Losing Sleep

They were having some work
done on the condo — three
glass panels from 1985 were
to be removed and the wall
painted terra-cotta in homage
to the lay-of -the-land. A little
patch of popcorn ceiling also
circa 1985 was to be scraped
and painted before attaching
the new dining room light
fixture replacing the 1985,
leaded-glass light fixture.
The workman was scheduled to
be at the condo by nine a.m.
and the owner lost sleep
going over and over in his
mind how he was going to get
the dog out and fed, grill
the tilapia, which had to be
cooked or thrown out because
they were going away for the
day to vacate the premises
for the sake of the workman,
fry the eggs, eat and clean
up and move the dining room
furniture all before the work-
man knocked on the door and
if that wasn’t enough the
owner, when he did finally
get to sleep, dreamed that he
overslept waking up with a start
at 9:15 and in a panic running
to the door in his undies to
greet the irritated workman
who had been standing there for
fifteen minutes when, in reality,
the owner got up at the dog’s
beckoning at 7:15 and got it all
done which included taking the
dog out in a rare rainstorm
in the desert, hauling in
the dog’s food from the car
which he forgot to do the
night before, grilling under
an umbrella, frying the eggs
with cheddar cheese and
tomatoes and grinding the coffee
beans and making a pot of coffee.
His wife was finishing up the
dishes at 9:05 when he got a
text that the workman was
running late and wouldn’t be
there until around eleven,
if then.

If There Actually Was a You to See

We all know that the universe
Started with me. In time
I gather that my parents
Preceded me but I don’t really
Take that seriously. In school
In history class I am told about
Something that happened some-
Where sometime but not in my
Lifetime and therefore in no
Time. It’s a bit disconcerting to
Watch Nature and Nova and
Any special about Africa being
The cradle of civilization. Is all
That about another earth, another
Solar system, another galaxy,
Another other? Of course, it has
To be because my life is all
There is, was and is to be be-
Cause it is all about you and
Me and, really, almost mostly
Excusively just about me, you
See, if there actually was, is
Or is to be a you to see.

We Must Stand Up To Thee

How do I know thee?
Let me count two ways.

Draconian: cruel, drastic, heavy-handed,
oppressive, severe, strict.

Take your pick.

Machiavellian: cunning, expedient,
opportunistic, calculating, conniving,
contriving, crafty, deceitful, devious,
plotting, shrewd, sly, underhanded,
unscrupulous, vile.

Thee and thy inner circle have crawled
out from under a big rock pile.

This is how I know thee
and all thy narcissistic ways.

My dear, fake President, America must flee
draconian, Machiavellian deeds speedily
by standing up nonviolently
in great protest of thy Unholy Trinity
and their nefarious ways.

The Dance of Love

Welcome to the Whirling, Swirling 
Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer
      inviting you to 
be the Dance with the Dance
      of who you are and who 
you are meant to be. 
      The Dance is 
for you as you become 
      the Dance, too – ecstasy, 
joy, bemusement, sadness, 
      grief, wonder including 
air, earth, fire and sea 
      with you, in you, free 
in the Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer,
      below, around and above
becoming the eternal
      Dance of Love.

A Wink and a Nod

They are straight
and he is gay.
He’s the bartender
and Friday is the day
they sit at the bar
and discuss what may
and politics of Mayday, Mayday!
They have much to say
and they agree on many things
in the country going so far astray.
He always gives them
one free martini of the day
and they say thanks silently
with a tip, a wink and a nod
to help till his pay-day.
Nothing is said.
What is there to say?
Just mutual appreciation
between two straights and a gay
on Thank God It’s Friday
in the country
that has lost its way.
“If that’s all there is, my friend,
then break out the booze and let’s…”
commiserate the night away.

A Symptom of What, Dear Sociologists?

They thought, perhaps, it was
just their imaginations or
an age-related condition, but
the snowbirds remembered
no less authorities than
Click and Clack, the Tappet
Brothers, who spoke of the
crazies on the highways.
Each day when those little
birds go out and drive in
the city that rises like a
big bird each winter from
the ashes of seemingly
interminable, summer desert
heat, they hear sirens and,
most often, see accidents —
some of the carnage looking
like a huge bird having descended,
crashed and burned into ashes;
they tick off the consecutive
days of experiencing one
or both like watching
a string of victories or,
more at it, consecutive
defeats by a sports team.
It is what no sports
team ever accomplished —
an unbroken streak of
every day for four
winter months each year
for ten years running —
this, of course, in a city
of six million, but even
back home with the small
city numbering thirty-three-
thousand mostly, conservative
law-abiding folk the
irrational, erratic and
down-right crazy
driving is driving them
crazy. They wonder
when sociologists are
going to wake up
and study why. They
know it has to have
occurred to those
sociologists as they,
too, must brave the
brave new world of
insanity on the roadway.

