Monday, April 30, 2012

it all comes down to this

i meant to write another poem
but it always seems to come down to this:
language and its secret pockets
where we fill the spaces
with questions –
how to speak words like Truth, hope, joy.
how to uncover a lie. heal a wound.

and so i wait.
unsure if this is strategic or because of fear.
or perhaps it is neither. perhaps
it is the thought
that it simply couldn’t be true,
that this story has been embellished,
that the eyes have too much kohl,
the mouth too red, nails
too exact, something not quite right.

still, i want to convince you.

i must. and this is the weight
words carry. they carry life or death.
they hold blessings or curses.
they catch the light or
remain dull.

so i keep looking for the right words
for the right time, polishing them and
preparing the settings --
that you might wear them and keep them close,
that they might rest next to
your skin, that they might
find a home in your story.
it all comes down to this.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

what is a saint - leonard cohen

What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has something to do with the energy of love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a  saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory. He rides the drifts like an escaped ski. His course is a caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock. Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape. His house is dangerous and finite, but he is at home in the world. He can love the shapes of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love.

Cohen, Leonard. Beautiful Losers. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart,1966. 99.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

praying drunk - andrew hudgins

Our father who art in heaven, I am drunk.
Again. Red wine. For which I offer thanks.
I ought to start with praise, but praise 
comes hard to me. I stutter. Did I tell you
about the woman whom I taught, in bed,
this prayer? It starts with praise; the simple form
keeps things in order. I hear from her sometimes.
Do you? And after love, when I was hungry,
I said, Make me something to eat. She yelled,
Poof! You're a casserole! - and laughed so hard
she fell out of the bed. Take care of her.

Next, confession - the dreary part. At night
deer drift from the dark woods and eat my garden.
They're like enormous rats on stilts except,
of course, they're beautiful. But why? What makes
them beautiful? I haven't shot one yet.
I might. When I was twelve, I'd ride my bike
out to the dump and shoot the rats. It's hard
to kill your rats, our Father. You have to use
a hollow point and hit them solidly.
A leg is not enough. The rat won't pause.
Yeep! Yeep! it screams, and scrabbles, three-legged, back
into the trash, and I would feel a little bad
to kill something that wants to live
more savagely than I do, even if
it's just a rat. My garden's vanishing.
Perhaps I'll merely plant more beans, though that
might mean more beautiful and hungry deer.
Who knows?
        I'm sorry for the times I've driven home
past a black, enormous, twilight ridge.
Crested with mist, it looked like a giant wave
about to break and sweep across the valley,
and in my loneliness and fear I've thought,
O let it come and wash the whole world clean.
Forgive me. This is my favorite sin: despair -
whose love I celebrate with wine and prayer.

Our Father, thank you for all the birds and trees,
that nature stuff. I'm grateful for good health,
food, air, some laughs, and all the other things
I'm grateful that I've never had to do
without. I have confused myself. I'm glad
there's not a rattrap large enough for deer.
While at the zoo last week, I sat and wept
when I saw one elephant insert his trunk
into another elephant's ass, pull out a lump,
and whip it back and forth impatiently
to free the goodies hidden in the lump.
I could have let it mean almost anything,
but I was stunned again at just how little
we ask for in our lives. Don't look! Don't look!
Two young nuns tried to herd their giggling
schoolkids away. Line up, they yelled. Let's go
and watch the monkeys in the monkey house.
I laughed and got a dirty look. Dear Lord,
we lurch from metaphor to metaphor,
which is - let it be so - a form of praying.

I'm usually asleep by now - the time
for supplication. Requests. As if I'd stayed
up late and called the radio and asked
they play a sentimental song. Embarrassed.
I want a lot of money and a woman.
And also, I want vanishing cream. You know -
a character like Popeye rubs it on
and disappears. Although you see right through him,
he's there. He chuckles, stumbles into things,
and smoke that's clearly visible escapes
from his invisible pipe. It makes me think,
sometimes,of you. What makes me think of me
is the poor jerk who wanders out on air
and then looks down. Below his feet, he sees
eternity, and suddenly his shoes
no longer work on nothingness, and down
he goes. As I fall past, remember me.

