Sunday, May 19, 2019

Job's Fear

What is fear of the Lord?
And how is it beginning of wisdom?

Some people insist that it is the fear we afford the powerful—the terror of oppression, of being at the mercy of a God who commands his creatures like a general his armies.

But this is not the God of Bethlehem, who lay in a manger,
crying in his mother's arms,
crying because living is so confusing, even from its very first moments,
words fail the infant who cannot even yet think.
What is there to do in the face of it but wail?

The God we are supposed to cower before as lord was the pitiable outcast who was put to death with no fear of retribution—his friends were too weak, too poor, too unimportant to avenge him or defend him.

How can fear of the Lord be fear of a tyrant, if God revealed himself as neighborhood carpenter and homeless man?

Some say that fear of the Lord means simply awe or wonder at God—as though God were something harmless, some defanged sunset for humans to gape at. The sort of awe that is sparked my mountains or by an accomplishment of a friend.

A folksy sort of fear for our folksy God.

But perhaps fear of the Lord is the end of Job—
the God who makes the wild horse strong,
who knows where the storm clouds roll in from heaven,
the God who Job feels he must worship:
why?

Why must we worship this God? The world seems to run without our praise,
new days come and go.

But fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Perhaps we could scrape along the crust of a planet hurtling through space and never have to prostrate ourselves before the heavens. We could hum through the machinations of our own devising quite neatly but we'd never be human.
Would we?

If you love someone,
somewhere deep within your heart, a small seed of terror begins to bloom,
this fear can rot into something sordid, something sour,
or it can bear fruit into an awe that your life can be
so utterly in the hands of another:
another who can crush us or show us who we are.

Perhaps fear of the Lord is the trembling of two bodies meeting in desire,
the terror in the realization that the person who comes to meet you now so very much a part of you—
that you cannot live any sort of sensible life without loving her,
that the sun will not rise tomorrow if you do not worship him.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

cut flower care

my gardening skills are not what I would have them be
if we were creating a pioneer resume
I would inch these skills higher on the list of assets.

But what I do boast of—as niche as it may be—is
Is the ability to care for cut flowers tenderly
To extend their life (or death) as long as florally
tenable,
to turn them towards the sunniest shelf or windowsill,
to water their fresh vases faithfully,
pouring precious resource into their
coffin.

to tempt their phloem and tickle xylem
with just a dash of sugar
from the white Domino bag
sprinkled in the water.

to trim their stems as they begin to seal,
to reopening the wound as soon as it begins to heal.

Friday, May 17, 2019

body of Christ

India's buzzing in my head: something smells like Shanti Dan as I pass John the Divine—a whiff of memory floating off a street vendor's truck.

Fr. Michael is on fire with the Bread of Life Discourses, insisting that there is a radical community of Christians who intimately matter to each other—even the depressed person in India, he says. Did he know that I was thinking of Kolkata? I wonder.

I think about what joy means, particularly in a space like here, which is less like joy and more like concrete and a place like Kolkata, which is less like joy and more like sweltering heat and sweat dripping down the small of your back.

I do not know if I think about the depressed person in India, but I do know that too many days, on the subway, I look at the people all around me, and I just want to soak up all their pain like a sponge until I'm swollen with it and then wring it out like cleaning blood out of a sock covering a blistered foot, squeezing it all out like a sponge into the holy water font at the back of St. Patrick's Cathedral.

And I wonder if these are the moments we love most like God. We see what we are part of—we haven't even made it, but it's ours—and we just want to heal it, we cannot bear it being sad.

Or those moments when I cry—not the angry, swollen tears of loss or the hot and dirty tears of anger—the soft, warm tears of remorse, of sorrow for being a person who causes others sorrow. These tears flow easily, quickly, out of regret for misunderstandings, or for living out of fear, or for not extending kindness and empathy to the people who deserve them, the compassion I should give them that rises up naturally for the faces surrounding me on the subway.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

when your voice comes back

It happens in quiet waves, but unmistakable.

I walk down our hallway, to the mirror, to the bathroom, hike up my jeansI need to buy a beltand I look at my yellow shirt above the dark indigo jeans in the mirror. The hair on my arms stands out darkly for some reason in this light, and I examine it for a bit, turning my freckled, phosphorescent-pale arms around in the mirror, inspecting the dark, interrupting lines of hair against the smooth skin.


Oh this is my body, I realize, with shock that this is me staring at myself in the mirror. I look... permanent? It's hard to recognize yourself all the time.

