Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Market Day!

I think if you want to take the pulse of a people you walk through their markets. And if the heart of Haitian cities are the markets, then that pulse, that lifeblood is the women. In a sprawling maze of rusted tin and muddy ruts covered in low-hung and haggard tarps Haiti's woman sell their fruits and vegetables and other humble wares. 

These photos are all stolen, awkward and clandestine, as most Haitians (unless they are your friends!) are very wary of being photographed. The women of the market work so hard, such long hot days, to provide for their families. They are beautiful beyond words. These few pictures don't do justice to the chaos of smells and sounds and colors that are Leogane Market, you'll just have to visit yourself.


L'Acul, Haiti the last day of 2013 from about 7:30am to 8am. The fish are Bonita, or Bonit (boh-nee) in Kreyol. I hope it's a sign of good things to come for these villagers, for all of bel Ayiti. So beautiful how everyone worked together. And this is one of the largest single hauls in many months in our little inlet. The waters are so over-fished anywhere in range of a paddled boat, and since fisherman don't have motors, the good fishing is usually unreachable.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Strange Jazz

Sleep is a warm woman
With watersmooth skin
Scented with a sweet perfume
Called dream

Morning is a lover
Jealous and scorned
Who sulks the day through
Dreads the long night

But morning has its minions
They stalk in shadows
Haunt the dark hours
From dusk to dawn

The catopossum and the racoondog
Tearing into the trash
Dancing on the can’s steel drum lid 
And beating it with padded paws

A lost watch begins to beep
It’s 2:20 a.m. metronome
The ragged band of beasts 
Falls right in time

A strange jazz
All percussion and moans 
And sensuous meows
Hungry and alone

Then the staccato solo
Of the cool black crow
And then the final refrain
The chorus of crickets

All singing of morning
The last waking of the last day
Before the sun burns black
And all dreams die

But then the song fades
The trash can bounty spent
And the sweet scent of sleep
Has gone strange and sour
And her arms, stiff and cold

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Face of God on a Child

The first time humanity ever looked upon the face of God, the face of their creator, it was the face of a child. God could have chosen any other way. He could have come first as a warrior, sword hilt deep in some monstrous enemy. He could have come as a politician with His golden pen and legislated equality and prosperity to the masses. He could have come as a revolutionary and killed the fatted rich, cut the powerful off at the knees. But He didn't. Nope, the first time humanity ever looked upon the face of God it was the face of a child. And I think we still see God's face more in the innocent play, the rapturous laughter, the unabashed dance of children than any other way. Or at least I think we should.

These are some pictures from the last few weeks. The kids whose snot and tears end up gloriously on my t-shirts. The kids whose imaginations restore my sense of wonder. Whose joy reignites my love for life. They teach me so much about Jesus, about how heaven's country must be. Where light is the color of laughter and anything is possible...just like in the mind of a child.

God is a Father who always calls His children home. But we have to be like little children to accept the invitation, to find our way. We have to believe in the mystical, the invisible, the impossible and the fantastic. We must believe in the wildest fairy tale of all, the miracle of Christmas, that God is with us, has come to save us, because of His great love for us. Kids don't act shy, or self-conscious, or defer out of some sense of false humility. Nope, they run to the Christmas tree, look for their name and start tearing the paper off. That's what kids do. And this morning, along with every other morning, the gift of Jesus is yours, wrapped in Love eternal and marked with your name. Run to Him this morning like a child would. Bet it'll be the best day of your life.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Thing With Feathers

Belle of Amherst
Palest frailest mayflower
I think your window 
Must have been cut
From heaven’s crystal city

What wonders flowed
Oh what strains 
Of celestial light 
Were magnified, found focus
Through that glass 

The bird of sunlight
Delivered to your room
Each morning's revelation
Clutched in its beak
A burning coal

And nightly the moon
Bloomed into your room
A flower whose secrets
Were whispered only
Into your lonely dreams

And  not that you could 
Or would ever tell
But I wonder if you watched
The Angels keep
Your window clean

Or perhaps you saw 
God himself wiping off 
Summer’s dust and sweat
And winter’s frozen tears
From your little portal into Paradise

(top) Mural of Emily Dickinson at West Cemetary. (above) Painting of Emily Dickinson by William Rock and Calligraphy by Huang Xiang. (below) Philip Jenks amazing tattoo.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

-Emily Dickinson

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I Am Building You A Poem

I am building you a poem
In the shape of a bed
Each of its four posts
Polished to a patina
As if softened and smoothed
By a hundred years of honest hands
Its canopy painted underneath
The bluest sky that ever was

And there is a window
Facing an ancient sea
And the wind over the water
Brings winter into the room
That houses this bed-shaped poem
And the fire roaring in the corner
Hisses and hums a lullaby
And casts a warm blush over everything