Hudgins, Andrew. "Praying Drunk" Upholding the Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 265-267.

Friday, April 27, 2012

exile - scott cairns

Here exactly-a little elbow room. Here, in this margin of poor housing, harsh climate, and unreliable municipal services-something of a breathing space.

Have you seen the faces of the wanderers? Even in the midst of lamentation (especially then), they are radiant, wide-eyed and weeping, open-mouthed, keening at the tops of their lungs, and delirious with joy and purpose.

Even as the familiar supplications for delivery ascend alongside the fragrance of the sensors, even as their voices rise to astonishing volume, and a number of garments-for emphasis-are torn beyond repair, even as the ritual of despair attains unbearable pathos, the blessed appear to be taking some pleasure in the whole affair.

They have their etymologies too, after all-Holiness finding at its root a taste of separateness, fragmentation, periodic disruption in the status quo. Of course they are wandering toward something, but not in any great hurry.

Soon enough, they will come upon a day when the journey is fully behind them, when their colorful tents will be rolled up for good and left to rot in some outbuilding. Soon enough, the carts and litters will decay, the herds grow fat and unused to travel. Soon enough, the land will pull them in to stay.

And of their exile? nothing will remain except the memory-fading even so-of a journey and a life with few oppressive properties, a daily jaunt unparceled by boundaries or taxes-in short, an excursion expressed for a season between the demands of heathen kings and their last, conclusive embrace.

Cairns, Scott. "Exile" Upholding the Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 197-198.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

fooling god - louise erdrich

I must become small and hide where he cannot reach.
I must become dull and heavy as an iron pot.
I must be tireless as rust and bold as roots
growing through the locks on doors
and crumbling the conderblocks
of the foundations of his everlasting throne.
I must be strange as pity so he'll believe me.
I must be terrible and brush my hair
so that he finds me attractive.
Perhaps if I invoke Clare, the patron saint of television.
Perhaps if I become the images
passing through the cells of a woman's brain.

I must become very large and block his sight.
I must be sharp and impetuous as knives.
I must insert myself into the bark of his apple trees,
and cleave the bones of his cows. I must be the marrow
that he drinks into his cloud-wet body.
I must be careful and laugh when he laughs.
I must turn down the covers and guide him in.
I must fashion his children out of playdough, blue, pink, green.
I must pull them from between my legs
and set them before the television.

I must hide my memory in a mustard grain
so that he'll search for it over time until time is gone.
I must lose myself in the world's regard and disparagement.
I must remain this person and be no trouble.
None at all. So he'll forget.
I'll collect dust out of reach,
a single dish from a set, a flower made of felt,
a tablet the wrong shape to choke on.

I must become essential and file everything
under my own system,
so we can lose him and his proofs and adherents.
I must be a doubter in a city of belief
that hails his signs (the great footprints
long as limousines, the rough print on the wall).
On the pavement where his house begins
fainting women kneel. I'm not among them
although they polish the brass tongues of his lions
with their own tongues
and taste the everlasting life.

Erdrich, Louise. "Fooling God" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 326-328.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

poetry and religion: les murray

Religions are poems. The concert
our daylight and dreaming mind, our
emotions, instinct, breath and native gesture

into the only whole thinking: poetry.
Nothing's said till it's dremed out in words
and nothing's true that figures in words only.

A poem, compared with an arrayed religion,
may be like a soldier's one short marriage night
to die and live by. But that is a small religion.

Full religion is the large poem flowing in repetition;
like any poem, it must be inexhaustible and complete
with turns where we ask Now why did the poet do that?