But here I am, and for this moment all of my attention is resting here, at my reflection in this glass.
What's the point of this, if there's nowhere else I'm going?
There's something in my eye, maybe a stray eyelash, so I pull away my eyelid, trying to see it, all the while thinking: there's something sacred in discomfort. It really does open you up to the divine.


But discomfort and peace are not enemies, they are, perhaps kinsfolk.


If crying is exercise, then my saline glands should be made of steel right now, toned from a winter’s worth of work.


If you could loose weight with each tear you shed, then I would be (conservatively estimated) fifteen pounds lighter. Tears, unfortunately for my waistline, don’t cost much physical weight in flesh. They are heavy, and make their own weight.


Sadness is a pool, when you are submerged in it, it's hard (if not impossible) to believe there is anything else, yet, time and time again, I feel myself missing the God I met under that water. It seems morbid and macabre to say that God is most clearly met in our suffering—and I believe that I have seen God in the man I love and held him on spring nights and kissed his face enough so that I do not believe God is most clearly found in our desolation—but, there’s something about the desolation, of having nothing else, of having found the small consolation of our own self so unsatisfactory that renders God highly visible in our despair.


From this submersion, this theophany of God in the dark, the spaces of Joy are baptized. Our joy slowly, slowly evokes less of a satisfaction the world can explain and becomes rooted in something more holy and more joyful. The joy becomes imbued with the lessons of the sorrow—when we didn’t have anything, when we clung to the God who was with us when no one else was, who was by our side even when our own self worth, sense of self-composure, sense of self had abandoned us. This God makes the quiet, makes the peace, makes the eucharistic monotony of climaxes and resolutions of living Good. This is the God who we held onto in our pain, the light that shone in the midst of our winter. This God, who was the only solace in our sorrow, is actually and truly, really our only joy.


I stare at my permanent self in the mirror. Without a God, what joy is there in this reflection? But what does this reflection sing of if not a God who made it?


However my senses need to be sharpened so that I can pick this God, who shines so clearly in the dark, out in the sunshine, I will take it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

gospel of guffaw

How did Jesus respond, I wonder, to the feeling of sitting down next to the wrong person: in the subway car with the smelly homeless man sleeping, next to the albino teen who reeks of weed, next to the father blasting trap music over the stroller of his giggling toddler daughter, sitting in the empty church pew specifically chosen to be far away from the other freaks at Mass, to be a safe distance from anyone who could qualify as "neighbor," with a safe proximity of space, only to find that that pew happens to be the favorite of the Ignatius Reilly-type character straight out of A Confederacy of Dunces in the long trench coat and woven Crocs, talking loudly to his mother, while ensconcing himself right next to you and enthusiastically ringing the Eucharist bells at consecration.

I try to situate myself so that I am surrounded by those who are not lost: the subway car of manicured faces and shoes, the pew that's bedecked with no other offending stench than my own.

But we are a religion of the lost and losing.

I was reflecting on this: that there's a joy that comes from the Christians who are comfortable with loss and losing, with being in the train car of losers and not of winners. These Christians I know who embody this the most, I think, are those who have worked with The Poor—through teaching, through activism, through motherhood and policy. Evan said that phrase "The Poor" was strange—it is, potentially othering—although biblical. Because, he pointed out, we are all the poor.

Which is true, the radical dependence which the Eucharist initiates us into is a truth, however, which is very easy to intellectualize, to imprison in the abstract and to neglect to incarnate. It's easy to pay lip service to dependency and carry on doing your damndest to ensure you will never need to cash in on that dependence.

But to encounter the poor—those currently cashing in on their dependence—is to encounter the contingency that keeps you in your bubble of independence and not yet cashing in your check for aid. And to encounter the contingency of fate, to encounter the fact that our efforts cannot stave off our need for others, that we are actually born into this need, we inherit this dependency, is to encounter a relief, a surrender, as Rilke writes, to the hum of a story already in motion and to world in which we have a place and a role. Such a surrender leads, of course, to peace, to joy.

I noted that the humans I have found this joy in in spades in New York are the Franciscans. They, like the original Francis, really do find the freedom of Lady Poverty, in being able to laugh freely, guffaw loudly, and delight in the world as Francis did—a man who was free to love what he was radically dependent on, and loved because he cast himself upon the mercy of others, lavishly.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Washington Surrenders

If it be in rebellion or be a transgression against the Lord—save us not this day.

Merton smiles at his forefather underneath his strong twin brow.

Let me tell you about prayer—
it's in the Bible, read it for yourself.


