Well-Worn Wool

29 Sep

Sometimes
the anger
covers me like a
well-worn
woolen coat
comfortable in its familiarity
muffling the experience
of every other sensation
sound
smell
sight
touch
taste
warped between
layers of woven fiber
before they can reach me.

Sometimes
the anger
rushes through my lungs
like mountain air
at the first hint of morning
heady and sharp and refreshing
in its sudden intensity
conducting the beating of my heart
and the flow within my veins
until my blood pounds
with its force of feeling
and my entire being
is funneled through its singularity.

Sometimes
the anger
creeps in like a
night upon the tundra
paralyzingly cold
cold
cold
until my lips are sealed
and my hands forget to shake
and my eyes harden
into vacant obsidian
and my mind
drifts
far
far
far
away.

But Your anger
is not like mine
Your anger does not
diminish
or distort
or demand full control
or disconnect
Your anger
refines in its burning
protects in its ardor
is uncompromising
and intractable
only in its dedication to
my good
Your anger
is birthed from
love
while mine
negates it.

And I am willing
to part
with my favorite woolen coat
if it means
letting You dress me
until it is You who
conducts my heartbeat.

A Funeral

29 Sep

I attend our lunch meetings
like a priest goes to a funeral
compelled by heavy obligation
feet listless and heart far away

And I try to listen
as your lips offer words like
pallid corpses
and mine feel compelled to respond with
empty eulogies
echoing
echoing

echoing.

There’s a social script, you see.
At a funeral.
If my expressed sentiments traverse only
the level concrete
you’ve painstakingly laid
I do not risk your ever-simmering rage
your bloodshot eyes boring into mine
feverish
even in the cool of sunlight.

I do not risk your fists
your screams
your inability to exercise
any semblance of self-control
when it actually matters.

I do not risk lifting the mask
covering your bitterness
your regret
your despair
your vast ocean of insecurities
I cannot begin to enumerate.

And I do not risk lifting the mask
covering my own contempt
my bruises
my silent
festering
wounds
my worn and weary
love
tinged with the aftertaste of
hate setting in.

After all, no one wants an accident at a funeral.

So I trudge
feet listless and heart far away
as you perform your darling act
of fatherly benevolence
and the burger crumbles like
dying leaves in my mouth
and my eyes dim
and my heart
curls up into itself
behind layers
and layers
weeks
and weeks
of lunch meeting
after lunch meeting
funeral
after funeral
until I’ve forgotten what it is like
to live life among
the living.

And I keep
attending our lunch meetings
like a priest
praying
one day
maybe
please
please
God
please
soon

for resurrection.

21st Century Home

25 Sep

Bitterness is a casual killer
seeping under the floorboards
of the suburban American home
infusing a stagnant mundanity
with casual violence
casual hatred
the casual degradation of another human being
until it becomes
the very foundation of
despairing matrimony

nestled in its midst
I feel it sinking in
until I too
am trading words like brittle flint
and all our conversations
are jagged and barbed and end with
casual bleeding

and I feel
maybe I fear
that I will calcify
within the press of
all that remains unspoken
under the weight of
all that remains
unforgiven

until the bitterness becomes
my air
also
and
like the other inhabitants of this home
I am reduced to shallow shadow
and bloodless killing
and the quiet
stifling
poison
of modern domestic hatred
but my lungs were not made to breathe
this kind of air

My God, my First Breath
please
save me
remind me
of a lighter time
a lighter air
before the casualness
of bitterness
lulls me into
acceptance

Sustenance

29 Nov

“In forty years, you sustained them in the wilderness – they lacked nothing” (Nehemiah 9:21)

What must it feel like
to be solely sustained by God?

a little lonely
definitely uncomfortable
and terrifying beyond imagination

to be solely sustained
by the invisible

to lean on
the intangible

little wonder they built a cow of gold
to cling to

What must it feel like
to be solely sustained by God?

terrifying
exhilarating
uncomfortably familiar
like stepping back into an ancient song
drifting from a wilder country
lands which were once our own

What must it feel like…?
perhaps
with each hesitant step
it feels a bit like coming home.

Toy Car Love

29 Nov

You love me so well
holding my hand
when we crossed the parking lot
holding my hand
when we weaved through the bustling supermarket
holding my hand
when nightmares seized my nights

You love me so well
holding my hand
and then
squeezing
squeezing
until my knuckles crunch
and my fingers calcify

You love me so well
holding me tight
tight
so tight
that my lungs have no space to expand
and I am left gasping after
all that I cannot inhale
when I am held so close
too close

You love me too well
love turned into fear
turned into anger
turned into barbed wire in my ears
as you scream
and I stay silent in the backseat
watching the suburbs blur in the night

You love me too well
You
with your intransigent vision of life
as if it too is a parking lot
to be crossed with caution
You
with your embrace
that feels more like wool smothering
every word I try to utter
choked down
in the face of that shadow anger
brooding underneath your every gesture

You
love me as if
I am something to be held
and wrapped
and buried
like a corpse in the safety
of your soil

or like a toy car
racing along the tracks you’ve laid
on the living room floor
every inch within your sight
so that you can ensure
I am all that you wanted me to be

I am sorry
You love me so well
but I cannot give you what you are asking of me
because to do so
would be to give you all the space in my lungs
and every syllable in my mouth
and every one of my damn ridiculous dreams

I am sorry
I cannot give you what you are asking of me
because to do so
would be to lay down who I am in favor of
who you think I ought to be
and that is something I am not willing to give
despite all that you have given for me.

