Monday, December 24, 2012

The Maze of Her Memory





And having drunk to the dregs
Of sorrow’s sour cup
She fumbles flushed, 
Stumbles sloshed
Through the side-streets
And dark damp alleys 
Of the maze of her memory
Red-eyed, weary and wasted
Looking for a lost key

All her pockets have been pulled
All her drawers gone through
And now she is shaking out shadows
Crawling in strange circles
On her hands and knees
Fingers feeling every fissure
Just to find the key

To what is locked inside of him



Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Weight of Her Body







She smiles as she brushes her hair. She blinks strange and says, “A mirror is the slow motion film of dying.” And then she puts makeup on her future corpse, a hint of perfume, a nod to the embalmer. 

Shattered glass everywhere. 

Ever since the accident, so pensive, so enthralled by the minutia of the moment, the ephemera of memories, the silent hour every morning over coffee to sort the night’s dreams. When she finally came out of the coma she had said, “It’s not at all like they say you know?” But then she never did say, only that, “There was no flash of brilliant light compressing life into an instant. Only a dusty office, the low green haze of a banker’s lamp, and an ominous presence taking tally, running  the numbers, and the feeling of coming up in the debt of the universe.”

So much blood. 

“I had lunch with Amy today.” She is speaking loud to be heard from the next room and I am shaving because it is our anniversary. 

The staleness of the waiting room. 

 “Yeah? How was it?” The words come out squished, my face contorted for the razor sake. This is the small talk to break the tension, the apology without the apology for another day of being distant.

The dull murmur of conversations, like a stomach growling, like hunger pains.

“Our waitress was fun. She talked with her hands, like there were little marionettes dangling from her fingers acting out her strange stories. She went on and on and on about rehab and staying clean, her boyfriend and the dog fighting charge that he beat because his baby’s mamma knew the judge in the biblical sense.”

The dreadful purgatory of it all.

“Somewhere between her bootlegging grandma and her skydiving albino brothers I started imagining the invisible puppets pantomiming each new plot twist. Little moonshine makers at a copper still, now her drunk mother cussing baby Jesus and her at six years old crying in the corner begging please don’t cancel Christmas. You should have seen her apron it was gloriously disgusting. It was like a Rorschach test, I swear I saw an angel with one wing in grease and gravy and the face of Elvis, right by the pocket, in mustard I think.”

The sickle shaped scar above her left eye.

“You see Elvis in dryer lint and burnt toast.”

The headaches.

“And clouds, and clam chowder, I know, I know.” She laughs, the tension thaws, she takes my arm and we walk to the car.  

The blurred vision.

At the restaurant she smiles at the valet as he takes the keys. She whispers thank you. The maitre de, the waiter, they follow her with reverent eyes and why shouldn’t they, she is as sacred as starlight, and worthy of every wish, every prayer.  The sacrament of her little black dress, the miraculous teetering heels, and the two dozen little moons orbiting the altar of her perfect neck; they are all converted; the whole city seems born again.

She died on the operating table twice.

She pokes at her food, apologizes for her appetite, folds and refolds her linen napkin. I ask about her mom: cancer in remission, no news. I slide a thin velvet box across the table. She makes an attempt at mock consternation but she loves gifts. Her grandmother’s engagement ring reset into a pendant. She tears up a little and excuses herself but comes back wearing the new necklace instead of her pearls. She kisses the top of my head before she sits, she whispers thank you.

“She’s lucky to be alive.”

The museum is cold, she pulls her sweater up around her shoulders. We follow the tour for several rooms until she wants to rest. “It takes something away from it, to talk about it I mean. I can’t even look at Degas without remembering how he profaned women, objectified them.” She says as she takes off her heels, rubs her feet. Degas would have loved her dancer’s legs. 

“She may never walk again.”

She slides between the sheets. Says “good night” and sighs heavy with sleep. I turn out the light and walk to the window.  She is dreaming, she mumbles some unintelligible phrase.

“She may never wake up.”  

Sunrise waited at her hotel window, wary of the sorry scene inside but then all at once gathered its courage and thrust itself upon the room. Shadows swirled like wind-blown smoke, flickered and then fled the light, her eyes winced and then widened. She got up slowly and walked to the window. She pressed her palms against the warming pane and then her face. Fourteen stories below delivery men delivered, school children waited for school buses to swallow them sleepy-eyed and single file, and the hustle-bustle busy engine of morning shifted into a higher gear. She let the full weight of her body lean into the glass, the full weight of her desperation. The window whined against the strain, creaked and cried and pleaded against her weight but she ignored it. She closed her eyes and threw herself glass shattering headlong to the street below.

“She may not remember what happened.”

