Is heaven supposed to be a lovely place…

Heaven has become a parody
A lampoon of itself somehow
Beulah land made a game show
Answers in question and you’ll know

Why? is answered with clarity
But why? receives a rationale
It’s better, and it’s a better place
Spared this life, saved disgrace

Priest consoles parents bereaved
Much suffering babe’s been spared
And preacher of dear Emily’s fallen life
Remembering all Lot’s wife

Why face it true while dance macabre
Baptism the pyre for faithless bourgeois
Gnosis the alms of this shangri-la

The deserved grave of richly aged
Welcomed passing when well passed
Only then is rest the Bard’s silence
The grave deserved comeuppance

It is no longer God’s cemetery
Adoration is drowned by homily
But in this veil the last enemy prevails
Mocking clerics spinning tales

We gather because we must
To speak dearly of the departed
Doubt given sense, answered pence
Death is living in past tense

Rejoinder due this bare pain
Fear that nothing wounds as nothing
Ignorance defeats death’s diffidence
Banqueting with wink and wince

Welcome must a proper death
Blessing one’s own Golgotha
Barn sour is requiem’s pale horse
Pall bearing a tour de force

Through hallowed valley I charge
Lively in my step, brave of heart
No Ilyitch be I, ending friendless as he
Receiving viaticum finally and finally

We ate casseroles once upon a time…

 – Casserole

I come from a family of casserole-eaters,
growing up in the 60’s when frozen and condensed
were all the rage in a life that was busier
than any had ever imagined (or so we were told)
until the weekend when Mom would spend all day
Saturday baking and roasting and stewing
and creating left-overs because no one had time
on Tuesdays and especially Thursdays,
so a ‘single-dish’ meal was the all the rage
with everything covered with cream-of-whatever
soup and baked forever covered with aluminum foil
to be topped with crumbled crackers or, if
you were lucky, those fried onions, and we’d
sit together somehow and eat seconds and
thirds until my brother wondered aloud if
they would be enough for leftovers and Mom
would laugh in embarrassment over leftover-
leftovers and we didn’t understand.

 

Everyone gets a church…

The Church of Tolkien

There’s talk of starting a Tolkien Church
espousing the doctrines of J. R. R. himself,
and why not confer sainthood and worship
the Hobbit of oversized feet and the Shire;
if L. Ron Hubbard has one and we enjoy
dianetics, Jim Jones has his grape Kool-Aid,
Koresh a compound for Reno to ruin,
Rome its V-8 Pope-mobile, the 95 theses
of a German monk setting Europe ablaze,
and every Tom, Dick and Harry a pulpit
and tax-exempt status, why not Tolkienism;
let’s all make saints of our heroes,
ignore their warts, praise their creativity
as authority and bow in humble worship
asking for commands to fill all our days
and our minds lest we are tempted,
once again, to take and eat and know
for ourselves that we are but dust and
that’s our true home when we’re done.

How many churches are there…

– The Fourth Church of the Defector

The sign says there’s a population of just 203, but that’s
a number from long before the U.S. Census started to
officially ignore what folk’s around here call Harold’s Creek,
where Indiana State Road 44 crosses County Road 260E,
past Salem Road at the only hollow in the earth for miles,
with six dusty, empty storefronts too close to the two-lane
and everyone blames Walmart the shops are empty, but
the truth is they’ve been vacant so long no one can
really remember, yet they know who to blame so
they can sleep at night, there’s no religion here with
two abandoned churches, one was a Methodist clapboard
and looks so Americana, the other a brick Presbyterian
looking so Presbyterian, and they sit on opposite corners
of the four-way stop now ignored as obviously as these
churches once were, but it’s easy to imagine the
booming voices of preachers out-sermonizing one another
through open windows on steamy Sunday mornings while
their faithful flocks nodded off, and there’s a big, old sign
with an arrow pointing nowhere to The Fourth Church
of the Defector, founded in 1892, a church started when
no other church could be right, and it took at least
four iterations to get this one right, which makes one wonder,
how bad could it have been, back in 1892 that is, but then
you recall a bit of wisdom, that when there’s nothing to
fight about people give up, and sometimes they just
give up anyway, like here at Harold’s Creek
near State Road 44 and County 260E in Indiana.

Little old man, little old church…

The Little Old Man and the Little Old Church

There’s a little old church across the road that divides
the world – red brick, black roof, steepleless, with
every charm that makes people say, ‘look at that
little old church,’ and today there’s a little old man
mowing the lawn, slowly and carefully as if he’s tending
Eden; he’s dressed for the occasion if the
year was one of those just after World War II,
in his long sleeved shirt and a thin tie – cinched
to the collar which hangs loosely looking like it
would have fit perfectly back before his flesh started
going the way of all flesh, but now he’s the one
who has been planning his whole week around
this job and I’m sure I can hear him saying to himself
he’s doing this because people depend upon him
and if he doesn’t no one will, and you do some
things just because they are the right thing to do,
and no, he can’t visit the grandkids today because
you know perfectly well that he has to mow the
lawn at church and that phrase ‘at church’ has
all the moral importance of a decree or encyclical
issued by a synod or council long ago when
such things mattered – when such pronouncements
settled all disputes, because it looks like he’s still
living in that world or wishes he were, and there are times
that I’d like to live in that world too, but not today.

