
for she
has accepted
the foisted role of sacrificial lamb.
Women stock men’s piles, fodder
To throw under the bus when necessary
To keep them from losing face—
she has no illusions she’ll be spared,
is fully expecting sacrifice
on the altar of their Ego:
it's a self-referential cult,
always hungering for flesh—
If history’s a double decker,
Helen’s spinning underneath
its wheels forever

But in the meantime,
She is exploring all potential
avenues for a woman
With keen imagination
To make the inevitable journey
above the altar to under bus
of utmost interest possible
for a curiosity as vivacious
as her breasts are lively.

Helen’s just a soul who wants the classic
Good Life—wine, love and conversation—
all sweet things in temperate moderation,
stable contentment with Menelaus in Sparta,
But Paris wants more than just a pastoral.
Helen’s shrewd enough to realize
ideals are for the weak—
all idylls reach their expiration date—
what’s real is six weeks of sex on Trojan beaches,
what’s fantasy is kindness from a penis.