Maine woods, late September

The summer was warm, and autumn is late,
the dooryards still green, the harvest time waits.
The first hint of orange occurs to some trees,
the first thoughts of gold to spend,
but they haven’t yet committed to turning.
Some leaves they let go, but not many, not many.
The full blush of autumn is not yet upon them,
its funeral, its pyre, its riot, its feast.
The reds and yellows are still coiling their springs,
embryos of generous abandon. They are faint
among the confident greens, but they’re there.
It will take time, but time will come, and the changes.

And I,
I walk through these woods, ripening, and I know.  
Already tomorrow smiles in me, glowing.
A single tree, fearless, throws its beauty to the sun. 
Apples redden.

   —September 28, 2018

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Ballerina on crutches

Some days I feel like a Pulitzer winning novelist
whose manuscript has been eaten by beetles
and whose typewriter has been thrown into the sea.
I feel like the greatest husband on earth
in the Alzheimer’s ward trying to pick out my wife.
A world class musician who’s just had a stroke.
A holy saint trapped in the body of—well, me.
A prima ballerina on crutches.
I feel extraordinarily gifted,
and unable to live it out.
Whether it’s luck or fault or fate matters not.
The crutches are real.

But I am a prima ballerina,
and I am resolved,
even with these damned crutches,
to carry myself with grace.
Some odd divine intent prevails.
I am still a saint; so I am resolved
to live with a shred of kindness showing.
In my corner of the world,
even if this is all in my head,
that’s a noble calling,
and, when I can pull it off,
God being in it,
something of a miracle.

September 27, 2018

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Pluck it out

         If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
                  —Mark 9.47

My eye of judging,
deciding this is bad or good,
unable to see without opinion,
pluck it out.

Hands of my heart that grab and cling,
hands of wanting and seizing,
feet of opposing, of running away,
and their eye, cut them off, cut them off.

The eye that is the mind that is the heart
that is not a heart of peace―
the eye of war,
it causes me to sin.

The eye of resentment,
the eye of greed,
the eye of deserving,
sew it shut forever.

The eye that sees only from my place,
only for my gain,
sees myself without the world,
pluck it out.

Rob me of my cynical eye,
blind me of my distrust,
let me rest my hand on yours
with its white cane and lead me.

Close the eye that already knows,
and let the eye that is mindfulness look,
let me not see,
but behold.

―September 26, 2018

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The same hive

        John said to him, “Teacher,
         we saw someone casting out demons in your name,
         and we tried to stop him,
         because he was not following us.”

                        —Mark. 9.38

I’m not in the same hive as those bigoted disciples—
am I?, with my pious bigotry
against those who are not in my hive?

What will it take for me to embrace
with heaven’s fullness those who are not like me,
who see it differently?

It may take slowing down and listening,
holding my fallibility like a torch,
being more curious than right.

And maybe tending to the person, their story,
what is right and true in them,
even cloaked in all the wrong dressing.

And maybe looking for where grace happens,
in whatever form, even strange ones,
for grace always wears the shabbiest costumes.

And maybe listening for God
who is not pronouncing but calling,
even in the wrong people, calling to me.

Tending to God,
who works even through misguided people,
even me.

   —September 25, 2018

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Your story

You have your story,
the knife that stays in the wound,
a tapestry of hidden pain
made of twisted threads of silence,
turned backside out, unseen.
No one wants to hear,
the wall keeps its secrets.
Behind your lips the darkness
is a tomb, still deepening.
A body wrapped in stiff linens.

But the Beloved wants to hear.
Knows the story, of course,
having suffered it.
But waits patiently at the table,
sits resting in the silence,
like his hands in his lap,
belonging there.
Lends courage for the telling,
remembering the men and their stones,
the crown of harsh words,
the women running from the garden.
Stands weeping outside the tomb.
And waits for the Lazarus moment
of your story coming out,
alive, and changed.