A picture is worth a thousand words…

earthJust a Photo

It was Apollo 17, sailing farther than seen
in 1972 that snapped the photo of marble blue;
28,000 miles afar of how alone we really are
with not a face seen, and how little is green
on this round spinning ball containing us all;
it was known soon, taken in route to our moon
this first picture of our status as creature
just suspended in space is hard to embrace,
still guilty over Galileo, even in my Toledo;
its put on t-shirt and news of ocean blues,
this single frame was to change the game
yet all’s the same and that wasn’t the aim.

Another Christmas story ruined…

Misremembering Christmas

It probably started with a story of
orphans on Christmas in a perpetually
cold European city somewhere in
Albania; they each received just one gift
on Christmas Eve and it was always something needed but not wanted until one year the heroine received an array of
colored pencils which she treasured
because she dreamed of becoming
an artist, but the nuns woke the orphans
early on Christmas morning and
told them it was their turn to give to
those even poorer, so along with
their own breakfasts to offer they
trekked to a wooded hovel to bless
gypsy children with food and presents
undeserved; the gypsy children
were subdued, I think I recall,
unaccustomed to grace and the
orphan sacrificing her one treasure
was nonplussed and altruistically
virtuous and that bothered me
immensely so I chose to misremember
and in my version the desperately
poor gypsy child hastily and tastelessly
ate the orphan’s breakfast and had those
colored pencils tossed on a dying
fire to keep it lit on a cold Christmas
morning, and the gypsy child couldn’t
care less about the colored pencils
and our orphan girl wept because
she couldn’t understand how the need
for a fire outweighed her selfish dream
while the nuns scolded her tears as they
marched the orphans away under the
shroud of another graceless Christmas morn.

Kim and Kanye and everyone else…

Kim and Kanye and Paul Edward

The link was obviously incorrect;
I was looking for an update about
Kim and Kanye’s latest escapade,
but wound up reading the obituary
of a man who wore oversized
glasses, tinted, his face thick with
wrinkles from too many smiles or
worries, dressed in a wide-wale
corduroy jacket, long collared shirt
and thick tie – all in earth tones
and probably a photo from the last
decade or two or three, his name is
(I don’t like to say ‘was’ for some
reason), Paul Edward; he died in
Ohio but wasn’t born there – maybe
marriage or work took him there
from Indiana (it’s next door after all),
but at the end he was alone in Ohio
because Agnes preceded him in death
by fifteen years, as had all his siblings,
Mary and John and especially his
baby sister Judith who died in 1932
and that must have been terrible;
they had just one child that survived
to write this obituary but he
lives in Chicago; I wonder how many
friends he had at the end of 92 years
because he had many at one time
it seems – he was high school
football captain, and during the war
he was drafted into the Army and
stationed in the Philippines, his post
in hospitals and recovery wards, and
the obituary said many wounded
soldiers kept in touch with him
over the years, but they’re all
gone now too; he ran a chicken farm
for a while after the war, then
a hardware store and he looks like
the guy you could ask anything and
he’d quietly talk you through the nuts
and bolts of repairing what needed
repairing (and I can imagine him
complaining that folks don’t repair
things any more, they just replace
them – as a commentary about
his generation, the one that saved
the world and was being replaced
now); they said he was a
well-travelled man, but besides
the Philippines all it mentioned was
Akron, Cleveland and Toledo (and
I’ve been to these places, and they’re
nice, but I don’t think of that as
well-travelled), his story quickly
added he made friends wherever
he went and that might make
all the difference in the world;
oh, and he was a Methodist and
sang in a choir for more than
50 years, some of them with his
wife before she passed, and that’s
where he met her – her name was
Agnes and I guess there’s no better
reason to have a choir, besides
praising the Lord, of course; and if
you care about Paul Edward please
don’t send flowers, just give some
money to a church choir instead;
that’s when I remembered what I
was searching for in the first place
but I don’t care as much about Kim
and Kanye right now.

Tribulation’s luck…

Left Behind

Enough will be enough,
finally,
when it is what it is;
no doubt about it
this time,
no Great Disappointment
or Julian recalculation,
no more merciful delay,
only tribulation
for those left behind
having ignored
the apocalyptic signs;
I will probably not
be ready,
maybe sleeping
or even worse, napping,
or indisposed
or picking my nose
when the trump
shall sound like
a jazz tone,
an archangel squeal,
laughing
while the clouds will
have that look
of sharp, bright rays
beaming through,
opening up heaven
at the end of days;
and one
date-setting schmuck
will finally be right
by sheer,
dumb luck.