All history, no life…

Only a Past

The man begging at the monument’s facade
has no future to imagine but only a past,
as pretenders to writing fear the blank page
praying for a prompt of creative forecast,
as history is inevitable providence to the faithless
afraid of the unknown of our choices
and Pollyannaish wishes cloud the gray matter
silencing all of doubt’s voices;
when will those who need to, learn to learn
and let those who cry, cry
when will old dogs find new tricks to love
until the day they must die.

I’d prefer not to die…

Ode Not to Dying

In this poem no one will die
no one is sick or will grieve
it’s not that everyone’s blissful
for that would be a silly lie
but we could use a reprieve
from the funereal hymnal.

This could be about life or joy
pleasant parks, a May flower
yet some don’t love Spring
allergies and rain may annoy
for some it’s love turned sour
or that they’re denied a ring.

Can-do bravery is pleasing
psalms of life, into the valley
when others perish bravely
we’re moved to day seizing
coup de grâce to de foudre
lifely lived, lively not gravely.

But I’m Irish – death’s our theme
the grave the cradle’s twin
gentle Lady silenced by Joyce
Heanley’s Naturalist midstream
Yeats killed off Paddy Flynn
Wilde at the grave’s lost voice.

But I’ve promised no decay
disease, mortality or demise
instead we’ll think of the morn
and life as a grand parfait
beauty we will not despise
nor emote so as to mourn.

So here is the happy end
ever after, fondly, cheerful
hoping you feel better with this
and sleep better, life commend
laughing instead of tearful
and not dying (today) is bliss.

Then there is the miracle
when death is itself done in
but how often does that occur;
hope is fine, gullibility satirical
and none escapes original sin
for death one may not defer.

Through the valley of the shadow of death…

GraveA Psalm 23

When my mother died
I said nothing, I had
no words – me, her boy
who didn’t shut up,
couldn’t, it seemed,
and would talk her ear
off, or so she claimed,
but I don’t recall her
ever telling me to
stop, unless I missed it,
quieter but not silent;
so where were the words
now – they’re not in
the dictionary she
said she wasn’t when
asked how to spell;
so I had to borrow the
lyrics she taught me
by her own mother’s grave,
about how to see the
valley of the shadow,
and fear no evil,
trusting the Lord
was her shepherd also.

The stream that’s never the same…

That stream – the one that’s never
the same stepped-in twice,
at the same bend, with the same
sameness – will not refuse my dabbling
toe; she will yield to me, and I to her,
not out of pity or sheer desire,
but because we have
agreed not to continue the charade
of indeterminate, transient mockery
that idles youth, corrupts good
and haunts the aged.

There are nouns after all – persons,
places, things – that are, not because
of forms but in sentences which are
like streams with dabbling toes
and bubbling eddies, shapely bends;
so inviting and seducing, calling
with her come hither of comeliness.
Yes, the waters flow, the bed and silt
are stirred and is upset by every touch
of my foot but I step into the flux
and flow nonetheless, I stoop to
cup her cool waters and sip contentedly
for she yields to me and I to her,
but unhurried, unchasing motion
in symbiosis as we move together
in rhythm – our panta rei –
joined freely in flow.

Let those who scold and chide
these many, many years continue
their fluxing prater of fuel and flame,
for we, my stream and I, have come to
an understanding and will agree to
agree that this day we are the one;
her cool waters are as real as
my weary step – sensations rippling
in her as much as me,
as tangible as the rush and tingle which
tickle my limb and stir her bed in swirls
of sediment twisted awake from slumber
dancing along current and wake we have
made together in our covenant today.

Salvation and other messy words…

salvationSalvation is not a religious word. It has become one, but only by losing its usefulness – its realism.

To preserve from harm or loss, deliver from, hold back, keep rather than lose – in a phrase, to love well,  with consequence. Not all love is salvation, but all salvation is love. Unless… unless it becomes religious.

Salvation Song

In search of the lost, each
and every day, without fail;
certain you’re out there
wandering, daring to wonder
at the recovery of your way,
regaining your bearings for
home, for the way it once was
when you knew of comfort
or simply no better, and love,
especially love, now lost;
you’re certain, aren’t you,
no one is looking, no one
cares as long as you don’t
interfere with the ways of
those who’ve never been
lost and thus, are never found;
evangelist I am not, counselor
ignored, prophet spurned,
only you know, Lord, if these
bones can live again, but
to what end – for another war
of destruction, another test
of fidelity, another loss of
love – no, they’d be better
to bake in the sun, strewn
about, picked over, broken;
hope of change in the pocket
doesn’t raise the dead,
protestations of sins forgotten
only console the guilty,
joyous hymns of sacrifice
are the blood sport of piety,
none of those are for the
found among the lost surely;
if you return, you expect
servitude, for that’s what
you’re taught the never
ending price of restoration
must be – will-less existence
while all other retain theirs,
and once returned you’re
never trusted and must
continually prove the
celebrated recovery – always
so, but never arrived, never
home because you can’t
go home again, can you;
I have no guilt, no pity either,
I am no god in need of
your praise, gifts or alms,
make no pilgrimage to me
for I am not home either,
I am a worm and not a man,
a son of man only whose
fato is the same as yours,
no sacred tale of success but
victorious defeat, no tragic
celebratory dirge to hide
the pride of humiliation;
the telling is itself compelling
as much for it’s incorrigible
neglect of largesse as my
refusal to be examined,
my anonymity, my death
as an author on the pyre
as Dido, lacking comparison;
I seek by looking ahead only
as I pass your lair, ignoring
cries for gifts my mercy is
only discovered in the walk,
the follow-after leaving
the lost still wondering if
the gift of suffering is your
damnation by a Calcutta
saint dancing to Lucifer’s
tune, your sores unhealed,
or the only hope of ransom;
there is a way, several to be
clear, for therein lies the
game – and a game it is,
competing for titles, pews
it’s yours to refuse the
triviality of sin, accusation
as the easy way, to refuse
Augustine while he still
damns from Monica’s shadow
above his child’s grave;
making home, not finding it,
will be the only consolation
offered here, and it is the
same for love and mercy
and joy and the peace so
desperately missing today.

