Saturday, January 31, 2004

New Look

I've been wanting to over-haul the look of this page for some time. Finally created the time to do just that yesterday. Hopefully, you are now seeing the result. While I appreciated the ready-made Blogger template I had been using before, it used a number of nested tables, and it was always challenging to figure out what was happening where.

The layout you see today uses two tables. That's right, only two. It also only uses one image, that little picture on the upper left-hand side. Watch that image — it will likely change frequently. My hope is that down-load time will improve with less images being part of the standard lay-out. I've posted a few images in the main content area, but tend to be somewhat conservative about that.

I do have one or two regular readers from across the water, and they reportedly are still depending on dial-up connections. I'm sympathetic, since my home connection is currently dial-up.

To my eye, this lay-out looks nice and clean. Let me know what you think!

flame dances

I heard his voice rise from the electrical ether
"I am a man of constant sorrow," he sang,
and I knew just what he was talking about.
I'm a man who walks his daily path
of concrete & brown grass under clear blue skies.
I gather dust like a blanket
and seal my visions with cobweb glasses.
My heart races beneath a waxing moon —
for it is a tender magic hour,
early morning watches waiting on dawn.
I pick up stray images like candy
and wonder about my flaming fingertips
and why the candle's flame flickers and dances
when the mandolin plays.
These prayers refract through zirconium
into the waiting chambers of a distant valley;
my spirit walks somewhere in that valley,
gleaning stones, breathing clouds,
spelunking ancient tombs.
My spirit needs no map,
but I don't know where to go.

Friday, January 30, 2004

In my entry concerning our pilgrimage to see Dr. Omed (posted Tue, Jan 27, 4:34 a.m.), I make reference to the hovel he was living in at the time. I also lived in a hovel around that same period. Here, we see the good Doctor seated in the living area/bedroom of said domicile.

This apartment was on the second floor of an old house which had been converted into a series of apartments. I had this room, a kitchen, and a bathroom (tub, no shower). Dr. O has his back to my bed, which is near the window. You can see part of a Ricky Lee Jones poster on the left, and one of my bookshelves between the poster and the window.

Next to that tall, sagging plastic bookshelf, you can just barely see a smaller bookshelf; on top of which is an altar (you can just make out the point). This is an altar I built myself when I attended a church camp sometime in the late 1960s. May go without saying that I still have this altar today.

Under the Jones poster is a somewhat mysterious object, which looks like a plastic bag. I think this is a trophy I received in high school for a play I wrote during my senior year. For several years, I kept this trophy in a plastic bag, to protect it from dust.

Next to Dr. O's right hand is a poster promoting a reading of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, which was done to celebrate the Summer Solstice. Prominate local poets and speakers spent the longest day of the year reading selections from that seminal work.

The good Doctor is flipping through a book reproducing William Blake's illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy. Both this, and the Kerouac poster, prove my fascination with these authors goes back many years. As I recall, this picture was taken in the mid-1980s.

This is one of several b&w photos taken the evening Dr. O and I were featured readers at the fabled Town Tavern. In addition to reading our poetry, I sang several songs Dr. O and I had co-written. People listened respectfully, and applauded in good stead.

Ideé d’jour

Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power. — Eric Hoffer, philosopher and author (1902-1983)
Considering the number of religious entries I've posted over the past several weeks, it may seem ironic that I post this quote.

Thing is, I don't picture myself as having "absolute faith". In fact, I have extended moments of doubt. I sometimes joke that I have to cross my fingers when reciting certain portions of the Nicene (or Apostles') Creed. I cross my fingers, that is, in hopes that it is not necessary for me to believe that particular tenet.

Those who have "absolute faith" in their position, whether it be religious or political, are the most likely to seek "absolute power" so they may impose their righteous position on others. I occasionally suffer from this tendency to want to be King of the World. The other 98% of the time, however, I recognize how unsuitable I am for the job.

"Absolute faith" may apply to other areas as well — poetics, the proper topics or methods for blogging, etc. This desire to be the ruler in one area or another is ultimately childish. Heaven knows, I've been childish in that respect more times than I care to think.

Whew. Wild to see how many different directions a simple quote can lead you. Or: maybe it's the coffee.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Ideé d’jour

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.
— Carl Jung, psychiatrist (1875-1961)

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Belated Lectio: Epiphany 3 (25.Jan.04)

Reading: Luke 4:14-21“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (vs. 21)

Till you've walked the Hero's circuit, it may seem only a faint shadow-play. Like Robert Frost on his divided road, we often don't recognize the nature of the path until we've walked it a ways. By which point, it may seem too late. For "the path of life" is such that it's often challenging (if not impossible) to turn around.

But, perhaps I am being too obscure, or elliptical. Perhaps you don't buy into that whole Joseph Campbell Hero with a Thousand Faces stuff. Yeah, maybe you tossed out the Hero with "the Collective Unconscious." But still ....

Movies would not work, would not entertain us, if we did not identify with the characters on some level. And these characters work because they fit different personalities so well. Field of Dreams, for example, would be meaningless if most men had uncomplicated relationships with their fathers. It is popular, and meaningful, to any man who fears becoming like his father.

I have come to believe that The Bible contains every variation on human interaction, relation, and emotion possible. The stories speak to us because we have experienced something very much like them at some point in our lives. There will obviously be stories that don't mean anything to us because we have never experienced something like them.

For example, the story of the Israelites in the Wilderness may mean little to a person who has never felt adrift in his or her life. Likewise, the story of the Resurrection may have little impact on a person who has never experienced a dramatic "rebirth" sort of experience in her life. Finally, any story of healing may have little meaning if we have never been healed; or — more to the point — felt the need for healing.

I suppose this to be the way in which "the scriptures are fulfilled".

The Old Testament reading assigned for this past Sunday was from Nehemiah; it tells the story of the recovery of the Torah. We are told that the people rejoice, even though they recognize the difficulty of living by Torah Law. First, they rend their garments (because they see how they've fallen short of the Law); then, they dance in celebration, even as David danced before the Ark. They rejoiced because they recognized themselves in the Torah. Scripture is not complete until we have lived it in some way, or seen how it pragmatically applies to our daily life.

As we shall see, parts of my life have resonance with Biblical archetypes. No doubt other archetypes apply as well, but these are the ones with which I am familiar. So, the Wilderness is a reality for me — I lived through one. While I have not experienced a clinical "near death" experience, I have had a variant life-and-rebirth experience, so I can accept the Resurrection at least in that way.

Blessed are you, Divine Storyteller,
you unwind the string of our lives
you guide us through the maze
which is not a maze
Blessed are you for meaning
assumed or real, it doesn't matter
it keeps me walking.
Blessed are you, Heavenly Father
Blessed are you, Divine Mother
Blessed are you, Sacred Singer
Blessed are you for singing my heart
Blessed are you for breathing new life into me
Blessed are you this day and evermore
world without end

What are some "archetypical" stories you have lived? If you share them on your web-log, please provide links in the comments below.

Ideé d’jour

Sometime they'll give a war and nobody will come. — Carl Sandburg, poet and biographer (1878-1967) [wrote first major biography of Lincoln]
Ah, Carl, we long for that grand & glorious day!

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Have you signed this petition yet? Even if you support the current Prez, you owe to yourself to support this expression of free speech.

The Mystery Poem

Those who've been reading this space for a while may recall that I linked to this letter, which Dr. Omed has posted on his Tent Show. Toward the end of the letter, I make reference to a poem on the flip side. During my recent journey through the archives (see entry posted at 4:34 a.m.), Dr. Omed showed me the referenced letter and poem.

