Lawn Tall Bean

There is a bean to be seen
growing in the middle of our lawn,
there by grace of a chipmunk who squirreled
away a pod found in the ground of my garden;
my three sisters garden.

This bean would not be save for
the drought that stopped my lawn mowing,
without which it would have been a has bean.

I’m contemplating what kind of a bean pole
might serve as a lean-to for this lawn tall bean.
Maybe a stick that it can stick to while it rises
in our yard, or maybe a rod, stuck in the sod,
iron graced with the green of bean.

I’m watching this plant with bated breath
as Creator works wonders despite,
or rather because of,
Chip’s plunders.

In the Face of a Fireplace

Our fireplace is gas, a pane of glass
keeps me from reaching in and fiddling
with the fake flaming logs.

Piercing these logs are legs,
belonging to the coffee table,
between me and the fire.
The legs hold aloft another
sheet of glass, which slices me in half,
my reflection bifurcated
.
Each glass surface
reflects, refracts, and now
allows my eyes to see through –
if I sit just so.

God, too, is glass. Now I see
my face. Then I tilt my head and
I see grace, deeper than this surface,
which is, itself, sheer, evocative, apocalyptic.

All of our Kneeling

George, Breonna, Trayvon, Ahmaud,
Chantel, Tina, Regis, Dudley…
these names all call to me
in the beat of my heart

sometimes with a rhythmic reminder that
I am alive and they are not

sometimes while racing in a fear
fashioned after theirs at their last

sometimes in a full stop – that
sliver of time between blood in, blood out…

And in that eternal between, those who are gone appear with You and
open my eyes to see again that all of our kneeling is not pious.

Conversing with Trees

Here I sit, empty.
No poem comes to me.
Stirred, I go in search
of a verse to pluck.

But on what kind of tree does
a poem grow? Our garden
offers plenty of possibilities:
pine and oak,
beech and maple
spruce and hemlock.
Each one of these spirited trees is
ripe with grace and
rife with peace.

I settle, conversing with trees.
And even if no poem should arrive,
I’ll be succored by the sight of leaves aloft,
and trunks holding up the sky, my eye now
soaking in the chlorophyll filtered light,
inciting wonder, if not a poem.

In Praise of Pansies

I glanced out my May window,
and saw a pansy and her peers
standing out
in the snow with faces
cheery, appearing cherubic.

I praised these strong flowers and
asked them about their life with men.

They spoke of being trodden under foot, and
of hearing their name used and abused
to hurt, to maim, to wound others,
and so, their own way of being in the world.

I hung my head in shame.

Upon seeing this, these pansies
turned their heads to the sky, so that
I, too, might look up and perceive that
those closest to the earth have a worth
rooted in what those who trample
flowers will never know.

Staycation in Canvas and Verse

Today my wife and I were to return home after a week spent in Trinidad and Tobago building a home with Habitat for Humanity. It became apparent some time ago that this was not to happen, but I had a week of holidays to be completed before the end of April, so a staycation was in the offing.

The danger of staycation, especially after an extended period of working at home is figuring out a way not to work at home. I have to admit that I wasn’t altogether successful at this, but I did better than I thought I would. I was helped, largely, by two decisions I made. One was to buy a year’s subscription to Master Class, and the other was to work on a painting that has been kind of drifting about in my head for some weeks.

I was especially interested in Billy Collins’ class on poetry in Master Class. I delight in Collins’ poetry and so was not surprised to find his lessons entertaining, insightful and inspiring. He revealed much about himself and his process of creating poetry, all the while sharpening my tools for reading poetry as well as writing it. One of his great lines from the class was “the beauty of a poem can be measured by the degree of silence it creates when it is finished.” He read a few poems of his own and introduced me to others that gave me pause at their completion. Collins’ lectures, mostly in 10 minutes clips or so, allowed me to take in small bits, think about them for a time and return when I was ready for more. Undoubtedly, I will be revisiting these before the year is over. I have just started Margaret Atwood’s class, and it proves to be promising as well.

I would spend my morning doing a bit of reading, listening to a few Master Classes, and then think a bit about my painting for a half-hour to an hour. At noon or so I would go for a jog, eat some lunch with my working wife, and paint for a good part of the afternoon. Painting, when you are in the right space, is a timeless activity. A minute feels no weightier than an hour. Sometimes, I find my heart racing as an idea falls in place for dealing with some shape, or colour, or balance. Sometimes I tremble at the fear that I am going to wreck something that feels right as I move the painting forward. Painting, like running, are really spiritual experiences for me. I feel God powerfully in them, and they do not need to be successful to be successful.

I spent my evenings watching a movie, or another Masterclass, or reading some theology. I would end my evening with some yoga and a glass of red wine. I found good bits of silence in the course of my week, which makes me think that some of it was poetic, à la Collins. Luther famously said that the Holy Spirit is the best poet of all and so I suspect that divine fingerprints can be found here and there in this week of canvas and verse.

Eggs, Over and Out

On my way downstairs,
I grabbed an empty
egg carton –
ripe for recycle –
recalling that
my daughter started
spring plants in one filled
with twelve fistfuls of soil:
a dozen ova of expectation;
a dozen disciples of revivification;
a dozen loci of resurrection.

My egg carton remains empty.
But still, I find the vacated spaces generative.

Ocean of Easter

No poetry I write can quite
do You justice, since these
fractured, fumbling words are
but drippings of my soul from
heart to hand to page.

You speak and I fly;
You turn away and I fall.
I am between sky and sea as
You suckle me with Your
seeing me now,
not now, now.

But always You arrest me,
attesting to Your quest to
raise me, amazing me
as I envisage Your angels
sliding across my heart; and
Your graces probing me.
I am at sea In You:
Ocean of Easter.

