His Cousin-In-Law Called

His cousin-in-law called to ask
why some congregations focused
on social issues and got involved
in changing societal structures
to reflect mercy, compassion,
peace and social justice while
others, the vast majority, in fact,
didn’t. It had been occupying his
eighty-year-old, social justice pre-
occupied mind which was just as
nimble and agile as when his brain
was, oh, say about thirty-five and
he pastored a church in a tough
Westside neighborhood of Chi-
cago. The man, feeling a twinge
of guilt thinking about all the con-
gregations he had served and how
little social action actually had hap-
pened in any of them during his
tenure in spite of all his preaching,
writing and cajoling, told his cousin-
in-law, whom he called the Christian
Saul Alinsky, that he would have to
think about it. His cousin-in-law
said that if anything came to mind
to get back with him. The man sat
thinking that all that preaching
and writing and cajoling must
have counted for something.

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Doubt

When he thinks 
	of all 
the poetry 
    he reads
	and interviews with poets
		and reviews of poetry 
			and biographies 
                              of the poets 
                     who write the poetry he reads, 
    (Can they all be the best of the century?) 
	his mind 
		switches 
			from thinking to feeling 
				without even thinking about 
          IT,
and that leads to a question: 
    Who does he think/feel he is even 
	to put pen to paper? 
		But he just did and 
			will do again and 
				    again and 	
					    again.

An Old Dog’s Tale

A few days after stalking the white desert quail
the Chocolate Lab was back on the trail.
On the hike back, he didn’t notice the emerald quail
that sat up all perky along the desert trail.
He was on the look out for bigger game
or perhaps he just preferred his white quarry,
but the truth of the matter is a shame —
There were no more white poop bags is the story,
I thought dogs were color blind to poop bags, quarry and quail,
but I guess that is just an old dog’s tale.

Don’t Buy the Big Lie

We can’t forget because so often
seemingly, sometimes, most times,
almost always, always,
we buy
the big lie.

Just look around, listen carefully, just
read the letters to the editor,
don’t buy
the big lie.

Few looked around, didn’t listen carefully,
didn’t pay attention to the letters to the
editors, chickened out or said, “WWI was
the war to end all wars.” Nice try
but
we still buy
the big lie.

Between the time I was born in
November 1944 and the end of WWII,
thousands upon thousands of Jews were
rounded up and made to march to their
deaths. While no longer herded onto
and off of cattle cars, starved,
gassed and thrown on putrefying piles
which turned into mountains of bones,
a quarter of a million more died
while many continued to
to buy
the big lie.

And even though I wasn’t around in the
1930’s, if I had been and had lived in
Germany say only eighty years ago
(Only eighty years ago!)
and I had looked around or listened
carefully or just read the letters to the
editors, I would understand why
they would buy
the big lie.

It’s what we do. We get scared and then
all hell breaks loose and millions die, so
don’t buy
the big lie.

Just look around, listen carefully, read the
letters to the editor, don’t be afraid,
name it for what it is. You could be
another Gandhi, MLK, Jr., Buddha,
Jesus, Lao Tsu, or better, just you.
You may save millions of lives
even if you lose yours.
Or maybe you’ll just die,
but think of the
great company you’ll
keep where they
don’t buy
the big lie.

“I’ve Been Offended,” a poem by Tom Eggebeen

I’ve been offended.
Not lately.
But I know the feeling.

One wants to react.
I’ve done it.
Doesn’t work.

Let it go.
Grow some skin.
Who cares.

Move on.
Look up.
Much more to life.

The offense is for a blinding moment.
Wait until the eyes of the soul adjust.
And you can see straight again.

The offender is just another human being.
Subject to the same stupidity.
Same pride.

As is the offended.
Same hurt.
Same sin.

The offense is for a blinding moment.
Wait until the eyes of the soul adjust.
And you can see straight again.

Lest the offense grow.
And become malignant.
Full of pride.

Malignant.
Full of self.
Self-hurt.

