Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Thursday, August 04, 2016
Marriage: A Homily For Everyone
This was the homily given at Stephen & Anna's wedding, June 25, 2016. The officiant, Joe Chappel, gave this homily on the weekend of the New York City gay pride parade. It is really worth reading and blew us all away.
Thank you Joe. What a blessing!
Once again, it is the last weekend in June in NYC, which can mean only one thing. Tomorrow, more than a million of our brothers and sisters will march down 5th avenue into Greenwich Village to celebrate their right to be and their right to love whomever they choose. Last year that parade was probably one of the happiest ever, as they finally won the long fight for the right to legally marry. It was the celebration of the end of years of struggle and hardship and on behalf of many who never lived to see the day but on whose shoulders the victorious stand. This year, however, will probably be one of the most somber ever, as we mourn 49 people who were murdered simply because of who they were and who they chose to love. Or perhaps it won't be somber at all. The fact is that the parade happens every year, without fail, in the happiest of times and the saddest of times, no matter what, because what our LGBTQ brothers and sisters know from many years of experience is that the celebration itself IS the protest, IS the political act, IS the most daring and defiant thing to do. To march anyway IS the victory. There is wisdom in that.
In 1967, the famous Supreme Court case of Loving v Virginia saw an interracial couple win their challenge to an immoral law and in so doing, win the right to marry. We take it for granted that people of different races can marry today, but there was a time (not so long ago when this was not only taboo, it was illegal. A state-sanctioned prohibition based on race. But not today. Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter gathered the courage to challenge a world that would see them separated to recognize and honor their union. By openly and formally declaring their love, they claimed the victory. There is wisdom in that.
There will be no interracial marriage here today. Nor will there be a same sex marriage here today. But I would argue there are no such things as interracial marriage or same sex marriage. There is only marriage, and there will DEFINITELY be a marriage here today. In the context of a world that wants us to limit love, dismiss love, reject love, belittle love, ignore love, suppress love, outlaw love...in a world that encourages negativity and uses fear and mistrust for political expediency...in a world that seems fueled by divisiveness, hostility, and antagonization... in the context of that world, whenever two young people choose love, share love, and present that love for consecration before their family and friends and especially before God, heaven rejoices and indeed we should too. Just like Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter did in 1967, let us continue to challenge this world to recognize and honor love. Just like we always do on the last weekend in June, we should openly celebrate this beautiful and happy thing called love, in defiance of what the world wants us to do. But not just in defiance of and in spite of the world, but as witness to the world that love wins. Love always wins. As we consecrate one marriage, we reaffirm all marriages. As the creator of Broadway's Hamilton Lin-Manuel Miranda reminded us recently, "Love is love is love is love is love is love..."
Of course there is no passive participation in today's ceremony. We all have a job to do. Those were not just empty platitudes in the opening prayer. We family and friends who witness this moment must endeavor to "fulfill our duty to honor, embrace, lift up, protect, and nurture the love that we bless this day."
Often, my Granny used to say "hallelujah anyhow." I never fully understood the significance of those words as a boy but I have internalized this simple but powerful wisdom as a man. Sometimes it is most important to celebrate and rejoice, because the world wants to break our spirits. And after the month we've had, I say this is the time to choose love, to choose life, and to rejoice in our choices. Yes, the world will give you a million reasons why today isn't that big of a deal, or is some relic from a time gone by, but hallelujah anyhow. We anoint this union based on a truth founded on something far surer and firmer than trends, or fads, or what is en vogue. Hallelujah anyhow! That truth is that love wins and as the wisdom that flows from an ancient Gregorian chant reminds us, wherever love and charity are found, God is always there. Surely, brothers and sisters, God is in this place today. Hallelujah anyhow!
So, let's have a marriage. And let us celebrate. Passionately and in defiance of a love-starved world. In the knowledge that what we do is not only joyful, but holy and sanctified. People were constantly telling Jesus whom he should and could not love. And he constantly ignored them. No one understood how radical and political love could be more than Jesus Christ himself.