As it turns out, the poem was written on a seperate sheet of paper. I'm not certain it works, but I reproduce it here, in the spirit of full disclosure.

Morning Fog

The morning walked in as fine mist
snuggling clock tower heights
skimming sidewalk cracks.

The evening shone into awnings,
lit the dark high & low ways,
clouded the trees.

Between morning & evening,
the wind blow slow, leaf-like —
light droplets prepare
to be chilled into snow.

I drew a rainbow on my window,
with four fingers revealed
all the colors of a slick winter night.

It is a morning fog
true, thick, deep
with no ideals, no dreams

The face of fog
is indistinct
A mirror to carlights

I have seen this face
The first time I saw the face
of fog
The wind was cool
Water towers lumbering giants

Poets have called fog like this home
But it is more for phantoms
like me
It has a gentle honesty,
Mist slumbering on warm windows.

Ideé d’jour

Coming along the mountain path
I am somehow mysteriously moved
By these violets.
— Basho, quoted in The Little Zen Companion

Pilgrimage with Dr. Omed

[God] stirs up the sea by His power, and by His understanding He breaks up the storm.  Job 26:12 (NKJV)
Combed my hair in a foggy mirror. Wasn't thinking of the Celestial Clockmaker at all. Maybe I was considering the basset hound bags under my eyes. Maybe I had been dreaming of Jack Kerouac. Now that I have outlived him, maybe I can do him a Merton better.

L.C. and I went to Tulsa this past weekend to visit the Ven. Dr. Omed. We had a lovely vegetarian repast with his wife, Els, and his youngest step-spawn. Did I mention? Dr. Omed is a marvelous cook. As Els said, it was a multi-culti delight: curry, tofu, bosamati rice, soy.

It's good to visit Dr. O. Well, he knew me when, and rejoices that I managed to survive against the odds. It's good to visit him, I say, because it gives me an opportunity to see him as he is today. The person in my memory is not the person I see today. I mean, obviously there are similarities, and he carries some of his youthful habits with him still. But, he has also grown.

He's still a contrarian. But, he's also learned there's a time for contraries & a time to hold one's peace. Our master, Wm Blake, wrote: "In contraries is true friendship". Well, Dr. Omed has proven that truth for me.

I asked Dr. Omed why he hasn't posted anything on his blog lately. It seems the SADness of January has seized him, and Oklahoma's winter winds have whisked away his inspiration.

I want to put words in his mouth. I want him to say, "If you ain't got nothing to say, don't say it!"

I remember when Dr. O was living on the second-floor hovel on Klein Street. He was working for the Cinema Sex Palace, I was working for the Infernal Bookstore. It was probably this time of year when he went into hibernation. When he lost his job, and his utilities got cut off. He bundled himself in bed, in his cold hovel, and taught himself classic Greek by kerosene lantern light.

Well, that was before Dr. Omed went to Denver. Before he met Clarissa Who Runs With Wolves, who discerned he was bipolar (commonly called manic-depressive). Now, he takes his meds, singing in the lithium chorus, as he puts it. He's able to maintain regular employment, which is one standard our society has for sanity. Or, at least, functionality.

He's been with Els almost as long as I have been a recycled single person (~10 years). They clearly love each other, and Dr. Omed obviously has paternal feelings for the two young women he refers to as step-spawn.

So, there I was, talking to him about Kerouac, my renewed obsession. And I notice that I'm talking very loudly. In retrospect, I think I was excited to be visiting with him again. But, in my defense, there was also music playing in the background, and I may have been over-compensating for the distraction. As L.C. has noticed, I am extremely sensitive to sounds — especially music.

After a while, we settled into a comfortable silence. So naturally I pulled out my guitar. Els suspected I'd play music by Leonard Cohen, an artist Dr. Omed and I both admire. When L.C. mischievously asked who Leonard C was, I started singing "The Guests."

Then I sang a song I've been woodshedding this month, "Comes a Time" (title track from Neil Young album). Dr. Omed used his new digital camera/toy to film this performance. Who knows? It may one day appear in his on-line Tent Show.

Don't remember all the songs I played. Couple of things that are true: hard to get me to start; harder to get me to stop. I played from around 10 pm til almost midnight (way past my normal bedtime). Dr. Omed requested my song about Jonestown, which I performed fairly well right until the end, when I couldn't remember the changes. Well, at least I remembered all the words for that song.

Then Dr. Omed requested "Crash on the Highway", which I believe is one of my better songs. For some reason, playing this song necessitated telling the story of "The Conspiracy of Love."

A story which will not be told here.

Dr. Omed commented that I was like his own personal oldies station. That is, hearing me sing my regular repetoire creates a sort of anamnesis, where he recalls those halcyon days of the 1980's.

At one point, when I couldn't remember the words to one of my own songs, Dr. Omed brought out three folders filled with my writings. As I have mentioned before, Dr. O is my self-appointed archivist, and these folders represent a chunk of said archive.

I did not look through this collection in detail. However, a couple of things stood out:
  1. In my recent writings, I've called on long term images and obsessions. As I said the next morning, I should be taxed every time I use the word "fog". The world is no doubt grateful that "blood" and "crows" have fallen out of my poetic lexicon. And, while planets have made occasional appearances in my verse, at least I'm not ranting about the dread reign of Saturn, as I was during one extended period.
       I believe I fall back on these "tried and true" images whenever I'm stuck, and have run out of ideas for that day. In other words, simple laziness.
  2. I stumbled upon a letter I wrote circa 1980, at the IBM Selectric typewriter in the receiving room of the Infernal Bookstore. In this letter, I make reference to the fact that I am choosing to watch a lot of tv — undisputed garbage like "The Love Boat" — as a way to anesthetize myself.
I immediately thought of writing that letter as being analogous to these blog entries. Which is to say, once again I have a job I find so undemanding that I have time to do personal creative projects during the day.

I still come home, most evenings, and turn on the tube, recognizing that I'm using it as a legal narcotic. On the bright side, I'm not watching something as gosh-awful as "The Love Boat". Well, unless you count re-runs of "Just Shoot Me," which may be close to the bottom of the desperation barrel.

So — have I grown at all? Here's what's different: this job pays better. My money is going toward home ownership rather than some slum-lord's pocket. My job does offer creative opportunities within its regular duties (part of my duties includes being a web-master). I spend more time today with flesh-n-blood people than I did back then. Most of these people, I consider at least casual friends.

I am romantically involved with L.C. I was not in any real relationship (unless tv & alcohol count) back then. I was profoundly alone, and felt socially inept in 1980.

So: I believe I have grown. As Dr. Omed has. Occasionally, old habits return, foggy reflections of child I once was.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Signs of Things to Come

Scan of Journal PagesHere, you see a scan of two pages out of the eight I've written to reflect on our pilgrimage to see Dr. Omed. The journal is the very one I've mentioned before, which was given to me by Steve & Debra.

I expect to have these pages posted sometime tomorrow. So, tune in tomorrow to see if you deciphered my scrawl correctly. Sorry for the down-load time on that image. Hope the wait is worth it.


  1. Political:: discourse
  2. Concentration:: lost
  3. Fish:: cut bait
  4. Lunacy:: divine
  5. Red:: scare
  6. Imply:: infer
  7. Recognize:: differences
  8. Sexist:: language
  9. Commercial:: break
  10. Stricken:: record

Friday, January 23, 2004

Poem Revised

Below you will find a poem titled “Storm at Midnight”. I also posted this poem on the Poetry Espresso e-list, as I do most of my recent poetry. As I have mentioned, part of my editing process as I practice this near-poem-a-day regime is to listen to criticism from that list as well as any comments that are posted here.