You can't pray a lie, said Huckleberry Finn;
you can't poe one either. It is the same mirror:
mobile, glancing, we call it poetry,

fixed centrally, we call it religion,
and God is the poetry caught in any religion,
caught, not imprisoned. Caught as in a mirror

that he attracted, being in the world as poetry
is in the poem, a law against its closure.
There'll always be religion around while there is poetry

or a lack of it. Both are given, and intermittent,
as the action of those birds - crested pigeon, rosella parrot -
who fly with wings shut, then beating, and again shut.

Murray, Les. "Poetry and Religion" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. Ed. David Impastato, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 127-128.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

the translation of raimundo luz: my imitation - scott cairns

I sold my possessions, even the colorful pencils.
I gave all my money to the dull. I gave my poverty
to the preseident. I became a child again, naked
and relatively innocent. I let the president have my guilt.

I found a virgin and asked her to be my mother.
She held me very sweetly.

I watched father build beautiful shapes with wood.
He too had a gentle way.

I made conversation in holy places with the chosen.
Their theater was grim.

I suggested they cheer up. Many repented,
albeit elaborately.

I floated the wide river on a raft.
I set Jim free.

I revised every word.

One morning, very early, I was taken by brutes and beaten.
I was nailed to a cross so sturdy I thought
father himself might have shaped it.

I gestured for a cool drink and was mocked.
I took on the sins of the world and regretted my extravagance.
I gave up and died. I descended into hell
and spoke briefly with the president.

I rose again, bloodless and feeling pretty good.

I forgave everything.

Cairns, Scott. "The Translation of Raimundo Luz: My Imitation" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 157.

Monday, April 23, 2012

the translation of raimundo luz: my incredulity - scott cairns

Lazarus, of course,
is another story altogether.

Lazarus does not
engage my better self, nor interest me.

Drink twice from the same
wrong cup? Say the idiot boy falls down,

gets back up and falls
again - this is some great trick?

Our giddy crowd should swoon?
Does the first runner turn back to mock the lost?

And if he does, should we
praise him for his extravagant bad taste?

No. His sort will not
profit close attention. His story -

neither lawful nor
expedient. Tear your linens to winding cloth.

Wrap him once for all.
When you've finished with your napkin, bind his lips.

He has had his say.
Bury Lazarus as often as it takes.

Cairns, Scott. "The Translation of Raimundo Luz: My Incredulity" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 319-320.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

the pastor praises the creator - david citino

Dearly beloved, I mean today
to praise the God who gave the tribes
wine, the crisp flesh of suckling pig,
then told them "Thou must not."

Who gave them swords and ploughshares,
lambs and lions, demons and redeemers.
Who made half of them like pestles,
half like mortars, then told them

in themselves they were complete.
Cool soothing fingers and fevers
between the legs. Reason and gooseflesh,
curtains and candles, lightning and oak,

seven days to live and as many sins,
lungs and mold, books and blind men, veins
and age. Who fashioned them a harvest home,
then created wanderlust and roads.

Citino, David. "The Pastor Praises the Creator" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. David Impastato, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 262.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

(from) a song of mercies - david brendan hopes

Mercy on me Spirit,
   for my excessiveness in all things,
   unrepentant, sorrowing that there
   was not always substance nor occasion for more.
   What I have touched I have worn out.
   Where I have gone has wished to
   see the back of me.
   What I have sought has been run to ground
   or soared off honking
   where none could find it anymore.
   Whom I have loved has turned from me
   finally in exhaustion -
   and I know that saying it this way
   makes it sound, almost, a virtue,
   a fire, consuming or refining, in either case white hot -
   but you decide, and permit the proper mercy to descend.

Mercy on me Spirit,
   for the fierce lucidity,
   the stuff of poetry, but the man-destroyer,
   the fender-off of hearts;
   for the charity almost never withheld
   but sometimes crammed down the wrong throat,
   a feast for the merely peckish,
   the starving left with a high smile and a poem
   prostrate in the road;
   for the ingratitude that takes Arcturus and the Pleiades
   and Bach, El Greco and the red tailed hawk as merely due;
   for the pride that would unmake the world
   to make You answer me, to
   make You yield me what is mine,
   to make You love me as you must have promised
   in that swaddling hour only I remember.