Anna and Stephen, I didn't quote 1 Corinthians today. As church musicians, I figured you've heard that passage more than most and don't need me to recite it for you yet again, as beautiful a passage as it may be. I will also not lecture you or offer advice for a happy marriage, as I am not married and therefore am no expert in happy marriages. What I will do is remind you that when a scribe asked Jesus what the greatest of the commandments were, hoping to catch Him in a paradox, Jesus said "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Time and time again, in this example and many others, when asked to clarify any perceived discrepancies between His words and the law, Jesus consistently cited love as the preeminent guiding principle above all others. And so, I know that if you allow love to lead you, not only through good times, but especially through difficult times, God will be present in your choices and God will be walking alongside you in all that you do in your life together. Choose love, my dear friends. Not the shallow, happily ever after, never challenged Hollywood version of love, but deep, thoughtful, ethical, selfless, time-tested, true love. Choose love.
Come, brothers and sisters, let us claim victory this morning and celebrate love this afternoon in the best example of our Savior: let me remind you that His very first miracle was turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana, so we know He liked a good wedding!
Saturday, January 17, 2015
There is a funny picture a friend of mine sent me that shows a vast ocean being struck by six lightning bolts at exactly the same moment. The photograph captures the strikes hitting six different spots on the water. Beneath the photo is the caption: “Fuck those particular six fish!”
It’s easy to think of the disasters of life as specific and directed. It is also easy to think of the many graces as sparse and given to others instead of us, passing over us in abundance. But when we are able to reflect from above our misery, we know this is not true.
Comic Tig Notaro talks about this in her own life. She was recently diagnosed with double breast cancer, while at the same time her career is taking off. Life, like people, is rarely one thing. She introduces her new CD called “LIVE” (spelled L-I-V-E rhymes with “give”) – by announcing at the start she has cancer, thank you. I feel great. Thank you. Thus addressing the very first thing a cancer patient must address when faced with a diagnosis: how do I tell others? Do I NOT tell others and keep a quiet, dark secret? Do I wear a T-shirt with a message? Do I write a letter to the closest people in my life? Do I blurt it out at the bus stop, or take out a full page ad? Or do I do a stand-up comedy act and announce it? Where do I go with this sort of information? Is there an etiquette for this?
My life has been pretty good, I’ve had my share of knocks like anyone else, but when I tell someone the story of my cancer I think, “Wow, what a poor schmuck! Guy can’t buy a break!” But in fact, all I’ve had are breaks.
Lately though it feels like the universe is compelled to send down its six lightning bolts at me, yet at the same time I am blessed. How do I hold in tension these opposite realities and not lose faith? Or worse, the opposite: to not become so naïve as to believe that this is the best of all possible worlds?
A number of weeks ago there was a large manila envelope in my mailbox. My sister’s name was on the return address. I brought it inside and opened it. Inside that envelope was a black hooded sweatshirt with the words “STRONGER THAN CANCER” in neon yellow lettering on the front. She and her daughter raised money for American Cancer and participated in fundraiser in my honor. And I was honored.
We live in a culture that applauds positive expectations for nearly everything, especially when it comes to treating cancer. We believe like religious zealots that our faith will impact the outcome. To be honest, I don’t really know if my faith in being stronger than the disease affects the medicine. Luck comes to mind, for sure, but not confidence. Still, I have always loved the idea that we create our own reality, so I am on-board with thinking positively.
I donned the sweatshirt and it looked cool. Black. Totally fucking bad-ass black. Strike a pose and declare cancer dead, dead, dead! Fuck cancer, I thought. Fuck it! Totally! At the same time I wondered: am I stronger than cancer? Or am I just whistling past the grave yard?
What if the cancer has spread to my bones? What if it were in my lymph nodes? Worse, what if after the surgery there is still cancer remaining that will? What if I am not one of the lucky ones? What if I am NOT stronger than cancer?
There is this belief that we can out-tough cancer, or for that matter we can out-tough all the shitty things that happen to us. Am I a failure if I succumb to the cancer? The language of fighting cancer today is combative and intense but what does it say about those who fail? Are they losers? Will I be a loser if cancer takes me? Or as ESPN’s Stuart Scott said recently before himself being taken down by a rare cancer, it is not whether we live or die from cancer that determines if we beat it, but how we live our lives with it. And living with this cancer is something I am beginning to come to terms with.