Of course the pillows
Are more like clouds
And the high count cotton sheets
Freshly laundered
And the giant goose down comforter
And the ruffled duvet
Well it’s the kind of bed built for sleep
The very definition of comfort

But did I mention the one line
Near the end of the final stanza
In this poem of a bed for you
The one line like a box-spring
Sticking up, almost through the mattress
So that you won’t sleep well
That one upward spiral of a line
Needling you all night
So, tossing and turning,
You won’t have that dream
The one where you are giggling
(This is that line)
And slowly licking his name
Off of your trembling lips

Where The Water Meets

But today the sky was paler
Seemed sun-faded and frail
Clouds moved more discreetly
Less in contrast then in days past

And the ocean was duller too
Had gone feeble, sickly as the sky
And the line where the water meets
The white sand had grown faint, indistinct

And as she wondered what had changed
She realized that she had never known
Never even really seen the color blue

Until yesterday,
When she looked into his eyes

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dead Bones Dance

Will planets shift, collide
Shatter and sparkle
Through the atmosphere

Will the sun 
Stick in the sky
Like on the long day of Joshua

Will shrouds empty
Stones roll away
And dead bones dance

Will angels herald
The way angels always herald
Glowing brilliant blowing golden horns

Or will it be none of these 
And only this
The day that she arrives

The picture coming into focus
The last piece finally 
Pressed into place

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Axe

The long lever of it’s hickory handle, its hafted head a wedge of steel. 
The sudden split of weathered wood and your wife watching from the window sill.

I wonder were you conjuring the wild west, an axe worth it’s weight in gold. 
Or were you thinking of Aristotle, the axe a symbol for the soul.

Maybe it was a bright new poem that spun like a ballerina in your brain. 
She stops when you stop and she waits, for you to swing your axe again.

Or maybe you were painting France, or New York, or Russia, in your mind. 
Scanning landscapes for the breadcrumbs a younger you had left for you to find.

Perhaps on that blazing afternoon as your heart raged wild in it’s cage, 
you were thinking only of your father, and the train wreck of his final day.

But then the axe went cold and strange and heavy along its slow smooth curve. 
And you began to float, your flesh on fire, as you spoke your last poem upon the earth.

(An involuntary metaphor for your mind, having only meant to tend the tool.)

“I am going to sharpen the axe before I put it up dear”. 
And so off you went, death’s newest blue-eyed pioneer.

In memory of, and tribute to, my favorite poet, e.e. cummings 
October 14, 1894 – September 3, 1962

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Island of Kefalonia

It might have been the Island of Kefalonia
Sitting in an outdoor cafĂ© 
You said “Look at their clothes.
Listen to their conversations.
They are extras in the film of their own lives.
They don’t believe a damn word of what they’re saying”
All the while the waiter walked on water
With his dark Adonis eyes
And you let your words trail after him
Absentmindedly asking me
Why I was being so quiet
And I realize maybe it wasn't Greece at all
But all I could mutter under my breath
Barely daring to say my next line was,
 “Artemis, I’ll have the wild boar”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sometimes I'm Just Lost

Sometimes I switch it up a bit. Take the wrong way to the right place, the long way round to a close one. And sometimes, sometimes I'm just lost and have to find my way back. Saw this church sign the other day on one such very long way wrong way round.

Geez. Of all the obnoxious, smarmy, stupid and banal ways to paint the need for Christ in our life to obtain wholeness of mind. Sometimes when I read these I want to go inside and scream why the particular message is catastrophically misrepresenting the Gospel and God's tenderness that draws the lost to His heart. But alas, business hours were 9-5 daily. I sat there, numb and dumb and full of a greater sense that we are failing in our dialogue with the world. 

My thoughts were all one way or the other after that. You know how you get, the pendulum of emotion. Your heart and will rally behind a noble thought, some great cause, and the next minute your mind waves the white flag of cynicism and surrender. 

Cotton clouds over cotton fields distracted me for a moment.

As far as I could see in every direction, cotton, fields white and ready for harvest. I pulled over to take this picture then closed my eyes, other pictures, creased and faded and colorless, workers harvesting the cash crop 150 years ago. Slaves, fingers raw from the prickly plant, picking next to their precious children. Lives stolen for what? Greed, ease of life for those that won a light skin lottery? 