Only one person (so far) has responded to this particular poem. She liked it, except for the word "forge" in the first stanza. She wrote:
I balked at the word "forge". You intend contrast but I don't [think] it works. "forge" seems laboured (pardon the pun), too heavy & interrupts the tone of the rest of the poem.
Nice poem though.
Well, I pondered that for a while. I still wonder whether the real problem is with the word "baptism" in the same line, since that word also carries a fairly heavy amount of connotative freight.

Anyway, since the remainder of the poem seems to me to work, I decided to try changing just that one line.

The re-written poem appears here, with an appropriate illustration. Click through, and let me know how you like the change.

Blog Top Five

Michael Wells, who posts at Stick Poet Superhero, now lists the top five blogs each week. This is no doubt less labor-intensive than the Blog Sweeps Week Michael sponsored about a month back. As you may recall, this space won that sweeps.

Well, this week "Love During Wartime" ranked third. I will admit that I'm extremely flattered.

But I'm also a tad frustrated, because I don't know what I did this week that made the space better than it was last week. I'm sympathetic to Michael's position — well, what I imagine the position to be anyway — writing even a brief explanation for each of the top 5 blogs would take some time. And, I suppose it's possible that I ranked in the top 10 — just not high enough to be listed.

I've had some interesting visitors the past few weeks. Folk from Singapore, Finland, and New Zeeland have dropped in, according to the stats site. The day after my entry about the State of the Union speech, I got a hit from a government agency as well as Comedy Central. As for the latter, I doubt they found any new gags here.

Anyway, thanks, Michael. Whether you explain your reasons or not, its nice to know someone is reading on a semi-regular basis.

I know a couple others who read almost daily ... one who prefers to remain anonymous (we'll call her "Pam"), and another person who signs him/her-self "Giddy". Thanks to you guys too. Don't know if I could keep this up if I didn't hear back from you now & again.

Captain Kangaroo Died!

Click the picture to read the NY Times' in-depth obituary of Bob Keeshan, who most of my generation knew as Captain Kangaroo. I will admit a bit of sadness at his passing, just as I was when Fred Rogers passed away.

One detail I had known prior to reading the obit — Mr. Keeshan began the Captain Kangaroo program the year I was born. So, it would seem I grew up with him. Certainly, in looking back, he filled the role of grandfather for me.

Capt. Kangaroo introduced me to the world of Curious George, and it seems like I first saw Gumby on Capt. K. I learned knock-knock jokes from Mr. Moose, and gained an appreciation of nature through Mr. Greenjeans.

Guess it's one more little sign that I'm growing older, and maybe some of my sadness comes from that. But, since I integrated Capt. K as a grandfather figure, it's almost equivalent to loosing one of my grandfathers again.

Well, I suppose the editorial cartoonists will be picturing Fred Rogers greeting Bob Keeshan in some fashion. If they are greeting each other, I imagine they are commiserating over how Americans have chosen to sell their children to the highest bidder.

Oh ... don't get me started!

rosary guitar

sweeping up the purse-strings
walking on morning dove song
she writes on weathered vellum

irises ringed by rosary song
fragile hands play crushed velvet guitar
calendar echoes through mad streets

on waking, she sees the shadow guitar
practices hermetic arpeggios
sweeping up the tender strings
The image to the right is a portait of the poet as a young man (even though this poem was written this morning). This serves as a "stamp" which will guide you to a postcard version of today's poem.

Reason to check it out? It features a photograph of a claddagh. You may recall that many of my overtly religious poems have referred to a heart with a crown (or diadem). This is the image I had in mind.

Thursday, January 22, 2004


The telephone keeps ringing in my dreams
but there's no one ever there to answer;
I say "Hello," and the silence just screams.

Of course, I don't really know what it means;
I'd like to think it's some demon lover.
The telephone keeps ringing in my dreams.

My heart keeps creating lies of love scenes,
but in the end, it just doesn't matter:
I say "Hello," and the silence just screams.

I listen for a voice to explain
it to me; who would the silence shatter.
The telephone keeps ringing in my dreams.

I don't know why I'm telling you these things;
it's a madness that haunts me like cancer —
I say "Hello," and the silence just screams.

The receiver is empty, and some trees
gag the line with leaves & light'ning laughter.
The telephone keeps ringing in my dreams;
I say "Hello," and the silence just screams.

No Child's Behind Left

Brother Dave e-mailed the text of the Greg Palast editorial in response to Prez Busch's "No Child Left Behind" initiative. Mr. Palast, the author of the book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, makes the point about the flaws in this initiative better than I did in my entry concerning the State of the Union address (see Wed, Jan 21 at 8:42 am).


the horn of plenty at the gate of ivory
the chalice overflows with the blood of the land
the morning bells are weeping primroses
the barren ground haunts the hour glass
the princess is not sleeping in crystal
the pilgrimage of naming is endless
The first line suggested itself as I went to bed last night. The next line was waiting for me when I awoke this morning. The rest flowed from there. Some may be "forced" or disconnected. Let me know.

Wanted to try a six-line form, with longer lines, just for a change of pace ...

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

State of the Union

I dumped out of Prez Busch's campaign speech 37 minutes after it started. It seemed pretty clear to me that he was running for president of Iraq. He probably could get elected, in an election as fair as Florida's, or the last election held in Iraq. Anybody remember that elections were held in Iraq a few months before our invasion, and that Saddam supposedly won?

The choice in that election, as I recall, was to vote for Saddam or against him. Not another candidate, just a simple "yes or no". The election was not monitored by outsiders, and there were other irregularities. But Saddam could claim, with at least as much validity as our current "world leader", that he had been elected.

I flipped through the common broadcast channels, seeking the least annoying beginning, and found myself shocked to discover that even the once-venerable PBS had been invaded by happy heads. One commentator noted he wasn't sure whether any of the Supremes were there, and admitting he might have been "jabbering" when one had been sighted. Later, as the president was stepping up to the podium, a different commentator noted that it looked like the Speaker had lost some weight.

Jeez. We really are "amusing ourselves to death", as Neil Postman put it.

If there was any doubt this was a campaign speech — as if the timing wasn't clue enough — Busch himself made it pretty clear within the first ten minutes of the speech. He said our choice was to go forward or to go back. Clearly, in the tidy world of political rhetoric, going forward means electing (for the first time) the Shrub. Going backward would mean voting for Someone Else (a.k.a., Anybody But Busch, or ABBy).

It was amusing, however, to watch the reaction shots during the speech. Senator Kennedy shook his head so often, one might be excused for believing the senator from Massachussetts had palsy. I learned that not even retired military men (e.g., Colin Powell) smile, even when the military or policies they supported are being praised.

In fact, one of the few smiles displayed was by majority whip Tom DeLay. Unfortunately, his smile looked eerily like a smirk; and his facial make-up had apparantly been done by the same group that did President Reagan's (didja ever see cheeks so rosy?).

So how is the State of the Union?

It's so good the value of the dollar is falling world-wide. Although some argue this is a good thing (it makes American goods & services less expensive at home & abroad), it makes the World Bank and others nervous.

It's so good that I'm trying to learn to like my job because the odds of finding something different in the next six years are pretty slim.

