Reflecting On A Pause To Premature Succumbing

A poet wrote about the
Spanish Influenza pandemic
of 1918-19 and how it
affected lives in a small,
southern town. He thought
about how it affected his
life in a big, northern
city. His grandfather
succumbed to the dread
disease when his father
was thirteen, leaving his
father an immigrant orphan;
his father succumbed to the
dreaded death of suicide
when he, his son, was seven-
teen; he, the grandson and
son, almost succumbed to
the same dreaded death when
his wife succumbed at age
forty-nine, but didn’t…
and the long, ugly arm of
tragic, premature succumb-
ing, which had reached down
through the generations,
finally retreated back into
its big, dark, deadly sleeve
for awhile.

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It Really Is Their Fault

To a disbelieving, scoffing
soul, he simply states that it
starts small, tiny even, im-
perceptible, the desire. He
thinks of the story of the
little girl sitting in a circle
of little girls on the side-
walk playing a game when
she spies the doll of another
girl and wants it, wants it
more than anything else
on the face of the earth
and grabs the doll from
the other girl’s arms and
twists off the doll’s head
and throws the pieces back,
shouting, “Here’s your
pretty, little doll. It’s
not so pretty any more.”
He thinks that it was a good
thing that the little girl
wasn’t attractive and pro-
bably couldn’t command
an audience when she grew
up and that the world at
the time had to contend
with a despot in Germany
or the little girl could
have grown up to be a female
Hitler. Yes, my unbelieving
friend, it starts in a dark,
hidden, empty place in the
heart in a not so hidden
place of economic inequality,
despair and desperation, or
maybe just a place of want,
want, want and grows expon-
entially into conflagrations
too horrible to imagine.
Denial, deception, callousness,
projection: it really is their
fault is the phrase to be re-
peated over and over and over
until the lie is truth and
the rest is horrible history.
Hitler was a little kid at
one time, too.

Van Winkle Was On To Something

His obsessive/compulsive,
A-type, anal neighbors
shovel their driveways
at the first sign of
a snowflake clean enough
to eat off of. He only
expends sufficient energy
to clear the way for one
car to make it out of
the garage. Smugly, he
ruminates, anything more
than that is an inefficient
use of time, talent and
calories. But later as
the sun sets and things
freeze over, he has to
go to the mailbox and
the driveway is icy,
slippery and it takes
way too much energy to
navigate the treacher-
ous terrain. As much
as he hates to admit it,
maybe his neighbors
were on to something.
At least they can get
their mail; but then in
light of the predicted
next day’s thaw, he
muses, no news is
good news as he pours
himself a bourbon from
the middle shelf and
settles in for a long
winter’s nap and thinks
to himself, Van Winkle
was on to something.

Aware

“We cannot attain the presence of God
because we’re already in the presence of God.
What’s absent is awareness.” — Richard Rohr

To attain, perchance to gain.
To be aware, perchance to repair,
all the brokenheartedness that came
with trying, trying, trying to attain.

To be aware, perchance to repair
what came with striving for fame,
of just wanting someone to care
hoping for a multitude of eyes to stare.

To attain, perchance to gain
What? A respectable aire,
whose noxious gases cause such pain?
This way there is nothing to gain.

To be aware, perchance to forswear
the ambition of worldly fame
and looking within to dare.
The reward? God abiding there.

Luther’s White Satan Smiles

He thought about the
beautiful, black sister
in the faith and a faith-
ful teacher and follower
of Yahweh seen through
the eyes of Jesus who put
on a hijab to say to the
world that she is in solid-
arity with sisters and
brothers who follow Allah
and she got in trouble
at her predominantly
white, evangelical college.
Luther’s White Satan smiles.

He thought of another beauti-
ful, black sister in the
faith and a faithful teacher
and follower of Yahweh seen
through the eyes of Jesus
who stood in solidarity with
the beautiful, black sister
who got into trouble and
she called out those white
Christians at that evangel-
ical school. To paraphrase,
she said something about
white “evangelicalism” not
being “good news.” Luther’s
White Satan smiles.