There is a possibility I may never be cured, that I will not die from this. How does my relationship to this disease change then? All the side effects of the treatments, as awful and as humiliating as they are, have as their primary underlying logic the notion that life trumps them all. With surgery, radiation, chemo, and hormone treatment – a chemical castration – how will my ego morph beneath the demands of the cure?
Cancer has already whittled away my ego, how much more am I in store for? And am I any closer to enlightenment as a result? Or is everything just a wasting away until what is left is this tiny frightened boy who desperately wants to walk his two daughters down the aisle, and spoil every one of his grandchildren rotten and then give them back to their parents?
There is a dichotomy that pressurizes the air around those of us lucky enough to come down with this disease that suggests if I do not get better, I have let others down. This pressure suppresses the grief of the diagnosis. I love my sister and I love my niece more than a brand new set of matching luggage.
And have I mentioned that I really, really, really love the sweatshirt? And maybe that’s enough.
I wonder about the implied message of treating this disease as a test of one’s courage and ability to overcome and not the damned drudgery that it is. Is this bravado creating a new reality, or is it in fact masking one? For we who “fail” – what honor is there in that? How do we learn to honor the struggle and not the outcome? What sort of cool, neon-lettered shirt exists for that?
POEM: Speak a new language so that the world will be made new.
Speak a new language so that the world will be made new.
Explore the oceans that roil within, coaxed by a moon
that rules over the dark that makes the roses bloom
- red and wild as your imagination.
Plant a flag, reclaim the land of Forgiveness as your own,
where you will throw your hands into the loam
you will track into your home,
spread to the carpets, walls, and settle on the shelves.
Over time, you will ask how Jesus raised the dead,
And I will kiss you and say, “This is how”.
Over time, you will ask how the hungry were fed
on six loaves and some fishes.
I will bake warm bread with honey –
(The bread, as a symbol of a working life,
The honey to sweeten it.) I will
feed you and say “Eat. This is how.”
Over time you will ask ,“How can life overcome death?”
and I will hold your tears in my old fingers and tell you
go and love another – that is how. Let the dead bury the dead.
I will say, “Go walk toward the East, shield your eyes against your luminous lives. “
You are like the disciple who ask the Master how to attain the
Spiritual life and the Master replies: “Have you loved another
in the same way that the earth shakes, the way it splits and swallows
everything?” To which the disciple replies, “No”, at which the
Master says: “Then try this first.” I tell you now, try this first.
Speak a new language so that the world will be made new.
Become poets of your own lives and write
Verses that make God cry. Become verbs of love, &
Roll around in the adjectives of your life,
Make a mess, offer up a life for a chance to love the other.
POEM: For All My Children
Before it becomes the music of our world,
Your names have a story. Before there were words,
Before circles around fires sent stories skyward.
Before retelling, and dancing,
You are a green-eyed geranium wish,
A blue-eyed ocean of life,
The wrap-around flavor of brown-eyed coffee,
a vermillion way of seeing the world,
like simmering beets bubbling in chopped
onion, tomato and cumin stew.
We could not have dreamed you, you who
arrive to us still water, mysteries
in the jeans’ pocket of a universe
waiting to be fished out with the keys
and the loose change of growing older.
And just as before the sun rises,
this winter gray lightens just enough to suggest
we’ve not been abandoned,
we’ve not died in our sleep,
You are the sign reminding us what the
angels in their Halleluiah glory look like.
and when the sun reclines
Pulling its gentle curtain across brown fields,
we imagine, as parents do, all
the fearful things.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
POEM: So I Am A Brick
Stiff and sharp where I have never been sharp
Chipped for all my years of being steppe on
Green from the algae
In my head I want to be softer
For everything wants to be softer where
They are hard, where there is chipping
And a rough surface.
But as a brick I am incapable of dreaming
Lacking a brain stem, the limbic matter,
A prefrontal cortex.
When I awake the light is trembling
And I speak this language.
I am able to interpret it.
It is fall and the light catches the tree tops
Looking down at me, singing
At the tops of their tree lungs,
Burrowing with knotted fists into
I make my way through rounded objects.
Light is one of these rounded objects
Dripping onto the walkway bleaching
Everything in its path,
Those other bricks asleep, tucked in
By moss and the smell of nuts in the air
(This autumn tastes like walnuts in the back of my mouth
Whenever I suck in the cool air.)
