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

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When we need heroes but there are none…

Heroes, Unsung

Finding little worth fighting and little worth life
leaves heroes undiscovered and thus unsung.
Cautionary grace notable amidst strife,
languishes anon with venom stung.

Ignorant to fault, unknown whom;
blithely ashamed, subsist entomb.
Finding little worth life and worth fighting for
leaves idols disguised and easy to ignore.

Whence will they rise and might they appear;
what the occasion and for whom will they ride?
Preferring paladins whom we may revere
charging opportune our reprieve to provide.

Grand their entrance, hastily depart;
hurried the glory, thankless heart.
Whence might they show, when will they arise
whom will they rescue and what the surprise?

Pretenders needn’t apply nor propose a name,
no compensation and not a single holiday.
Reference unnecessary, experience the same,
recompense a single and collective hooray.

Fleeting is glory, blazing abright;
modest the way, countenance contrite.
Pretenders resign and willingly profane;
little appreciated and splendor’s shame.

Grandeur appropriate and fit for these times
must go begging and decline its excellence.
Serving the character of accomplished climes
demands mean customs befitting indulgence.

None the better, all assonant;
shun the single, solely temperate.
Grandeur suitable and easily held
meager in merit and plainly felled.

He might have been god…

The Name of God

I never knew the name of the man in the red vest,
with seven pockets and a knife sharpened pencil,
fingers dirtied with iron dust from picking nails,
clipping lengths of rope or showing men how-to
just about everything there is to-do that drove them
to the hardware store early on a Saturday morning,
every Saturday morning with my father who looks
and carefully lingers, sorting through nuts and bolts
waiting for our turn to ask about the broken part
dirtying my Dad’s palm and me wondering why
my father who knew everything didn’t know this;
I stared at the man’s boots that looked like
they were never new, his navy blue pants with
bottom inch turned-up into a cuff holding sawdust
as he told, then showed Dad the how-to to-do
and I nodded along with them like I understood it all;
I never knew his name, but it might have been God.

When I pray I wonder…

Morning Prayer

Good morning, God – well
at least for me; since you
neither slumber nor sleep
and never get tired (I’ve tried
that but it doesn’t work for
me), and you’re constantly
observing (what we like to
call stalking, but that’s a harsh
word), and eavesdropping
(again, our word… sorry),
on your creation, it’s hard to
know what’s the appropriate
greeting, but since you know
all things and I don’t I’m
assuming it’s okay to just go
with what I know and you’ll
be understanding; and that’s
why I’d like to talk about with
you – some understanding,
but you know that already,
and I’m tired so I’m going to
take a nap soon (but that’s
something you don’t get
to enjoy and I feel bad about
that). Amen, and amen.

For the one born blind…

Grace in Mud

They sing,
we sing,
all sinners sing
of grace
that’s amazing,
of grace
that makes
the blind see,
grace that
does what can’t
be done.

Never, they
say, It’s never
happened
ever,
to anyone,
so don’t think,
don’t dream
it can happen
to you,
sinner;
punished,
deservedly, en
utero (what
terrible thing
did your parents
do anyway
that you should
be born…you?)

Grace in this
spit and dirt,
grace in mud
that must be
washed away,
washed to
see what you’ve
never seen;
you’ve never seen,
ever; grace
in mud made
you see.

I’ve never killed anyone…

Brussels-SproutNo, I’ve Never Killed Anyone

The common consolation
that we’re not that bad
only works if we’re able to find
those despicable creatures who are so vile,
baseless, and unloving that our selfishness
seems virtuous in comparison;

hopefully we only hear of such bad apples
on the news or in gossip—yes, that’s a comfortable
and safe distance, because it’s just too much
to experience such things ourselves
and it’s better to drive-by and gape
than to have our names on the accident report;

distance makes all things nice
when it comes to evil or misfortune or
dumb luck—a ‘there but for the grace of God’
voyeurism, or a prayer of thanksgiving
uttered in relief when we discover it’s just
the neighbor’s house ablaze and not our own;

we don’t steal candy from babies,
rape and pillage like barbarians, and
we’ve never killed anyone
(to the best of our knowledge), and maybe
we’ve been ignorant of the poor and hungry
of the world, as my mother used to say
when protesting my diet and volunteered
she could send starving children elsewhere
what I’d refused to eat since they’d be
so happy to have what I took for granted,
even brussels sprouts but brussels sprouts
never killed anyone either.

Words are good enough for me…

words2Words are good enough for me…

Living this way is more than a creed – it’s like air to the lungs… like air to my lungs. But bad words – the bad use of words – seems pure evil to me, and I can’t get beyond it (that’s my burden to live with, or die with).

Words are good enough for me, so I play with them.

Words are good enough for me, so I let them play with me.

Words are good enough for me…

Workman by Day
A nobody to professors, a workman by day
this subtlety 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 to contemplate
the nightmares of failures and adult scares
which only verse hides what sunlight chides.

Thoughts and Thoughts
A thought that can be thought
without something thoughtful to be done
is no thought at all, but a mere pretender;
thoughts which generate no ideas
and make the weak weep, the simple
comfortable, and the frail cringe at whims
like wishes so all beggars ride. Puzzled and
rancorous ideas are harmless excuses of
unexamined life, a sermon looking for life
in the service of paranoid, naval-gazing
called spirituality, pharmacology without
diagnosis, life without death,
desire without lust, and obedience without
ignorance. Ruined lives litter the path of
thoughts, bitter disciples
are casualties of this pedagogy,
angry tears are learners’ lovers, hemlock
cocktails mixed by the bartender of the many.