Lightening cascades across the sky west of the city. The power goes out, I light a candle. She is on the threshold of a nightmare. She wakes up screaming. Trembling. I put my arm around her and stroke her hair until she is calm. She asks, “Were we happy, before I mean? Were we in love?”

“She may not remember you at all.”



Monday, November 26, 2012

Little Nothing.


This is Anel.



He's my closest friend in Haiti. He is my translator, my teacher, my cultural liaison, even my conscience at times. He works side by side with me in the Haitian heat and has never once complained about anything. He is ever thankful for his job, his family and his friends. When I need someone to be a diplomat with an orphanage owner who is exploiting kids Anel softens my words and keeps peace. 

On weekends I travel to Titanyen where Anel lives and often we spend our Saturdays as makeshift tour guides for medical volunteers that come to work at the clinic in Cite Soleil. A few weekends ago there were two ladies, Kelly and Rachel and we took them along with the clinic's medical coordinator Jill to the mass grave a few miles up the road.

In 2010 Haiti suffered a catastrophic earthquake. Nearly 200,000 men, women and children lost their lives. Images of thousands of corpses lining Haiti's streets inundated first world televisions. The government decided to bury the unclaimed bodies en masse. And little Titanyen became a Necropolis whose dead far outnumbered her living.


The picture above and the one directly below were taken by Kelly when she was in Haiti in 2011. This is how the mass graves looked then, thousands of black crosses planted by mourners. 


But now, a year later only a few of those crosses remain. There is a permanent monument at the edge of the graves and a large wooden cross at the hill's peak but mostly there is a lot of rough underbrush and the scraps of remembrances past. A fake flower, a piece of purple fabric, spray paint epitaphs on pieces of plywood. I left the girls at the bottom of the hill and walked up to read the plaque on the cross. Anel followed me slowly but then turned and lost himself in thought.



Atop the small hill two large crosses serve as a slightly more permanent memorial to the 40,000 thousand that are buried here.


As I approached the cross a falcon was sitting, watching our wandering. I wondered how much he'd seen. Had he been there, circling in the sky, watching the tens of thousands of corpses pushed ignominiously into that gaping mouth of earth. Had he heard the wails of the living, screaming out sorrows for the dead. 



The girls had gathered at the truck and Anel was looking my way so I snapped a couple more pictures and hurried down. At the bottom of the hill joyful Anel was quiet and reserved. I unlocked the truck for the girls and then pulled him aside. "What's wrong?" I asked.

Instead of an answer he asked me a question. Did I know what he had done before he came to work for SP? I didn't. He went on, told me how he took pictures of people with a digital camera, then would print out the shots at a photo copy center and sell the pictures to his patrons for a little over a buck. On the day of the earthquake he had been going about his regular business and was inside the photo copy store printing out the days crop. He left the store and then 20 minutes later the building collapsed killing all 30 people inside.

Geez.....

Underneath our feet, some, maybe all, of those unlucky thirty slowly turned back to dirt. 

Come to find out, little Titanyen has always been a dumping ground for bodies. Thugs and gangsters, criminals and government hit-men alike have over the years disposed of their victims here. In fact all over Haiti that is what Titanyen is known for, that and a common perception that it is a desolate wasteland of a town. Titanyen literally means little nothing. 

But I love this little town. I miss it so. Some of the kindest, gentlest, most genuine people I have ever met live in Titanyen. And I miss Anel the most this cold, wet, gunpowder grey Mississippi morning. His enthusiasm is infectious. His dedication and determination tireless. Scripture says the last will be first, the lowly will be lifted, and that God calls those things that are not as though they are. I know Titanyen has not been forgotten by God. I saw Him there so often, on the faces of the children, heard Him in their laughter, tasted Him in the boundless generosity of home cooked meals. But mostly, in a town so acquainted with death I have seen God's eternal life in the indefatigable hope in the hearts of her people.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dark Side of the Moon








Imagine you have just now come in out of the cold
Out of the will breaking bone aching bitter cold
And the great big golden dog of a fire 
Is licking the frostbite from your fingers
Its warm breath on your cheeks 
Turning snowflakes into tears of relief

But now imagine the fire is no longer a fire
Now the fire is the sun
And outside it is not winter, outside it is 
The relentless emptiness of outer space
Vacuous, and black and utterly alone
And you are no longer you
No, now you are the moon
And now one side of you
The dark side of you
Your hidden side
Never, ever gets warm


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Some Bigger Beast.