While Yahweh and Allah have
the same roots in words and
the rich, black, brown, and
red semitic soil, apparently
some white Christians see only
white roots and a white Jesus
and a six-thousand year old
white world and a lily-white
heaven and maybe they ought
to be seeing a white-hot hell
of their own making for them-
selves and all their brown
and black and red and yellow
brothers and sisters in Yahweh,
Allah and all this in the name
of Jesus. And they call that
evangelicalism? Luther’s
White Satan smiles.

And then he wondered to him-
self, don’t we all come out
of Africa?

Joseph Doesn’t Get His Due

Joseph doesn’t get his due,
and he never will —
the forgotten father
but that’s understandable;
you can’t very well
relegate mother to the
dust bin of history;
after all, it’s mom.
Dad’s do and don’t;
Joseph did; apparently,
Jesus knew and
Mary never complained.
There is something to
be said for not drawing
attention to one’s self —
Joseph as Gary Cooper
who once was a very
quiet actor in Hollywood.

The Medical Alert Ladies

Why is it that the Medical Alert
ladies are looking younger
and younger as they call out,
“Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t
get up,”?
Are they really getting younger
or am I just catching up?
The women stood around in
the kitchen fondling those
emergency buttons hanging
around their necks,
while I watched and wondered
what the heck,
just thinking that I could
be their age;
I thought I might fly into
a rage,
but I calmed down
and my wife asked if
I might like one of those
buttons; the ad said they
were coming at a discount
price;
I just smiled and said,
“That, dear, would be
very nice.”
So, she called the 800
number
as I went to bed for my
mid-afternoon slumber.
On my way, I wondered why
she wanted the button
for me to buy.
She’s always here;
and then I realized she
intended to go bye, bye.
Well, she’s a good woman
and has my best interests
at heart
even though she is soon
to depart,
and so I hit the bed and
started to snore
as she quietly walked out the
front door
whispering
“Bye, dear; I just couldn’t
take anymore.”

Oh, Little Charley Brown Christmas Tree

Oh, little, Charley Brown Christmas
tree standing on the mantel, skinny

arms flailing about, here, there
seemingly everywhere, who would

want you? Some, some with tender
love. Someone bought you and gave

you as a gift; someone received you
graciously and put you in a prominent

place and moved those skinny, wiry
arms about and hung tiny lights on

them and little strands of tinsel
and capped you off with a tiny,

shiny star. And finally turned up
the ends of your top arms just a

little, ever so little, like hands
raised in a gesture of praise to

the little Christmas crèche on the
mantel next to you. You are loved

little Charley Brown Christmas
tree; you are exactly what a

Christmas tree should be.

A Straw Strewn Barn

He traveled far from many a place
until he reached the straw strewn space.
It was cold by Bethlehem’s way;
animals and humans did not venture far from
the steamy hay.
a baby’s cry, a shiver, a foggy cough,
a few animals wandered to the trough;
they did not find food to be had
but saw the babe, a face to make God glad.
He was one of three traveling to that holy space
and he knew that his life the babe would grace.
His searching was finally complete;
in that straw strewn kingdom he found the mercy-seat.
So, now when he travels it is with peace of mind,
proclaiming justice and mercy to the creation and all humankind.
The incarnation of God’s universal embrace from above
is found in a straw strewn barn of self-sacrificial love.

christmas in his mind

the dune grass sways rhythmically
to the little drummer boy pa rum

pum pum pum; wind chimes mimic
sleigh bells ringing in christmas

and ringing out the year, jingle
bells, jingle bells, jingle bell

rock ba boom, ba boom, boom,
boom, santa baby, hurry down

the chimney tonight; it’s begin-
ning to look a lot like christmas,

well actually not, and perhaps
that is why, branches beat against

the house in syncopation and bells
beep, beep, beep, beep, beep,

beep, beep, beep, beep, beep as
Leroy Anderson drives the sleigh

through the pine grove carrying
johnny mathis, teresa brewer,

darlene love, the beach boys and
bing crosby and a cardinal croons,

have yourself a merry, little
christmas while his mate looks

like she is looking longingly
for snow or maybe that’s just

in the writer’s mind as the
rain beats down on the roof.