But the light avoids me, though my blood
Is a ruddy red. A port wine of clay aging
Aging in the yellow laughter of a folding sun.
I am geologic, granite bends to me.
I wear limestone for fingernails
Everything I write is whitened,
White, white, white hot.
POEM: Muscle Memory
That speaks with a blurred accent
of wild greens and geese – the yellow
skin of sad-eyed light
makes up the neurons of dark storms.
This frame is a blight of opaque water, is a dying
movement: go on and be brave.
Sea birds carry word to all the lost faces of a
drowning in the canals,
flying against the pink buildings. Helium
lifts mylar thoughts. Salt drops everywhere are alive.
You slog on, not knowing how, unfocused on the place
where breathing can no longer be felt: where
this is not the kind of music we can play by ear.
Thursday, October 02, 2014
POEM: Contact Tracer
Monday, January 06, 2014
POEM: This Wild Daylight
It is lizard-like
Squirms over frozen field.
It is the texture of talcum powder.
Things are tracked.
It enters lungs on every inhale.
It is a new year and day burns
It is the kindling past
that smells like charcoal.
POEM: Tossing My Iphone Into The River
And tossing your Iphone into night air
Over a bridge that spans the Connecticut River.
Let’s call it summer.
Let’s say the stars alone are your witness.
Let’s say you’ve been drinking, but you have
Thought about this before and it is not fair to
Blame the alcohol.
Let’s say the moving trees and the warm
Cricket air has something to do with it.
Let’s say the darkness and the moving
Automobile owns you right now.
Imagine the object, shaped like a chocolate bar, swaying as it
Waddles to the riverbottom, tumbling along with the strong
Currents shad and stripers must fight every spring to spawn.
Now imagine this crippled alewife, without fins:
it cannot swim, its demon eye blinks red, blinks red,
blinks red, until the inky depth cuts the link.
Let’s say it creates a hypothermic silence.
Removed from any phone plan, a fading ghost,
A radio whisper to the satellites,
It frantically tries to connect, but only voicemail remains,
Vacant & soggy, begging for one more message.
Dreaming in a place where there is
no T9 shortcut for the word “help”.
Friday, October 18, 2013
POEM: Trumpet Ivy
Monday, October 14, 2013
POEM: Gypsy Songs (Brahms)
POEM: Ideal (Tosti)
POEM: Lovely Moon Who Sheds Silver Light (Vincenzo Bellini)
POEM: O How Anxious (Mozart)
Sunday, October 13, 2013
POEM: Tu, La Aventura (You, The Adventure)
Sunday, June 30, 2013
POEM: Blue Flame
now repels each thing from the other.
in spectral whispers. There then go
There then goes what we imagined about his hands.
by fingers releasing a sisal
POEM: The Objects That We Love
And when I dine out,
There is no cause for jealousy.
POEM: My Fearful Swan
Elves glide on blissful song in the dell,
Parting false company. But only by
Listening, you died betrayed & sang
Aways in circles, where the song faded away.
You were such a swan then.
Saturday, June 29, 2013
POEM: Turdis Migratoris
You sit and wonder.
I will wonder too.
Scratch for your grubs. I
Will scratch along
with you. With a yellow
beaked heart that picks at
After the ebbing that was yours,
That sorrowful ghost,
That bag of dry twigs,
That was hope as kindling,
It is now just an empty glass.
The promise of love,
Of a smile, had never left you.
It was only covered up,
Hands clamped over its mouth
Waiting for the moon
To change everything
POEM: The Lives of Dreams
Nakedness is just the humility you lack; dreaming of red means you are holding a grudge, which will someday dry you up and blow you away. Rodents indicate a burrowing will, a whitheringness. The inability to vocalize during a dream means you want to be a jazz blues nightclub singer, and your soul is trying to find a hole to escape from you. You’ve never been accused of being hip, and this is why: you must let the cool escape.
Dreaming of geese in V-formation flying away means you will lose someone. Dreaming of geese in V-formation flying towards you means you are pregnant, unless you are male, in which case it means you wish you could be pregnant. Dreaming of geese on the ground means you will soon be crippled.