It's so good that our military is stretched dangerously thin (even Rummy has admitted this). And, these men and women whom the president praises for protecting our "security" can count on poor or non-existent health benefits, imprisonment if they admit battle fatigue, and no psychological assistance for facing the horrors of war. They can also count on having their tours prolonged at whim, until such time as the Congress institutes a draft.

It's so good that our education system has become a "one size fits all" testing factory, where teachers are encouraged to "teach the test" so the school can maintain federal funding. The children left behind are the ones who don't test well. All children are encouraged to avoid illegal drugs, but schools have no become delivery systems for legal drugs supplied by Pepsico. The legal drugs, that is, of sugar and fast food's empty calories.

It's so good that we need God's blessing, protection, and forgiveness, now more than ever.

Fragment from Jen

Jen Crawford, that is. She posted this poetic fragment on the Poetry Espresso list:
It's the dark. we let
our whiskers do the talking

oh — a tunnel through silence! stars! smooth
as baby molerats, and blind, and bucktoothed

we move me to a queen.
and you

I'll touch your silk head
Ms. Crawford is an Australian poet, and I encourage her to add more to this. Nice stuff, what?

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


  1. Berry:: bright
  2. Fiendish:: plot
  3. Bar:: tar
  4. Frank:: 'n' Furter
  5. Bend:: it
  6. Fanatic:: tyrant
  7. Belch:: worth
  8. Flagrant:: misdemeanor
  9. Burden:: beast
  10. Flimsy:: plan
This week's words, and alternate responses, are at LunaNiñ
berry bright, star tonight
unfold your fiendish plan
sit at the bar with the tar
eat a fran'n'furter
then, "bend it like Beckham"
every fanatic a tyrant
whose got a belch worth squat
commits the flagrant misdemeanor
of being the burden & the beast
when executing the flimsy plan
Reckon Lewis Carroll got started this way?

Storm at Midnight

you sleep under wood shavings
you dream of quail's eggs
you forge baptism from baby's breath
you sweep stars across ravines

you watch convex mirrors
you walk April paths
you surrender broken promises
you dip your hand in Egypt

she watches you cross the floor
she combs her black hair
she holds out a silver coin
she watches you devise her

she is not "The Moon Lady"
she is not "Dark Mother"
she is "Storm at Midnight"
she is "Reclining On Your Couch"

you walk you watch you wonder
you carry tempests in your hair
you have no gold no incence
you only have these hands you bring to her

Chapbook Reviewed

Michael Wells has posted a favorable review of Bolivia Postcard Poems at his Stick Poet Super Hero blog. He seems especially impressed with Linda's intimate and sensuous details, as well as my meteorological fascination. A quote worthy of a back-page blurb:
In Linda and James' collaborative effort I see a personal dynamic that send a strong message about the comfort of poetic expression that gives a great deal of relevancy to this medium in today's society.
Copies of Bolivia Postcard Poems are still available for $1.50 each; write me at

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Lectio: Epiphany 2

ReadingIsaiah 62:1-5.

Meditation. Lost my words, lost
things to say
but Second Isaiah
comes out of the wilderness
preceded by cloud of fire
carrying a diadem in his hand.
Well, it's early in the morning,
not even a thin line of pink,
across the eastern sky.
But a cloud of flame
precedes the hand with the diadem.
Second Isaiah says:
"No longer will your soul
be called 'Desolate';
no longer will your heart
be called 'Hermit';
no longer will your spirit
be called 'Deserted'."
Second Isaiah says:
"Today, you receive a new name,"
and places the crown on my heart;
"today, you will be called
   'Complete Within Yourself'"
and stirs the fire into my soul;
"you will be called
   'Beloved Child of God'"
and breathed upon me;
"you will be called
   'Dwelling in Eternity'"
and renews a right spirit within me.

Grant, gracious lover,
that I ever be aware of the crown
you placed within me at birth.
Grant my eyes be clear
to see your presence
in every rock, tree, and hill,
in the soaring eagle
and in the sky beyond the eagle.
Grant I may ever more
grow into a faithful lover
that I may come to resemble you
and be an icon of your presence
to a hurting, fractured, world.

Contemplation. What does it mean to be "married" to God? How does the miracle at Cana (John 2:1-11) comment on this passage?

Friday, January 16, 2004

Going Burroughs

Dear Sir,
as we have very surprising on September 23, 2003
contact before I raid the family farm
this transaction being accused of providing housing
person of transparency, person in his home
high caliber person
introducing myself to Rashid Taan Kazim
brother and personal Party Regional Chairman
Charles Taylor, the former illegal persons
I got nothing from the home
I apologize if I believe the arrest of Ihsan
You may know that my tip from someone
is facing farmland or discredit
The rebels that Ihsan got
Brother Charles charges but was now
warning that he should vacate the firearms
before serious military at the time of the
moment he is presently one legal gun in the house
Nigeria as a political refugee would be freed
In which I do a cut-up in the style of William S. Burroughs. On the left was one of those Nigerian spam e-mails, on the right was a news report from Iraq.

Well, it's an interesting experiment.

Ideé d’jour

What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
— Crowfoot, Native American warrior and orator (1821-1890)

Thursday, January 15, 2004

fog lays low

fog lays low
curls about tree tops
sweeps avenues

caught some fog
in a mason jar
save it for a sunny day

watched horizon
cleansed by fog
walked over the line

whistled a foggy tune
drank in the ozone
dreamed reflection

)Twin Rainbows(

Again, the world seems to be mad and beat:
All I can hear are the whispers of pain
And the sunrise is pink fog in the street.

There's a broken crucifix at my feet.
The storm was dismissed by a hurricane.
Again, the world seems to be mad and beat.

I saw a black crow flying sixty feet
Into the dawn; he didn't stop to explain.
And the sunrise is pink fog in the street.

The twin rainbows in the night sky taste sweet,
But like tattered sheets they will wash away.
Again, the world seems to be mad and beat.

You look like all the people I could meet,
But you left your hat behind all the same
And the sunrise is pink fog in the street.

"My escape," you say sadly, "must be fleet."
A handshake, then the bus takes you away.
Again, the world seems to be mad and beat
And the sunrise is pink fog in the street.
This was written during my brief stay (about 2-3 months) in Princeton, NJ. Rusty had come to visit us, and things had gotten decidedly stranger. We all loved Rusty, but five guys crammed into a two-bedroom apartment gets a little stressful. Plus, Rusty was going through a major depression.

Pink Fog. One of the interesting weather conditions were these pink clouds which would appear in the sky at various times during the day, then dissipate. My personal theory is they were smog blowing in from New Brunswick or own of the near-by factory towns.

The hat. Rusty had a great black hat, similar to the fedora I obtained several years later. The guys all fussed over it, and we took turns wearing it. We thought of as a magic hat, because each of us looked quite dapper when wearing it. As Rusty was leaving our apartment, he set the hat on the dining table with a note: "Share the hat."

The bus. For some reason, I was the only one who woke up as Rusty was getting ready to leave. Rusty was adamant that we not wake anyone, so I was the only one to see him off. Hopefully, the poem reflects Rusty's sadness as much as it does my own.

Ironically, the poem which I'm about to post next, which will appear above this entry, is also about fog. Honestly, this wasn't planned. Yesterday began with a lovely low-lying fog, visibility reportedly at a quarter of a mile. I carried a couple of lines with me through the day, and the poem you'll see above reflects that.

