Full Stop

Your smile is firmly
entrenched in my mind’s eye
even while my heart’s
tongue tastes still Your tears,
salty and sweet both.

Yours is a lament that sings
to an air of promise.

Sometimes I hear You call
my name: now
in a dream, now
in a desire, now
in a drive to be
more fully me.

God, in this You find
me: heart pounding
at a full stop.

To Catch a Tear

The clock just chimed 5:00 am
and the neighbourhood birds
are singing the sun up,

and the sun coaxes the earth
to turn again and again and
again without end.

The chimes fill the house,
every corner penetrated by
morning’s evangel.

I sit in the basement and scribble
this poem while around the world

this tick accompanies a death;
that tock witnesses a birth.

The hands are on the face:
now in delight; now in lament;
now in laughter; now…

in time to catch a tear.

in skies, if not eyes…

This loss is lamented.

Conversations that might have been
are never to be, and

words that
breed hope,
feed joy, and
nurture love

have fallen by the wayside.

Weeping tarries for this time
lost. Words that might have flown

have fallen to the ground, now
buried in soil.

There they are lost to us.
We can but hope that
the earth holds them
safe in her womb, where
one day they might be born
anew when muses tap
poets, and kiss
artists, and
set stars
in skies, if not eyes…

Dance me a Prayer

Yesterday I spent my Sunday morning at Trinity Lutheran, New Hamburg. The good folk there invited me to speak on the topic of “evil” in the adult education hour, after the Anchor service at 9:30 am. It was a delightful morning. Pastor André spoke winsomely of the passion narrative, making reference to the Greek text in order to reframe the story for us and thereby giving occasion for my heart to be strangely warmed. Pastor Anne presided at Holy Communion. It is always a treat to hear again her voice. I closed my eyes and experienced transport of a sort as she chanted me into a different place, a different time. We sang one of my favourite Lenten hymns: Go to Dark Gethsemane. The journey had just begun.

With coffee in hand I moved over to the education room, where I had opportunity to chat with 30 or 40 people on the topic of evil. It was a rich experience, indeed, as I heard the stories that sustain people, as well as the questions that plague them. We spoke for a time on the topic of evil, and its character as both a philosophical quagmire and an existential pit. We spoke of evil’s irrational character, which seems to preclude making sense of it.

People asked me probing questions, and together we endeavored to imagine a Christian response to evil – looking to lament and a struggle against injustice to assist us in such times and places. People spoke so openly of their trials – it was really very moving. One elderly woman spoke of her strategy for dealing with the dark days that descend upon her from time to time. She told me, she told us all that when a heavy, claustrophobic cloud descends upon her, she pulls out her favourite dancing music and dances – all by herself in her room – despite the fact that she can hardly walk. She can dance herself out of the darkness in vexing moments. It was beautiful to hear her talk of her strategy and the hope she embodies in dancing. It struck me that her dance is her prayer of lament, of faith, of life.

On this, the beginning of Holy Week, we could do worse than imagine ways to dance together through the multifarious modes of darkness that descend upon us here and there, now and then. This elderly dancer spoke to us of the relief that comes as we allow our body to speak what our heart feels. I don’t know about the others, but I came away a little richer yesterday as I was afforded that curious opportunity to be a co-learner as well as a co-teacher.

My prayer for us, Lenten pilgrims all, is that we may take advantage of this week to discern how to dance a prayer through the darkness: from dark Gethsemane to the darker cross and tomb, and then at the last into the glorious splendor of life.

Lament for a Tree

Friday evening a northern high pressure system collided with a vagrant mess of hot, sultry weather in Southwestern Ontario. Tornadoes touched down some 100 km from where I live, and gusts of up to 100 km/hour were reported in our area. I sat in my living room, mouth agape as trees ducked to escape sheets of water rifled at them with Thor-like intensity. After the storm subsided, I took a peak in our back yard. I was astounded to find that our neighbor’s 80 foot tall tree lay on his lawn. It fell at such an angle that it narrowly missed his shed in the back. The fall left a hole in the yard the size of a large fish-pond., The size of the now horizontal tree became evident as it engulfed half of his backyard. As he, I and my wife surveyed the damage, I expressed my condolences. He appeared heart broken and it struck me that for many – including me – a tree is more than a tree.

I was intrigued to learn, not so long ago, that one of the Norse sagas claims that humans were morphed from trees. In the book I call holy, certain trees are identified as sources of life, and the knowledge of good and evil. As we roamed across Norway last month, we also learned that some believed and believe elves to live in solitary trees. Many cultures have little people of one sort or another associated with tree life.

In many ways, there is more to a tree than meets the eye.

Across the road from our house, I bumped into Jim yesterday. Jim was cleaning up the aftermaths of the storm in his own front yard. We spoke of our neighbour’s loss. Jim was deeply saddened. He has a some stately trees of his own, including a spectacular oak. I once asked him the age of this tree, and he told me that he an arborist had suggested that it was likely over 300 years old. That tree at the corner of his yard was there before there was a yard, a street, a town, etc. If trees could talk, what tales they could tell! If we could hear, what stories we could savour!

In the book Tree: A Life Story, David Suzuki and Wayne Grady explain that the difference between hemoglobin (a human’s life blood) and chlorophyll (a tree’s life blood) is the presence of Iron where Magnesium is found in an otherwise identical molecule. Perhaps we humans have more in common with these gentle giants than first meets the eye. When all the trees of the forest sing for joy (Psalm 96:12), perhaps we might join in, and begin to learn a little about joy, about life, about tenacity.