It is good luck to cry in your sleep, to weep soundly. It is your body’s way of uncovering all the hiding places in you, of removing the plastic sheeting you carefully construct over your internal house. It is also good luck to dream of food and if you can smell it, or taste it, even better. It is a sign that all of your hunger will soon abate. That soon, you will have enough. Stop worrying.
POEM: The Lives of Furniture
The piano stool once served in a speakeasy, dodging spilled prohibition beer. She dreams of being with a Steinway in the Biblical sense. She is a kissing cousin to a Stradavarius but does not like to mention it much since the others always make fun of her and she thinks it is bragging.
The end table is stressed – by design – to give him warmth, the marks and chips age him, make him seem experienced. On most days though he wishes the marks were gone so he could avoid all the pity stares he gets.
The hutch thinks he is overweight, and always tucks his drawers in to look thinner. He is tall so the weight is distributed well on him. He is made of mahogany, and the other pieces envy his tan. Still none of the other pieces in the room thinks he needs to lose weight. Sometimes he just feels fat, he says and asks the mirror to move a little so he can catch a glimpse.
The roll top desk likes to read. On rainy days, he rolls up his top, and flips through pages of a book. Sometimes he reads aloud until the others shush him. Near an old replica of an inkwell, are the initials “T.P” carved into his shoulder, like a tattoo. He remembers when the child did that. How much it hurt.
The grandfather clock adjusts his spectacles. His ballasts hang in fatigue. His pendulum carries a weight. Knowing time is a burden. All his springs want is a trip to Bermuda, to sit on pink beaches, and drink out of coconut glasses with colorful, paper umbrellas sticking out of them.
The rocker hums, eyes closed, imagining small children and arms.
The coat rack’s arms are tired, even without having coats to hold.
The couch needs reupholstering. His springs stick out. His arms are threadbare, with patches. Once, though, his foam was firm. Once, people felt majestic sitting between his arms.
POEM: The Lives of Voices
The next day, while hiking, I found a wounded voice in the woods, tattered in its timbre, fading at the edges. I brought it home and made it Portuguese White Bean and Kielbasa soup to give it heart, to fatten its soul. I hoped to make one fully reconstituted voice capable of the most unnerving prayer, the kind that makes you shiver from the openness; the kind that precedes a great discovery.
Friends encouraged my voice, asked her to sing, asked her to recite poems, to do interpretive dance. But her nerve grew and shrank based on the temperature of the dreams she had at night: hot dreams made her want to do more, to stand taller and to preach; cooler dreams made the voice believe she was a mushroom that no one bore witness to.
On some evenings, wandering the city streets, my own voice abandoned me and danced down alley-ways, bounding off of narrow walls, off of stucco buildings, pink in its carousing, drinking, finding women of low self-esteem, lifting their spirits and their skirts. In the morning, my voice would come back, headache in hand, remorseful for having bounced over the cobblestone of its own imagination only to find its way home on the back of a whisper.
Sometimes, in the fall, the season of great migrations, I find voices strewn all over New England, each one needing a hand up, each one in search of an inner ear and some bone-rubbing.
Not every voice makes the journey in one piece of course. Some are carried off by the wind on horseback never to be heard again. Some voices take a life time to bubble, to boil like the White Bean and Kielbasa, until it is soup. Some voices are just a glance, or a touch. And still others paint their hands bright saffron and touch everything.
Dreamers dribble into the 13 billion year old universe, spending their days waving to passing celestial bodies, never even looking for an ear to inhabit.
POEM: Wedding March
It tumbles over a thin-lipped horizon like a drunken pledge,
A full-bodied wine, so able to commit mayhem at a moment’s notice.
Today is your unwashed carrot plucked from dry earth, soil
Clinging to its pointed orange skin, held up by its green hair, so fragrant.
It is the diamond once lost in the back yard, rediscovered by mistake.
Today you become the seeds you’ve always dreamed of becoming.
The birds chirp a wedding march, and the clouds process in bridal white.
Before the dandelions and the compost, before the congregation
Of mayflies, those flitting maids-of-honor who flutter your praise.
In the presence of an embracing universe, in full view of smiling lilac,
A balloon heart with your names on each other’s tongue is carved into
the oldest oak tree we could find and that is your New Testament
We are melting candles
Frenzied by the noise of
Our own our diminutive voice.
Our tongues that click and clack
This and that.
Death is on its way.
