Walking down an Addis Street

my mind drifts, following
my eyes, now on a
pothole, now on a
building bending from sky
to ground, now on
beauty whisking across
the street with poise and purpose,
now on a row of toilets and sinks
and pipes for plumbing lives.
But then I see a little finger
swaddled in a mother’s
hand. And I think on
You and my soul
floats up to a
place where
I know
Love.

Into My Desire

How is it that You stay away
but still dwell more deeply
in me: You the Horizon
swallowing an ocean tanker whole;
You the Sea that tides my desire
over and over and over again;
You this perpetual Ache that
washes me from head to toe
so that I know nothing of
myself save wanting of You.

Now, this orange I taste is Your lip
this wind on my arm Your finger tip
this warmth of sun Your breath on my neck
and this spirited laugh that wells from within
is now Your Spirit, spinning me round
and round until I collapse into
my Desire, into You.

Dear Mom,

Dear Mom,

It’s been nearly six years since you left us, although you didn’t depart altogether. Every now and then, I find you in my shadow, banging pots about in the kitchen, flavouring this, tasting that. You carried me in your womb, your prayers, your heart and now I find myself bearing you, in divers ways. The other day, for instance, I found myself peeling a potato, and felt you hand guiding mine, sliding along the contours of this root of the earth, sensing that a potato was capable of bearing love, and that cooking for those I love is as holy as was my pious prayers at the altar today, where I sensed you yet again.

You have given me many things, Mom. But one of the best is a respect for women. I am surrounded by strong women: my wonderful wife who has imbibed deeply from her own Mother’s well of wisdom and has also found some wisdom of her own; my courageous daughters who continually redefine success for me; sisters and in-laws whose faith buoys me; friends and colleagues who leave me in awe with their talent, their dedication, their ability to know exactly what to say to me when it needs to be said.

You have given me the gift of eyes, Mom. What a precious gift that is! As yours faded so many years ago, in some small way I think they migrated to mine, and every now and then I think I see through you… well, only in part, dimly, through a glass darkly, as the good apostle says. I will never know what it means to be a woman, but from what I can see from where I sit, it is a marvel and a challenge, a contentment and a frustration; a holy calling.

Men sometimes stereotype women as emotional, but those leaky eyes I encounter here, and there; this turn of the head when cheeks become beds for rivered emotions; this weeping is pleading for justice and a burden for peace and healing. These tears often prophetically announce that things are not as they should be, and are begging for a world more just. I stand in awe of such tears and wish them for myself: to be able to cry peace and righteousness; to be fit to sob for the healing of creation. This I covet when I find myself paralyzed. But the women in my life, Mom, show me the way, just like you did for so many years: be not afraid; look for the opportunities to brighten someone’s world; invite people into relationship; knock at the door until someone opens; be of good courage; pray always and in many ways.

I miss you so, Mom, but I know that you are in a good place. I also know that you are never so very far away. That veil separating us is thinner than we imagine. And I thank God for your example: you were not perfect and you taught me that I don’t need to be either. You taught me that love takes many forms, and it needs to be embraced for its diversity. You taught me things that you did not know you taught me.

Today is Mother’s Day but I think on you every day and know that what made you a marvel was not so much that you are my mother, but that you were you, that you are you. Your being you, unapologetically, reminds me every day that the sacred slips into our lives askew: now in a potato peel, now in a tear, now in song, now silence, now.

Lovingly yours,

Allen

Waves of You

I don’t know what to do
with this love. You
invade me and I collapse.
Words fall from my mouth as if
I have become a child bereft.
I feel waves of You in
Your absence. And
then You return. A
frazzled God, You
dazzle me in
proximity and my
head, my
heart spins. You
win me over yet again. You
begin in me differently. But
still I hurt. Still I weep
You in tears.

The Present in Your Presence

Today You touched me
and I trembled – the world
slid a little to one side,
and adrift
I held to You in the
gap – Your eyes
holding and warming me,
Your heart encompassing
mine. You, God, You
meet me in so many
ways – now
with a glance – now with
hope: here a dream,
there a memory:
there, yes, there, when
the past kisses the future
and ushers the present in
Your presence.

Infected Hope

Not so very far
from hope dwells love,
where time is stopped
with this gesture and
that glance. Each
is but a breathing
that this is enough.

Some say God is
love and so it seems;
but hope too is infected
with the divine; this sacred
contagion spreading
like wild fire, like a
virtuous virus,
causing
me to see
trees at prayer
skies in rhapsody
and you, yes You.

Today the Eclipse

Today the eclipse:
sun undone by
the ellipsis moon
so that dark and light
might bleed into
each other; so that
a shadow may
open the door to love
and let dreaming
into day – wolf and lamb
at play; a world upside
down.

Perhaps we all need
a little more eclipse, a little
break in the day, in the
way we do things:
judging him using her bagging it.

They say that if you look at the sun
you might burn its image on your eye.
I say that if you look at love
you might burn with God.

Night in the afternoon. Chaos at tea time.
Did this day preach to you?
Can I get a witness?