still hard to find

Feb 21 2013

Nothing is the new anything
as we sit around this table
Each trying to be “a good man”
copying, imitating, emulating
so as to be something very old
the aged tale, timeless even,
the keys and strings of souls
yearning to be made into song.
We want this, and it is wanted
of us; this is the malady fixed,
a call heeded, the work borne,
one foot in front of the other
a sea wall protecting the town
noble in longsuffering commitment.
Nothing is the new anything
the old is well and hard enough.

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30 Seconds in a Sports Bar

Feb 12 2013

Amid the mad mull of trivia,
a dull moment, line waiting
taking a breath and looking
I spend three hours a week,
every week, here. And yet,
I’ve never seen the posters.
I should keep track of them;
that might be useful sometime.
Oh, no, no. That’s not trivia.
That would not be a question.
Oregon vs. Arizona State on TV;
Ducks up 43 points at the half.
That’s trivia. That’s important.

The line moves.

I brush up against the poster
of an old rock band’s gig.
History, yes, trivia, maybe,
but more than that, so much
more than just a marker of that,
but a piece with weight and shape;
its own presence, firmly established.
This isn’t just history or trivia,
this is life; I should be seeing this
not to remember and regurgitate,
not for ego and a free round of beers.
I should be here, now, grounded,
living in my own life,
cultivating my own trivia,
no, no, not just flecks of information
but cultivating a whole life,
a story, a whirling world to tell
My set of ears hears the world sing
and your set of eyes tint it orange;
subjective interpretations of the objective thing.
we can touch it, together.
But we will never know it together
until we tell each other the story
the story of our experience of the thing.
Together we create a shared thing
when I look at that trivia pad,
your meaning and my meaning of it
are both in my mind, both here!

The line moves.

But for now I am Team America.
We must give four more answers.
Perhaps we win, perhaps not;
One more night in a long line.
Does this night matter?
No more than any other night,
Not trivia-worthy in the least.
But there is more to meaning
than whether the day tells well;
We are always a part of others’
subjective experience.
Tonight is not worthy to be my trivia
But I could be a part of someone’s history.

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inadequate methods

Jan 24 2013

quietnesses
like mistresses
and distresses,
odd words written
and spoken,
too many syllables
fumbling over esses,
filling the spaces
that the meanings
can’t

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In Praise of Marsh Hyman

Jan 09 2013

Dear Lord, infinite holy designer,
remind me that while you set the sun
into motion in an unmeasurable space
you also are the person who created
the second, and the millisecond, and
Nalgene jars, and accidental scars,
pea coats and Hondas and Converse shoes.
Nothing escapes your purview.
Not even I, when I feel so estranged
from the entirety of the world:
against violence, against football,
for reading, for poetry, for the long-term
against lust, against stealing music.
You made all of these impulses,
these “ethics,” these decisions,
all ways to follow you.
Sometimes I break my own decisions
and join the crowd because I can,
so that I can feel like a part of
something. To not be standing on
Javert’s bridge, singing at stars
not that I believe in his song,
but because I so thoroughly don’t
and that leaves me washing dishes
cleaning house, doing favors, and
a variety of other things that no
one will ever know about, as I am
trying to cultivate an anonymity.
I want to remain humble always.
Unsurprisingly, it’s pretty boring.

And the gifts I have clang against
this desire to become faceless,
those gifts to write and publish
and ever be known by more people,
your voice more important than
everyone else’s. That’s power
and fame and the ability to move
mountains

or is it?

and so I wander about in my mind,
publishing and yet not publishing
being honest but not letting them
know that I am here; and I am here.
Ever shooting myself in the foot,
for I might feel a little less alone
if other people who felt this way,
could know that I feel like I do.
Dear Lord, who created creativity,
let me tell what I can do and let
it not turn me into an egomaniac.
For someone invented the t-shirt,
the Nalgene, the second measurement
and all that other stuff I said,
but I don’t know who did them.
Anonymously, they made my stuff.
Praise to them, and praise to you,
who keeps us in check and yet shows
that you speak through whom you will;
speak, even through small men who wander
afraid of their own voice, and soul,
and the weight of their thoughts.
Praise to you, who bore that weight,
long before I ever weighed it on myself.

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Unspeakable things

Jan 07 2013

There is deep brokenness here,
inextricable from our fabric.
We are not just prone to this,
we are this. We can’t escape
our bodies, the death lining
the skin that we scratch off.