The name of God and other fantasies…

dewey-melvil2

Melvil Dewey (a.k.a. God)

I come from traditions (yes, plural – traditions) where it is blasphemy to dream God.

This is my blasphemy.

God’s Name is Melvil
It’s Melvil who divided up
everything that could ever be known,
dreamed, recorded, or wished in just
ten—Pythagorean ways
of perfection;
all because he thought it better than
organizing books by size and color
and memorizing
which nook or cranny
a certain volume was hidden,
stupidly saying
a child walked on water
because he didn’t know he couldn’t;
that was either religion (because
some believe what can’t be),
philosophy (because what kind of
world thinks this impossibility),
arts (because some will
depict anything that frustrates
reason), or literature (because no
one cares it if is so); and
this is why God’s name is now
Melvil Dewey.

Time to be God
Imagine the day begins where it ends
and winds backwards from there
with every new thing not new at all,
there are no novelties, inventiveness
is absent, second guessing overwhelms
every surprise, every moment, every
joy. Some say that’s the way God
sees us, the world – everything;
all immediately present and nothing
new, but perfect hindsight
ahead of and behind and all around
all that could ever be. That doesn’t
seem like it would be fun, and I wouldn’t
wish it that way, even if I were God.

God’s Friend
I forgive myself for being human,
just as I have God for being God;
birth is no defect, no dimness of lumen,
just being’s not worthy of saying flawed;

no longer do I demand, no longer cry for
life without what makes it more trying,
if Job could argue and Moses invite more
I’ll gladly enjoy joy as well as my crying;

without blaming God for my deflection
I now in turn say the same of myself,
forgetting, remembering all affection,
and taking sin’s mirror off every shelf;

no need for theodicy’s happy fault,
no tale from which a good God is saved
Great Oz needs no defending assault
and I’ve no need to be so enslaved;

the solution lies in refusing the priest
who demands to be needed at worst,
divinity needs no dark cultic feast
if redemption’s a grace not coerced;

this forgiving means religion’s dead,
or at least it’s tottering to an end,
no lack of efforts to supply its stead
but I now am surely God’s friend.

 

 

For rent… only for rent…

rent_to_own

A Psalm 23
When my mother died
I said nothing, I had
no words – me, her boy
who didn’t shut up,
couldn’t, it seemed,
and would talk her ear
off, or so she claimed,
but she died with both
intact; I don’t recall her
ever telling me to
stop, unless I missed it,
quieter but not silent;
so where were the words
now – they’re not in
the dictionary she
said she wasn’t when
asked how to spell;
so I had to borrow the
lyrics she taught me
by her own mother’s grave,
about how to see the
valley of the shadow,
fearing no evil and
trusting the Lord
was her shepherd also,
and I was just renting
her comfort today.

 

Renting, Just Renting
I am a tenant
but with roots,
a wanderer
but with reason,
a renter
but with gladness.
This was not always so,
the pleasure
of residing nowhere long,
the inconvenience
of constantly forwarding,
the uncertainty
of where to lay my head.
I was raised in a house
and moved just once
taught to buy, not rent,
to earn and possess,
to save, store and spend
only what was saved,
that credit was a debt.
But somewhere
along the path I chose
I became a lost man,
never to be found;
somewhere became
nowhere and that
was fine, just fine.
This earth is my home
but my addresses
are only where I’m found
at one moment or day;
and since I cannot
be found
I must never be lost.
I am home
wherever I am
a friend
to all who wander
a companion
to all who dream.
I am a renter.

It is what it is (and other lies they tell us)…

Doris DayYes, it’s a lie. Always has been, always will be.

It is what it is.

That’s the lie.

It’s used to give up. To teach us to give up. Accept and not except. Let go to get by.

It’s called providence or sovereignty or fate or determinism or the status quo or City Hall or Que Sera, Sera (if you’re Doris Day – which I’m not).

It’s called the Serenity Prayer (if you’re Reinhold Niebuhr).

It’s called history and what is is what had to be (if you’re Augustine of Hippo).

It’s called metanarrative (if you’re any kind of modernist – and that’s just about everybody these days, as amazing as that sounds).

And it’s a lie. Always has been, always will be.

It Is What It Is
Starting a new religion usually takes effort,
not necessarily consistency, proof or fact,
just data and anecdotes, which means
listening and creating at the same time;
it’s an interpretive exercise most ignore
because of the difficulty of thinking anew,
and we’re really driven by insecurity and
the need for followers, but not this one;
it won’t matter if a single soul converts,
nothing will change if everyone changes,
because whatever happens will happen
in the new religion of it is what it is.