I am a little cat
Always on the doorstep of your heart
Brave with a broken bird
Or miserable mouse
Dangling from my proud mouth

And when you will not answer your heart's door
When my scratching and
Muffled meows
Cannot shake you from your soul's fragrant slumber
Then I will leave the little spoils of my victories there
And go and find some bigger beast to vanquish
Something wild and wretched
And more worthy of your honor


Monday, November 19, 2012

The Dogs of Hunters








I am through falling in love with every girl I see
I have decided, sitting here in one of those megalithic bookstores
Drinking bitter coffee, reading Dora Malech
Take this raven haired girl for instance 
Normally, the way she is wearing her dress
The way she has absentmindedly forgotten
To cover her caramel colored freckles with
Make-up this morning would have meant
All butterflies and strange twinges
But not anymore
And the way she slips out of her shoes 
As soon as she sits 
Normally I would have thought about that 
For the rest of the day
But not today, today I am no longer noticing
Things like the way she slowly flips through her magazine 
Even though she’s already staring far off beyond it
Or the way her expression seems to say she’s been chased 
Night after night through black forests
By the needle-teethed dogs of hunters
Narrowly escaping across roaring rivers
And that in open meadows, 
On windswept steppes
She has howled out her hurt 
At a bone-colored moon
Her fur silvered by the starlight
If only in her, sigh…
Sweat-drenched dreams


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Larger Inside Than Out: Do Right to Me Baby.


Don't wanna judge nobody, don't wanna be judged
Don't wanna touch nobody, don't wanna be touched
Don't wanna hurt nobody, don't wanna be hurt
Don't wanna treat nobody like they was dirt

But if you do right to me, baby
I'll do right to you too
Got to do unto others like you'd have them
Like you'd have them, do unto you.....


Dylan's folk rock rendering of the Golden rule, lyrics from his song Do Right To Me Baby (Do Unto Others). 


Bobby D circa 1979.

This is the first post in a series Larger Inside Than Out on the simple things of the gospel that seem to get so screwed. This post in particular has been a long time coming. I am about to reduce the gospel to one word. One. Simple. Word. 

Empathy.

Not what you expected? To be honest, I never really saw it either, not really until 6 months back. It was the matter of the dirty dishes I think. Yeah, it was Easter, and the beautiful ladies that cook and clean the kitchen had the weekend off. So we all merrily cooked for ourselves and ate and ate and ate....and the dishes piled up. And they sat. They sat from good Friday on. Perhaps, in the spirit of the season, some had hoped for a sort of miracle on the third day...but alas, none such luck. So at around midnight I made my way into the kitchen for a glass of water and the smell and shadow of such a gigantic pile of dishes as to stagger the soul. I was incredulous. Well, mostly I was pissed that there weren't any clean glasses. So after ducking my head under the water cooler I stood staring at the mound of unwashed dishes. And I thought, I wonder what the ladies will think when they come in tomorrow. What this pile of dishes communicates to them, about how we feel about them. I thought, if I were them.....well you get my point.

It took me til 2 a.m to finish those damn dishes. I was so steaming mad by the time I was through. But then, my soul was crushed by the reality of it all. How selfish we all are, how rarely we put ourselves in the other person's position, how very rare the commodity of empathy really is. I can attest to the veracity of this statement. I have been a selfish bastard my whole life.

At the very heart of the heart of the gospel is this beautiful reality, that Jesus understands exactly how we feel. Wow. And then, in the most universally simple way, He spells it out for us...."Do unto others, as you'd have done unto you." Wow.

Scripture tells us that Jesus was tempted in all ways, that he bore all our suffering and shame. He alone can say to each one of us...I know how you feel. As Christians, the body of Christ, the hands, the feet, the heart of Jesus in this world, we are to express the same through our actions. Empathizing with the pain of others, the frustration, the loneliness, the poverty....And then we are to act.

So then, a guy on the street asks you for money. Instead of judging his motives, instead of scrutinizing his appearance, or offering a snide remark about getting a job. Do for him what you'd want done for you.

When you see the special needs child being picked on, passed over, imagine it was your child.

When you consider the 2 million women enslaved in the sex trade, ask yourself. "What lengths would I go to if this was my daughter, or wife, or mother or sister?" "What lengths would I want someone to go to to rescue me?"

Empathy.

When you think of the hungry as they succumb to starvation, as 14 thousand do everyday....

The 163 million orphans...

Empathy.

When you give a treatise on religion to the waitress and then leave a buck and a half tip for a 50 dollar meal...

Empathy.

When you tell the divorcee they should have tried harder.

When you tell the sick they should have prayed harder.

Empathy.

I have been in Haiti for almost 8 months. I have seen how most Haitians live. I have also heard the statements of outsiders as they fly in, take a snapshot, and then proceed to spell out all that is broken in Haitian society, and why, and what would fix it. And yet they are ferried about in air conditioned vehicles, they sleep in dry and temperature controlled rooms. They bathe with running water and enjoy the luxury of a toilet, and a hand sink, and they live a life so separate, so unlike that of the Haitians they are "ministering" to...