Quite a difference between the poems, aside from a romantic fascination with fog. This poem is a recognized structure, the villanelle. The new poem is not intentionally a recognized structure, but seems to invent its own structure. Similar to "The Fox," posted on Sunday, the new poem has three-line stanzas with very short lines. As we'll see, the pronoun in the new poem is understood, and I avoided articles and prepositions.

Ideé d’jour

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.
— John Donne, poet (1573-1631)

Wednesday, January 14, 2004


notes float
up, down
record images, feelings
trace the counter-point
explore the hidden chiasm between measures
the little door it represents
staff lines mark direct rout:
statement, counter-statement, response
Wrote this last night before attending the second in the "Bright Music" series of chamber music concerts. Reads like interior instruction in preparation for the concert.

The "Bright Music" ensemble consists of members of the OKC Philharmonic, and musician/professors from OU and OCU. They are technically accomplished, and work together exceptionally well. Last night they performed Mozart, Roussel, and Bruch. I hope to write more about the concert this evening, when I have the program and program notes handy.


This is a bad place to be:
yes, I mean here, between the petroleum plant
and the geranium.

Grandfather died two weeks ago
in a sterile bed; all he left behind
was a water pistol which
mother uses to water her lillies.

There was melted snow on the ground
this morning and I parted my hair
on the left side 'cause the mirror was broken.
The weeds I pulled out of the garden
were purple with yellow streaks about the petals —
how pretty they seemed!
Grandfather owned a pipe which
he'd smoke in the late afternoon
when the sun was water-painting the sky;
he let wisps of smoke burn his eyes
and thought he was displaying real emotion.

I'll smoke an occasional cigarette
when I can light it with the midnight star
and sometimes I think about love sleeping
beneath a woman's skin.

He walked into an open door.
His fists were bleeding.

Mother cried when her father died.
I was there to caress her head
as it lay on my shoulder;
not Jesus nor Judas would have kissed her then.
Not Jesus, not Moses, not I,
would have stepped on that grave
where Grandfather, hiding in a broken body,
lay kissing some theoretically possible eternity.

He could sing in perfect imitation of himself;
and often, as Calvary was being prepared,
he would kiss his own cheek.

This is a hard place to be imprisoned:
yes, I mean this sterile room
where I am all that is happening.

He walked into the white room
and saw the blood smears on his arms,
on the walls, and the broken glass:

'Ah, Mephistophilis!'
Written circa early 1977. The poems on either side of this one in my "common-place" book are dated February — March, 1977. I do remember the "occasion" of the poem:

This was my sophomore year of college. I was living in Worchester House, which was torn down about 4-5 years later. R– lived across the hall from me, and one door down. We became friends early in the school year. Some weeks after his grandfather's death, R– attempted suicide — thus the blood in the penultimate stanza. Around the same time, R– had painted his dorm room all white, which we see reflected in the "sterile room" stanza and that penultimate stanza. I suspect this reflects my state, and my imaging of R–'s state, as much as anything. Don't know if I ever showed the poem to R– and explained to him his part in inspiring it.

In re-typing this, I have made some minor changes: the fifth line of the third stanza originally was some nonsense about the flower. The following line originally ended "How pretty ...", which now seems just too much.

At one point, I felt this was one of my stronger poems. Not sure it stands the test of time. One last foot-note: the final line is a quote from Marlowe's Doctor Faustus; it's the good Doctor's last words before he's dragged off to hell.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

waning moon waits

waiting for moist streets
opening like raven wings
waiting at broken window

watching trees draped with hearts
lining early morning dew streets
watching cats cross waning moon

counting words, counting ducks
wading, laying eggs, ready
for flight. counting

the morning, ready for flight

Alienation of Time

Eternal swinging of loose clock
hands like mirrors of broken
emptiness as in an endless lake
or swift-legged horse of life
dream in nightmare
unknown for time.

A bleeding heart of time
drips on the face of the clock
as it hides in a nightmare
which has been broken
by the reality of life
shown in ripples of a lake.

The cool, calm lake
does not obey time
which rules our puny life
like a King Kong-powered clock
that has shatteringly broken
into the cumulative social nightmare.

Four horses stamped the nightmare
when their four riders become a lake
of unknown, yet broken
keepers of the vanishing time
inside of a melted clock
who will not realize life.

It is the theory that life
is no more than a circling nightmare
like an endless pirouetting clock
which drops ripple-reflecting in the lake
or a dream of dissolute time
whose hands are broken.

Our own defenses have broken
so that the shelters are no longer life
but a meager vision of time
that creates screaming nightmare
under a hidden lake
behind the shattering lost clock.

The clock is broken
like a waving lake of reflective life
which is no more than a nightmare of time.
A few days ago, I promised (or threatened) to post a poem I wrote in high school. I wrote this in the fall of 1974, after I had seen an exhibition of jewelry designed by surrealist painter Salvador Dali.  Just as Dali worked in a hyper-realistic style, it seemed appropriate to do my "surrealistic" work within a formal structure; in this case, a sestina.

In the spring of 1975, I became aware of a poetry contest offered by the Poetry Society of Oklahoma open to high school students. With Padre's encouragement, I entered.  I received a very nice note from the judge, who was impressed by my attempt to write a sestina, and was happy with that.

I don't recall what the competition was like at my level, but I did win first place for my division.  Re-typing the poem now, thirty years later, I'm painfully aware of flaws in the prosody.  I'm very aware of times I added a word that was unnecessary, or jerry-rigged word order so I get the "key words" to fall in the proper place at the end of the line.

Still, I don't have the heart to muck around right now & "correct" the work of my younger self. How can you see my growth as a writer without seeing the indiscretions of my youth?

Monday, January 12, 2004


  1. Mitchell:: mendacity
  2. Mercury:: Mars
  3. Cycle:: yearly
  4. Engagement:: estrangement
  5. Alternative:: ending
  6. Gang:: warfare
  7. Emotional:: blackmail
  8. Skinny:: dip
  9. Hypochondriac:: heartache
  10. Insecure:: longing
See original word list here.

Ideé d’jour

A man has to live with himself, and he should see to it that he always has good company.
— Charles Evans Hughes, jurist (1862-1948)

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Ideé d’jour

The men of old took all they really knew with them to the grave. Their words are only dirt they left behind.
— Chuang-Tzu, quoted in The Little Zen Companion

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Subliminal Poem

vintage clothing arrayed
longing leering sneering specimen plate
wearing a mock turtle t-shirt
like a bag of sh*t on fire
Friday stepped into freedom
with cruel intentions
observing insufficent evidence
for her existence; he was optimistic, she was pessimistic
but her grin was from Cheshire.
Applying the random words offered earlier under Subliminal, where I challenged myself to write a poem using said words. Tried to approach l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e poetry, but was lured away by narrative. C'est la vie. Maybe next time.

The Fox

long snout
crazy clever

twisted dark
paths of my

breaks through
to shy ventricle
of heart

musty love house
for eggs

goes higher
looks through my eyes
i see as fox

weary crafty mask
smelling sky
for new spirit
Inspired by "foxy" poems at Dr. Omed's Tent Show and Ms. Candide's Thistle & Hemlock. Trying to convey quickness of fox through the short lines. Good experiment, plus it moves me away from the religious obsession.
By the way, in case you did enjoy the Lectio Divina, I will post one now & again. Just not every single day. In reading over the past few, I think I was moving from emotion to intellect, and I really wanted that discipline to focus on emotion. So, I'm taking a break from it from a while.

