Arboreal Lessons

Our tree is not ours, but it
allows us to imagine it
so. It has much to
teach us, each
fall shedding
its skin,

leaving a leaf on step,

which when wet plays

the mirror and so

allows me to see my eyes

on its veins. It minds me.

This tree, with its leaf, speaks to me of creation and its end.

It knows intimately
the wager of letting
go: falling from
branch’s security.

It knows of farewells
and weeping
and the beauty of
ochred red against verdant grace.

It knows that this blue
globe we call home is
ocular: God’s seeing us.

Candle Eyes

20161023_121840These candles have their
eyes on me. I’m bound,
now by their not

letting me know
what they see with
their eyes’ inner eye

that still decries my
blindness to matters that
matter. Nor

can I see the
air wick eats as
it opens orb.

And yet I sit, transfixed
and inflicted with the
beauty of fire’s breath:

surely, slowly, aflame.

Pictographs at Superior

20160726_175710-2

No, these images cannot be
described – neither
poetry nor prose can
circumscribe these etchings
on stone, cyphers of tenacity
sketched on rock, scars of strength
anchored across
grandfathers’
cheeks.  My cheeks
now moistened as I feel
this place dripping divine: mine
the gain as  I lay down any sense
of superiority,
of expertise,
of being high priest.

No, none of these
obtain because here I am
a drop of water crashing against rock;
a tear salting skin-on-fire;
a dropping of the guard into the
truth that being a drop is more
than enough.

My Proper Fear

I have no fear of
those who wield worlds of
war, wealth and stealth.  It’s
the robins I fear, who
sing the world silly guarding
their nests; who
drop egg-blue bombs that
leak a beauty so
pregnant with praise that
the trees bow in obeisance.

 

I fear the dandelions, those dents-de-lion whose
teeth steel the sun as their
eyes track my every pilfering of
their lair.  I fear for
my presence on this fierce earth,
which marks my ways and will
demand of me an accounting
for what I have done with
cardinal’s cues.

 

But I do not fear you, dear reader, nor
do I fear my
breath portending death – that
distillation of life and perfect love,
casting out every fear.

Sacred You

The world is scarred, and
its people bleed; their
tears stain oceans. Earth’s
skin is torn; hope
evaporates. Dreaming
reverts again to nightmared
sleep that leaves, that left
both Mother and child bereft.

 

And yet You come, You
Healer of our Every Ill, You
Balm in Gilead, in Syria, in Ecuador, in Attawapiskat –
rippling across globe like
pebbled waves – as dogged as
spring’s march, sap’s flow, universe’s expanse.

 

You kiss this scar we are
and etch beauty across pain.
You come to us again.
You come.
You.

Tedium Knocks

Amidst beauty,

tedium knocks at my door.

Others’ trials tire me.  I

shrug.  This too will pass so why

doesn’t it pass me by?

Why do I find myself victim to

his oversight, to

her schedule, to

their, to their lives’ lunacy.

Yes, that is it: life.

Life raises its head in

dim din and beauty both.

A beauty such as this:

A sky cracked by tree’s bared crown

surrounds me, and I, I revel

in what is petty,

in poverty, even

in plenty.

Winter’s Reach

Not far from here,
sequestered in
forgotten cracks of
hidden boards below
decks scattered across
this city, winter
awaits. At just the
right moment
reaching out with
a tentacle of frost –
slipping across graying
once green grass – it will
Midas in silver and we will
awaken in a diamond.
And then, with purity, it will pounce
and pronounce us its subjects –
for a time,
for a time.

From Author to Editor to Auditor

Patick Modiano, the 2014 Nobel prize winner for literature, expressed interest in learning what it was about his work that earned him this honour. He was quoted saying that “one cannot really be one’s own reader.” This aphorism, which seems at blush to be but a throw away line is anything but. It is an observation made by a writer who has honed his craft for many years. The line set my mind to thinking about reading my own writing.