Let me tell you about prayer anyway:

it's the drunken wails of Hannah in the temple,
the violent bargaining of desperate Abraham for Sodom.
It's the anxious mental dithering of the unnamed woman with the flow of blood,
should I touch him?
can I touch him?
can I reach him?
will this work?

Prayer isn't clean
and it isn't King James verse.

For every Magnificat there's Isaac with his pottage
for every Psalm 51 there's Saul,
offering rash sacrifice without the anointed prophet.

it's messy encounter of divine and human
and the humans never, ever get it right.

Jacob wrestles for his blessing,
until he succumbs.

Half of human prayer is a rebellion against the Lord,
and still he saves.

Monday, May 13, 2019

smelly sheep

What is good about sheep? Asks the pastor. He’s very joyful, even at seventy-five. I write down his ovine paean, meaning to relate it to Evan later, and forget.

Sheep, he bleats, in a sonorous baritone, light beaming from his face, are animals who remind us of our spirituality. He details the reactions to the sheep who graze in the graveyard every autumn for several months: overwhelmingly positive. Apparently, a flock of sheep is a universal referent to a bucolic, idyllic past in which we all had space to roam and a community in which to do it.

Sheep follow their shepherd—they are discerning animals who can pick out the tone of their shepherd's voice out of a cacophony of competing voices. Sheep are loyal; sheep are communal—gathering in flocks together. They are mild-mannered, vegetarian, peaceful, harmony-loving.

I love this characterization of sheep: these wooly Buddhas of the hoofèd mammal kingdom, gently nibbling grass all over the hillsides, wanting nothing more than to eat together, to live together, to follow the one voice that calls to them.

The pastoral he's painting is certainly the image of the monastery I'm craving; definitely a referent to the spiritual depths of my memory.

After Mass, I board the subway.

Oh yes, there's just one thing, the pastor adds.

A man is walking up and down, eating crumbs of potato chips from a small bag, humming loudly, his hair standing on end.

The thing about sheep is that they smell. Bad.

This man is followed by the stench of homelessness, which wafts through the subway car: an undefinable but unshakable odor of stale urine, desperation and loneliness.

Passengers pull their jackets up to cover their noses; they move away from where he teeters in the middle of the subway car, towards the doors.

But if the Good Shepherd's sheep knows his voice, I think he, too, knows their smell.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

marianity bears fruit

I reviewed Wild Nights with Emily for America Magazine.

You can read the review here. It is mostly just an excuse for me to meditate on how creative love is and how morbidly impossible it is to make anything from a place of fear. (I also take a moment to advocate for risk, because that has become my pet corollary of [or precondition for?] vulnerability.)

But the reason I link to it and the best part of the entire review is the comments section (I know !) In the comments section, a gentleman reader adds his own poem. It is beautiful. And, to me, makes writing the review worth it. You should read it. I think Emily would be pleased.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Christ is a surprise

The Christology outlined is one in which Christ is a counter-cultural figure, an ally of the poor, the sick, the destitute—all who are socially marginalised. —Graham Ward, "The Politics of Christ's Circumcision"

Crawford shared a pamphlet stuck at the back of his church full of the most hair-pullingly terrible theology. The sort of fearful things invented by people who are still afraid of being zapped by the gods.

Let me be painfully clear. I, too, am vitally afraid of being zapped by the gods. If I'm being honest, this is a fear that rules too much of my life. Because I, too, still insist on imagining divinity in my own image and likeness. It's not an attractive quality. But perfect love is the only thing that casts out fear and I am not yet quite able to entirely hand my entire self utterly over to perfect love. Again, work in progress.

It's just funny how easy it is to forget how wild Christ is, even if you make it a habit to think about, pray to, or read about him each day.

In the midst of all the theologizing, it's really easy to forget that God is wild. The God who is at the center of matter, the creator of mystery, is just like his creation in the sense that he utterly escapes our ability to pin him down. God is not in Aristotle. Aristotle is like vitamins. They are very important to keeping you healthy, and it's a very good thing to make part of your daily diet (unlike Sour Patch Kids or dried mangos). But it's not God, in that, it's not the sustenance, the food that lasts. Aristotle is not Quite It.

The whole thing about Christ is that if you aren't regularly shocked by him, you're not listening.

He's just wild. I keep repeating this word, hoping that it will land. But it's really the only word to describe a God who created the uncertainty principle. Christ embodies divine madness, in that he is never predictable, even in his natural rhythms—like a sunset.