Benefits of Aging

His long dead parents
are more acceptable to him.
In his dreams, they are
less threatening and
usually partner with him
in some interesting,
dreamy adventure.
He thinks about friends.
So many have come and
gone — some to death,
others just gone from
his life, some with
explanations, some
with none, just gone,
ghost like, apparitions
from his past.
Who were they?
He has had the most
trouble accepting
those — no goodbyes,
no responses
to inquiries, no
explanations, nothing,
just a great, silence
that evokes the cry
of why. But
even those, the
toughest to accept,
he is giving up
to the great beyond
with no recriminations.
Content without an
explanation he doesn’t
need, he wishes
them well, mostly
for his own sake
as they still, sometimes
suddenly flit through
a thought or even
a dream after he
has bid his parents
adieu. Some even
go on nocturnal
with him but
just a few.

Interesting, Disturbing but Not Yet Despairing Times

Barack Obama’s presidency exposed the underbelly of bigotry and Donald Trump is exploiting it. To paraphrase a friend’s question: Can we do again what we did with the protests of the 60’s and 70’s? It could get rough but in this case America isn’t Germany in the 20’s, ’30’s and 40’s.

Germans, a proud people who, perhaps with some arrogance, saw themselves as the center of Western European sophistication and learning, were humiliated by WWI, their economy was in shambles, they were looking for a scapegoat and Hitler exploited the situation by providing one — the prosperous banking and merchant class of “the other,” the usurpers, the despised foreigners, the Jews, who, “undeservedly,” were taking their money, who were right there in their midst and were caught in the cross hairs as a very easy and vulnerable target. Those were the perfect conditions for the very worst to happen.

On the other hand our economy is solid (if severely unbalanced in favor of the 1%), the majority has their heads screwed on straight and I cannot help but believe that there is just some unique, core cultural value in America where people actually want to get along with each other and who really do support the notion of “promoting the general welfare.”

Yes, we certainly are tribal, but, more and more, I think, if my own experiences and impressions are valid, we want to get along with other tribes and, in some cases, transcend tribal boundaries to incorporate each other, affirm the rights of each other and affirm the multicultural and ethnic makeup of our unique experiment in republican democracy.

Have we as a country had our share of shame? Oh, my, yes — the attempted and nearly successful ethnic cleansing (what a euphemism for extermination) of Native Americans, the continued oppression and economic marginalization of Blacks, the prejudice against Hispanics and Asians, We European whites have had it pretty good for a long time at the blatant and shameful expense of other ethnicities and now we are fearful of losing some of those ill-gotten gains and privileges.

And who are the ones who are feeling the economic pinch the most, whether completely justified or not — the white, working class. In the face of the attention given now to the rights of minorities, it is the white working class, the one’s who fear being left behind and who are reacting in anger against those minorities, the ones most easily exploited by hateful, inflammatory rhetoric being used by those in power as scapegoats for their own agenda. The white, working class are pawns in an unholy, chess match.

The administration’s rhetoric of material prosperity to these people is hollow as seen in the initial action of the administration in choosing cabinet members from the Wall Street, financial elite who don’t have the interests of the working class and poor in mind. Initial talk of a tax plan which aids the richest belies the president’s phony rhetoric to his base.

Those who wanted power and who now are in power exploit that fear and try to reinforce racism, jingoism and rabid nationalism to their own advantage and the promotion of their ideology.

Trump’s inner circle concerns me most: Bannon, Miller, etc. Trump is full of egotistical bluster and is an expert at conning the masses but knows nothing of what has already made our country great, knows nothing of constitutional law, knows nothing of the spirit of what is etched on the base of the Statue of Liberty and is listening to those who have weaseled their nefarious and dystopian way into his confidence. They know weakness when they see it and use it as the pathway to gain influence for those sick ideologies.

As an old, retired preacher who still believes in the power of The Word of God, I’m hoping some brave white preachers will preach prophetically but com-passionately serving as prophet and priest to their white congregations, so that hearts will bend toward the inclusive Jesus and away from the fear that leads to hateful, destructive action.

It surely will cost some their pulpits, but as a wise minister asked me when I was a young, wet- behind-the-ears minister with a Northern, urban background serving a Southern, rural, yoked parish and having a bit of a rough time of it, “Who is your leader? Look what happened to him. They haven’t nailed you to a cross yet, so count your blessings.” It wasn’t particularly comforting at the time but his words guided me along the way.

I had become friends with the local African Methodist Episcopal minister and she suggested a pulpit exchange. I thought it was a great idea and brought it before the elders of the two congregations I was serving. The town church welcomed the idea but the country congregation turned it down telling me that they were perfectly happy having a Black preach to them but they would not allow a woman in the pulpit.

This was the early 70’s and that Southern, white congregation was willing to listen to a Black minister just so long as it wasn’t a woman. They were ahead of their time regarding race if not up to speed on gender. And the white, town congregation was happy to hear the word from a Black female.