The problems that have
Plagued us up to this point
Are wax drippings.
This is what the flame teaches.
What is left is what we have
Tried to avoid all this time:
The persistent cat-tongued voice
Wallpapering our brains;
Our turning around and
Around again and again only to
2.) At 10:20 PM you are asleep. The hose to the CPAP machine is a snake that coils around your head. It is on a swivel, and you are careful not to strangle yourself or your partner with it while you switch sides.
3.) At midnight you wake up for the first time because the CPAP machine has malfunctioned and your heart has stopped. You momentarily dream of being bitten by rats and this is when you ARE getting oxygenated blood into your brain but without the machine, you do not dream at all, it is all a soupy blackness; it is the sleep you get when on cold medicines.
4.) At 12:01 AM you reach over and feel the night stand and correct the machine.
5.) At 1 AM you fall asleep long enough to feel as though you are falling. You kick your legs involuntarily and wake up again.
6.) At 1:30 AM the moon rushes into the room through the window like an anxious father and you curse it and pray to it all at once. This is the first time you glance at the digital clock - and make the analog comparison in your brain to someone running a marathon: how much further to go before the alarm. Time = distance.
7.) At 2:15 AM you turn and turn again, carefully maneuvering the hose of the CPAP machine. You are not asleep but not awake either.
8.) At 2:55 AM the mask slips off your nose and the air gushes like a wind tunnel. In a panic that has you believing you’ve just been sucked out of a 747 at 50,000 feet, you move your head slightly to cut off the air leak and then fall back to sleep.
9.) At 3:17 AM you glance again at the bloodshot eyes of the clock and mutter something about Satanic verses.
10.) At 4:02 AM you dream of sitting tied up in a chair in a field and hands, just hands, appear securing the knots. You scream as you are transported through wormholes connecting universes.
11.) At 4:05 AM you are awake again, revising the lesson plan for a class you are teaching about Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart”.
12.) At 4:06 AM you are mentally balancing your check book.
13.) At 4:07 AM you begin breathing deeply, following it into and out of your lungs.
14.) At 4:08 AM you are bored with this and go back to mentally balancing your checkbook.
15.) At 4:21 AM you are asleep long enough to dream of someone you do not know. You wake up feeling sad and you wonder why.
16.) At 4:35, AM again, you look at the clock and calculate time as distance.
17.) At 4:36 AM you accept that you are a freak; you believe that every other living thing is asleep at this hour. You believe you smell skunk.
18.) At 5:00 AM you dream of performing calculus in your head and while you believe you are sleeping, you are in fact not.
19.) At 5:30 AM the gentle melody of the alarm on your cell phone goes off. It is the opening notes to Radio Head’s “No Surprises”.
20.) At 5:31 AM you carefully shut off the alarm so as not to wake your partner. Your eyes are carrying American Tourister luggage around on your face. You stagger into the bathroom. The image staring back at you in the mirror: he knows you are a liar.
POEM: April 10, 2013
When the wind first thrummed,
When the gray clouds drummed
a black fist at me,
When my chilled teeth chattered
And my tired bones rattled a mamba
With rumbling hips of thunder -
I’d have missed the blue whale sky ripped asunder,
Stripped to the flesh, exposing
A roiling sun, flesh bared unrolling its tongue
Until it touched the earth,
All the while smirking, licking me warm.
POEM: Ode To a Statue of St. Francis
Man of peace. This is an occupational hazard
Of all garden-art, religious or not.
You can complain all you want:
Find a reason to hate birds, or
Never again trust a shady spot
But when you are brother to all things,
Which includes things with wings that shit all over everything,
Then you must have a cotton heart.
Otherwise your insides become a stone and
Then how do you respond to all the sadness of a world,
That scampers like a rat across a slate roof, that is
Sometimes seen, but always makes its presence known?
Clean it up and press on. That’s all you can do.
And if that bird shits on you nine-hundred and ninety-eight times,
You will clean it up nine-hundred and ninety-nine.
Watch a spider repair its web after a storm.
It’s incapable of sighing.
Remorse does not fit within the thimble frame of its
Rigid exoskeleton, it rebuilds.
Watch over me, shit-stained Francis. And
Protect every creature that dozes deep in my savage bones.