We must put ourselves in the other's shoes. If our day started with a 2 mile trek down the side of a mountain, then a 2 hour ride in the back of a pick up, having bathed from a bucket, having hand washed our clothes, having not eaten so as to pay the tap tap, having slept poorly on cardboard, under a tarp roof. Having done the same thing for our whole lives....well I guarantee you we wouldn't show up for work with a heart full of joy radiating all over our faces just to make a dollar and hour so we can feed our kids and maybe, just maybe send the oldest to school. I wouldn't. But that is just what my Haitian brothers and sisters do everyday. Week in and week out. Never complaining. Never.

"This is all they've ever known" one might say  So true, and yet in a the first world, where our every whim is a reality, where we are only limited by our imaginations, we are among the most clinically depressed nations on the planet. 

The gospel does not suggest we empathize, it is the central tenant of the gospel, because if we are following Christ's example, which is the definition of being a Christian, following Christ, and since the Cross is the greatest act of empathy every conceived we are to do the same. The New Testament is crowded with stories of Christ moved with compassion. Empathy is the key that unlocks compassion.

Brennan Manning recounts a story of two drunk Irishmen sitting in a pub in rural Ireland. The one slurs to the other, "Seamus, do you love me?" "Of course I do" his sloshed friend replies. "Then tell me what hurts me?"

"What hurts me?"

Christ knows.

And it is in this fragile state that He accepts us. We must find a way to do the same. To listen before we judge, to walk that mile in the other's shoes before we tell them they are on the wrong road. 

Do right to me baby.

The anniversary of the moment in time when Christ's empathy began, at least in a physical respect, approaches. We celebrate His birth, a day of incarnation, a day of anticipation of when He will come again. And while we spend billions to buy the affections of our loved ones, to placate their restlessness, to anesthetize their sorrow....27  million are enslaved. 200 million are homeless. 

Imagine you are homeless, the reasons, the decisions, good or bad, the tragedies that got you to that point aside, how do you feel about the Christmas celebrations inside the warm houses? Does the celebration, to which you have no part communicate the gospel to you? What would you want the shoppers, the revelers, your fellow man to do? It's complicated you might think. Think harder. You are alone. You are wearing seven layers of discarded clothing. Your stench, your rashes, your finger-less gloves, your frostbit fingers. The rumble in your belly, a dumpster-dive dinner. Sheets of cardboard, rats for bed-mates, one more eternally cold night punctuated by car horns and thick exhaust. Now. What would you want someone to do for you? What if it was your child? What would you do?

Imagine you make bricks 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Your family at your side, your pregnant wife, your four year old daughter, your 8 year old son. It is 110 degrees, double that at the face of the kiln. You eat if you make your quota of 1400 bricks. It takes every one of you, all 18 hours to make that quota. Your little girl, palms calloused, fingerprints gone. Your son, another year without school. Your beautiful wife, bonded with you for a few dollars debt. Your master beats you when the bricks aren't up to his standard, a standard that is an ever moving target. He beats you when you ask to see your debt ledger, when he finally does your debt grows. You are trapped. What would you want someone to do?

The gospel of empathy is radical in every respect, except for the way we are living it. To continue to live the way we want when so many barely are able to survive is more than just an affront to the gospel...it is the opposite of the gospel and the sinister essence of the worst possible hypocrisy. I would know. I've lived this way for most of my life. To claim we are Christians and continue to ignore the great social injustices of our day, to continue to enjoy cheap goods at the expense of slave labor, to live in extravagance when so many have nothing....It proves we have never felt what God feels for His creation. The empathy that radiates from the cross, that disintegrates all isolation, that incinerates all despair, helps to heal all hurts and recklessly lives to break every bondage. 

I could post a hundred images of starving or exploited children. Charts and statistics until the numbers blur and no longer bleed or sweat or cry...but we're big people, with consciences, and intellects, similar hopes and fears. We know how this is supposed to work. And if we call ourselves Christians, well then we know what we have to do. What we should want to do, what sacrificial, joy-filled love compels us to do.

Do right to me baby.

P.S. Since that fateful Easter weekend, and including the  very long, wet, shut-in, cabin fevered weekend of TS Sandy, my beautiful co-workers have washed tons of dishes!



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Larger Inside Than Out.



Back in the days when I wanted to be a rockstar (not so long gone), I had a friend, a fellow musician, who made a comment one night that has always stuck with me. We were hanging out at his new practice space talking shop and the conversation turned from matters of feedback and backbeats to those of a more spiritual nature. After laying out what I thought to be a fairly accurate depiction of the gospel in response to his question as to what I believed, he said, thoughtfully, "Jesus, Christianity, it's just too simple to understand".