   —September 24, 2018

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Wisdom and mercy

         Show by your good life that your works are done
         with gentleness born of wisdom.
         The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable,
         gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits,
         without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

                        —James 3.13, 17

God,
let gentleness be the air I breathe,
wisdom the well I drink from:
wisdom from you,
pure as a mountain spring,
wiling, not willful,
the wisdom that is mercy,
a strong river of grace
a tree with life-giving fruits.
May mercy be my muscles
and gentleness my bones,
and your wisdom the breath
within my breath.
Calm and resourceful,
I face the world
with courage and love
born of your grace,
gentleness born of wisdom.

   —September 21, 2018

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Child

                  Whoever welcomes one such child in my name
                                    welcomes me,
                  and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me
                                    but the one who sent me
                                            —Mark 9.37

                        

Not the mighty muscled Lord,
you come to me, God, small in the dark,
an orphan, fleeing, silent,
such tiny hands.
We walk by a wide sea, or is it a desert?
You crossed it
without knowing the future.
Can I bear without excuse
your enduring heartbreak,
your uncertainty?
What would you do
in these glaring streets, these chain link alleys,
without me?
You ask no greater courage of me
than to need no greater god,
to walk with you without words
into your childhood,
to hold your hand.

   —September 20, 2018

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Overwhelmed

         Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts;
         all your waves and your billows have gone over me.

                        —Psalm 42.7

         When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
                        Isaiah 43.2

Hurricane winds have torn the air itself apart.
The sea and all its deep is heaped upon you.
The sod of grief laid down in silence buries you.
The diagnosis weighs, the fear
floods your veins, your heart, your lungs.
What you must do, a swarm of locusts,
noisily consumes your life.
You sigh, you weep, and sigh.

In the dark waters you pass through,
the devastated ruins where you lived,
I will be there.
Even as night closes it is my arms you feel
or do not feel.
I hold you, even now, I hold you close.
The sodden air, the trough of sorrow
open to the sky, the pleading heart,
is me, steadfast in you.
You will go on, in the tiny ark of my heart,
and after long enough for much to die
in this world and the next
we will begin again.

In the naked fields
birds return.

____________________
Weather Report

Forty days
beyond whose floods
new things emerge.
One hundred percent chance of rain
and bows.

   —September 19, 2018

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Servant of all

         Whoever wants to be first
         must be last of all and servant of all.

                        —Mark 9.35

Come be the servant of the least.
The child, without status, power or place.
The addict, hopeless and broken.
Be the servant of the child molester,
the insane, the unnoticeable.
Be the the last among the unacceptable,
the forgotten, the wrong.
Not to shame yourself,
not to out-humble the humiliated,
but to love them,
to serve them for their sake
purely because you want them to be served.
And having imagined the grimy stranger
under the bridge don’t forget
the co-worker, the spouse,
even the scared little voice inside you.
It’s not expert self-abashment.
It’s love.

   —September 18, 2018

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Into human hands

         The Chosen One is to be betrayed into human hands…
                  —Mark 9.31

your hands,
the ones you use to button your shirt this morning
the Beloved in them brushing your teeth
choosing your breakfast food
wielding the knife
as you will in someone’s heart sooner
or later buttering the toast
Christ judged and sentenced in your
hands steering where you do
pointing at certain people
or shielding your eyes from them
taking things manipulating things
the keyboard the phone the whip
blood on them his
your own maybe
the weaving of that crown of thorns
being so brutal on your
hands you hold hands with
you feed children with
you bless and caress and
close doors or open your hands are
doors you can open or close
the cross that can hold him
the grave that can’t hold him
your hands that are always full because
he is holding them
your hands you decide with
you reach for the instrument
you pull the lever
you touch the wound
what will you do with
the Holy One in your hands
the simplest gesture
is the power of Christ
even trembling and unsure
holding him
fresh from the grave
like a baby
in your hands

―September 17, 2018

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