In other words, back to our regularly scheduled occasional poetry.... Who knows? Might post a couple high school poems, just for giggles.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Down from the Mountain

The time comes, at last, to come down from the mountain. I was on Winter Break Monday, December 22 through Friday, January 2. This has been my first full week at work.

A post-dated entry under January 4 reflects some of my reservations about returning to work: living according to someone else's schedule, following orders, so on.

Not that I don't like my job. But I realized, about the time I originally wrote that entry, that my break had been a sort of religious retreat. Thanks to my whimsical choice to do daily Lectio Divina, I started each day with a religious emphasis. Which naturally affected my outlook. Coupled with spending my time as fancy dictated (most days), it really was like time at a monastery.

So: what's it been like? I woke up at 5:30 or 6:00 almost every morning during break. This week, I've been lucky to wake up at 6:00. Which means that I really haven't had time to do the Lectio as well as I had been. Nor have I had the time to do any sort of poetic "word doodles" (as I called it about a month ago).

What writing you have seen here has been "squeezed in" during work. Or, as I run out the door. Which, I suspect, has affected the quality of the writing.

Oh, I expect I'll get back into a routine - my goal is to wake up at 5:30 and do some sort of writing which will ultimately be shared in this space. But I do miss the luxury of writing at home, with a warm cuppa by my side.

Or Am I ...

Way to go, your alter poet is Jack Kerouac, who is
by FAR the coolest!

Who is Your Alter Poet?
brought to you by Quizilla

Not too hard to get the result you want, once you know what the possible results are.

My Alter Poet

Your alter poet is Thomas Stearns Eliot. For you,
life rocks pretty hard!
Who is Your Alter Poet?
brought to you by Quizilla

I doubt this will come as little surprise to the Rt Rev Ven Dr. Omed, who has been aware of my Eliot fixation since my senior year of high school.

Things I wrote around that time, and into college, did sound a lot like re-tread Eliot. Think my poetic voice is a little different now, but who knows?

There is some irony in the fact that Eliot converted to Christianity relatively late in life, and my entries have been mostly religious in nature for the past couple of weeks.

Well, what do you think? Is there another poet you think my work resembles?

Ideé d’jour

The men of old took all they really knew with them to the grave. Their words are only dirt they left behind.
— Chuang-Tzu, quoted in The Little Zen Companion

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Self Reflecting

Dave Pollard recently made a statement on his blog "How to Save the World" which caught my attention.  His entry (linked in the previous sentence) has to with what he believes are the ground-breaking ideas concerning the "blogosphere".  Implied in the entry are suggestions for ways to increase one's readership.

The statement which caught my attention came in item number three:
focus on a few subjects and address them profoundly and creatively, instead of talking a bit about everything under the sun; and believe: persevere until your message finds its audience.
Naturally, I asked myself whether I have fulfilled this goal.  In other words, can a reader rely on the same topic(s) being addressed in this space on a regular basis?

Basically, I have used this space for three topics: (1) politics; (2) self-published poetry, and reflections on poetics; and (3) religion.  This latter has received the most attention the past two – three weeks, but I have occasionally addressed politics or poetry during this period. Additionally, the "Meditation" part of my Lectio Divina series is most often a poetic reflection on the reading in question.  Which I hope counts as a "two-fer".

My only concern is that I may have lost some of the readers who came primarily for the poetry or the political discourse, and find themselves turned off by the current religious emphasis. 

Given my mercurial nature, I take it for granted my focus will shift away from religion fairly soon. Will I lose the readers who appreciate the religious discourse, but disagree with my politics?

I'd appreciate your thoughts.  Take a moment to leave a comment below. Or, if you prefer a more private means of communication, e-mail me at

dark morning

The morning is shadowed
by a time clock.
I've lost my moorings.

It's still dark
when I reach the door.
True north sleeps in the back yard

and dawn awaits the call
of the Full Wolf Moon.
The north-east sky slowly opens

like a stolen letter.
I've lost direction
so travel in the familiar

circles of this labyrinth
under snow-grey clouds.

Living Waters

Reading. John 7:37-52

Living waters
ever fresh, ever flowing
Water from a fresh running stream
Cool clear water
free of chlorine or silt
Tastes better than tap or bottled water
I may walk commerce aisles
I may wander cubicle mazes
I may feel parched in the cold desert
Yet the stream burbles up
from the depths of my spirit
In a quiet moment
I seek this stream
rediscover it between clock ticks
I take a healthy draught
drink til my mouth overflows
and water runs down the sides
I am refreshed
moment by moment
I am renewed
with each passing second
I am reborn
as I claim the spirit within.

I give thanks for the water
I give thanks for the bread
I rejoice in my maturing
I rejoice for the diadem on my heart
I honor the approaching Buddha
I honor the devout atheist
I bow to the sunrise
I drink in its setting.

I stood by the water
and drank the wind
blowing across the lake.
I give thanks that my spirit was refreshed.

Am I called to help others recognize the stream within them? Or am I to serve only as an example?

Grant that I may spend this day wading in those spiritual waters.

Ideé d’jour

Speech is blasphemy,
silence a lie.
Above speech and silence
there is a way
— I-Tuan, quoted in The Little Zen Companion

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Taking the Name in Vain

Brother Dave recently sent the text of this editorial, in which Ray McGovern compares the current impulse to say that God smiles on the Presidency of Busch, and all he does, to the same impulse in Rome, Nazi Germany, etc.

An excellent example of this comes courtesy Pat Robertson, who apparently has joined Oral Roberts in the "private conversations with God" department. Here's my favorite quote
"The Lord has just blessed him,'' Robertson said of Bush.  "I mean, he could make terrible mistakes and comes out of it.  It doesn't make any difference what he does, good or bad, God picks him up because he's a man of prayer and God's blessing him.''
Well, gosh, who needs more than that?

I know people who believe God is intimately involved in human affairs, and that nothing happens without it being part of God's will. I do not count myself among them. I don't believe the Holocaust was God's will. I don't believe God sent terrorists into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers to teach America a lesson about abortion and homosexuality.

That image of God reflects an Old Testament view. God is either sending the Israelites to smite some neighboring tribe, or God is using some nation to whomp up on Israel because it has been apostate. It's a fairly petty image of God, and not one I can buy into.

God did not jerry-rig the Florida election; Jeb and his election board did that all on their own. God did not put Busch into the president's chair; the Supreme Court did that, in an action that resembled deus ex machina. God did not send troops in Afganistan or Iraq. Georgie-Porgie needed no help in those ill-considered actions.

We have freedom of choice. We can choose to continue as we are, or we can help choose a new direction by electing someone else. Just as we daily having the option of choosing good or evil, we have a choice what direction our country will go for the next four years.

Good may be brought out of evil, with God's help. But it is up to each one of us to ask for that help. And frankly, I suspect God is a little more concerned with each of us as an individual than as nations. In general, I suppose God watches the folk who think they are in charge, and has a good, long laugh.

Which reminds me of the comment I heard lately, that God created humanity because s/he was bored. In otherwords, we're God's sit-com, soap opera, and Survivor program, all rolled up in one.

Lectio, 7.Jan.04

Reading. Col 1:1-14; John 6:30-33, 48-51

"May you lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and grow in knowledge of God." (v. 10, RSV)

Sometime last week, I asked what action, if any, belief implied. Paul's answer to this seems to be that people who believe will perform works pleasing to God. This will be "good work" which bears fruit. In the Gospel reading, Jesus says the bread of God will give life to the world.

An application of this would seem to be that that which is life-affirming is of God. As we work to enrich the lives of other, we do work pleasing to God.

