The Spirit blows where it damn well pleases…

My Pentecost

I know what it is
to be lonely,
to be alone
because I know,
I’ve sensed,
what it is to
feel the breeze
of your Spirit
coming and going,
and going
(don’t go, please,
don’t go).

I hear the story
of morning drunks
(or so they seemed)
on a pneumatic
bender of fire
and language,
of languages
not their own,
that brought
smiles and questions,
and questions
needing answers.

Does your Spirit
come and stay,
and stay
and stay
and stay with sinners
who beg
and beg
‘take not thy spirit from me’
as David did
when he saw himself
as another Saul,
when he saw himself
as Saul should have
seen himself;
please Lord,
please stay,
please stay with me.

I want to laugh
and cry
in your Spirit;
I want to jump
and scream
in your Spirit;
I want to sit
and sleep
in your spirit;
I want to live
and die
in your Spirit;
in your Spirit,
in your Spirit.

 

 

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The reason I was born…

The_First_Thanksgiving_cph.3g04961Thanksgiving

Thank you, blind luck,
the binary chance known as me,
the accidents we call history,
when Mom and Dad were where
and I became here instead of nowhere
in the geography called home
for now, but who knows next year
where this might all be I fear
like those who first tried surviving
in the someone else’s somewhere
of those indigenous Wampanoag
thankful with others but not sure why;
may I be at least as unaware
and thus grateful as I don’t care.

A wordy perversion of diversion…

scrabbleWords hide what can only be said.

Workman by Day
A nobody to professors, a workman by day
this subtly ordinary man said we write
(if we do) for others and not ourselves;
a simple diversion for the wordy perversion
making things fit snug like a girdle once did,
hiding things curvy, restraining and deceiving
the favors like adverbs for our great, untidied
neighbors, their reading a passion for our
weakened fashion of night’s haunts which
scare us awake and forced one to contemplate
the nightmares of failures and adult scares
which only verse hides what sunlight chides.

 

 

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.

If I could dream I would…

boy_dreaming_blue_by_intao-d5b88u4When I dream, it’s about dreaming.

 

They Say If You Dream

Escaping what is, and therefore
what’s painful, is what dreaming
                                    is for.

Not day-dreaming, but submersing
yourself with the goal of never coming
                                    back

 which may lead to slipping into that world,
   the alternative of someone’s making,
                                                forever;

 where things are different and that’s
all that matters – whether out of
                        boredom or

shyness or fear or pain (but pain
usually wins in the end), or blindness
                                                to life;

   they say if you dream, 

maybe this can happen, but it never has,
   not by trying, not by praying, not in
                                    my lifetime.

 

My Gravity

I was awakened from a dream,
a dream about me – they’re always
about me it seems as the axis
of the world is under my feet,
all eyes turn to me, all words
are said for me as if pulled by
my gravity, and yet I never speak,
never a word, as space shrinks
close and closer, faces approach,
the ground and sky too come
to me, and just as it is all to be
enveloped in me as a fold
I wake, and I speak but no one
hears me, the sky opens forever
and forever away, familiar
faces withdraw, turning
carelessly, no calling stops them,
no motion halts the sky, I’m
being spun by the pull of true
gravity and lean back into
myself just to keep from falling.

Prayer, and other ways to cry…

prayer-blocksHow many sayings about prayer have you heard?

Sayings like: We should pray to live, but live to pray. (Kind of hate that one.)

Prayer changes things. (Or it’s opposite: Prayer doesn’t change things, it changes the person who prays.)

As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in schools. (The culture wars are good for pissed-off prayer quips.)

Prayer is not talking, it is listening. (Wow, that’s deep – too deep for words.)

Prayer requests should become our to-do list. (i.e. Get up and do something.)

Prayer is a steering wheel, not a spare tire. (Guilt reigns supreme, even in prayer.)

There is no such thing as too much prayer. (Except when dinner’s getting cold.)

The irony, of course, is that all the sermons and sayings about prayer are sermons and sayings and not prayer.

But poetry and prayer are closer than siblings.

Two Kinds
There are two kinds of prayers prayed
at the end of each and every day,
one from the naive filled with hope
on hope on top of hope of tomorrows
that will always come and keep coming,
forgiveness is similarly unending,
and everyone and everything will be
there because it can’t be any other way;
the other is for mercy with revenge
or some karma (if that’s on the table),
maybe no tomorrow if it’s the same
as today and yesterday and yesterdays
that chase them deep into the night,
while dust crumbles back to dust
and there is no more pride. Amen.

Careening Through Life
Do trees cast off their leaves,
eager to be free of those parasites
drawing more than they offer;
do they cure and fall themselves
as birds leave nests never to return again;
or is there a romantic but exhausted grasp
which simply but reluctantly
fails in the cold of November?
Do the vivid colors of toys
cling to pathways cossetted in the
soft tissue of my memory;
a red fire truck of tin metal
and sharp edges that cut
my tender fingers as I played
the role of rescuer in the midst of
a horrible blaze; and what of the smell
of Mom’s cookies – unmistakable
and gone forever except in words
put together in strings
without sentences; is there a way back
to those sunny afternoons
with powdered sugar floating in the air
and me praying for a broken sample?

When It Rains
It’s raining on the prairie, but not in answer to prayer
as we huddle inside a dusty museum wondering
at the recreation of a settler’s life, determined by
weather and wind and rain on the cut fields of earth;
if we shiver in a sudden summer storm and wonder
at the musky air it’s best to recall that people died
here – in this room probably, because they did
everything in this one, dark room – but we can’t
wait for the storm to end and go on with our fun.