I will take you, mossy and white, or any way you come.
POEM: Tin Man
Proclaim in a mahogany voice:
“My God, what am I doing?”
That is the first step to disconnecting the red cable of your car battery,
Which is how you learn to jump-start things, like a car.
Fritter your hands a little. Fuss a bit.
Come clean with yourself, in jellied tones,
To the stranger in your head that says bat-shit crazy things
that you hide whenever company comes over.
The one that drives the Porsche of your mind
with the hormonal rage of a teenager.
Today is made possible
By its frosted flakes and all the sexy risk,
as dangerous as a cat-stretch-puddle.
It waits for you to take a step.
Here are the instructions:
Turn off the light /
make faces at the mirror/
on a moonless night/
let clouds grip your throat/
when owls embed themselves into headless trees/
hoot and then holler/
speak in private syllables/
break the tie between you and the image of you. /
Hold onto things with mosquito feet /
Promise anything: to bake bread together,/
to love the same woman or man or men or women,/
to get a rescue dog together and fight over its name./
Go and unmake your bed, /
Go slip your feet into large shoes, /
Time to stand in the ruinous rain/
to chisel away at the oxidized parts /
POEM: Wellwood Avenue (2 versions)
The 2nd represents the same poem flipped upside down. Which one sounds better? It is a a very interesting thing to do to a poem. The meaning is slightly different in the 2nd version, but it also suggests I am not in control of the poetry writing process as much as I might like to believe.)
We wonder how sunsets look to the dead,
From the tips of white granite
Which is now how we recognize their faces?
We know they are not really there, of course. We are
Very good at knowing the difference between
animate and inanimate: it is a difference of weight –
The living are always lighter. Geography
Sews an invisible thread to the inside of us, and
Pulls at us every step of the way, demanding us to return.
When I go, I want to build a place for you, my love,
To sit beside the godly pine. Place will be the shape of
My face, and the curve of your hips.
It is the running ripple of your spine, the meaty part of my hands
Which you have always admired. A place to clutch
cold stone. To wish beneath a glowering sky,
To believe in the heaviness of the dark oak past,
When I was your desire and we connected
To this sandy island whose soils once
And perhaps neither of us will miss or be missed as much.
While my consonant arms wrap around you,
My name, and all the vowels will lodge in the trees.
Sit before marble and silence, and you will speak.
I will slip into your breath when you rest, when this sandy
Island a long time ago hitchhiked south on a glacier,
Before I was your desire and we touched,
Believing in the heaviness of a dark oak past,
cold stone. To wish beneath a glowering sky,
Which you have always admired. A place to clutch
the running ripple of your spine, the meaty part of my hands
My face, and the curve of your hips.
To sit beside the godly pine. Place will become the shape
of my face. I want to build a place for you, my love,
that pulls at us, every step of the way, demanding us to return.
The living is always lighter. Geography
Sews an invisible thread to the inside of us.
Animate and inanimate: it is just a difference of weight –
You will know I am not reallythere, of course.
From the tips of white granite
Which is how we will recognize each other’s faces,
Wondering how sunsets look to the dead
POEM: Watching Sports
Through every minute of every day.
She throws her arm off your neck while you try to shave.
He leans her to one side, as he bends to tie his shoe.
She uses his Ahab arm, which swings as if
tied to the back of that accursed whale,
As a trivet to place a hot frittata upon.
The chance for perfection is always appealing.
All the energy that is burned could rekindle
A supernova, black hole,
now dark as coal,
weightless in space
or it could re-illumine every burned out light bulb filament.
Monday, June 17, 2013
POEM: She’s Off To Find The World And Herself (A Parent’s Final Exam On Flag Day, 2013)
It’s Flag Day. I hear parties going off all around me. Fireworks putt-pat against the warble of tree frogs whose trill questions everything. Laughter floats like the smell of stale beer from shattered bottles on a mocha breeze.
They are with their tribes, I think.
“Where is my tribe tonight?”
I think about children who grow up to fly to other continents because once we taught them not to be afraid of the world. Right about now, uniformed men all over this land gather, meeting to dispose of old American flags in the only approved of manner: wearing medals with multicolored ribbons and oversized pea-green jackets, with elephant ears and log-like noses, swaying to taps before flags laid out like soft coffins,
saluted, anthem-ized, hand-over-heart-sworn-to, drenched in kerosene then ignited.