Mercy on me Spirit,
   lame with anger, song by anger struck out of my mouth,
   dancer of the Kali-dance: revenge, revenge;
   by anger's red moon put to sleep,
   by anger's red sun wakened,
   poems wrenched into timepieces of retribution,
   nights into counting houses of Your slights and wrongs,
   reveries and friendships shattered;
   having built a house of anger to dwell within;
   having been a river of anger plowing underground;
   having been a wind of anger blackening the petals,
   freezing the boats of me in harbor;
   cruel, cunning, haywire, weeping, full astray
   in the Gehenna of anger, O in mercy, take it away,
   having filled my mouth with dust, the Serpent
   lashing its tail in the desert of its victories....

Hopes, David Brendan "A Song of Mercies" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 304-306.

Friday, April 20, 2012

the cestello annunciation: andrew hudgins

The Annunciation. Sandro Botticelli, 1489-90.

The angel has already said, Be not afraid.
He's said, The power of the Most High
will darken you.
Her eyes are downcast and half closed.
and there's a long pause - a pause here of forever -
as the angel crowds her. She backs away,
her left side pressed against the picture frame.

He kneels. He's come in all unearthly innocence
to tell her of glory - not knowing, not remembering
how terrible it is. And Botticelli
gives her eternity to turn, look out the dorrway, where
on a far hill floats a castle, and halfway across
the river toward it juts a bridge, not completed -

and neither is the touch, angel to virgin,
both her hands held up,both elegant, one raised
as if to say stop, while the other hand, the right one,
reaches toward his; and, as it does, it parts her blue robe
and reveals the concealed red of her inner garment
to the red tiles of the floor and the red folds

of the angel's robe. But her whole body pulls away.
Only her head, already haloed, bows,
acquiescing. And though she will, she's not yet said,
Behold, I am the handmaid of the lord,

as Botticelli, in his great pity,

lets her refuse, accept, refuse, and think again.

Hudgins, Andrew. "The Cestello Annuciation" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. Ed. David Impastato, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 106-107.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

to the unseeable animal - wendell berry

     My daughter: "I hope there's an animal
     somewhere that nobody has ever seen.
     And I hope nobody ever sees it."

Being, whose flesh dissolves
at our glance, knower
of the secret sums and measures,
you are always here,
dwelling in the oldest sycamores,
visiting the faithful springs
when they are dark and the foxes
have crept to their edges.
I have come upon pools
in streams, places overgrown
with the woods' shadow,
where I knew you had rested,
watching the little fish
hang still in the flow;
as I approached they seemed
particles of your clear mind
disappearing among the rocks.
I have walked deep in the woods
in the early morning, sure
that while I slept
your gaze passed over me.
That we do not know you
is your perfection
and our hope. The darkness
keeps us near you.

Berry, Wendell. "To the Unseeable Animal" Upholding the Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 135-136.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

the monastery orchard in early spring: kathleen norris

God's cows are in the fields,
safely grazing. I can see them
through bare branches,
through the steady rain.
Suddenly, fir trees seem ashamed
and tired, bending under winter coats.

I, too, want to be light enough
for this day: throw off impediments,
push like a tulip
through a muddy smear of snow.

I want to take the rain to heart
and feel it move
like possibility, the idea
of change,
through things
seen and unseen:
forces, principalities, powers.

Newton named the force that pulls the apple
and the moon with it,
toward the center of the earth.
Augustine found a desire as strong; to steal,
to possess, and then throw away.
Encounter with fruit is dangerous:
the pear's womanly shape forever mocked him.

A man and a woman are talking.
Rain moves down
and bare branches lift up
to learn all over again
to hold their fill of green
and blossom, and bear each fruit to glory, 
letting it fall.

