Silent Saturday

The day after you lose your best friend is actually worse than the day that you watch him hang. Because at least while you’re watching him die, the whole thing has an air of reality somehow, even if it’s the worst reality you’ve ever experienced. But the day after he’s dead, you wake up with this sense of unreal-ness, like maybe you dreamed it all, and now it will all be put right.

Every corner you turn, you expect to find his face on the other side. And every time a conversation starts, you strain to hear his voice. I think that’s really why we’re hiding. I mean, we’re hiding from the authorities, of course, because if Jesus is… dead, then surely the rest of us are soon to follow. But I think we’re also hiding from seeing him everywhere we used to spend time with him–in the market, at the table, sitting by the sea.

The truth is, it’s the silence and the emptiness that’s the worst of it. Because at least when you’re crying, you’re doing something. Most of us have spent the day together, and sometimes we’ve talked, or prayed, or cried together, but mostly we just sit in silence and stare at the wall, wondering what to do. Wondering how this man who we gave our whole lives to could suddenly be gone. Continue reading

Godspell

My mother’s faith began with a pack of cigarettes
(menthol miracle)
and a nap with a Western Civ textbook on her chest
dreaming of jeans in a sea of togas.
She met Jesus on the Mount
and then in buckskins, asleep,
seven feet tall.
He opened his eyes at her from a wooden sculpture
and sent her an Episcopal priest,
a mountaintop in eastern Kansas.
Whiskey and smoke were His body and blood,
calling the hippy rocker in the 1980s
who wanted nothing to do with this Galilean carpenter.
He was the God of the small things,
the gritty things,
the pot smokers, the drinkers, those who stayed up too late
and were sanctified in the fire of the early-morning radio station.
Seeing visions and dreaming dreams
long after all the drugs and smoke had gone away.
She met Jesus, sharp edges intact,
on the road to Mount Oread.
She’s never been the “church-y” type.

Ashes

“From dust you came and to dust
you shall return.” Empty powder
blown into a strong wind.

A hollow city steeped in darkness,
lifeless shell of a kingdom
with no energy to even let itself burn.

Tears streaked in grey and brown,
stomach barren and eyes raw,
sitting in sackcloth and despair.

Grey memories mix with black earth.
Your grief is fertile ground,
rising with no place left to fall.

All welcome in the Holy of Holies
now. Serve with hands smelling
like His, a fragrant offering.

On the altar, only ashes remain.

A Lenten Song, pt. 1: Dusk

Washington Monument at sunsetIf you want to see something beautiful
On the first warm day of spring
Put on a good pair of walking shoes
(Even if you can’t find the right socks)
And turn on some joyful music
As you walk out the door and toward the Capitol

The sun is warm on your skin
(Because your skin can finally see the sun)
And for the first time in what seems like forever
The sky is blue and the city comes alive

Between the music
“Shine Your light” and
the people whose eyes are shining
“let the whole world see”
Joy is infectious in this place
And you don’t care that you’re the crazy girl laughing at everything staring into the sun
And seeing all the kids dressed in the colors of a world finally escaping from winter
Unable to stop themselves from running
Across the green earth and around the budding trees
Waiting for something
But they don’t know what
As the dusky sunlight songs float down the mall
And the people from everywhere breathe life bubbling up from the ground
And sense the something about to burst up into the world
Then the sun makes its dive and the cool wind sweeps your breath away
As night slides through the crowd and silences the people
But they dream of flowers breaking through the stones and the color that seeps back into the sky

And the ground vibrates
With the coming dawn

Arlington

If you’re the meditative type, maybe you’ll meander
down where the trails wind around the old memorial
with the stern-faced soldiers pushing the flag
into the ground across the way
from the endless smooth, white headstones
stretching in such straight ranks for what seems
miles behind the stone walls.
You’ll listen to the steady beat
of the every-night runners and the low voices
of the suspicious mothers with their grossly indulgent sons
and the sharp gossip of the Chinese women sitting
on the park bench. At this time of day there’s a place
where all the photographers with their fancy cameras
and their big tripods try to get the perfect shot
of the Lincoln and the Monument and the Capitol all nestled
neatly together. You didn’t realize before you came here
that it really does look like that,
like they’re all sitting one
right next to the other.
And there’s the buzz of the cicadas and the tour buses
and laughing children
climbing on the lions guarding the Carillion,
the bell tower that’s ringing out
the sounds of another day ended.
You could get lost in the thick, humming trees
and the moist, dusky air and almost forget
the million-some going on about their lives around you,
because the roots go deep here, deep into the Virginia soil
upon which such proud men have trod. But the fingernail moon
hangs in the blue-gray sky and the air smells
like forest and growing things
and those dark green “Don John’s” outhouses
meant for the melting summer tourists sitting in piles
and watching the Marine salute.
You pass the man who sits on the same bench every night
with his white trash bags talking to nobody or anybody
or maybe just the fireflies who drip languid green light
over the long grass
like molasses.

As Though in a Mirror

If this is hell, I
wonder what heaven looks like.
You cannot imagine a sky
bluer than this blue.
What’s the Platonic form
of butterflies?
You close your eyes and smell
the sunlight on the long grass.
Will the stars sing with us?
Every square inch of you
bursts with dandelion seeds.
I wonder how perfect laughter
sounds.

A nightingale swoops down
from its branch and chirps at you.
What is God’s Chord?
The warmth on your skin almost
lulls you to easy summer sleep.
What will love be?
You open your eyes, but you’re still
looking at the same sky.
Maybe another day.
You settle into the grass.
But it’s pretty damn beautiful here.

This Morning

Sunlight bursts its way through the curtains
I’ve pulled tightly shut and rolls my reluctant
body out of bed, cursing and grumbling
the whole way down an hour and a half
after my alarm went off.

Shower in a fog, dress haphazardly,
and stumble down the stairs, tripping
on the last two steps (the first one’s
crooked). Turn on the coffee machine
and push down the lever on the toaster.

Sunbeams stream into the dining room
and I sit down. Inhale the hyacinth
in a small glass vase with daffodils.
Listen to the coffee machine humming.
Take out a book. Close my eyes. Breathe.

Road Trip

Backwoods Pennsylvania nothing but
Black tree silhouetted skeletons against
Dark gray sky with pale remnants
Of sunset hanging on in the western distance
Flying through rolling hills flashing
Highway signs rushing by in shades of green
Music reverberating through the car blurring
The lines of rain that empty the sky
Onto the black and yellow paved roads
“Some Nights” we stay up racing back to the city
Downtown lights slowing after endless black
Hills sailing over the bridge and needing
A new tank of gas.

April storm

Sky inked in shades of gray and green
Almost-tornado-sky
Barometric pressure raising the hackles
Of animals and poets
Dancing through the streets with eyes
Full of lightning

Smelling the earth and plasma
Handsprings on wet cement
Electrons raised halfway out of this plane
Spitting cosmic energy like quasars
As they fall

Taste pennies on your tongue
Waterfalling words usually reserved
For theoretical physics and the clinically transcendent
Maybe if lightning strikes you’ll
Finally understand

New life infused with another dimension
Trees budding into warped spacetime
And swaying to the spherical music of mad poets
Thunderblinked and nightcloaked
Dancing in the rain