I have thought about that statement a hundred times since that night. I have often wondered if he was merely waxing philosophic, or, being a drummer, and used to breaking things down to their rudiments, he had tried the same with the gospel and found it rather like the tardis, larger inside than out.



But today, as I turned this around in my brain I thought that it could be something else too, that the narrow scope of the gospel is contrary to the wide minds of modern men. Because that is the thing isn't, for too many people that I have met anyway, that the gospel is just too easy, too simplistic, too vacation bible school Elmer's glue and glitter, popsicle sticks in the shape of a cross, trace your turkey hand cause God made all the animals....kinda simple. Hmmmm......

So, having been shut in the last 24 hours thanks to the little tizzy fit Sandy's throwing, I have once again been chewing on that statement, on that word, "simple". There are other simple things, things we take at face value and are not so intellectually embarrassed to do so. 

A kiss for instance. A kiss is no feat of physics and though a kiss can open up new universes in the heart no one bothers much with the cosmology of the thing. A kiss is, well, just a kiss. Sorta. And the smell of woodsmoke on winterwind. The way it transports you to a place far away or to another time. Not magic, just simple, but in the best way. And the way that you open every antique wardrobe with bated breath, hoping mothballs crunching underfoot are really snow, that furs are firs, and that Narnia looms beyond the lampstand...ok, so that is magic. And maybe it is not the simple things we profane, but those things which we feel are of such great importance, such eternal weight, that we feel they should be of equal complexity, a testament to their significance, some great girth to justify their gravity. Or maybe we like the exclusivity of a mystery, a concept, a philosophy that only a few could ever really understand. Again, hmmmmm......



But the scriptures say that God uses the foolish things to confound the wise. That He takes delight in those things that are powerless and low, the things that are not as Paul's 1st letter to Corinth surmises. God, uses simple things. 

So.....I am going to be doing a blog within a blog, along with my normal posts about Haiti (or wherever I am), and social justice, and the various a sundry visceral prerogatives of my wanderlust and whimsy, I will be posting about these "simple things". That is, the rudiments of faith in Christ. It will not be the gospel in binary code or anything so mechanical. But merely fleshed out thoughts on the basics of a Christianity that I feel have been hijacked by consumerism and greed, selfishness and self promotion and a whole lot of unnecessary peripheral chatter. It would make my heart very much the happier to entitle these posts "A Christian Manifesto". But besides the obviousness and bloated pomp of that title, it has, alas, been used.... So these posts will merely be entitled, "Larger inside than out". As an aside, and of a more personal nature, these posts will for me serve not so much as a defense of my faith, or an instructional creed, but for posterity sake, that my son may have on record his father's faith. And that may he be so inclined as to endeavor to call to my remembrance such words as these, I pray they will bring conviction to my heart where I have not lived them. But mostly I want them to be a picture of an adventure that he himself will want to jump right into.... 






Sunday, September 30, 2012

Grace and a Sheet of Glass.






The paper, folded, sweat bleached and poorly printed read:


Funerailles de Mr. Andre Eliphate
Ne le mai 1961
Decede le 22 Septembre 2012 a l'age de 51 ans

At least that's what it appeared to read, the legacy of a man already fading for want of ink. And then underneath there was a picture, in decorated uniform, blurred beyond recognition, and an epitaph:

"Tout vit, tout naitre, tout perisse"

"Everything lives, everything born, all perish." But what have we learned. Only what we already know. The order of service on the back does not tell us how to live life, or better yet avoid death, to be unborn. It proffers the names of choral groups and the arrangements they will sing. Pays honor to the speakers, speaking to honor the deceased, who will themselves die one day. The snake with its tail in its mouth. Oh, this pitiful little piece of ephemera, maybe it will survive, longer than the man. Pressed between pages in an album celebrating his life only to be shelved and shrouded in dust.  

But this is not the man, this paper. Anymore than the script on it's back is the funeral. He lived and loved and raised 7 children. He protected his community from violence until gang members shot him for stopping their thieving in broad daylight of a woman selling mangoes in the market. He was the father of my friend Alfedo, who speaks 7 languages and works tirelessly without complaining at every task put before him. He will be missed like all good men by his family and friends. Such is the nature of these things. 

But my God the funeral. 

A thousand mourners packed and then overflowing out of a flesh coloured concrete church with one small humble cement cross at its peak. I stood at the door, straining to see Alfedo, straining to comprehend the Creole songs and eulogy. But nothing said or sung was of any importance. Grief was the only language spoken today, and of a sort I have never heard nor seen. As I stood there concussed by the screams all my words for what I was hearing failed me. A banshee's wail, an ambulance siren. I would welcome either in the casket black night over what I heard today. Tortured anguish, hopeless desperation, convulsive sorrow....words cannot touch what I saw. Women in white dresses flailing, flung down to the dirt floor by grief. Rolled and shook and throttled by grief. Seizurred and spun and batted about by so great a grief that those who tried to restrain them could barely do so. Woman after woman carried out of the little church, white dresses ripped and stained and faces soaked with sweat and tears, their screams unabated their arms and legs lurching in every direction, bent at impossible angles.