Norris, Kathleen. "The Monastery Orchard in Early Spring" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. Ed. David Impastato, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 32-33.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

after "mindwalk" - denise levertov

Once we've laboriously
disconnected our old conjunctions -
'physical', 'solid', 'real', 'material' - freed them
from antique measure to admit what,
even through eyes naked but robed
in optic devices, is not perceptible (oh,
precisely is not perceptible!): admitted
that 'large' and 'small' are bereft
of meaning, since not matter but process, process only,
agthers itself to appear
knowable: world, universe -

then what we feel
in moments of bleak arrest,
panic's black cloth falling
over our faces, over our breath,

is a new twist of Pascal's dread,
a shift of scrutiny,
                           its object now
inside our flesh, the infinite spaces discovered
within our own atoms, inside the least
particle of what we supposed
our mortal selves (and in and outside,
what are they?) - its object now
bits of the Void left over from before
teh Fiat Lux, immeasurably
incorporate in our discarnate, fictive,
(yes, but sentient,) notion of substance,
inaccurate as our language,
flux which the soul alone
pervadess, elusive but persistent.

Levertov, Denise. "After 'Mindwalk'" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 332-333.

Monday, April 16, 2012

the wild rose: wendell berry

Sometimes hidden from me
in daily customs and in trust,
so that I live by you unaware
as by the beating of my heart,

suddenly you flare in my sight,
a wild rose blooming at the edge
of thicket, grace and light
where yesterday was only shade,

and once more I am blessed, choosing
again what I chose before.

Berry, Wendell. "The Wild Rose" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. David Impastato, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 208.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

the father - maura eichner

     Luke  15:11-32

Never had the old man made such a journey.
His robes enfolded him like driving wind.
No one remembered the old man running. Even fire
had never moved him. His estates were the light
of the town. Yet, there he was, running to a dark
figure huddling the road. Love was flood-water

carrying him forward. Some tried to dike the water;
nothing could hold him. Love loosed a wind
of words: "My son is coming home." Dark
grief behind, the father ran, arms open as a light.
He had to lift the boy before his son's fire
of sorrow burned the father's sandals. Journey?

The old man could remember no other journey
but this homecoming: he held his son in the fire
of his arms, remembering his birth: water
and fire. Servants ran along thrusting at the wind
of excitement: what shall we do? what torchlight
prepare? "Bathe away the pig-pen-slopping-dark

that cloaks my son. Prepare a banquet. Jewel the dark
with fires. My son was dead. My son is afire
with life. The land is fruitful. Joy is its water.
Where is my eldest son? The end of the journey
is ours. My son, do you grieve? turn from the light
to say you are unrewarded? Son, is the wind

from the south closer to you than me? is the wind
of your doubt stronger than my love for you? Water
your hardness, my son. Be a brother to the dark
of your brother's sorrow. Be a season of light
to his coming home. You will make many a journey
through cities, up mountains, over abysses of fire,

but for tonight and tomorrow, my eldest, fire
your heart, strike at its stone. Let it journey
toward dawning, be a thrust at the dark
your brother will never forget. Find a woman of water
and fire, seed her with sons for my name and wind-
supple daughters for bearing daughters and sons of light.

I am a father of journeys. I remind you the dark
can be conquered by love-blasting fire. I made air and wind
a compassionate homeland. Be at home in the light."

Eichner, Maura. "The Father" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 222-223.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

sabbaths: 1985 I - wendell berry

Not again in this flesh will I see
the old trees stand here as they did,
weighty creatures made of light, delight
of their making straight in them and well,
whatever blight our blindness was or made,
however thought or act might fail.

The burden of absence grows, and I pay
daily the grief I owe to love
for women or men, days and trees
I will not know again. Pray
for the world's light thus borne away.
Pray for the little songs that wake and move.

For comfort as these lights depart,
recall again the angels of the thicket,
columbine aerial in the whelming tangle,
song drifting down, light rain, day
returning in song, the lordly Art
piercing out its humble way.

Though blindness may yet detonate in light,
ruining all, after all the years, great right
subsumed finally in paltry wrong,
what do we know? Still
the Presence that we come into with song
is here, shaping the seasons of His wild will.

