without and within*

the storm without
without a doubt
is quite a clout;
the storm within —
a blow to the gut
a hit to the chin.
each could
take you out
but is there
a win-win?
forget sin;
think self-alienation.
be reconciled
to the i-thou
in the eternal now….

*idea from Quote of the Day
by Frederick Buechner.

Poems and Puns # 13 A Sandwich and a Pickle

Here he was — right, smack dab in the
middle of the Sonoran desert and he could-
n’t go for a hike because he had sore
knees from too much road running. His
wife would be going for a hike with the
female Chocolate Lab., new to the desert
but already loving the sniffs along the
trail — safe before the snakes come out
in the spring. Before they left for the hike,
his wife thought she would make him a
delicious sandwich using last evening’s
grilled, marinated pork tenderloin on or-
ganic Ciabatta bread with organic, sea salt
potato chips cooked in olive oil and a pickle.
As she handed him the plate, she saw his sad,
sad eyes. A pun came to mind to give him a
chuckle. “Here, honey, a pun to go with a
pickle: “Why didn’t the lost hikers starve in
the desert? Because of the sand which is
there.” He winced as he took the plate and ate.

A Eulogy for the Actor George Sanders (1906 — 1972)*

Oh, George, how we loved watching you
in those roles from the forties and fifties,
ever-so bored, ever-so sophisticated,
eyes rolling at the sheer monotony of it

A sideways glance,
a nose to the air,
body leaning:
Oh, give me a chance
to exit this soporific scene.

Well, George, you had your choice.

You were bored to death;
you followed suicide’s
seductive voice.

*a meditation on boredom by Frederick Buechner
reminded me of the British actor George Sanders

Custer’s Last Stand and God’s Great Mercy Train

The (Universal) Christ has broken down the dividing wall of hostility.

But I say to you, “Love your enemies….”

You shall know them by their fruits.

The problem with individual salvation
in Jesus Christ is that it isn’t
biblical and it isn’t individual —
personal, yes, individual, no.

Salvation is covenantal, community;
it is for a people not an individual.
It starts with one particular people,
an oppressed community, a bottom-rung

community, a despised community whose
vision is a blessed, universal community
whose point of view is from the point
of oppression looking up at mercy, justice,

peace and grace and whose mission is to
go tell it on the mountain. There ain’t
much of that tellin’ these days — just
privileged, pampered white folk (and

don’t give me that poor white, out-of-
work working-class stuff, just individuals
who believe that Jesus saved them from
some future hell but who are making one

right here; they are still white and
historically on the top of the heap of
brown, black, yellow and red folk
beneath those white folks’ feet) who

think the Persian (read unbeliever)
Cyrus has come back to save all the
Hebrew children (read white evangelicals)
from captivity in Babylon (read the USA) —

poor, put-upon white folk who only
care about their own “individual
salvation,” hate their neighbor and
feel fear leading to violence that

they are at the mercy of the advancing
demonic demographic, er, God’s Great,
Mercy Train that is rumblin’ right on
through — Little Big Horn. All aboard!

Sometimes, He Wishes

Sometimes, he wishes he
could live life in the pluperfect,
but his life is imperfect
so he keeps bringing the past
into the present with
all its accompanying pain.
If he could live life in the pluperfect,
he could say that he had left
the past in the past along with the pain
even though life still would not be
present perfect because he has not
learned to put the pain completely
in the past. Oh, what a shame.

Man Up

His dad marched in support of a King,
as a Republican (seriously?) governor,
he opposed Viet Nam and advocated for

compassionate capitalism — one with
checks and balances. A man of faith,
his policies were tempered by thoughts

of peace, mercy and justice. The kid
grew up with a silver spoon. As a can-
didate he had the gravitas to say he

was sure the trees of Michigan were
just the right height. He made a ton of
money closing down companies and

eliminating jobs. He was a venture
capitalist, some would say vulture
capitalist. He said he would never,

ever get the vote of the forty-seven
percent dependent on the federal
government. He didn’t. He lost —

until he took the vote of his life.
He probably should have just said
that he tries to follow Jesus instead

of giving the Occupant a talking point
at a prayer breakfast about those
who brag about their faith, but more

importantly, much more importantly,
he voted his conscience and became
the first senator in history to vote to

convict the president of his own party.
Was that the day the kid man-upped?
The Gov. would be proud.

Slow Motion

He slows motion,
he breathes deeply,
he rolls his head,
he’s not sleepy.

He’s focused
in that slowed motion,
he sees more clearly,
he feels eternal devotion.

Once he was slowed
by death’s existential reality.

He emerged
from horror
two years later.
It was a buffer.

To ponder,
he seeks the slow —
to know.

The coin flips slowly —
two sides — a thin line.
Existential horror/
Love divine.

Fiery Eyes

Four days
after the fiery eyes flared
up on the Arizona hill at night,
the fiery eyes again stared
reflected in the lumina’s light.
The eyes ducked and danced
and backed
up the hill
and then back down.
“Come on. Let’s be safe,”
he said to his Chocolate Lab,
“Let’s go in now, you
beautiful girl so brown.”

BREAKFAST 2020 by James Berbiglia*

His voice on the phone created an image from 1977,
The young minister from Elizabethtown, Kentucky.
“Meet us for breakfast tomorrow?”
Memories of laughter with the young couple, pastor and artist,
Flooded my evening as I remembered fun times together
Watching them in posh restaurants drinking gallons of coffee
And ordering yet more dinner rolls.
Then tears came remembering her tragic aneurysm
And his depth of anguish, disbelief, lostness.

And here he was again, married to another artist,
After an eternity of pain and loneliness.
Would our meeting hark back to great fun or great grief?

They enter the café and we fold into each other’s arms,
Laughing and recreating 1977 while shocked at our aging.
Voices the same, bodies changed.
The stories, memories and family photos
Warm our hearts and quiet the ever-present grief.
Joy that he has found love again;
Amazed at his fertile poetic mind;
Same edgy sense of humor, sense of political ethics.
Proud of his talented artist-wife,
Whose love saved his life.
Embarrassed yet proudly he signs his beautiful book of poems,
Calling attention to his daughter’s paintings and his wife’s art;
Complimenting my granddaughter’s book of poems.
Our stories flirt with 1977 and other years past
When 41 and 31 began to fly toward 85 and 75,
When idealism and passion began to mature
And life began to hurt two who would live their best.
Unspoken debts of love, admiration, respect
Pool beneath the loud talk and fun.

Awkward parting when it is impossible to untangle lives,
And promises to see each other again
When the voices are from 1977 and the lives will be 2021.

*The Rev. James Berbiglia, is a retired Army Chaplain (Lieutenant
Colonel) and close friend for over forty-three years. Jim counseled
me when I was a struggling young minister in a new congregation. Then
the unpredictable happened, counselor and counselee became friends.
We became jogging and tennis buddies. Several years later, after
my late wife died tragically in a day of a cerebral hemorrhage
at the age of 49, Jim called long-distance regularly to check in
on me. Those calls helped keep me alive. My wife Chris and I
recently had breakfast with Jim in San Antonio, Texas. The poem
BREAKFAST 2020 is Jim’s response to that wonderful visit.