Creation is symphonic—it is marched out, composed, pulled out of the earth with a clear tempo and structure. But it's always fresh, which is really shocking. The earth rotates around the sun slowly each year, turns rapidly on its axis each day, and the result of the monotony is not sameness, but a wild escapade of color, light, cloud, shade, sun, and streaks of clouds.

Christ is the same: his words beat out the same message of love, but its uttered in sparkling, crazed colors. And it's not simply the substance of what he says. His particular idiosyncratic manner of speaking is passed down to us in Scripture through the Evangelists, and it somehow still tracks as particularly his—vivid, arresting, and utterly enchanting.

Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

I think, sometimes, we are too quick to turn historia into theoria—I did it myself, in this sentence: generalizing what is radically particular. Christ is like that. Of course Christ is the logos, the organizing principle of creation, the heartbeat to whose rhythm this whole body runs. But Christ is only that because he is radically unique—one particular Jewish body sweating underneath the sun and saying things like: eat my flesh. Love your enemies. So the last will be first, and the first will be last. Of course they are universal principles manifest in various ways throughout different religions. of course, they are the universal natural law of creation bubbling up in yet another manifestation.

But, coming from the mouth of Christ, translated into English, printed on a thin page of biblical paper, they truly are living water. Water that, 4,000 years after Jacob dug his well, still runs through the cold dark church and can be pulled out with a cup to quench your thirst.

Friday, May 10, 2019

listening

Statt in die weitesten Geleise
sich still und willig einzureihn
verknüpft man sich auf manche Weise,—
und wer sich ausschließt jedem Kreise,
ist jetzt so namenlos allein.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.
—Rilke

It is very hard to listen. It is very hard to not construct, but to collaborate. To surrender. In fact, I wonder if it is impossible.

But the sun seems to do it each day, or at least that's Rilke's point. That the things of this world have a freedom to fall, to die, because they are not trying to be anything other than what they are not. They have an interior freedom of being nothing other than what they are.

It's very difficult to be genuine, which is ironic, because it seems that the one thing we are actually born and able to do as soon as we open our lungs to cry is that we are a self. It seems to be the one thing we should actually be able to do just fine.

But we don't really just be ourselves. We can only learn through imitation—imitating the language, habits, and faces of those around us. We become images of what we see. We quickly pick up the narratives we're supposed to live and inhabit those.

We wander tracks that lead us farther and farther afield.

How do we find our way back to the path that takes us forward?

Perhaps, it is when we cease to entangle ourselves in narrative, when we stop the struggle, and fall, like the leaf outside the window, like the paper from the balcony. We simply let ourselves listen. This takes a lot of courage, because no one will tell you what the metrics are for success in this new position. They are discerned—felt out and distinguished—in the darkness. There is no competition by which you can measure you are winning. It's a strange method of living called being.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

yo soy el pan de vida

Oh I'm very tired—
so is the man on the subway with the guzzy beard and flannel shirt, who stares at the fluorescent tube world through dulled eyes, through the glaze of a screen.

I see the psalms printed on the page through a lens of tears on a cloudy morning—February's chilly gloom seeping into May—a seasonal carbon monoxide leak.

I stare at the talking body across from me through the lens of

boredom—I compose an email I have to send.

anxiety—What time is it? Has my boss called? Will I have time to go to mass?

curiosity—what's happening behind his eyes? What's going on on the inside? The part of him where this internal dialogue is happening inside of me? The part that nobody shows, except in intimacy?

fear and hurt I map onto him, as part of a specific category of person that have nothing to do with him, particularly—does this man, too, watch pornography? What does he see when he looks at me? Does he see nothing more than a bra and breasts? Is he struggling not to imagine me naked? Is he seeing me as I see myself in the mirror? My eyes, my smile, the wrinkle between my eyebrows? Curiosity?

I fidget in a conference cage: how did I get here? I moan. Why am I not in a monastery?

Well, I figure this might as well be. Boredom, anxiety, curiosity, fear, hurt, listening to people you don't want to, and the pain of porn exist in monasteries as well as here.

This could very well be the monastery—the only change you need to make is that part inside of you that nobody sees, except in intimacy and in prayer.

I stare at the talking body across from me through the lens of

Christ—

This person, miraculously forming sounds to words to light—is Christ. I watch him with awe, with curiosity, and with gratitude. This is where I've been called to: listening to him speak here in this room, there is nowhere else to be. Here is Christ, in our meeting. And this is eternal life.