The bible talks about groanings words cannot utter. I have heard these things today. And even the occasional comprehendable "Why! Why!" was so strangled by grief as to be beyond language. Nothing ever spoken could touch the despair and gravity of those groanings. I wanted to cover the ears of the children, to cover the ears of those women. No one should ever make these noises, have to hear these noises. 

I stood outside in the Haitian sun. Reeling, trying to make sense of such sorrow. The women who had been carried out now whimpered in the courtyard of the church. They sat sprawled on the ground, shivering with exhaustion. Across the street a bar was opening. Patrons laughing, drinking beer and rum not 50 feet from the mourners. One group drinking away their own grief and the other having drunk to the dregs of sorrow's sourest cup. Next door to the bar a little shop called "Le Sange de Jezi Cosmetiques". The Blood of Jesus Cosmetics. Only in Haiti. The irony as the recession of the corpse commences. A white casket cradled in uniformed arms. Inside a Father, a friend, a brother and son, a fellow officer- the mortician's art, the embalming perfume, the make-up. And the blood of Jesus, the covering of the Christian, a soul snow white forever. Le Sange de Jezi Cosmetiques.

Alfedo approaches. Vacant-eyed and asleep on his feet. I embrace him, pray for him as tears soak our shirts. And then he too recedes. Into the throng of mourners. I catch my reflection in a glass surface; hair sun bleached and wind-whipped, face gaunt with sadness, eyes red and weary and wasted looking. And I realize I am seeing my reflection in the window of the hearse. Grace and a sheet of glass....

The national radio programs called for manifestations around Port-au-Prince today. Nothing new. This time it's Aristide holdovers protesting President Martelly. These things rarely go well. Lots of stuff gets set on fire and people get busted up real bad. There was no sign of any of it though, just a few spray can scrawls on crumbling walls that proclaimed Aristide president for life. They would have seemed silly today, small and insignificant against the backdrop of such intense suffering and pain. We drove back to Titenyan in silence. Everyone of us, alone with our thoughts, thinking of loved ones lost and those we would be crushed to lose. I hope everyone of the guys went home and hugged their kids, their wives. Called up their closest friends. I am thinking of my son and also of my beautiful muse. They both seem a million miles away. Oh what I would give for their hugs right now. 



Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Perfect Life.


These past couple weeks I have been soul searching. That is, letting the light of Truth find all the little locked rooms in the dark parts of my wandering heart. The ones marked ambition, desire, dreams....etc, forever, amen.

It all started while Nat H. the Quebecois and I were driving into PAP. We were talking about what's next....i.e. life after Haiti. He has this formula worked out. He is painting on his heart's canvas the picture of his perfect life. That very best life he can conjure all the while simultaneously praying for God's perfect will for His life. So at the very least he gets his perfect life and at the very best He gets God's perfect life for him. Talk about a stacked deck....I like this game. I. Am. All. In. 

So I began to plug my soul into his perfect life machine and I think I broke the damn thing. 
I realized, oh so painfully so, that most of what I want chokes out the affection due my Savior, that I still hold on to so much that means so little when placed next to the mind-exploding honor, the soul-bending wonder of knowing God. Yes, I know, that's not how the formula works. But the more I tried to script my perfect life the more I realized my motives just can't be trusted, my deck is not only stacked but marked too. I think they still call that cheating.

Maybe it's that I don't want to be disappointed, don't want to get my hopes up and be let down again. But isn't that the point? That our hope must be in Him. That our desire is Him. That all our dreams are dreamed while we sleep in His arms. That He will not let us down. And beyond that, look around the world, choosing your perfect life is a luxury of the first world. It's hard to think about building a time machine to woo Rita Coolidge circa 1972 when you are starving or exploited. 

Anyway, words are failing me miserably of late, so I thought I would vet my hidden self through a pictatorial catharsis. If you have trouble following along, it's not you, it's me. Here are, in no particular order, a very abbreviated collage:

Things I thought I'd do, people I thought I'd be.....






Loves of my life, perfect wives...beautiful distractions....







Where I'd lay my head...







Drinking copious amounts of...


Etc....etc...etc....

So, to recap. My perfect life as a rock and roll abolitionist prophet poet who lives in an African hut or a tree house in a perpetual winter wonderland where there is always a roaring fire and the haunting harmonies of harps and the ethereal pixie vocals of Miss Joanna Newsom. Where my espresso cup doth always runneth over. Where I am always wandering, always still, always tender, never prideful, saving orphans from burning buildings and the occasional kitten. (That is saving the kitten from the burning building also, not saving orphans from the kitten) I can keep going.... For. Days.