We have ever, ever known this.
Societies set up justice first
even knowing that we are only
slightly better than those we
find locked in cells, or hiding
in dark alleys, holding the gun.
And thus metal music, rap lyrics,
Grand Theft Auto, Tarantino,
Tipper Gore and ratings systems;
this the way we lance a blister.
Scrubbing skin and keeping clean,
we try to mitigate the pain.
The rawness rages yet inside us
I can’t evict what is my blood.

Right we are to rage in anger
when erupts the burning furor
we keep lists of these events
always remember, never forget
clamor/fervor now/forever
laws won’t change us, law can’t stop us
We are determined in our sins,
we are determined in our hearts.
We have this lining in our souls,
we have this burning a hole in
the fabric of the world, so, so,
so they are right when they say
the world will die. We know it,
the word foretold in text of old.

But not in the way they expect.
Man will not shred this world,
although we do our best to try.
This world is under the watch
of the one with no death lining.
On his schedule, things bubble
and break; good and evil, both
under his control. And we tear
our hair, we mourn to the sky
we scream like no one hears us
and that is how it should be.
But let me not confuse death
gruesome, tragic, horrific,
senseless (I hate that word)
unfathomable death, with the end.
We should all work for change,
in our hearts, then our world.
I was not at the trigger, but
only by the grace of God, for
who runs our lives? Not I, no.
And so we stay ever vigilant
against the schemes and shakes
of the evil that comes for us
and we ward it off, gospel it
trying to set safety for those
who aren’t with us; we will be
agents of that common grace,

Grace that doesn’t call for comfort,
calls for goodness, calls for justice
The hard question of mental illness
and what to do with a loving person
long since lost the things he loved
replaced with hate and brutal lusts
What then? What now? How best to do
what the gospel heart was made for?
He looks down on us, tries to bring
us into himself, yet chicks will run
even from their mother, and how much
more from He who so many hate? Dear,
dear Lord, bring us to yourself, so
that we can rest, and be healed, and
know that there will not be any pain
there, and no violence, and no fear.
And until we can go there, with you
let us have that peace, and send it
especially now, today, for a while
out to Newtown, where our hate burns
perhaps righteously, but still hate,
because we are so little different
from those who do unspeakable things.

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Stormfighting

Dec 30 2012

Hard weather whether we want it
Compromise like reverrse cloud seeding,
Rare and magical and distrusted,
sewing up the skies instead of searing.
But if compromise is seen as weakness,
and argument is the only strength,
the rains will rage on unabated.
You cannot fight a storm with a storm.

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a good murderer leaves no witness

Dec 27 2012

There is a world that I hate.

I have praised the world many times,
but there is a way we tell stories that
I reproach: the violence, the bleakness,
“they’re gonna kill him”
And all the rest of the blood.
We make these brutal shows because we sin
The original scourge burned in our bones
All the crime and conspiracy you can bear,
the wanted sinful sight ever born anew.
We made the Coliseum, after all. But
the egregiousness is the modern affliction.

We bear the mark in our minds
We write the lines on our foods
Foods of the mind, known coffin
We east of health, eating death
Logical if not a Christian,
But wholly inedible for us.
Maybe we are just moral atheists,
Acting as if there isn’t someone up there
Who wants more for us than this:
Diverging from the standard patterns of
Noble, faithful, honorable, very good
Lost in bullets and bleeding and suicide
and a mind that figures out who needs to die
instead of how everyone can be saved.

There is no, there is no, there is no
Way around this, other than stopping.
Stop celebrating death. Stop rejoicing.
Stop burning our way through the wreckage of humanity,
brutality, savagery, that which ruined the world,
which rent heaven and earth until the end of all things,
that whole wretched, hopeless vision that glorifies evil
as a warning, a warning untaken in the massive multitudes
of deaths. so many deaths, so many fictive lives snuffed,
making us complicit in the murders of fictional and real
people, with lives cut short by knowledge of “acceptable”
and “unacceptable” from TV that no one thinks you should act on,
these shows that train us to believe no one, no one, none
and to solve all our problems with a 9mm to her pretty head.
guts smeared on the window from the outside, artistic shot,

for fun.

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Order

Dec 20 2012

I am an observer,
a regular attender,
a sharer of big church words:
session, presbytery, call
not large in letter
but towering in spirit.
These are weighty moments.