Wednesday, May 8, 2019

crooked heart

I love my neighbor from across the fences
Separating our twin lawns,
Across the expanse of white and picket.

My neighbor isn't crooked,
she's quite straight.
But I love her anyway.

I think of her when I am coaching
My morning glories to slowly encroach
her length of fence.

I guard her steps,
Watching each sneaker cautiously
carrying the autumn leaves
from the back deck to the shed.

I help her stay out of my business
By never asking her hers.

I let her grow,
And leave her be.

This seems to me the best sort of neighborly.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

a definite metanoia

I have given up all hope of adhering to the book in catechism class. The textbook is rigidly arranged in soporific lessons that do not attempt to market themselves to either a child with no theological knowledge whatsoever or to me, with a masters agree, the child's teacher. Therefore, I have mostly scrapped the lesson book for now and have decided that I will teach one lesson and one lesson only—vocation.

If I can make nothing else crystal-clear, I will make it known that there is a God who loves you who you are called to serve with your entire life. And that life you think God wants you to lead is not it—it's the life you're living now: of Instagram, Latin homework, gym on Wednesdays and basketball practice.

Along the way, I find myself teaching surprising tangents that are entirely new knowledge to a demographic I assume too much in. Today I taught twelve-year-olds the story of the Resurrection. As Baptized Catholics, they knew the general concept, but they had only the haziest concept of the details of the Resurrection narratives of Scripture: a Mary was involved and the door was open.

As I began to teach them who Doubting Thomas was, and then realized I had to explain the whole deal, I think I got a whiff of that kerygma-high the first Apostles must have felt when narrating these events for the first time:

And then—Jesus walked through the door. Like a ghost, right? Walking through walls. Like a spirit. And then—do you know what Jesus said next? He says: give me some bread. So they give him bread and guess what—he eats it.

Can ghosts eat?
No. Didn’t think so.

*drops the mic*

He says: touch my wounds. And they touch his body.

Isn't that crazy?!

As I look around the table of scandalized and skeptic faces of small men just old enough to be rational and just young enough to be impressed I realize that these stories are really satisfying narratively—they're dazzlingly odd. And these children are old enough to sense their strangeness. I was taught the story of Resurrection when I was still in an age of enchantment: the world is all sort of magic when you haven't figured out any of its mechanisms, and I hadn't. The Resurrection's singularity was obscured by the general mythic haze of miracle that ringed my world. But for these students, the Resurrection is an interruption of enchantment into an otherwise explicable world.

It is exhilarating.

So I taught them Resurrection, and then wrapped the lesson back around to my main point: which was that Francis Xavier's pre-Jesuit existence is fairly of-a-piece with his missionary existence. He liked socializing, he liked talking, he liked reading and persuasive rhetoric and galvanizing listeners. His unique personality was not erased by grace but elevated and perfected.

He didn't have to change to become a saint, I conclude triumphantly, armchair buddha, ensconced in my halo of anointed enlightenment, inviting others into my zen.

He had to change one thing, said the least-attentive voice in class, he didn't love God before, and then he did.

He couldn't live his life for himself, he had to give it over to God, to live out of love for God. To be himself, but not-quite-himself now: to be a self that was living for someone else.

They ask me:
Is that what you're trying to do, too?

Which, I imagine, must have been the response of the first audiences to the first evangelists.

You must change your life.

Monday, May 6, 2019

what's real in us is silent

Why this endless need for a man as a mirror? To see the Arthur Less reflected there?
Less, Andrew Sean Greer

Da muß er lernen von den Dingen,
anfangen wieder wie ein Kind,
weil sie, die Gott am Herzen hingen,
nicht von ihm fortgegangen sind.

So, like children, we begin again 
to learn from the things,
because they are in God's heart;
they have never left him.
—Rilke

Inside of a person is nothing but a silence, and this is, of course, terrifying—I wonder if this is the image of God in us. It is the part of ourselves that is dark and restless, constantly reaching out into a world, deeper into a heart that doesn't quite make sense. And demands a gentler sort of sense than cold, hard reason.

Anything that's real, anything that's truly worth our time, however, takes place in and with this silence.

I suppose this is known as contemplation.

Contemplation is nothing more than watching, than beholding, than, in fact, seeing.

Learning to be "alone" is first of all, impossible when you are lonely. Loneliness pollutes solitude so that it becomes a toxic isolation.

But the deeper you plunge into solitude, supported by if not a monastery, at least a hearty imitation of one, the more you discover that you are not alone.

