Friday, October 31, 2008

NYC poetry workshop

Last weekend I attended another poetry workshop in NYC with Ellen Bass. It was hosted by one of her students who lives in the Village on 12th Street with a view of the Hudson. Can we say 'pretentious'? But the best part, besides writing poetry, was staying with some friends in the Ridgewood section of Brooklyn. The husband, Will, manages a German/Austrian hall/bar (Gottscheer Hall--look it up). We ate pulled pork nachos, potato pancakes, krainer and spaetzel, bread pudding with raisins soaked in rum, and drank beer until we were fat. And that was just Friday night. Saturday night my friend Dorothy (Will's wife) and I went to an Egyptian restaurant, a little on the sketchy side, ate a delicious dinner, and smoked a hookah for dessert; there might have been a wonderful rice pudding in there too. Good folks, good food, and talk--plus poetry; it doesn't get any better than that.

This is one of the poems that came out of the workshop--others are still in the works. On Sunday we had been sent outside to the sidewalk to glean an impression from the yard sale taking place on there (wouldn't that make it a sidewalk sale?). As far as poetic inspiration goes, the yard sale didn't do it for me, but the Mexican restaurant on the corner was akin to the eighth wonder of the world, in its own quiet, understated way. Combined with a suggested word list, I managed to write a poem.

A glory reserved

“Shoot bandits’ heads to ring bells”
reads the faded sign above
the window of the Mexican restaurant.
An oversize discolored bottle cap
teases “Thirsty? Wet your whistle.”
Plastic lantern Santa, sleigh, single
reindeer gambol over the doorway.
Skulls in chorus line on the lintel
mock each hunger, signal every regret.
Our Lady of Guadeloupe waits
in the entryway—dark, lovely,
vacant of desire, her miniature
infant Son the pivot
on which her feet turn.
I can’t look away from
this corner, this blaze
of glory reserved, where
it’s Christmas every day,
even on the day of the dead.

Monday, October 27, 2008

McSame vs. Change

This past weekend I attended a poetry workshop in NYC - more on that later. However, I met a woman who writes incredibly strong poetry and has a fantastic blog, Come Get Angry With Me. Read her poem "Straight Talk Express". It'll knock your blue socks off.

These are a couple of videos from her site that will pump some sunshine into your cloudy, rainy day.

First up, a takeoff on those annoying wassup Budweiser ads:

Check out indie singer/songwriter Sally Anthony setting her music to some hardcore video:

Nov. 4 can't come soon enough. And the 5th that much sooner.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Yesterday I was helping my husband stack firewood as he split maple, ash and black birch with a log splitter. Both of us were wearing protective headphones but I could still hear the sound of the wood as it cracked against the sharp metal blade of the wedge. The wood split easily, offering little, if no, resistance. The dulled sound of splitter smashing the fleshy wood, along with the visual image, reminded me of nutmeats in a wooden cup, snapping out of their hard walnut shells when a wooden screw presses against them. The word that came to mind was creamy, like the candied surface of a creme brulee crackling and giving way to the custard beneath.

I thought to myself, if the human heart makes a sound when it breaks, it would be this one. Yet haven't we all resisted a broken heart, steeling ourselves against the inevitable pain, its sharp blade mercilessly tearing the heartstring that connected us to our beloved? But in the end we all give way to the price of love, the cost of willingly opening ourselves to loving and being loved. And having the choice, we would do it all over again, but perhaps with more gratitude and less complaint.

I used to think that the meaning of this psalm was that God desired our pain and guilt at having sinned. Not so. The sacrifice that is pleasing to God is that we not resist love nor its cost.

"O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt offering,
you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God
is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise."

--Psalm 51: 15-17

A riven heart, open and pliant, is the one capable of loving, even when all hope seems lost.

from the Sunday bulletin

Thought for Preparation:

"Where am I? Who am I? How did I come to be here? What is this thing called the world? How did I come into the world? Why was I not consulted? And if I am compelled to take part in it, where is the director? I want to see him."

--Soren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher and theologian (1813-1855)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The blue butterfly

Recently I watched a DVD movie entitled The Blue Butterfly, based on the true story of a ten-year-old boy diagnosed with brain cancer who wants to travel to the rainforests of Costa Rica to see and capture a blue morpho butterfly. He travels there with his mother and a renowned etymologist who has seen the blue morpho himself. He professes that the blue morpho is a miracle, and that once you catch one, you can ask it the questions of life and it will give you answers.

