Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tramping

Jai ho - you are my destiny.
Yes,
I am your lady, digging my head out from the sand.
My love rips an opening above me, my arms flail and strain upwards, to break through the skylight, to hold nothing back. My thick hands, thick feet choose obedience.
I am surrounded by your love like a hurricane, a mote, an irresistible joy.
I laugh at my reflection. And I swallow a lump in my throat:
I am what I asked to be, and not what I wanted to be.
You are my refuge, my every-moment-choice-of-patience, my four-sailed ship going north, my head's perfect gap between two chairs, to fall through.
And,
Yes,
You will dance with me on our wedding night.




Credits: 
A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire, "Jai Ho"
The Mew, "Zookeeper's Boy"
Matisyahu: "King Without a Crown"
Phil Wickham: "After Your Heart"
Audio Adrenaline: "Hands and Feet"
David Crowder Band: "How He Loves"
King Charles: "Love Lust"
Newsboys: "Joy"
M. Night Shyamalan's The Village.



Thursday, July 21, 2011

Brownie

Brownie sighed deeply and used one finger to smudge the smiling face made of sticky tack on the wall. She thought about making it frown, but decided her already burdened mind couldn’t sustain the depressing effect. Instead, she poked two eyes and a garish smile into the tack with the end of her pencil. In the end it wasn’t much better than a frown. It looked like one of those Greek comedy masks: white and pasty and fake like a clown. Clowns, with their presumed identities and startling antics, had made Brownie uncomfortable since her childhood. The worst part was the face paint; it made the person look ugly and gaudy. Circuses were tainted by clowns. The maudlin exterior must be a cover-up for something twisted, disjointed.
            Thinking about clowns made her think about other things that she was afraid of: elephants, and somersaults, and the ocean. The ocean was perhaps the worst of all. You could only drown once, but before that was a host of dunkings beneath the endless waves, and the desperation of trying to get breath before another pulled you down.
            The imagining of it was the worst thing, just like with the others. Brownie’s
head had never been crushed by an elephant, her neck had never been broken by a somersault, and a clown had never tormented her. Each of these things just carried their fear with them.
            “I guess even good things carry fear, like giving birth and getting married and graduating college and opening a present.” She picked at a scab on her forehead. It was a bad habit she had, especially when she was deep in thought. She tucked her fingers under her chin to avoid picking, and turned her eyes to the CD on her desk. She looked away again. The face on the back made her think of people that she wanted to slap, like Leonardo DiCaprio. If only good music didn’t have to be ruined by association, like the song from Doctor Zhivago that she wasn’t supposed to hear. As she was thinking these thoughts, the sounds of “It’s a Fine Life” from Oliver! flew into her room from the living room TV. A few minutes later the smoke alarm went off, stopped, and began again. She heard frozen peas ping!-ing as they were poured into a pan for supper. It would have been too noisy to think, except that the sounds were what gave Brownie inspiration. The supper bell rang, so she put her pencil down and got up from her desk.
            As she ate her meal, culling out the peas from her rice for separate consumption, she kept thinking. There was a thought, still gray and bulging because she hadn’t thought of it yet, in the right side of her brain. She felt it getting ripe, but she couldn’t hurry it. Pretty soon it would open up all by itself, and be a color like apple-blossom pink or “Camiyasa”, the color of her bedroom at the old house in Florida. That color was a light, bright aqua. Her current bedroom in Pennsylvania was also greenish, but more yellowy-green than bluish-green. It was called “Garden Party” on the sample strip. Who came up with those names, anyway? Naming paint was probably a fun job. Brownie would have been good at it; she loved naming things. She’d had a name for nearly every bird that visited her feeder in Florida. She even named the birds she couldn’t tell apart, like the chickadees or the titmice. The cardinals were the easiest to name, and so were the house finches since some of them had immature plumage or mites that infected their eyes. She had always felt bad for the birds with mites. They’d sometimes be half-blind, with one eye swollen shut to nearly the size of a Cheerio. But there wasn’t much she could do to help them; their impairment kept them on edge and she was never able to catch and treat them. She remembered the hours she used to spend at her bedroom window, with her blinds down and the pane opened just enough so that she could slip her hand through to the ledge on the outside. That was where she put seed. The birds congregated there at her window, and she loved watching them from her room. It was better than a movie; the characters were real and she was the only one who knew them. She would become caught up in the plight of persecuted birds, and would be deeply pleased when regular customers brought their new young to her feeding station. She’d never been able to catch an injured bird through the gap in the blinds, but she’d fed a chickadee that way. Her hand had been covered in peanut butter and seeds, and a chickadee had hurriedly picked a sunflower seed from her fingers. It had taken a long time, and patience. The metal ridge that the window fit into had dug painfully into her wrist and hand. But things like that, Brownie reflected, can only be done if someone has patience. It takes a lot of work to help wary animals become friendly. It takes a lot to make them trust you.
Brownie had wanted wild animals to trust her for as long as she could remember. She’d been close a few times, but they never really forgot their fear. Rabbits were a good example. When she was close by, they kept their eyes on her and feigned preoccupation with nibbling and hopping a little. They pretended not to be alarmed by her presence, but all the time they were judging the danger and preparing to make a dash for it if she did something sudden. They acted comfortable but they never trusted.
“I wonder if people are the same way?” Brownie thought.
Maybe people take work and patience, even more than wild animals. Are we nonchalant to hide our fear and mistrust? Are we wary of the hand stretched out to feed us, afraid that it will suddenly grab and kill us? Is this fear learned from experience, or do we just carry our fear with us?
We must all be wearing masks, painting ourselves to hide what is twisted, disjointed. Association taints us all. We’re all infected with something, something that makes us ugly and sad. Why are we afraid to frown? Our plastered-on smiles are even worse.
“I wish we would show our true faces”.
The thought was pulsing now, and turning soft colors like a new butterfly’s wing being pumped with blood for the first time. Brownie was back at her desk, and her feet were jiggling to the sound of Mozart.
Maybe without a mask the ocean cradled you, and drowning was as lovely as dancing to Tchaikovsky. Maybe then a somersault was a tumble of joy, and an elephant only broke coconuts under his feet. Little brown children would drink the milk before it drained away, and they’d ride the elephant with ease, and without a harness. They wouldn’t be wearing masks, and they wouldn’t be wearing anything at all…
...If it wasn’t for something that happened. Something that made us sick, and infected everything we touch. If men didn’t fall.