Home is Where the Questions Are

Home is where the questions are:

My hearth now a why
My door a where
My window a who
My pen a how
My clock a when

And presently my oven is baking a future.

At our table we eat hope
but every now and then
I fail to attend to the time
and a bit of despair
is scorched in our
daily bread.

My pantry asks me about
my neglect, or sanity perhaps,
with no deluge of toilet paper, or
yeast, or pasta, or beans.
Gape-mouthed, I failed
to seize the day, or
the flour.

Home is where the questions are:

Why do we count angels on the head of pin while people die?
Why do we cast stones at those who think, who act differently?
Why don’t we break out in song, in dance, in verse at the fact that

home is where the questions are;

and questions are where the Answer is.

I am Water, the Hour, Food

I/ Water

My name is nibi, mayim, pani, water.
And I am here to inform you
and Jesus, too, that I am
very much alive.

And he would not be, save
for the fact that I am some
60 percent of whom he is.

I am ancient, and I am new.
I was born at
the time of creation.

And still I am being
birthed, wherever and whenever
a complex of carbon and
hydrogen sparks with oxygen.

I measure 1.4 billion
cubic kilometres
large on earth. Now

a cloud arresting your eyes, now
a single flake of snow so intricate it screams “glory!”, now
an iceberg, a diamond writ large, now
a dewdrop stopping creation as it sings from a petal.

I am waving at you from the ocean
I rain on both the just and reprobate
I slake your parched throat.

And I am happily recycled;
some of me-in-Jesus is
now Jesus-in-you.

You, dear hearer, have tears that

were once the sweat of Christ;

the water in this font

was once in the well of

of Sychar, of Shechem.

Now, I make alive. Now, I drown.
Now, I am the ocean all around
humankind in utero.

I am water. But I have no idea what
Jesus means when he promises
a well swelling and self-multiplying
into eternal life.

This is something new,
I know nothing of self-replication;
There is no spermatozoon in me; nor ovum;
no self-pollinating possibilities, even
though I am, where life is.

My name is water, pani, mayim, nibi

II/ The Hour

I am the hour. You have met me; you know me well.
I come around every now and then.
I am that time that wakens you

now with joy; now with terror.

I am that moment when the truth cracks you open

And you know you will never be the same.

I am that time the doctor sits you down…

And I am that time you open a letter and read

“I am pleased to inform you…”

I was your being born and I will be your dying.
I am haunting, I am holy. I am the hour.

I am burned in your mind, where you find traces of all of those little dyings, those little deaths:

That moment of being tongue-tied

That instance when you failed to look left

That time when you shied from speaking out…

I am also alive in your flesh.

I am that muscle memory of that first poignant fist pump

That instance of knowing that you could go further, bear more, be more

I am the hour: pounding your heart and clocking your time.

I am those poignant, agonizing, beautiful moments:
“When a woman is in labour, she has pain because her hour has come.”

I am also the hour at the other side of life:

A breath in, a breath out,
a breath in, a breath out,
a breath in, a breath out,
a breath in, a breath out,

and then silence – silence so sheer it could slice a mountain in half.

I am the hour, “coming, when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father.” Yes, I am that time of clarity, of insight, when you see that your seeing is mostly in the dark, with the odd and wonderous moment of lightning flashing across the screen of the sky: but will you look at the lighting or at what it illumines?

I am that hour

When you finally know that your knowing is fractured and through a glass darkly;

I am that hour

When you discover your doing is flawed, and awkward, and so, so beautiful that it makes angels weep.

I am that hour

When you finally feel your feelings; and live in your skin and rejoice, even though you know it is soon all over.

I am the hour… “for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you

unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it

remains a single grain; but if it dies it bears much fruit.”

I am

green…… green… green

cracking black…

I come around every now and then.

You have met me; you know me well. I am the hour.

III/ Food

I am food.

Are you hungry?

Are you looking for me?

Sometimes I am easy to find, too easy some say.
Other times I am as scarce as world peace,

ribs poke out and
bellies bloat with water retention.

I am the first thing on the mind of many as the day begins,
and I am the agony of those at enmity with me.

I am food and with every bite, I invite you

to fight for climate justice,
to battle for food security,
to leverage all your power so that no-one is ever without me.

I am food. I weep at my absence while Canadians throw away more than half of the food they produce.

I am food and finally, I refuse the logic of a zero sum:

When I am shared, there is always enough, there is always more.

You know me, because I am you:

Your planning in this garden’s graces.

Your loving hands in kneaded bread.

Your tears in soup, your song in salad, your laughter in a latticed pie.

I am your daily bread: I am

the farmer, and the soil she worships;

the seed so sacred: sown, for, given, for you

I am your daily bread: I am

the trucker and truck bearing me to the mill to be floured;

the worker who does a most holy thing: showing up day in and day out.

I am your daily bread: I am

the bright dawn beginning at the bakery and the miracle of scoring a loaf

now I am that aroma and texture, that delicate balance of air and flavour

“My food is to do the will of the One who sent me and to complete God’s work.”

I am that food: I sate you with service.
I am that food: I satisfy you by slaughtering greed.
I am that food: I content you with meeting needs.

“My food is to do the will of the One who sent me and to complete God’s work.”

I am food; I am mystery. I am Eucharist and this I want you to know:

The One whose food is to do the divine will, will never forsake you.
As you eat me you, too, become food…

Bread for the journey.

You become me, and we will be, together, eternally.

I am food. I am your hunger.

The above was presented in Keffer Chapel at the Open Door Service on March 11, 2020 as a reflection on John 4:5-42.