And I Quote
What is a quote to be quoted
and to whom does it belong?
those marks somehow borrow
what I wish was my song;
what I want as my own
but someone found before,
almost perfect way of words
I must have, and I adore;
sometimes because of who
but I prefer what is said,
the world is but objects,
not facts’ means instead;
picture what is or is not,
but what is written is read
stop asking what it means
or you’ll always be misled;
while I will quote as I wish
call me a plagiarist as well
all’s words and other words
not things we jsut misspell.

 

What’s original about sin…

Eve-shoving-the-apple-in-Adams-mouthBlame the serpent (that’s Eve’s ploy), then Adam blames Eve (though she was just a toy), and God who created it all; add this together and we have the fall.

The history of religion is the history of blame, the motive for religion is guilt, the means of religion is empathy, and the denunciation of it all is sympathy. That is, only those who care go to hell.

 

History of Sin

History a tale of fallen’s friends
giving account of what had to be,
fixed  by a sovereign who sees the end
saddled with desire to be free;

lost to be found, but only through Rome
intrude on our lust, our passion, home,
named ex opere – the lusty lie
sprinkle the babies lest they all die;

create the fright, threaten what’s scary
touch our babes, but you’re still necessary,
triumph assured, all wars justified
feelings condemned not capitalized.

Who erred that all are born this way
simply answered, we all come astray,
it’s sin, not hunger, that babies cry,
and not biology why we all die.

 

Love Story

We met at the beginning of the circle
when all was new just to each other,
soon we thought we were always we,
stories merged like one on another;

what it was, was easy enough to be
always something, everything undone,
damned by fruit of a forbidden tree
critiquing what once was begun;

tested, not tempted, fallacies, not lies
our Kant dared us from infants to grow
question by taste, deceived by our eyes
stop just taking, trusting, we can know;

no prudes, no rules, the circle begun,
exemplary yet derided for immemorial
blamed by Hippo for perfection undone
but not the cause, simply the tutorial;

we’d eat it again and again in love,
the defiance was arbitrary after all
as was the command – it was a shove
toward deconstruction and not a fall;

it’s quiet, our story, beyond this plot
we loved, with fear – that our glory,
wandering together for what we ought,
we are Eve and Adam – a love story.

Elizabeth, Illinois…

elizabeth mapYou may find your place using latitude and longitude, but still feel lost. (Who said that? Me… I just did…)

Here’s another selection from a manuscript in progress. The story is set in Elizabeth, Illinois (obviously), but the rest is made up.

Elizabeth, Illinois –latitude 42.317N, longitude –90.221W, used to be called Apple River, but today Apple River is upstate and a place to live on the Illinois-Wisconsin boundary with a newspaper and industry and better standard of living than here. And it’s not Apple River Canyon or Apple River Canyon State Park with vacation homes and campgrounds and picnic areas where people fish and boat and camp and hike on winding and hilly trails and frolic and relax where others once worked themselves to death mining. That’s all somewhere else from here, connected by some water that doesn’t run through it or much for that matter.

You’ve heard about French explorers in the upper Mississippi Valley in the seventeenth century, and about the mining, but you haven’t heard about a Scotch man named John Law, who was anything but law abiding –he  founded the Company of the West in Paris in 1717 based on a claim that the area held well-developed mines. When the truth reached France that investors had been duped, the fiasco became known as the Mississippi Bubble (something about the over-inflated estimates bursting). Some say John Law never came near the upper Mississippi Valley, that he culled information from explorers that either lied to him or told him the truth and he lied. Either way, his bubble burst.

Soon enough it was obvious that there would be no easy money from the area, but there was lead ore to be mined. That brought hard working immigrants (especially after the settlers had driven-out the Sauk and Fox Indians in the 1830’s), a railroad eventually connected it between Freeport and Galena, but that’s not for a while yet. It was called nothing at first, then Apple River Settlement, then Apple River, at one time it was Lewistown, but then it was Elizabeth and it has been that way ever since. One story says that the area was renamed after Elizabeth Winters, wife of John the farmer who held one of the first land deeds in 1825. While John planted corn, Elizabeth was one of the few women in the area and made it a place to live, eventually opening the first hotel and began development in the community. She was a Lady, as in a respectable woman with expectations and pressures and obligations and she met all of them, and even if she didn’t she was the one who had to pay the price. She worked hard to survive and so some people say Elizabeth is named after her.

Others say it was renamed after Elizabeth Armstrong who famously rallied the flagging spirits of settlers held up in the Apple River Fort during the famous battle of 1832. Either way, Elizabeth was still named after a woman.

And most of the people who live in Elizabeth to this day are women; they outnumber men 55% to 45% in the less than a half square mile that makes up the town. Back in the days of the Settlers it was 95% men and a few women who were all wives at first, then they had babies and some of them were girls. It’s hard to imagine how we get from a couple of male settlers to a community of families, but it might be like how the book of Genesis tells us about Adam and then Eve and then Cain and Abel who have wives and children and everyone winks assuming they married their sisters –six-of-the-one, half-dozen-of-the-other.

Nowadays, of the population fifteen years and older, half the men are married but only a third of the women get married, only a few men are widowers while one quarter of the women are widows (which seems to mean that marriage is killing the men but not the women), and fifteen percent of the men are divorced but just a handful of women are divorced (and everybody knows who they are, their stories, why they shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place and I told her so, but she wouldn’t listen, and Who did What to Whom). Ironically, churched women get divorced at the same rate as unchurched women, but churched men divorce less frequently than unchurched men (go figure…).And one-in-four of the men never marry so divorce isn’t an issue, and one-in-five of the women never marry, but I bet four-out-of-five of them would give marriage a try if an offer came their way.

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.