The thought broke. Blood red, it filled Brownie’s head and ran down onto her fingers.
“What does blood have to do with everything? There is always blood!”

There is always blood. Only blood can wash the blood from our hands, but it must be God-blood. There’s no other panacea. Blood frowns so we can smile; it weeps so we may laugh.
Blood…panacea…heals our sickness…takes away our fear…drowns us once for all…wipes off our paint in red, liquid love.

            Brownie stuck out her left hand and smudged the sticky tack again. But this time she didn’t press a face into it. She let it be what it was, and stuck a picture on her wall.

The Clod-Hearted Child

The Clod-Hearted Child

Belt it out, cricket voic├ęd, bullfrog-throated friend of mine!
Hairy worms grow lovely wings
But first they keep themselves alive.

Forget the lie that praise is dull
Or that it wastes the hours
The best things hide in banal clothes:
You must search out their powers.

Your bottled stream won’t mean a thing
Until you let it flow
You’ll never learn a new thing
‘Til you’ve said the things you know.

Old Poems


Libraries

Jesus met me in the library.
I was afraid to go into the aisle where the bearded man was.
He was wearing a bright green shirt.
I was afraid to listen to my friend
Or to take the time to tell her how I really felt.
The girl with brown hair,
Who wasn’t really there,
Was there in my dream.
I was unafraid, and Jesus’ name broke the silence
As I proclaimed it and praised it in the parking lot -
Who He is: the Holy One, the Savior.
Why can’t I, don’t I, yell it in real life?
Why am I so careful to hide from others, that I hide it from myself?
Why don’t we die from forgetfulness?
Why do we forget that the universe is controlled
By God?
Why am I knotted inside?
Jesus, Jesus, the Holy One, the Savior.
The only name that should be yelled
In libraries.