Rising smoke is the soul that pools into clouds of a holy memory.
The serious sounds of growing old fill my head. She is off to Tanzania, Bolivia and Iceland. Colorful stamps will decorate her passport. I worry about the intercontinental travel of children who are no longer children, and of me, being a child again, without agency, afraid of the world and everything in it.
“I would give everything I own tonight to see her pearl face poke through that door right now,” I say every night, for a year, until she returns.
Sunday, April 07, 2013
POEM: Charlton Heston In Heaven
I wonder if Charlton Heston regrets
that video clip of him raising that
musket over his head,
Growling chafed words
about prying guns from cold,
dead hands, if there are toothless
cherubs surrounding him,
onion skinned, who also know about guns,
about tiny, cold, dead hands,
still as full of wonder,
scented with the talc of trust,
with voices like a corn-cob whisk,
telling him just how wrong he was?
POEM: What We Don't Believe
We do not really believe that art and music will raise our children’s test scores, for if we did,
we would equip each child with an art pad and violin while still in her crib.
We do not really believe that bread and wine, raised and consecrated, becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ, for if we did, we would crawl on our hands and knees to the altar to consume it.
We do not really believe that we are beautiful or loved for if we did,
we would surely give beauty and love more freely.
We do not really believe that we are all brothers and sisters, for if we did,
there would be a homeless man in my guest room as I write this.
This is not meant to harp on shortcomings but
rather to show that the splitting of the atom is not just esoteric science.
It happens to be part of our genetic code:
This ability to explode on contact.
Friday, March 22, 2013
POEM: The Lives of Voices
It was robust, fitting so well into my vest pocket, that I thought it might be the voice of reason so I kept it, hidden from the tirade of winter, dry and warm for future use.
I wore this voice as a sacred undergarment, not unlike those worn by Mormons.
The next day, while hiking, I found a wounded voice in the woods.
Tattered in its timbre, faded at its edges, I brought it home and made it Portuguese White Bean and Kielbasa soup to give it heart, to fatten its soul. I hoped to make one reconstituted voice, capable of unnerving prayer, the kind of prayer that makes you shiver from the openness, the kind of prayer that precedes a great discovery.
Friends encouraged this voice, asking her to sing, asking her to recite poems and to do her interpretive dance.
Her nerves grew and shrank based on the temperature of the dreams she had at night: hot dreams made her stand taller and want to preach; cool dreams made her believe she was a mushroom nobody saw fit to bear witness to.
On evenings, wandering city streets, my own voice often abandoned me, dancing down the alley-ways, bounding off of narrow walls, off of stucco buildings, pink in its carousing, drinking, finding women of low self-esteem, lifting their spirits and their skirts.
In the morning, my voice would skulk back, headache in hand, remorseful for having bounced over the cobblestone of its own imagination only to find its way home on the back of a whisper.
Sometimes, especially in the fall, in the season of great migrations, I find voices strewn all over New England, each one needing a hand up, each one in search of an inner ear and rubbing bones.
Not every voice makes the journey in one piece of course.
Some are carried off by the wind on horseback never to be heard again.
Some voices take a lifetime to bubble up, to boil like White Bean and Kielbasa soup until it is soup.
Some voices are just a glance, or a touch.
Still others paint their hands bright saffron and touch everything.
For dreamers, a voice dribbles out into the 13 billion year old universe, waving to passing celestial bodies, never once looking for an ear to inhabit.
Friday, March 01, 2013
Carol's Language Fetish
Thursday, January 17, 2013
POEM: You Are Not You
Monday, January 14, 2013
POEM: Light Borrowers, Framed By Bits of Dark Matter
Watching Fox News
I want to slam my thick head into the floor.
POEM: She Is Off To Russia
Her tickets are ready.
Rooms are let.
Soon she will be dowsed in Russian,
looking for “Original Muscovites”
Who have left for history.
With her shy Russian friend,
She is building a language.
“My city is the oldest in Russia”, says the friend.
Of course it is her city.
“You must visit!” she says
“We are sisters of history,”
On this fish-frozen blue day
Fire corkscrews from her red head as hair.
“Yes. We are sisters.”