Drowning in religion and life and religion…

Drowning (1)The sensation of drowning can be just a real in dreams and fantasies as it is in water (or so I tell myself). By ‘sensations’ I mean life, living, and/or the general state of being aware. By ‘dreams’ and ‘fantasies’ I mean exactly the same thing.

The ‘drowning’ part is just a graphic way of saying ‘overwhelmed’ or beyond relief. It may or may not be conquered – a lesson half-learned from William O. Douglas, Of Men and Mountains – https://archive.org/stream/ofmenandmountain000038mbp#page/n117/mode/2up – insert ‘religion’ for wilderness, fear, society or law). By the way, Douglas narrates the sensation of drowning in such vivid detail, I find myself kicking my legs in sympathy as I re-read the chapter, Deep Water.

That ‘religion’ would be referenced does not mean that I’m complaining about the intractable nature of such fantasy (Freud), but rather the overwhelmingly inescapable heavy hand of the thing others call religion (as in, being incurably religious).

That’s enough then… for now…

Help Me, I’m Drowning

Help me, I’m drowning
in a shallow pool of witticism,
slogans capturing paranoia of
the other, this jingoism without
cloaks reinforces the lowest of
common fears, and heads nod
in faith’s assent bravely denying
all that’s true in favor of Truth
unchanging, everywhere and
always for all; now we’re
instructed to repeat a word,
Impossible, say it, again, Im
poss-i-ble; impossible not to
have it any other way; and
I’m drowning and cry out
for help – I’m in the second
pew from the back on the
right – please hurry.

 

Critical

Aroused at meridian to a brilliant dismay,
mentation unfettered from eremitic seclusion,
banishing juvenile primum non nocere,
no longer pursuing the illusory conclusion.

Analogies abound in the world of intension,
reference revered in the present symbolic,
authors contest with readers’ intervention,
creating the occasion of receptive frolic.

Burrow wide and well in channel virginal,
render again and anew the company kept,
embrace untried manners regarded novel,
sequestering fantasy and religion except.

Construed for current contentment,
the extant subscriber seeks to narrate
hermetic theft  of meaning’s attendant
tomorrow’s uncertainty day gestate.

 

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 sted
but I now am surely God’s friend.

June 28 will always be June 28…

IMG_6114

William Blyer Callahan, 1941 – just 30 years before June 28, 1971

It was a Monday back in 1971 – a steamy, lazy summer’s Monday. My clock read 11:28 AM when I finally stirred to life, and I was left to sleep, I learned, because I would never awaken this way again.

That morning my father died down the hall from my bedroom. Mother, sister and brothers had all been quickly included in the whirlwind of emergency, hopelessness and death, and I turned on my bed like a door turns on its hinges.

So it took me some time to come to grips with the story – twenty, thirty or forty years to put together what had fallen apart, irreparably, that Monday morning, June 28, 1971.

I missed the moment – slept through it literally, like so much of my life it seems. Maybe sleepwalking through life is my best way of coping, maybe it’s just by chance that I was the only one not ‘there’ and maybe my penance is this writing.

William Blyer Callahan (d. June 28, 1971)

Not So Long Ago It Seems

I was just a boy, eleven,
and in so many ways I lost
my innocence that day;
rising after eleven
on my summer vacation
to a house filled
with crying friends
and family hiding their
tears from the boy in
his terrycloth bathrobe;
greeted by my Mom
as all eyes were on us,
on stage, every chin tucked
against chest, every arm
folded, all quiet until
interrupted by the gasp
of a sob; two chairs were
where they never were so
all could see her say that
Daddy was gone, and
I cried because I thought
she was going to say it
was Nana, but it wasn’t
and I didn’t even cry
about the right thing
at first; there were no
more words that I recall
or want to, just dry toast
and weak tea as my first
meal of the rest of my life
without him and I hate
that menu still; it was so
long ago and just like it
happened today because
it did and I’ve never tried to
do anything but remember
this anniversary but
I still don’t know how
to cry about it; I don’t.

Obituaries

It’s called ‘bonus’ or at least is should
because this wasn’t expected, nor
should have been; I’m Irish and male,
for the sake of Saint Patrick, and
I should be dead by now but I’m not
and that makes this a true bonus;
I’ve outlived my own father who
saintedly passed before fifty years,
and all his friends it seems, or so
I read in the obituaries in Sunday’s
Chicago Tribune as I scan the pages
in a sobering ritual of paying homage;
now it’s only a matter of what to do
with these extra days and years.

The Human Race

It’s been a long, long time
since I’ve heard the expression,
‘the human race’ like I once
did from my father who
invoked it in the ‘60’s
vernacular of our one,
global world, nations
united and east and west
divided so clearly
all was known, though
all wasn’t safe. In his own
way I was chided to
behave civilly and not
gad about as an unevolved
Neanderthal  breathing
through his mouth;
the future of the human
race depended upon my
sitting erect, listening
politely in a play at
détente, opening doors
for all types of women,
regardless, and not wasting
food because children
were starving elsewhere.
And there was, apparently,
a membership card to
this human race than
I was continually in
danger of forfeiting
through my mostly slovenly,
sometimes disrespectful,
manners which fell to
my father to supervise
as his role in bettering
said human race
inasmuch as he was able
and I was pliable.