If This is Learning Love

Keeper of my heart,
I want so much to be loved
By what I love
I want what I love
To love me
I want what I love
To love me.
Keeper of my soul’s keys
You must know what I mean
Isn’t all You’ve known with us
Wanting to be loved
By what You love,
Wanting to be loved
By what You love?



On the Heights

Hold me by my right hand
And take my fear away
Guide me with Your gentle words
And lead me in Your way
For what desire have I on earth?
There is nothing here but Thee
For You have called me your loved one
And set my spirit free.



Hide and Seek

Where are You hiding?
Are You hiding?
I am faint
For want of You.
One moment I am glad,
For Your hem brushes against me as You
Walk by
And I am warmed and
Comforted.
But now I have become
Cold,
And sadness settles on me like dew.
It is as if I see You
Only to lose sight of You again,
And to doubt whether it was really You
At all,
Since the emptiness remains.

You have passed by me
And the breath has left my lungs
To cling to You
So that I will not breathe again
Until I find You.



Branded

Come to us
Brand our backs with your Name
And the pain will draw us out of this complacency
These lies, this inconstancy.
Our hearts will flame and burn for You
All fear will fade
And love be true.

Draw us out of this numbness, this death
The truth is what we long for,
For passion, purpose, and for love
And righteousness…
Oh, for righteousness.
To battle like a warrior
To wash feet like a servant
To give You all we have
And find You gave us more in return.
So come to us
Come to us
Jesus.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Plentid Day

A wren, under a Maxfield Parrish midnight sky,
Breathed on beatifically by the wild sea breeze,
And bathed in the glow of a half-bright, bridal moon,
Very silent, very shy.
Brown birds wear a bold face, smoke gold pipes, dwell in cedar houses.
Imagined inadequacy bleeds into reality.
Autumn and the call of wild geese are far ahead, and may not come with September. 

I have never loved summer until today.
Did I forget to follow the lavender, the rose, the two-day’s four-hundred-sixty-seven stella doras in their full-out happy, happy, love of being alive? Did I lose delight in blue? I want the eighteen sailboats in one patch of cove, the litter of visitors on the rocks, to mean as much to me as stillness and the cleanliness of all that is not human. 

You win me over, you love that I thought I had understood, that I wanted to deserve, that I feared that I could lose by being honest.
An irritatingly bad haircut. Reminds me of my pride, and so I am able to listen. I may be comfortable cold, but I decide.

Charles Wesley, Charles Wallace, the 9th of 150 copies, thimbled cheeks, a honeyed right ear healing.
Paint, each stroke and line the longing of an unmet desire, a waiting, a patience, a pulling out of stiffened wooden drawers, and so blank paper.
But I have sweat and warm breath that fogs up the window.
I'll let violin complaints explain my spirit to a listening heaven. I still want to dance on the floor. 
The astounding turnip is imprinted with my fingertips.
I'll sweep under the table in the morning.

Friday, July 8, 2011

One

Is this what it means to become one with someone?
I’ve spent the last three hours observing the bridge of your nose, the way it bends and curves like a wave, a cliff, a dune of sand; the tautness of your skin, the color of it, and the faint pulse of blue that shows transparent underneath. I feel I could spend my whole life in this, this learning to know and understand you, to be you in some intangible way that I myself do not even understand. 
How the placement of your ear - just so - and the breaks and dips and angles of your jaw and neck, how it moves me to tears. When you incline your head to the side, I am caught in the poetry of your movement, the intense and sacred power of your humanity, your presence, your beauty. Why did I never see like this before? Does it take loving to see this?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Real Old Church

Come, eat this bread with me. Take my humble hand and let us pray.
Don't come dressed as a lady; come as you are. My father will turn over in his grave, and you will join the circle of those who love much, because they have been forgiven much.
Smile at the sticky baby. Sing loudly because everyone means it; even the words don't matter.
Remember the sins of your youth, let your tongue slide over them, wipe them on the white paper napkin.
Tell your friends.
"Receive the blood of Christ, shed for you."

Friday, July 1, 2011

If I May Consider

If I may consider this only a long sleep,
Than I may have hope for a waking.

But if this mist will not be blown by wind
Or steamed by sun
Or battered by a pattering of rain,

Then I must fall, nesh as a lamb, into the lap of the earth.
And forget my dreams of climbing
In dreams of burrowing.