But this I hold on to, this I know. This I know: Whatever were gains to me I must consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I must consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I must lose all things. Must consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.

I realized while scripting my perfect life that my heart is where my treasure is and my treasure is that which I place the most value on. And while I'd like to say I am super spiritual and above temptation in this respect, truth is the life of a poet, the hippie soul mate, the vagabond adventure, the freedom fighter justice for the least of these outlaw, the deluge of espresso....well when I let myself think about it...it becomes all I think about.

I am desperately trying to set my mind on Christ alone. He knows what He created me for, who, where, when, how, why. My trust is in Him. Well at least I'm trying....

P.S. If anyone has Miss Newsom's #....Mesi Anpil!!!


Sigh.......



Friday, July 13, 2012

First Kiss.


"And everything with wings is restless..."
--Joanna Newsom



I remember the mildew in the mortar, the worm-rot in the wet wood, the ivy writhing on wrought iron. The cobwebs in the corners softening straight lines, splintering the shadows that flickered with moth-light. I remember the wet air in the deep south, my wet tongue in my dry mouth. The sweet stain of your flushed skin, the cold sweat on our hot hands. It was the last line on the last page of the book of summer and school was starting tomorrow and you and I were fumbling forward on your parent's porch and the puddle of rain on the driveway caught the reflection of stars that had died long before we were ever born.



Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wishes Without Wings.




Sometimes when I pray it's like coins into a fountain. Shiny little afterthoughts flickering as they fall, wishes without wings.

And sometimes when I pray it like a game of darts. I just throw as many darts as I can and EVENTUALLY I know I'll get that bulls-eye. I mean odds are...

Sometimes when I pray it's like I butter God up with some pretty praise words. Impress him with my knowledge of that book He wrote. I quote a few scriptures on promises to remind Him that He is a faithful God.

And sometimes when I pray it's complaining, straight and simple.

And sometimes. I. Just. Vent.

And you know, He's gracious. He is a patient God. 

But Jesus taught us to pray. He actually said, "This, then, is how you should pray."

So I have been trying to wrap my mind around this. My heart too. All that follows is my own opinion unless scripture explicitly says the same thing. I have purposely not consulted any other source but the Holy Spirit and the bible itself. I am merely trying to learn to live the words of Jesus to the letter and to the spirit in which He spoke them. Prayer is such a frustration for me at times so I want to know what Jesus thinks on the matter. I do not believe He was saying to recite these words by rote and endless repetition, but I do believe He was communicating that in this perfect prayer are all the elements of how we should pray. I hope this doesn't come out like a sermon. It is meant to be more like fresh thoughts just picked from Heaven's great garden.

"Our Father in heaven"... 

The first thing that occurs to me, that which Jesus mentioned before anything else in His lesson on prayer, is prayer is about relationship. Ours to God. We are a child, His child. He is not a stranger, He is our Father, we are part of a family. He is OURS ("ours" speaks of the plurality of family and community!) and we are His. This is the starting place of any prayer, the bonds of heavenly kinship.

And we should pray as a child. Un-jaded and full of awe. 

Also, we are on earth, He is in heaven. His perspective is not terrestrially myopic. He sees the big picture, the total picture. The beginning to the end, all at once.

"hallowed be your name"...

Hallowed, or Holy is a pregnant word, at least to me. So sacrosanct and stuffy at times. But it simply means wholeness. That is- perfectly complete. As in, He alone is complete. He lacks nothing. When we come to Him in prayer we do not have to bring anything but ourselves, not wise words or profound prayers, just us, lil ole honest us. And He already knows what we are going to ask, He knows what we need, what we want. It is the relationship, the abiding in His presence that He desires. 

But why "hallowed be your name". I think what Jesus is saying here, what he is reminding us, is that in a name is ownership, pedigree, authority. It speaks of God alone as the supreme. The originator, the progenitor, Him of all power and control. The One who makes the decisions and made the mountains, who holds the stars and the future in His hands. No need to make your requests known to anybody else, you are talking to the One in charge. The only one with the power to make it or anything else happen. Perpetually.

"your kingdom come"...

God is King. We are His servants. This whole shindig down here is part of something much bigger than we remember sometimes. From the moment that Christ proclaimed it the Kingdom has been coming, advancing forcefully scripture says. I think Jesus tells us to pray this to remind us that our motivations, our desires, what we are asking for, should be filtered through this question, "Does it establish the kingdom, does it point others to the King?"

Also, since He is King, and our Father. We are royalty! His princesses and princes, joint heirs with Christ to all of the infinite treasure of heaven! So no need to hoard up things down here. Give it all to the poor! Your life of impossible riches is yet to come. Woohoo!