Berry, Wendell. "Sabbaths: 1985 I" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 134-135.

Friday, April 13, 2012

the liar's psalm: repentance - andrew hudgins

I repent the actual. It has never got me anywhere.
It is nothing against principalities, against powers.
My father will die and I will carry on. I dread his death

more than mine because it will come sooner - knowledge I repent. In lies
he will outlive the liar. And that's me. The lie itself
will carry on, is itself a child, a separate life, a blow

against the gods of objects. Who are not happy with me
or with their densities. They are not worth their flawed kingdoms,
And neither do I love them. They are dangerous. They are too

stupid to be insignificant, too proud of their ability
to blister my hands and make them raw. I repent letting them,
and I repent logic, which has no god: it will do

anything, it will go anywhere. Tell it your destination
and it will take you there. A taxi. This is the nature
of evidence: how could you prove the meat you ate last night

wasn't horse meat, goat flesh,
or something I had, the night before, sliced from my thighs?
Or that it was meat at all? Or that you ate? There is no

bottom to what we will believe, and no top.
So I have made this vow.
Never again will I insult you with the actual, something

that has no birthday, while lies are born
six times a second and each with a festival. They are the gifts
we give ourselves, like morphine, a change of clothes, a piece

of apple pie, a black chrysanthemum, a job - I could go on.
I am ashamed when I remember whom I have attacked
with actuality. My mother with her stinginess. My wife

with her black and purple dress - you should have seen it! -
and her infidelities. My friend who steals ashtrays. My brother's
avoirdupois. I repent that blade and I repent

my skill with it. When blessed with falsehoods, I will tell them.
When told a lie, I will believe it. I will not doubt
a word you say. Forgive me now my finger in the wound, and knuckle deep.

Hudgins, Andrew. "The Liar's Psalm: Repentance" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 166-167.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

true love - kathleen norris

binds all wounds,
wounds all heels,
whatever. You can tell.
William Buckley,
Gore Vidal, Sampson
and Delilah, Paul
and the Corinthians.
You can tell.

It makes us fight
and bleed, takes us to the heights,
the deeps, where we don't
want to go. Adam and Eve. Noah
and Mrs., David,
Bathsheba, Ruth,
Naomi. You can tell.

The way light surges
out of nothing. TheMagdalene,
the gardener. God help us,
we are God's chosen now.

Norris, Kathleen. "True Love" Upholding the Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 223-224.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

a third possibility - wendell berry

I fired the brush pile by the creek
and leaping gargoyles of flame
fled over it, fed on it, roaring,
and made one flame that stood
tall in its own wind, snapping off
points of itself that raved and vanished.

The creek kept coming down, filling
above the rocks, folding
over them, its blank face dividing
in gargles and going on, mum
under the ice, for the day was cold,
the wind stinging as the flame stung.

Unable to live either life, I stood
between the two, and liked them both.

Berry, Wendell. "A Third Possibility" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 198.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

francis meets a leper - david citino

He heard the bell toll, erratic
in a palsied hand, and smelled
the goatish scent before he saw
the figure moving in mist on the road
to Assisi, a traveler gloved and shod,
as was the law, to hide the sores,
a man's inhumanity, missing fingers
and toes, and tried to unmask the face,
slack muscles showing nothing
but astonishment, lower lids keeping
eyes open always to our providential decay,
flash soft and thick as rotten wood.
Francis saw in bleary eyes, near to him
as his mother's as she loved him,
a brother, then someone dearer, wrapped
as he'd seen others in his father's cloth
that first had profited English shepherds
and the weavers of Ghent, a skin
bleached white as bone, a flower blazing
in snow, so close to perfection it could
only decay. Francis did the only thing
he could, sun rising high enough now
to burn away the mist. He unwrapped
the face, studying lineaments fashioned
by a master's hand, image and likeness
of the death that beautifies all living.
He closed his eyes and kissed.

Citino, David. "Francis Meets a Leper" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 367.