Do I read my work? I certainly edit my work. Anyone who writes any amount knows that getting words on paper is but the tip of the iceberg that is writing. Below the written tip is an ice mountain of work: wrestling the right word into place; switching paragraphs hither and yon beyond the patience of the harshest editor of all – the self. But is editing a work reading it? Once again, yes and no seems to go as a best first stab at answering the question: yes our eyes scan the words and detect errors and distractions, but no too; no in the sense that I do not experience the same kind of dislocation I feel in reading other authors. And so while it seems that I can have the experience of entering my text as a reader, I do not have the experience of the text entering me – at least not in the same way that I experience that when reading the writing of others. When I read the work of others I have this gratifying sense of utter alienness; of being at sea as I ask what the author has in mind. When I write, by contrast, I struggle to get what is in me out, and onto the page. When I read my own work, this is what I read.

So it seems that I cannot really read my work, but it also needs to be said that I cannot but read my work: ignoring what I have put to paper seems impossible. Something of the self remains resident in my writing and so not attending to it is rather like ignoring a mirror: not impossible, but surely difficult. And as is the case with many difficult bits in life, asking why it is that I am drawn or repelled by this or that is surely a salutary experience. What is it about the mirror that arrests me? When I revisit what I have written I do not encounter someone vastly different (as can happen in reading your work) , but I do experience a sense of the self at a distance. Perhaps this is because writing, at least for me, is not so much an experience of saying what I think about this or that, but an experience of saying whom I am. This self, however, really comes to be known to me in my writing. What I had intuited becomes concretized in my text. And because it is hard to encounter the self on account of my proximity to my writing, I need others – I need others, other readers and editors. As I hear what you encounter in my texts, I am given a fresh chance to hear myself anew, to become my own “auditor” in the sense that the word auditor comes from the Latin word for “to hear”(and so someone who “audits” a course listens in on it). My readers make me an auditor, an observer of my own work because my readers hear me out and in their hearing I begin to see and hear what I have written anew.

In the end, while it might be the case I cannot really read my work, it surely is the case that I can “hear” it by grace of your reading. You become for me ears to hear and eyes to see my work anew and for that, I say thanks.

This Too is Beautiful

I spent this last week in Helsinki, Finland for the 2012 Luther Congress.  The Congress meets once every five years.  It was an exceptional experience that allowed me to see old friends, meet new, and learn how much I have to learn.

My family and I were in Helsinki for about six hours on our way to St. Petersburg five or six years ago.  It was a delight to spend more time in this beautiful Nordic city.  One of the memories from our previous trip was a visit to the RockChurch.  Take a look at it at http://www.sacred-destinations.com/finland/helsinki-rock-church-temppeliaukio.  Fortunately, I had time on my last day to make a pilgrimage to this site.  It really is one of the most astounding churches I have ever visited.  The blend of rock, natural light, a copper roof, and well planned site lines make it a church that preaches that God has made the world good.  This is truly a beautiful church.

As you can imagine, such a church attracts tourists.  I arrived there shortly before the church opened.  Soon busses arrived.  The quiet tranquil atmosphere changed as smart phones, cameras and tablets began their busy work of capturing the moment.  As I sat there, I wondered how many pictures there are of this church in the digital universe.  My mind reeled at the thought, and then I wondered why people take pictures of such places.  I remember a professor once telling a class that tourists take pictures in a vain attempt to “capture” what cannot be captured.  I used to think he was right

But as I sat and watched the tourists from all around the world snapping away, I began to question this professorial wisdom.  I noticed how much people smiled while taking pictures, and while having their picture taken.  They really seemed to enjoy the experience of being together in this place.  Taking photographs is a way to be together.  Every now and then I ask tourists who are taking pictures of one another if they would like me to take one of them together with their camera.  They always say yes, and I always smile while I participate in their joy of being together.  This too is beautiful.  This too is to be celebrated.  Maybe you too have experiences of such unexpected beauty; such experiences of grace upon grace.