"your will be done"... 

God is involved, He is not disaffected, uninterested, unable to be bothered by our current predicament. He has a will in all this, that is, He has a plan and a desire to see that plan accomplished. AND wonder of wonders, He lets us, asks us, to be involved!

I think Jesus is reminding us to consider if what we want is what God wants. And to then pray God's desires not ours. I mean let's be honest, His will, will be done, so this is about the position of our heart, our mind, our submission to Him. AND it is also our confidence that what He desires will happen. That His promises in Christ Jesus are yes! and amen! 

"on earth as it is in heaven"...

This one goes with the last two. It reminds us that even though our world is broken down here, heaven's perfection can and will be manifested on earth with the same power and authority. So when we pray it is the same as if we are making our petitions known in heaven itself. And we know that Christ is ever interceding for us at the right hand of the Father too. Such confidence that brings me! That the weight of holding up the universe, my little universe even, in prayer is not my own. Maybe a good way to think of this would be a simple prayer that starts, " What are you gonna do today God? Can I help!?"

"Give us today our daily bread"..

First thing that strikes me here is that what we need, even the food to survive, is a gift, that means it's unearned. And that it is today's bread, not tomorrows that we are to ask for. In that we communicate our trust to God, that tomorrow is in His keeping and nothing for us to worry about. 

And the fact that again it is plural. Give us. We are part of a community, a family. Our heart in prayer should be that God meets all of our communal needs simultaneously. 

"And forgive us our debts"...

This one is easy to ask for, hard to really receive I think. I tend to want to take ownership of my mistakes, my sins. I tend to want to wallow in the remorse a bit, not so much for self-pity but more to prove to God just how sorry I am. To punish myself a bit I suppose to show that I know just how bad I have been. But His forgiveness, though offered freely to us, cost Him everything. Christ payed the brutal price. When we do not accept His forgiveness unconditionally, or when we try to buy it with our self-righteousness we are disrespecting the wonderful horrible cross and the Savior who so lovingly endured it. I really want to learn this one. Now.

"as we also have forgiven our debtors"..

This one may be the hardest. To truly forgive in the way that God forgives us. Not just absolving the offender of their offense but forgetting. Scripture says He casts our sin as far as the east is from the west. It is covered under the blood and we are wholly clean. This part in the prayer may be a subtle reminder by Jesus to leave our gift at the alter, that is, quit praying and go make amends with whoever we have not forgiven or even those who we need to ask forgiveness of. Matt 5:23-24. Tough stuff. At least for me.

"And lead us not into temptation"... 

I don't really understand this one. The scripture says let no man say when he is being tempted that God is tempting Him. (I know that several translations have this as "Let us not be tempted.") Even if it said, "And let us not be led into..." it would be easier to wrap my mind around. But the original Greek syntax tends to imply the standard translation. I checked. Hmmmm....

1 Corinthians 10:13 says "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

Hmmmmm......Any help here would be appreciated! The underlying point remains though, that it is not God's will that we fall into temptation. He would not tell us to pray anything contrary to His will. So He doesn't want to lead us into temptation and He will give us the way out. And by praying it we reaffirm that we will be tempted, our dependence on Him to overcome it, and that He will deliver us!!

"but deliver us from the evil one".

This reminds me that prayer, heck life in general is a battle, spiritual warfare. That we (again He uses the plural "us", we are in the trenches together!!!) wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and spirits of the air. So I think prayer needs to have that dynamic. I think Jesus was reminding us to be sober when we pray, to be on our guard. To realize we have an enemy, BUT that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, that Christ razed the gates of Hell, kicked the beast in the teeth. That He has overcome the god of this age and fought/fights our battles for us!


I hope this encourages you. I would soooo love your opinions. 





Monday, April 30, 2012

Dandelions Roar.




Wrote this one a little while back, it's for any of you falling in love, or hoping to fall in love, or even licking your wounds from a love lost... And for those of you already in love, forgive me for being a bit childish and over done (but you know how these things are...) and for those of you who write poems, I really am truly sorry.....it rhymes.



Tonight I suppose there will be
Some celestial event
Shooting stars 
Or a pale blue moon
Crawling across night's black pavement

And tomorrow’s sun will surely be 
Breathtaking, I suppose
As it wakes itself 
To dawn the day
And glow the green world gold

And Saturday pigs may fly
And dandelions roar
And fish may wriggle 
From their waters
To walk upright upon the shore

And every month and every year
Will hold in its trembling hand
Some otherworldly 
Wealth of wonder
For all to gawk and awe and grin

But I will miss the sights I suppose
As I always do
Pushing through the fevered throng
Somewhere lonely straining 
To catch a glimpse of you