Working on the Hush

I’m trying to lower my voice
to a hush — a hush even,
which is something for me
to accomplish. My voice rises
easily, regularly like a whistle
on the tea-pot as soon as
the water starts boiling —
in excitement and, yes, in
anger, too. The chocolate
lab doesn’t like it when my
voice rises for whatever my
reason such as joy, surprise,
frustration. He cannot tell
the difference. For him it’s
all the whistle on the tea-pot
on the stove. A previous choco-
late lab used to howl when
I played the guitar and sang.
(For awhile, in blissful denial,
I thought he was singing along —
that is, until he out howled
me.) Still another chocolate
lab (We’ve had four.) simply
got up, lowered his ears, tucked
his tail and left the room as
soon as he saw me pick up the
guitar. I think they were giving
artistic critiques. I think this
guy, adopted three years ago,
is telling me something about
his past and so I’m working on
the hush, which my wife confirms
is a really good idea.

His Sandcast Artist Friend

He ran ever so fast
then saw a sandcast
right before him.

He stopped abruptly
to see what he could see
in light so dim.

His sandcast artist friend
could not mend
his life within.

He touched the cast of sand;
it came apart in his hand;
his friend’s life did spin

and descend in the hole
out of control
in light so dim.

He saw the sunrise
— running reprised
and said a prayer for him.

In Our Brave, New World

In our brave, new world,
cyber attacks are de rigueur;
you’ll have to excuse me,
if I don’t care any more.

One-thousand-seven-hundred
and ninety-two posts
are more than enough
and certainly more than most,

so if and when the attack comes,
I’ll have printed the poems
and will be glad to
be back to simply writing at home,

on legal size pads
with pages galore
with pen in hand
I hope not to bore,

but send me your address
by snail mail,
and I’ll rush you the poems
without fail.

It shouldn’t cost me
too much moolah,
because my blog visitors
don’t amount in number to hoopla.

But for those who bother,
I thank the Son and Holy Ghost
and, of course, Good Father,
for having been your
very grateful internet host.

too much

women like men with a sense of humor.
one wonders why the republican candidate
for president flaunts his prowess when he
doesn’t have much of a sense of humor,
real humor, self-deprecating humor, the
humor of seeing the joke, getting it and
laughing spontaneously, johnny carson
and steve allen humor, good-natured
ribbing, not the biting sarcasm and
attacks, which pawn themselves off
as humor in this society which, tragic-
ally, is becoming less and less humorous
and more and more disrespectfully
cynical. maybe, he doth flaunt too
much to go along with all the rest
of his “too much.”

be it resolved

he wonders not where all the flowers
have gone but where all the courtesy
has gone having been taught please,
thank you, excuse me, pardon me,
sorry, forgive me (all without
attitude), to stand aside and let
someone else pass, to hold a door
not just for women and the elderly
but everyone, but no matter how hard
it is not to retaliate he will say
those things when appropriate and
keep his mouth shut when not appro-
priate he hopes and thank the lord
for hope and forgiveness when he
doesn’t do what he should do which
on occasion he won’t especially when
he forgets to say get thee behind me
satan and as a result says a lot of
the right things with the wrong atti-
tude as a cowardly way to get away
with it.

The Balm in Circumstances’ Determinations

A couple of days before she died
she sat in the condo sipping wine
listening to but not hearing the
conversation of the moment about
her parents’ relationship. Her
sister said it wasn’t good which
translates to bad with some booze
fueled abuse early on when the
kids were little and then just
sort of a stalemate and ships
passing in the night when their
father was off the sauce. She
denied it vociferously contend-
ing instead it was good, sweet
and romantic. Everyone raised
their eyebrows. After her death
it was discovered that blood
had been seeping into her brain
for about nine months suddenly
bursting as if it had just happen-
ed. She had changed her mind          
about a lot of things during that
nine months, except that medical
science offered that it was the                                       
blood changing her brain. So where                                           
is the free will here? It took some
time before her husband could
take that into account when
thinking about how she changed
her mind about him over that
nine months. Ironically, it
was medical science that proved
a Balm in Gilead for him after
her death.

Since Retiring From Ordained Ministry

Since retiring from the ministry six years ago, I realize how inadequate I was as a young man of twenty-five to have the “wisdom” of the gospel needed to serve the church and follow Jesus.