The offense is for a blinding moment.
Wait until the eyes of the soul adjust.
And you can see straight again.

See the other in a better light.
A forgiving light.
A light the darkness cannot overcome.

I’ve been offended.
Not lately.
But I know the feeling.

The Chocolate Lab Ventured

He ventured out with his great, big Chocolate Lab
onto the trail whatever adventure to be had.
A few yards out and the dog was let off leash
to romp and run and look for prey to reach,
when just ahead white, rabbit ears stood tall;
it was a Jack with long legs to leap and fall
back to earth many yards ahead of its start.
The Chocolate Lab just knew in his great big heart
that he could catch that Jack, not to hurt the guy
but to play and romp and fly up toward the sky,
but the Lab couldn’t jump any higher than Phil
when he won the Masters and showed no b-ball skill.
No, the Jack Rabbit jumped up, and away he flew
bidding the big, old Chocolate a courteous adieux.

The Chocolate Lab Is Becoming More Adventurous

The Chocolate Lab is becoming
more adventurous, brave. On our
morning hikes out the back park-
ing lot onto the desert trail, he
used to stay on the trail never
veering into the wash or up the hill.
Now, off leash, he prances ahead,
sniffs the wind and makes little
figure eights like Dorothy Hamill
used to make warming up for
Olympic competition, dropping
down a ways into the wash and
back onto the trail moving back
toward me and then prancing a-
head, just full of his wild, animal
self. On the way back to the condo,
he glances ahead and spies a white,
desert quail. His ears perk and he
crouches a bit and moves slowly,
deliberately toward his prey. Nor-
mally, he would never be able to
catch such quarry, but today it sits
motionless as he sniffs what turns
out to be his white, poop bag, sit-
ting right where I left it to pick
up on our way back to the park-
ing lot.

Dazzled in Silence

He sits quietly,
his Chocolate Lab
on the floor next to him.
The quiet reminds him of
evenings years ago when
he would sit alone in
the silence of grief.
Silence became his friend,
grief no longer an enemy
to be feared and fled —
a companion.
His dog looks at him and
wags the tip of his tail.
He listens to the words of a
Vietnamese Buddhist monk
spoken quietly, gently, slowly
like doves of peace descending
gracefully into the silence.
He hears testimonials from
followers of mindfulness —
violence averted,
compassion practiced,
communion embraced.
He takes a deep breath
and St. Augustine comes
to mind: “In my deepest
wound I found you, Lord,
and it dazzled me.”

Life-Giving Words, Bullets and Hollywood

After reading the devotions for the day
by a Franciscan monk and a deceased,
pacifist, street priest and some thought-

ful words from a Quaker commenting on
Thomas Merton, he walked past the T.V.
and caught a smattering of a conversa-

tion on a Sunday talk show about the
new Hollywood war movie featuring the
life of a sniper credited with more kills

than any other sniper in Iraq only to be
killed by an assassin at a shooting range
back home, ironically. He thought to him-

self, Hollywood just wouldn’t make a movie
about any of the peace-loving folk whose
words enriched his life on a Sunday morning.

THE DAMN WIND, a poem by Steve Haarman

It began in the late afternoon and
continued blowing into the early evening
as the sun was setting, unremarkably.
During the dinner hour it seemed relentless,
causing wonder of what havoc it might be up to.
During the night it sustained itself
in an unremitting drone.
The never-ending hum seemed like drums
Before it added some whistle effects.
During the middle part of the night
It developed into an orchestra which
included a featured percussion section.
The music was stirring and brought about
emotions you no longer remembered.
Morning produced a fierceness
accompanied by snow and water.
Trees were filled with hoarfrost.
I thought of the North Dakota farmers,
who dealt with this repeatedly
along with the other obstacles
in their farming lives.
We don’t want to give up, they would say.
We can handle most of these setbacks.
It’s just the wind, that damn wind. It gets to us.
This windstorm gave me a glimpse of what
those dear souls put up with incessantly.
I know why they are my heroes.

Steve Haarman
January 23, 2015 ^