The AME minister preached in my town church; I preached in her church and the country congregation used lay preaching that Sunday. Because they, for whatever reason, refused the pulpit to a respected member of the clergy in our county, I felt compelled to resign the congregation which I had served for four years and thankfully the town congregation picked up the tab for my full salary for six months while I sought another call.

My point? That was the early seventies; the ink of Civil Rights legislation was not yet dry; those were Southern, rural, white people and, yet, they made moves toward racial harmony.

That’s an example of what I believe is an underlying, core, uniquely American value influenced by the very best of Jesus’ message of inclusivity. These are always the better angels to be affirmed while the devil tempts.

We Americans are called to extend and expand that inclusivity to those of all religions and ethnicities and rights to all minorities whether gender, sexual orientation, etc. because that is what Americans are supposed to do and it is here that the expansion of the very fabric of our democracy is being stretched and tested.

I think working class whites were duped in the primaries and in the presidential election, but I don’t believe they are the hard-core, right-wing supremacists. I think the fringe haters numbers are very small even if they seem to be crawling out of every sewer in America right now.

If push comes to shove, I don’t believe the a majority of the white, working class will support hate and bigotry if it is really unleashed on people and we see a significant rise in hate crimes. Actually I feel empathy toward those folk. I am a middle-class, white male, the child of working class immigrants. I think today’s working-class whites are envious of and, at the same time, have adulation for the white, super-rich of America and have lived under the illusion that they, too, could be right up there and now they see the push for the rights of others and it has them scared.

I pastored a lot of working class urban and rural whites and their hearts are good and I saw them affirm the “general welfare,” but right now they, unfortunately, are feeling sorry for themselves and are vulnerable to their less than noble instincts. Again, metaphorically speaking, it is time to affirm these American’s better angels while the devil appeals to their darker motives. It is a battle against principalities and powers.

In what surely is legislation passed under the influence of the better angels of the Obama administration (health insurance for twenty- some million more Americans), we could be seeing the positive effect of self-interest. I think the Affordable Care Act may be the thing that wakes up these working class and old, white folks (many, I assume, who voted for Trump.) to their own best, self-interest. It’s like the dumb, old, white guy who told his elected representative to “keep the damn government out of my social security and Medicare.” They bought the lies about “Obamacare,” but now that they have insurance under the Affordable Care Act, as they have had the benefits of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, they are discovering that they don’t want to lose it.

The fact that working class and old, white folk at town hall meetings are shouting down their Republican representatives and senators is a heartening

Whatever one’s ethnicity, religion and life circumstance, we cannot allow the devil what he thinks is his due.

What is everyone’s due is peace, harmony, justice, mercy, love and full human rights.

Jesus, the Buddha, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi and others turned the world upside down toward love through non-violent resistance. We only have to help flip America right-side-up or maybe that’s “left-side-up.” Surely, it is the
side that “promotes the general welfare.” See you at the protests!

Yes, these are interesting, disturbing but not yet despairing times.

A Poke So Slow

My friend The Rev. Dr. Thomas Eggebeen posted a thoughtful piece at his blog (http://thoughtslist.blogspot.com/) about slowing down from life’s frantic pace
to keep good company along the way.

This was my comment (with minor changes) back to Tom:

The other day while I was out for a jog,
an acquaintance passed in her car.

The next day we had a phone conversation
and she said, “I see you were taking a walk.”

And so it goes
for a poke so slow.
A mile I used to run
in minutes numbering eight.
Now I speed along
at a much slower rate.
One day I’ll run a mile
in minutes numbering twenty-eight.
I’d ask you to go for a run with me,
but I’m afraid for dinner you’d be very late,
so let’s just sit sipping a glass of wine
and tell each other
that life is like wine very fine,
which, in the making,
takes a little more time —
to get it just right for the taking.

A Still Life

The red roses stand in a glass,
water pitcher on the granite

breakfast counter next to three
artistic bowls — one, a Native

American style bowl, a gift from
a relative; one, a Hagi style bowl

by an Asian artist; one, a wood
carved bowl found in a second

hand shop. Vine tomatoes rest
in a plastic, utilitarian bowl

on the granite counter below the
breakfast counter, a still warm

toaster sits next to the vine
tomatoes and a glass coffee pot

from a coffee maker rests on
a stove burner across from

the toaster, the vine tomatoes
between them. His wife sits

on the couch in front of a
glass sliding door outside

of which the sun bounces off
roof tiles; an empty coffee

cup sits on the end table next
to her and a plate with a few

bread crumbs on it rests on
the couch next to her and

the dog sleeps by her feet.
Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto

#2 plays softly on the old,
portable radio inherited from

their daughter when they first
moved in. He sits at the dining

room table taking in the glory
of the still life in his life.