When they reach a native village on the outskirts of the rainforest, the locals indoctrinate the young boy and his mother in the legend of the blue morpho. The shaman repeats what the etymologist has already told them. But then another man disturbs the circle, telling of the other side of the story, that there are evil spirits in the forest that take on forms of other animals, even the blue morpho. Once you are lured into the forest by the blue morpho, you are lost forever and can never get out.

The blue morpho has two sides itself. One is the brilliant blue that attracts our eye and our imagination. The underside is a mousy brown with dull yellow 'eyes', resembling a common moth. The blue morpho is neither one side nor the other; it is both and more.

There are always two sides to every story, but lately I've come to believe that there is another that we cannot know because we cannot see everything there is know all at once. I've often said when my girls have been fighting that the third side is what God witnessed. But now I wonder.

One side of the human story believes that there is a God, a miracle, that we can ask the questions of life and there are answers to be found. Others believe that God wears masks, the faces of religions, lures us into the forest of the unknown, only to leave us there to be lost to ourselves. There is a God; there is not a God.

But what if there is a third side to that story, one that we don't know about because we can't see everything there is to know all at once. To me, that is what faith is all about. That is the human paradox in which we are called to live, minister, witness and love. And that takes courage. And companionship. Jesus is my companion. My church, my family, my friends, even my so-called enemies are my companions.

And with them we all see through a mirror darkly; then we shall see face to face. Now we know only in part; then we will know fully, even as we have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13: 12b-13)

Friday, October 10, 2008


That's me at my ordination, 1991.

This coming Sunday a woman that I've been advising toward ordained ministry will be ordained in a grand, wonderful worship service, full of music, meaning, and many of the people who have helped get her to this day. I have another friend, an ordained minister, who was in Israel this past year and is now looking for a position in a church as a settled pastor. She compares this process of looking for a church to dating. You look at each other from a distance, perhaps like what you see. If both are interested, maybe they meet for coffee and test the waters. Neither of you want to appear too eager; both of you are putting your best face forward. The first friend is getting married for the first time, the other is dating. And me, I'm feeling like a bridesmaid.

Last week I had a dream in which an old flame approached me for some comfort. I gave him a warm, lengthy hug to which he replied, "Let's go some place." Fear shot into me, as well as anger, because I wouldn't want just a one-night stand no matter who he is. I sputtered back at him, "I'm not the only one standing here. I've got a husband and two children. I can't just go off with you."

When I woke, my heart was pounding. I couldn't relax and sleep again until I had figured out the meaning. First of all, I was glad I gave the 'right' answer. I wouldn't betray my family, even in my dreams. But most of my dreams go beyond the superficial or surface meaning. I realized that I'm growing weary of supply preaching. It's starting to feel like a one-night stand: everybody loves what I do, but there's no relationship--not really. Not like a marriage where you love each other even when you disagree or let each other down or are just having a bad day. I want a relationship with one church; no more playing the field. I want to baptize their babies, watch them grow up, teach them in confirmation, visit their grandparents, preach sermons, sing the benediction for them, love them through whatever.

Ironically, though, I'm waiting for my husband to come to a similar conclusion about his own career. And I must wait for him, because I can't begin a relationship with a church, only to leave them in a few short years should my husband's job search cause us to pack up and move. Being in covenant is never easy but it does help when I'd rather give in to the whims or passions of the moment. Covenant reminds me that I'm part of something larger than just my own little life, that everything, everything is worked out in relationships of one sort or another. After all, it's not just me standing here.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Coming of God

This one is for Mystical Seeker:

"If you long for God, and long for union with him, yet sometimes wonder what that means or whether it can mean anything at all, you are already walking with the God who comes. If you are at times so weary and involved with the struggle of living that you have no strength even to want him, yet are still dissatisfied that you don't, you are already keeping Advent in your life. If you have ever had an obscure intuition that the truth of things is somehow better, greater, more wonderful than you deserve or desire, that the touch of God in your life stills you by its gentleness, that there is a mercy beyond anything you could ever suspect, you are already drawn into the central mystery of salvation.

"Your hope is not a mocking dream; God creates in human hearts a huge desire and a sense of need, because he wants to fill them with the gift of himself."

--Maria Boulding, The Coming of God.