Monday, April 9, 2012

the day after

(from) window poems: 19-20 - wendell berry

Peace. Let men, who cannot be brothers
to themselves, be brothers
to mulleins and daisies
that have learned to live on the earth.
Let them understand the pride
of sycamores and thrushes
that receive the light gladly, and do not
think to illuminate themselves.
Let them know that the foxes and the owls
are joyous in their lives,
and their gayety is praise to the heavens,
and they do not raven with their minds.
In the night the devourer,
and in the morning all things
find the light a comfort.
Peace.... If we, who have killed
our brothers and hated ourselves,
are made in the image of God,
then surely the bloodroot,
wild phlox, trillium and mayapple
are more truly made
in God's image, for they have desired
to be no more than they are,
and they have spared each other....

Berry, Wendell. from "Window Poems: 19-20" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. David Impastato, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 136.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

he is risen! indeed; indeed.

christ as a gardener - andrew hudgins

The boxwoods planted in the park spelled LIVE.
I never noticed it until they died.
Before, the entwined green had smudged the word
unreadable. And when they take their own advice
again - come spring, come Easter - no one will know
a word is buried in the leaves. I love the way
that Mary thought her resurrected Lord
a gardener. It wasn't just the broad-brimmed hat
and muddy robe that fooled her: he was that changed.
He looks across the unturned field, the riot
of unscythed grass, the smattering of wildflowers.
Before he can stop himself, he's on his knees.
He roots up stubborn weeds, pinches the suckers,
deciding order here - what lives, what dies,
an how. But it goes even deeper than that.

His hands burn and his bare feet smolder. He longs
to lie down inside the long, dew-moist furrows
and press his pierced side and his broken forehead
into the dirt. But he's already done it -
passed through one death and out the other side.
He laughs. He kicks his bright spade in the earth
and turns it over. Spring flashed by, then harvest.
Beneath his feet, seeds dance into the air.
They rise, and he, not noticing, ascends
on midair steppingstones of dandelion,
of milkweed, thistle, cattail and goldenrod.

Hudgins, Andrew. "Christ as a Gardener" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. Ed. David Impastato, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 28.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

the saturday between

salvator mundi: via crucis - denise levertov

Maybe He looked indeed
much as Rembrandt envisioned Him
in those small heads that seem in fact
portraits of more than a model.
A dark, still young, very intelligent face,
a soul-mirror gaze of deep understanding, unjudging.
That face, in extremis, would have clenched its teeth
in a grimace not shown in even the great crucifixions.
The burden of humanness (I begin to see) exacted from Him
that He taste also the humiliation of dread,
cold sweat of wanting to let the whole thing go,
like any mortal hero out of his depth,
like anyone who has taken a step too far
and wants herself back.
The painters, even the greatest, don't show how,
in the midnight Garden,
or staggering uphill under the wieght of the Cross,
He went through with even the human longing
to simply cease, to not be.
Not torture of body,
not the hideous betrayals humans commit
nor the faithless weakness of friends (not then, in agony's grip)
was the Incarnation's heaviest weight,
but this sickened desire to renege,
to step back from what He, Who was God,
had promised Himself, and had entered
time and flesh to enact.
Sublime acceptance, to be absolute, had to have welled
up from those depths where purpose
drifted for mortal moments.

Levertov, Denise. "Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. David Impastato, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 321.

Friday, April 6, 2012

good friday

a recuperation of sin: scott cairns

I suppose we might do away with words like sin.
They are at least archaic, not to mention rude,
and late generations have been pretty well schooled

against the presumption of holding anything
to be absolutely so, universally
applicable, especially anything like

sin which is, to put it more neatly, unpleasant,
not the sort of thing one brings up. Besides, so much
of what ignorance may have once attributed

to sin has been more justly shown to be the end
result of bad information, genetic flaw,
or, most often, an honest misunderstanding.

And I suppose sin's old usefulness may have paled
somewhat through many centuries of overuse
by corrupt clergy pointing fingers, by faithless

men and women who have longed more than anything
for a more rigid tyranny over their wives
and husbands, over their somnabulant children.