I embraced the definition of “success” as defined by the culture in which I lived and so often “failed” to measure up within that competitive academic system with a need then to have the priority of proving myself by eventually excelling in the system.

Instead of understanding the significance of learning as a discipline leading to service, I remained a part of and victim to the underlying notion that my worth was determined by my academic achievements in relation to my classmates and in the eyes of my professors.

Instead of “throwing off the lustrous garments of the world” and embracing the teachings of Jesus as lived by those such as Francis of Assisi, I carried the notion of success into the ministry — how good a preacher I was, how good a counselor I was, how good an administrator I was, how good a fundraiser I was, and the perpetually nagging need to prove myself academically, etc.

In hind sight, I regret not being better at the complements of ministry, a contemplative spirit and a “community organizer” for Jesus, mobilizing the “resident aliens” as urged by such luminaries as Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon.

And so I humbly offer the follow suggestions regarding admissions
to denominational seminaries:

When screening applicants for seminaries (divinity schools being
a different matter by serving a different purpose, by and large),
these should be told “Sorry, Charlie or Charlene”:

— those having gone directly from high school to college to seminary
because they have been conditioned by an educational system to compete
for best grades and are taught by professors who, by and large, never left 
that competitive environment and perpetuate it in the minds of young students;

— those who have sailed along in life without having experienced a
significant loss leading one to an understanding of powerlessness and helplessness;

— those who having experienced significant loss are so wrapped up in their own suffering they have been unable to move toward  compassion for others who experience the vicissitudes of life;

— those who evidence a significant need for approval (as in looking
to crawl back in the womb of the church);

— those who are not immersed in the sayings of Jesus particularly
the Sermon on the Mount;

— those who majored in religion in college;

— those unfamiliar with the notion of “to follow” as vs. the notion
“to worship” which Jesus never asked of himself;

— those who do not get “the first shall be last and the last first”;

— those who have been immersed in “individual salvation in Jesus Christ,”
a particularly pernicious notion advanced in a Western individualistic culture;

— those who think of the congregations as “buildings, bodies and bucks to be built up,” rather than mission stations of service to the poor, oppressed, victimized by the power structure of the economic culture;

— those who don’t know the difference between metaphorical and literal;

Finally, not having followed the trends in seminary education, I may be offering advice that is nonsensical, outdated, anachronistic, impractical, silly or whatever to administrators and Boards of Trustees  of denominational seminaries who will never read this blog anyway.

On a personal note, my remembrance of seminary is that of warmth and affirmation with patience and tolerance and prayer for the young, immature student in whom the professors saw some semblance, no matter how slight, of talent for ministry.

Bees, Wasps and Hornets Swarm

“Oh, death, where is thy sting?”
“Well, I’ll tell you — right
here,” he said pointing to his

heart and stomach and head —
“everything.” St. Paul must
have been referring to himself,

thought the man, ruminating on
his own demise, “That wouldn’t
be so hard. It wouldn’t sting

too much as long as I didn’t
have to be in pain, just slip
away, if you know what I mean,”

mumbling to no one and every-
one. “We do know what you mean,”
he answers himself, “those of us

who are on our way through the
shorter end of the stick, but
the death of a loved one?” It

isn’t just a sting, he thought.
It’s the whole hive after him.
And so the preacher is called

and he or she speaks with big
smiles of saccharin similes
which most take literally about

a heavenly home while standing
over the dark ground and wooden
box and then the box is lowered

and the dirt is shoveled and
the mourners go home to an
empty house with their sting-

ing hearts, stomachs, heads —
everything. And bees, wasps
and hornets swarm and swarm.

Working with Myself/ Washing Myself Away

I’ve been working in the yard,
(I’m under my nails.)
picking up flower pots,
(I’m under my nails.)
putting them close to the house
(I’m under my nails.)
to be covered for the winter.
(I’m under my nails.)
In the process, I handle humus.
(I’m under my nails.)
Why call dirty fingernails dirty?
(I’m under my nails.)
It’s just dirt, humus, pre-human.
(I’m under my nails.)
I’m just a human handling clods.
(I’m under my nails.)
I’m just a clod handling humus.
(I’m under my nails.)
Still, I’d better wash myself away
before dinner.
(I’m under my nails.)