I am reading Avengers Of The New World. It is the story of the Haitian Revolution, but the author Laurent Dubois does so much more than recount the details of the first successful slave revolt, he chronicles all the historical nuance, all of the minutia of the moment, the pulse of the people who were the prime movers in the French provincial slave trade. He recounts how laws were passed to keep anyone with so much a percentage of African blood from holding office or having other full citizen rights. He details how many of the descendants of Africa were much lighter skinned than some persons of European descent. And that the whole process was as convoluted and circumspect as one can infer by its idiocy. Businessmen and women, professors, even politicians having to prove their pedigree to the ridiculous godless blood-hounds bent on finding out light skinned impostors. Peoples of African descent whose dark poisonous blood would apparently be societies death, an acid bath of blood that would somehow corrode away and crumble the very foundations of white entitlement.


So much of history is mired in the subjective. The viewpoint of one country or culture vs. another. So that the truth is hard to really know. But not this, never this. Slavery is evil, will always be evil. And anyone who didn't, doesn't fight against it, they are and always will be complicit. The garment industry has more slavery than any other industry. From forced labor in cotton fields to forced labor in factories. There are millions of children enslaved for the making of the garments that we all wear. Please buy fair trade, direct trade, slave free certified clothing (you can see which companies are doing there part here). And please read this book, it is so very very important as a historical narrative and more, a commentary on the perpetual state of fallen mankind.

I drove away thinking of the church sign, the cotton fields, the guilt of so many so called Christians in the enslavement and abuse, the murder and rape, of countless Africans. I thought, if someone can look at a darker skinned person and not see the image of God, well then they have never seen God. If someone can be so full of hate, well scripture is clear isn't it? They do not know God, who is love.

I drove and drove and then a grey rain came and stayed for hours but also a rainbow...

My thoughts are grey again today, grasping at God in the aftermath of the typhoon in the Philippines. There are 10 thousand feared dead. 10 million displaced, 4 million of them children now greatly susceptible to kidnapping and exploitation. The needs are so great as those island communities search frantic for water and food. Please if you can, donate to our friends My Refuge House in Cebu, Philippines. They will use the money in country to buy food and supplies and get it to families much quicker that way.

I leave for Haiti Monday. Soon I will be near again her sea. I will be back close to the country I love dearly, one that has suffered so long, so needlessly, that others might profit. It is a country still repressed by the lasting affects of political embargoes and aid policies that deconstructed a resilient indigenous Haitian economy while simultaneously creating dependence. It is heartbreaking and was to my way of thinking completely avoidable. I pray the next decade will be one of renewal for the indefatigable people of Haiti and for her unfathomably wonderful children. I'd like you to meet a few...

And meet my godson, Marc Finley!! Who shares my name and has stolen my heart. Oh and the loving lovely Madame Emmanuel, who spoils me so, with home cooked meals and warmth of home and heart.

And the proudest dad you've ever met! Fedeme, my dear friend who works harder everyday with such decency and determination. Can't wait to see him and his beautiful family.

Sometimes I do take the wrong way, the long way round. Sometimes, on days like today, I just feel lost. Sometimes I lose my grip. But Christ leads me round right again, He is The Way, in Him I am found. His is the grip that never slips. And sometimes when I spend my days on a diet of destruction and sexual exploitation and all the other bad news, when I start to wonder if it's a little too late in the history of things to do any good, well I try and remember mine is not to hold the whole world right side up, to keep it spinning on its axis. No mine is to realize the sorry state I am in and let the One who is in control do what only He can do. I guess I just needed to write today, to bleed off a little. Clear some cobwebs, some shelf space, make room for another days ramblings and rants, poetry and pretense. Thanks. Hope you enjoyed the pictures of the kids. Hope you're keeping it between the ditches. Hope beyond all hope you're holding on to Jesus, and if you're too weak for that, that you know He's holding onto you. xoxox

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Undiscovered Moons

Did you know that your name
In Arabic means noble and kind
Same for in Slovakian
And German I think

And in Dutch it means alone
Which I love and in Celtic it’s fair
Gaelic, bright, in Irish, beautiful
And in Greek it roughly translates pity

But I had the most wonderful thought
That at the end of days
After the blood runs bridle deep in Megiddo
And the swords are pounded to plowshares

That after the feast of hidden manna 
After you get your new name
The one written on the water-worn white stone 
The name no one knows but you

If you might not mind too terribly much
If while you and I are out riding giant seadragons through outer space
With heads full of names for undiscovered moons
You’ll let me name one after you

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Colossal Weight Of Everything

What was it you really wanted to say 
This morning when we first met
It was perched there
On the precipice
Of a mountainous thought
I could sense something
Unutterably profound
In that millisecond
Where we shared that indefinable something 
Deeper than the distance 
Between down and up
Somewhere in that pregnant silence
Worlds were birthed
Lived out their long illustrious lives 
And returned to the graveyard of worlds
To be born again
All of eternity gave pause in that moment
And the colossal weight of everything
Waited with baited breath for your confession
Somewhere, I believe, right between
“Hello.” and
 “Can I take your order?”