As we grow in knowledge of God, we grow in understanding of what we are called to do. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of our spiritual gifts, and of how these gifts are intended to build up the community of faith. I would suggest further that these gifts are intended to feed the whole world, not just our insular community of faith.

St. Francis reportedly said: "Preach always. When necessary, use words." In other words, preach more through your actions than you do words. Each of us who has recognized the divine burning in our hearts is called to share that fire with the rest of the world. For many people, the only image of the divine they can understand is the one they can see. In other words, you may be the face of God for another this day!

For many, the only body of Christ they can accept is the loving friend who embraces them when they are in sorrow. That is our daily challenge, to walk as ambassadors of the divine in a fractured and hurting world.

May we be always equal to the task.

Strengthen me for your service,
ready to find you in every face
ready to serve justice
   love mercy
   and walk with you
this day and ever more.
So be it.

Contemplation. How may I best recognize my gifts and use them for the healing of the world? Or, at the very least, for the comfort of the next person I encounter?

Ideé d’jour

The world in general doesn't know what to make of originality; it is startled out of its comfortable habits of thought, and its first reaction is one of anger.
— W. Somerset Maugham, writer (1874-1965)

Tuesday, January 06, 2004


Reading. Jan. 5th, Evening — Romans 15:7-13
Epiphany Day (January 6) — Matthew 12:14-21

Most of us don't know what it's like to be adopted.   I have sometimes referred to myself as an orphan, only as a poor way to communicate the fact that both my parents are deceased.  During the times I have been single, I have often been "adopted" by casual friends during the holidays.  As such, I enjoyed the feast, but when presents were exchanged (i.e., at Christmas), I was not generally included.

Mind you, I'm very grateful to those people for including me in their celebration, but did feel a minor twinge of "left out" when I had no presents for folk there (thinking that if I bought for one, I'd have to buy for all), and there were no presents for me.

Very different experience when I was married, or now that I'm dating again. I buy for others, they buy for me.  Really feel a part of.  This feeling quot;part of", though not really associated with material goods, goes a long way toward feeling adopted by my hosts.

Now, most of us take our religion for granted.  But one of the big controversies in the early Christian church was whether non-Jews (Gentiles) would be required to observe Jewish Law.  Ultimately, it was decided that Gentiles did not have to follow Jewish Law.  I suspect conversions would have gone way done if adult circumcision was part of the package.

Paul's image was that the Gentiles were being adopted into the family, through the saving grace of the Christ.  And though he himself had scrupulously observed Torah, he did not believe it was right to require these adoptees to observe it.  For one thing, they would always feel like outsiders; there would always be some little section of law they could be caught up on.

As we know, Paul's ultimate solution was to say that salvation was through faith, rather than through the Law.  So, the Jewish segment of the early Christian community was as "free" from the Law as the adopted Gentiles.

I give thanks for my adoption into the household of faith.
I give thanks for the Law of Love written on my heart.
I give thanks for the freedom to fail without losing.
I give thanks for the grace to always begin again.
May it be ever so.

How may I better welcome the stranger? How can I best love the one who annoys me the most?

Haunted By My Past

Just stopped by Dr. Omed's Tent Show to discover he had posted a letter I wrote him January 1981. I had completely forgotten writing this letter, and it was a real treat to read it again. Considering the border-line legibility of my handwriting, the Rt Rev Omed did yeoman's work typing it up to share with the ether world.

The text is a sort of prose poem, with the repetend "This poem." The text is also my attempt, following my first reading of Kerouac's Dharma Bums to write in Ti Jean's "automatic" style. I believe there are moments I actually succeed, especially as I am describing a portion of my time in Princeton, NJ. Other times, the text seems like a poor imitation of Allen Ginsberg.

You may recall I had some responses to Dharma Bums in this space a few weeks ago. It would be interesting to compare what I said back in '81 to those entries.

Thanks much, Dr. Omed! It really was fun being haunted by this particular ghost.

Added to the Blog-Roll

Just added three sites to the "Regularly Visited" list to your left:
    Correction, by Matthias, is a journal concerning his journey toward the ordained ministry in the Methodist church. His blog hardly needs my endorsement, as he recently received a plug from the very popular Real Live Preacher. But "Correction" is a blog I read whenever he updates it. He also has a list of Christian links which are on the liberal end of the scale. I enjoy reading these, when I can, as they help me feel less lonely in this Bible Belt wasteland
The other two links are poetry related:
  • Jill Jones' Ruby Street is just getting started, but looks like it will be good. Jill is a native of Australia, and brings that unique cultural perspective to her sense of poetics. Plus, Jill was kind enough to blog-roll this space, despite the fact that I've been focused on religion the past couple of weeks.
  • Stick Poet Super Hero, by Michael Wells, has the most intriguing title of the blogs I regularly visit. If he has explained where that title came from, I missed the post. I've made reference to Michael's blog before, especially in connection with his "Blog Sweeps Week", and felt it was past time I included his site in my permanent blog-roll.

An Epiphany Tale

You had been born to be king. You were the heir-apparent, well-beloved of your father, as well as the people. You had been trained in the ways of a wise ruler by your father and his counselors. All was prepared for you to assume the throne when you came of age.

One summer, your father sent you to tour the north countries. While you were gone, your younger brother, L'i Ching, spread rumors against you among the court and people. "Your son thinks you a doddering old fool," he told your father. "When my brother becomes king," he'd say to the people, "he will seize your inheritance and send your young men to die in the southern mines!" And he said to the counselors, "My brother will have no use for you. He plans to rule by the stars!"

You had been born to be king. But now the counselors would no longer speak to you. The people were plotting to kill you before you ascended to the throne. And your father accused you of many things, full of fury, and sent you from his court in disgrace. You supposed you would die in the western wilderness.

For three months, you wandered with no direction. You ate roots, fruits, and berries, as the court horticulturist had taught you. You had several meals with strangers who found your face to be friendly. On the fifteenth day of the fourth month, you gained a traveling companion with a sun-darkened face and curly hair. He told you of a king who was coming to his native land, one who would be king over all other kings. This was indeed good news; perhaps you could persuade him to speak to your father to restore your good name. Perhaps you could once again come into your own.

You walked together for several months, speaking of many things. You walked with him to his destination, where he drew a map which would guide you the rest of the way to his native land. Now your main concern was what sort of honor gift you could offer this great king.

Fourteen moons had glided through the night. The fourth night of the fourteenth moon, you had a curious dream. A woman as large as the sky appeared before you; in her right had she held a brilliant star, in her left she held a bitter herb. "What would you have of me?" you asked. She handed you the herb and said, "This is your gift." Then: "Follow. Follow the star."

When you awake, you found the herb growing nearby. You gathered it into your satchel bag. You trusted the dream. Somehow, it seemed such a gift would persuade the great King of Kings to help you come into your own once again.

A new year had begun. You had come to a great sea, and saw the star shining in the south. It seemed to hover over a small town. It certainly did not seem like a royal city.

The star now shown like a hundred stars over a cave. Within, you found some unwashed shepherds and common cattle. Beyond them knelt an impoverished and frightened couple. She was about seventeen; her hair was long and stringy, her garment was tattered, and yet she seemed the most beautiful woman you had ever seen. He was twenty-one; behind his scraggly beard, his eyes were filled with a sad wisdom.

Between them is the child, wrapped in torn pieces of cloth and lain in a manger filled with hay.

You had been born to be king. What do you do?

You kneel before the child. You hand the gift of the bitter herb to the mother. You have come into your own at last.