But it is hard to get to that place of not-aloneness, when so much of solitude is allowing yourself to be alone: to not be distracted by Twitter, by newspapers, by arousal. So that you can reach the steadier and sturdier realities behind and beyond their imitation offer: conversation and relationship, books, and genuine physical desire—the sort that's a sacramental reality—the sort that takes over your whole body and mind and soul but doesn't eat away at them or confine them, but frees them. Transcendence, I guess.

This is solitude, in Merton's parlance. Also known as peace of heart according to Fr. Philippe. Whatever the name for it, it's certainly what Christ promises the world cannot give.

Because, in the deepest recesses of our heart, where there are no more words, where we are finally a quiet pool of silence, when we strip away all the words, we find that we are not actually an emptiness, and we are not left entirely speechless. This quiet we have been so afraid of, which we have been drowning with all our substitute noises, is a person—a Word, what we've longed to hear, what we've never quite been able to say—the self we were so sure was empty is actually, at its core, quite full. The silence is love.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

one and the same

when I was twenty,
I was torn between being
gentle and being strong.

I thought gentle was what
good people were
and strong was what
powerful people are.

now I am twenty-seven,
which is not much older.

but I have learned
that gentleness is like a tree
and so is strength.

Gentleness without strength
leaves your heart bitter
Strength without gentleness leaves
your mind brittle,
liable to be chipped.

But trees are strong,
because they are gentle,
gentle with the soil they sink into,
gratefully taking and giving in return.
They are gentle with their shade
and their leaves and their branches
sheltering from the strong April sun
and soft May rain.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

living soil

As I walk down the street, I reach out and touch the tree sprouting through its small square inch of planter mulch. City Trees are so incredible, so majestic. They are a glimpse of the world outside—a reminder that, underneath these concrete and asphalt grids lies soil—seething humus sprinkled on the firm granite bedrock.

I touch its bark—tough, scaly—the sort of armor the humans of this city wear.

The mystic sycamores sway in the sunlight sneaking through the thin slats of sky carved by the brownstones and apartment buildings. The silent prayer of growing things, the slight hum of life reverberates in the spring air.

It's a symphonic season—the world bursting into sound all at once, without a visible conductor, but with surprisingly simpatico coordination.

I imagine, as my fingertips graze the tree bark, if this wild symphony of growth took over the concrete and the asphalt. What if these trees swallowed this whole city?

I imagine Manhattan under a thin layer of water, perhaps just enough to send small waterfalls into the subway and to soften the concrete slightly. Perhaps it will even dissolve in the water. Perhaps the trees can eat the concrete.

Manhattan is such a permanence. I wonder how it can ever become a bit smaller, a bit more manageable, how can it become a more natural wilderness again?

Barring the violence of an Aleppo, a clearly inappropriate use of human ingenuity to destroy that which ought to be preserved.

I imagine that these trees mutate to eat concrete, to fuel their photosynthesis with the softened shale of sidewalk.

I imagine this entire city under ivy, moss, and forest. This is the Manhattan I would love to see. Perhaps we will live in trees instead of giant skyscrapers. The Midatlantic climate would have to become a more tropical mangrove forest instead.

This morning, the mist over the Hudson covers downtown. From my outcropping by the Jersey cliffs, underneath the George Washington Bridge, I am simply in a forest of bright green, new spring trees, red flowers, and water.

Nothing here exists except for earth. And I love it.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

hot rain

It's a very rainy day,
and I walk down West 107 toward the subway.

I flick up my umbrella as I leave the church.

I hear jazz.

Where is it coming from?

It's coming from a car—a man is blasting music so full of blue notes the air around his car is indigo.

In the car, he's playing his trumpet along with the music.

I imagine his wailing is unwelcome in the apartment.

So he finds the island of private quiet available in Manhattan—his car, a public kind of privacy.

And he plays tear-streaked music in the rain.

Manhattan is full of poetry, and all of it is sad.

But beautiful.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

divine dissatisfaction

There's a difference between being unhappy and being dissatisfied. I'm not quite sure what the criteria are for this distinction, but you can feel them out once you know their contours.

I think this is what prayer is trying to get us to practice—to understand the difference not between pain and joy, but between pains. There is the pain that simply bites at us, takes out chunks of us and scars us.

But there is this deeper thing, this sense of being not-at-rest, of unease, of unrest. And this must be attended to, in pain or in happiness.

This thing called joy, undergirding all our happiness, upending all our routine, and finding what is constant, what is good, even in the midst of turbulence.