At first, it seems peculiar
such fuss, such pomp, regal.
Is it really this important?
Not that I diminish the ends, but
can’t we just have a show of hands?
“Oh yea, the ayes have it,” etc.?
But the words are stately read
from the old church book of order
in the solemnity of scripture
as a heavy tell (or reminder):

this plan is not ours.

We convene not due to presbytery,
nor to the Reformed Church Press.
We take these motions seriously
because we are on the authority
of the omnipotent, most high God,
who said to us, “be the church.
Be the way I roam this earth,
be the way I lighten burdens,
be the way I pummel wickedness
in the world and in your hearts.
And in that task, the call will come
to closely follow those you trust.”
And so, not divine or inerrant,
but in the real way of the Lord,
we set about to vote, tiny sheets
of paper with inconsequential pens
to do the mundane, very daily work
that is the way God uses the church
to change the world that he so loves
and keep us on a path to his heart

a unanimous vote, a “praise the Lord”
scattered applause, a removal to cars.
this is the way the Lord worked today.

hallelujah, hallelujah, glory hallelujah,
small sheets of paper and a plastic pen.

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The character of God

Nov 26 2012

We are always looking for the character the God. We want to prove to ourselves that the world is indeed as we think it is, and the best way to prove that is to find the examples we want. But that selection, that picking of what we want to show, is disingenuous. Some choose only to look at the good; others to only look at the bad. How did only looking at the bad become “intellectual” instead of the flipside of blissful ignorance? Unblissful awareness misses the point of the world as much as blindly ignoring the evil in our sphere.

When we look at a dark world and only see the dark, that is the example we use to say God is dark, or dead, or not there. When we look at a bright world and use it to say that God provides health and wealth to those who call on him, we are not telling the truth. Those are not the real character of God; those parts of God are things that we (for whatever reason) wish were the whole of him. But when we look at the whole world, in its misery and majesty, there is so much to love and so much to hate. There is so much to work for and so much to enjoy. There is reason, there is unreason. Both. All. And this wide world to be explored, to be parsed, to be celebrated, this is the character of God, wild and wooly and wonderful, the whole world crying and singing at once and we get to live here.

For if we want to be alive, we must find something worth living for; and if we want to be inspiring, we must find something to be inspired by. And what greater than the whole world? The whole crater of creation, the cosmos of cosmopolitanism, the exchange of evils and errors and excellence. We have a burden, yes; there is pain here. But such joy! And such opportunity! To be alive should never cease to be amazing, even on nondescript Monday mornings at 9:21 a.m.

I imagine that this is the character of God; seeing all, taking joy in what should be reveled in, sorrowing at that which should not be. And when I start to look for the character of God in this way, I find it–because we always find what we are looking for when everything is available. Seeing the whole world, taking it in, living a full, wild life; this is the way to see the world. Not to fixate on the good or the bad, but to take it all in, to weave it into the tapestries of our thoughts, to work to make beautiful in future lines of the rug that which is not at the moment, to joy in the work that has already been done on that front.

What we think about the character of God reflects on the world we see. I see wonder and awe at it, awing not only at that which was made but that there is a creator who loved me so much that I get to live here with reason to not fear death.

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Methodist hymnal

Nov 01 2012

In some ways, lives are novels.
A new day, a new page. Chapters.
Stories with hardships and resolution.
But today I’m a Methodist hymnal;
the emotions recur like songs
that I turn to over and over.
Life is not a straight line
now it turns back and loops forward
but all within the confines of the book.

And the hymnal is pretty well organized
There’s a topical order to its musings.
I try to say the same about my own life;
Mostly I end up in the miscellaneous.
And when I apply a method to my life,
I see how far this aimless wandering
has taken me, for better and for worse
Not truly aimless (for I am not in control)
but without a sense of who controls.
Not acknowledging the method, or
acknowledging it and resenting it for existing
for not being mine.

for not being mine.

And now the future pounds at my door
and I can’t get there to open it yet
there are steps that have to happen
I’d rather drink whiskey, eat strawberries
and only think about the good that happens
after the little, methodical things I need
to make a life. I’d like to skip steps.
But things can only happen, or be made.
So I want to make, while acknowledging
that I am not the ultimate maker,
and I cannot just make things happen.
I can turn the screws as hard as I want
but that doesn’t make the thing go.

Yes, the method is not mine.
And accepting that is my new
method.

And songs I sing in the world,
audible, edible and otherwise
come from my Methodist hymnal.

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