[I wrote this for a church newsletter. It was published in the January, 1986 edition of The Pilgrim, newsletter for St. James' Episcopal Church, OKC, OK]

Monday, January 05, 2004

Definition d’jour

Namaste (Namastay), from sanskrit
I bow to the divine in you


This week's word list
  1. Vintage:: clothing
  2. Longing:: leering
  3. Specimen:: plate
  4. Mock:: turtle
  5. Sh*t:: fire
  6. Friday:: freedom
  7. Cruel:: intentions
  8. Insufficient:: evidence
  9. Pessimistic:: optimistic
  10. Grin:: Cheshire
Challenge:  write a poem using these words.


Reading.  John 11:17-44

I don't know how long I lay dead
I do remember I had denied you
more than three times
But still you called my name.

In the midst of the darkness
you called my name
I had been rejected by my friends
and she who once said she loved me
yet you called my name
I had been exiled to the wilderness
yet you called my name
I had chosen to dwell
in the precincts of the land of Nod
yet you called my name
My face was a scandal
my name was a warning to children
yet you called my name

"Come forth," you said,
and I still walk
closer to the path of light
for you called my name.

Life Giver
I give thanks
for daily new beginnings.
Redeemer of the Lost,
I give thanks you have called me.
May I rejoin society today
fully alive & fully empowered
to walk in your Way.
May it be ever so.

Jesus' aside to the Father is an interesting narrative device. I wonder if this inspired the notion that we should pray for special requests as if they are already in progress or have already happened.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Ideé d’jour

Sayings do not correspond to potential. Words do not set forth actualities. Those who accept words perish. Those who linger over sayings get lost. When you have caught the fish, you forget the trap. When you have gotten the meaning of the words, you forget the words. We use a net to catch fish; the fish are not the net.
— Ku-Shan, quoted in The Little Zen Companion

Second Sunday after Christmas

Readings appointed for the principal service:  Jeremiah 31:7-14; Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19; and Matthew 2:13-23

"Those who go out weeping will be consoled."
But what consolation was there for the mothers who lost their babies to Herod the Great's jealousy?
Were the eyes of their hearts opened, rather than merely broken?
It's a hard reading, that speaks of death and dreams.

I do not have words to respond to respond to this tragedy.
It is a hard lesson, that life springs from death.
Train me to see your path,
even in darkness.
Grant that I may feel your hand guiding me
especially as I confront my darkest questions.

How to affirm life this day.

Yesterday's Lectio

Reading. John 6:15-29

Meditation. "How might we work the works of God?"
"Believe on him whom God hath sent." (KJV)

I believe, help strengthen me
where I do not believe.
How to walk with faith?
That the air be filled with your presence.
I believe.
I seek to walk
with the Heart of Creation
I seek a tree's wisdom
   a flower's knowledge
   a wolf's cunning
   a cardinal's song
My heart opens to you
and is filled with your glory
My eye seeks you
in the heights and in the depths
My eye expects the Celestial Rose
and is suprised to find you
walking beside me
My ear strains to hear your voice
coming across the water
telling me to come walk.
But your voice is neither thunder
nor stillness; nor yet
the beating of my heart.
Your voice instructs me
to simply walk in this moment
holding ever in heart how I have been fed

The only work required is that I believe. What does belief imply? What action, if any, follows belief?

Bread of Life

Reading.John 6:41-47

Meditation. "Bread for the life of the world"

Coming down from the mountain
aware of my cave's security
now I must face the hustle bustle crowd
now I must complete tasks
not of my choosing
Now I'll be held hostage
by time's chains
no longer free to follow
my heart metronome

Friday, January 02, 2004

Feeding of the Five Thousand

Reading. John 6:1-14

This is a Bible story which remains with me from my early Sunday School days at Christ Methodist Church. I remember how the role of the child was emphasized in the picture book which was a de facto midrash on the passage. I imagine every child who hears this story imagines herself as the child who shares his food.

Set against the homely picture of the child with his/her picnic is an "otherworldly" image of Christ. In this passage, for example, he comes from the mountain (a place set apart) and returns to the mountain. Jesus seems almost like a Zen master when he asks Philip a seemingly impossible question.

This miraculous feeding (and its parallel stories in the synoptic gospels) brings to mind the gift of manna in the desert during the Exodus. The fact that twelve baskets are left over is significant, as it echoes the twelve tribes of Israel. The psalmist tells us the children of Israel fed on the "bread of angels". The manna was also inexhaustable. This inexhaustable food supply also reminds me of Jesus' promise of "living water" (see Jn 4: 13ff).

So, a lot more is going on here than satisfying physical hunger. The crowd perceives this miraculous feeding as a sign that Jesus is the Prophet (i.e., Elijah), and wished to make him a king like David or Herod. The problem with a temporal leader, is their reign only lasts a season, and only affects the part of the world they rule. Jesus recognized that he was called to people of all times and places. To allow himself to become a leader of this people in first century Israel would have limited his influence, and would have only have a political influence.

Such an end would have only have fed a certain people for a limited time. By continuing on his path as itinerate preacher, Jesus was able to influence people of many times and cultures.

You prepare a banquet
at the seat of my heart;
You present bottomless platters
filled with the the bread of angels.
I give thanks.

In the early morning watches
you silently teach me;
Although the line between night & dawn is yet faint,
you train my ear for your Word.
I give thanks.

You are high on the mountain;
You are sitting across from me.
I give thanks.

You lead the Way;
You walk beside me.
I give thanks.

You place honey on my tongue
that your Word ever be sweet;
You fill my lungs with your Spirit
that I may sing.

And I sing.
I sing thanksgiving.
Let it be ever so.

How may I best feed my spirit this day? Where shall I find the bread of angels, to satisfy my heart?
What you are, that you are; neither by words can you be made greater than what you are in the sight of God.

If you consider what you are within, you will not care what men say of you.  Man looks at the contenance, but God on the heart (I Sam, 16:7).  Man considers the deeds, but God weighs the intentions.
Thomas a'Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, Book II, Chapter 6.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

New Year's Wish from Bill Shakespeare

I wish you all the joy that you can wish.
— William Shakespeare, playwright and poet (1564-1616)

Feast of the Holy Name

Reading. Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 2:15-21

My name is blessed
My name was given me
while I was being knit in the womb
My name has a purpose
which guides my feet
in paths of truth & beauty
My father heard my name in a dream
he heard my name
as if whispered through a veil
My mother heard my name while spinning
She heard my name whispered by the yarn
as it flowed through
her long slender fingers
She heard my name
and said yes
then stored the moment
in a tender chamber of her heart.
My name is blessed
may I grow into the fullness of my name

Blessed are you, o Lord,
for you knock thrice
before entering
Blessed are you
for you bring new light
into this house
Blessed are you
for you supply
the humble tools to build a new year
Blessed are you for you
   open the eye
   cleanse the ear
   prepare the heart
that I may be clothed
in holiness and righteousness
as I confront the dark
and the lying liars who serve the dark
Blessed are you
close to hand
but also alive in eternity
Be my companion this day
and forevermore.

Contemplation.There is the name your parents gave you, and the secret name you hold in your heart. This is the name which will lead your pilgrimage into the coming year. What tools do you have to confront negativity, lies, deceit, and violence? What tools do you need? Your name will be a good clue. Recognize your gifts and use them; humbly admit your weaknesses, and strive to strengthen them.

See Ephesians 6:14-18 for a variant metaphor on clothing oneself to confront "the forces of darkness".