In fact, we could probably forget the idea
of sin altogether if it were not for those
periodic eruptions one is quite likely

to picture in the papers, or on the TV -
troubling episodes in which, inexplicably,
some giddy power rises up to occasion

once more the spectacle of the innocent's blood.

Cairns, Scott. "A Recuperation of Sin" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. David Impastato, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 173.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

(from) manifesto: the mad farmer liberation front - wendell berry

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequioas....
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts....
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
To what is nighest in your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wring direction.
Practice resurrection.

Berry, Wendell. from "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. David Impastato, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 160.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

what my teachers taught me i try to teach my students: maura eichner

A bird in the hand
is not to be desired.
In writing, nothing
is too much trouble.
Culture is nourished, not
by fact, but by myth.
Continually think of those
who were truly great
who in their lives fought
for life, who wore
at their hearts, the fire's
center. Feel the meanings
the words hide. Make routine
a stimulus. Remember
it can cease. Forge
hosannahs from doubt.
Hammer on doors with the heart.
All occasions invite God's
mercies and all times
are his seasons.

Eichner, Maura. "What My Teachers Taught Me I Try to Teach My Students" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. David Impastato, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 162-163.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

sister mary appassionata lectures the eighth grade boys and girls on the nature of the candle: david citino

There are many instances during the Middle Ages of persons having a candle made, as a special devotion, of the same height or the same weight as themselves.
                 -Curiosities of Popular Customs

It stands to reason. Wax crafted by bees,
tallow of vegetable or beast rendered just hard enough
to stand, to support the flame that dances
dangerously before the slightest breath, wick

running the body's length, spinal cord
that makes all parts a whole, intelligence
warming whatever comes near, touch of love,
to dispel the sentence of night after night,
only need to be, but eating a hole
in the center, faith consuming flesh from the inside,
running toward the heart, a fuse,
utter dark biding its time under the tongue,
inside each tooth and bone, life drowning
in the rising tide of life, deadly depth
of every day, price we're made to pay
for our season of light, last breath
a hiss or sigh as sun floods windows
to bear the soul away, what's left of us lying
gutted, guttered, cold, scents
of our brief wisdom lingering in the room

Citino, David. "Sister Mary Appassionata Lectures the Eighth Grade Boys and Girls on the Nature of the Candle" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. David Impastato, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 38-39.

Monday, April 2, 2012

the translation of raimundo luz: my farewell - scott cairns

Things are happening. Daily.
I come across new disturbances
in my routine. I am curiously
unsettled. I dress myself
and the clothes fall to the floor.
I scratch my head. Dust
in my hand. All morning
arranging flowers, and for what?
Petals fallen, litter
on the pretty cloth. I march
straightway to the mirror
and shake my fist. My hand
is a blue maraca scattering petals.
I shout my rage
and hear my words praising
the vast goodness of the world.
This is beyond control.

Even so, I am slowly learning one thing;

of one thing I am slowly becoming
aware: whether or not I would
have it so, whether I sleep
or no, I will be changed.
I am changing as we speak. Bless you all.
Suffer the children. Finished. Keep.

Hudgins, Andrew. "Christ as a Gardener" Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. David Impastato, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 36-37.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

situation no. 33: the feast - david citino

You're told the ingredients
have been assembled: for the sake of love,
wine and bread, fennel, honey and leeks;
laurel and bay to represent
your political importance and way with words;
a sampling of fabulous beasts and birds.
Fruits and meats to symbolize labor;
salt, the apple and lamb.

You're told the entertainment
will consist of your slow dismemberment
to the pulse of bass drums,
the plodding cadence of Gregorian chant,
screams of your parents and children.

You're told it will hurt
like nothing else, but after it's over
your very best friends will take you
home with them and place you
on altars in the midst of music and yearning,
place you near fire, teach their children
to sing your name.

Do you accept?

Citino, Dave. "Situation No. 33: The Feast " Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. David Impastato, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 19.