I am sorry.
You love me so well.

Sorry.

Cotton Dream

11 Apr

Sometimes I feel like
I’m just
wishing on a wishing star
hands clenched
knuckles white
eyes squeezed shut tight
tight

tight
so I don’t see
the cold
stone
grave
in front of me.

clambering to grasp
a wonder
a sign

a life

in exchange for these halting promises I yield
from lips long scorched in the sun.

wishing on a wishing star
like plucking cobwebs to
weave a cotton dream
flicking rusted pennies into
fountains
long forgotten

praying to a God
I cannot see.

Sometimes
I kneel
knuckles white
and eyes shut tight
as the jaded and the cynics
smile sadly passing by
seeing a child
stubbornly insisting
on castles in the sky

but hope is not a wish
and you are not a cotton dream
some say I’m wishing on a wishing star
but you’re my Daddy
and I’m just reaching out to hold Your hand.

knuckles white so I can better cling
eyes squeezed shut so I can better see
the laws that govern
a higher
kinder
grander
reality

I place my hope in you
You are not a cotton dream.

Ruminations on the Golden Rule

7 Apr

To the ears of the 21st century millennial, the golden rule sounds a tad trite. Reminiscent of kindergarten days and playground fights and slightly awkward under the scrutiny of postmodern deconstruction.

“Do unto others as you would have them do to you,”
spoke Jesus of Nazareth,
“for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12)

For all its triteness, we still hold these words as a beacon, illuminating the dark against the terror of lords and flies. Even those who claim: “the golden rule is dead! Treat others not as you would want to be treated, but as they want to be treated” are still inherently applying this principle: treat others on their terms, because you want to be treated on yours.

Still, I would like to suggest there is more to these words.

In summing up the Law and the Prophets, Jesus was alluding to the second great commandment:

“Love thy neighbor as thyself
I am the Lord”

Thus says Leviticus 19:18.

We often overlay this verse with “do unto others” and conclude that they carry the same message. Again, I would like to suggest that there is more.

If we search for the Hebraic version of Leviticus 19:18, the original text reads:

“Love thy neighbor as thyself,
I am that I AM

[The revealed name of the Lord, too lofty to speak, is written in its original form {YHWH} and pronounced/translated “Adonai,” meaning the Lord.]

Now why would God choose again to reveal who He is [I AM] after giving this command?  Keep in mind that God does not reveal Himself lightly.

I would like to suggest that in this particular instance, God gave His name because the command required the revelation.

“Love your neighbor as yourself
Literally, as you are.
Because I am that I AM.”

 

Since the beginning, God has loved humanity because of who He is, not because of who we are. He loved us while we were still dust, loved us in our first act of falling, loved us through our unfaithfulness and betrayals, and loved us as we killed Him on a tree.

God loves us because He is.

So, perhaps the golden rule is not merely a rule of reciprocity but an invitation to a radical and reckless kind of love. A love that overlooks offense. And ploughs stubbornly onwards, through the muck of pain and transgression. A love that confounds all our definitions of merit and justice.
Love, because it is who you are. Not because of the action or inaction of another.

 

Let us take this rumination one step further.

In James 2, the author begins by rebuking those in the church who love with partiality and distinction. He remarks on our propensity to treat others based on rank, status, wealth, popularity – power – rather than honoring the poor and powerless.

Then, he quotes the “royal law found in scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (v 18).

Here, if we take our previous conjecture to be true, perhaps James does not simply mean: “treat the poor and powerless with honor because if you were poor and powerless, you would want to be treated likewise.”

Rather, perhaps James is saying:

“Love both the powerful and the powerless, irregardless of their identity, station or history, because love is who you are. Secondly, do not alter or waver in your attitude and treatment of another based on your desire (or lack thereof) to please someone else. Simply be you, because love is who you are.”

How many times have we been afraid to be ourselves around people because we do not want to be rejected? How many of our daily interactions are dictated by this fear?

We fear rejection, so we fear being known.

And because we fear being known, we create countless iterations of the shadow-self that keeps others at a safe distance and makes rejection impossible because no one actually knows us enough to reject who we are.

I mean, God made Himself known to us and where did that get Him?
Broken, beaten and crucified.

Still.

The same refrain.

“Love thy neighbor as thyself,
I am that I AM”
The Golden Rule:

Do not simply love your neighbor as you want to be loved in return. 
But, love your neighbor as you – freely, infallibly, and fully you.
Because that is how He loves.