National Poetry Month: Pray For Peace

It’s Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem. Jesus, being of the Holy Trinity, knew that he was entering the city in which he would be crucified. His disciples, his flock were unaware so they greeted Jesus as a conquering hero and threw palm leaves in his wake to honor him. It’s a juxtaposition that has always been in my head, the fact that Jesus could go from hero to villain in less than a week.

My heart is heavy. I’m typing this at McDonald’s. I’m having breakfast before I head for church. I know that my breakfast will cause me to be a little late but I’m usually late.

CNN is playing on the TV near me. David Petraeus is talking about the bombing of Syria. He likens Syria to Humpty Dumpty and how he feels that Syria will never be put back together. Petraeus cautions that whatever is done, it’ll have to be a generational act. He talks about blood and treasure and I know that’s what this fight in Syria is about. So many innocent people will be killed so the country’s oil will be preserved.

The poem I’ve chosen for this morning, Palm Sunday morning, is by Ellen Bass. It is called “Pray For Peace” and it’s exactly what I’ll be doing this morning and most mornings. And what I especially love about this poem is that Ellen Bass realizes that we all have different names and faces for our idea of a higher power.

“Pray For Peace” — Ellen Bass

Pray to whoever you kneel down to:
Jesus nailed to his wooden or marble or plastic cross,
his suffering face bent to kiss you,
Buddha still under the Bo tree in scorching heat,
Adonai, Allah, raise your arms to Mary
that she may lay her palm on our brows,
to Shekinhah, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
to Inanna in her stripped descent.

Hawk or Wolf, or the Great Whale, Record Keeper
of time before, time now, time ahead, pray. Bow down
to terriers and shepherds and siamese cats.
Fields of artichokes and elegant strawberries.

Pray to the bus driver who takes you to work,
pray on the bus, pray for everyone riding that bus
and for everyone riding buses all over the world.
If you haven’t been on a bus in a long time,
climb the few steps, drop some silver, and pray.

Waiting in line for the movies, for the ATM,
for your latté and croissant, offer your plea.
Make your eating and drinking a supplication.
Make your slicing of carrots a holy act,
each translucent layer of the onion, a deeper prayer.

Make the brushing of your hair
a prayer, every strand its own voice,
singing in the choir on your head.
As you wash your face, the water slipping
through your fingers, a prayer: Water,
softest thing on earth, gentleness
that wears away rock.

Making love, of course, is already a prayer.
Skin and open mouths worshipping that skin,
the fragile case we are poured into,
each caress a season of peace.

If you’re hungry, pray. If you’re tired.
Pray to Gandhi and Dorothy Day.
Shakespeare. Sappho. Sojourner Truth.
Pray to the angels and the ghost of your grandfather.

When you walk to your car, to the mailbox,
to the video store, let each step
be a prayer that we all keep our legs,
that we do not blow off anyone else’s legs.
Or crush their skulls.
And if you are riding on a bicycle
or a skateboard, in a wheel chair, each revolution
of the wheels a prayer that as the earth revolves
we will do less harm, less harm, less harm.

And as you work, typing with a new manicure,
a tiny palm tree painted on one pearlescent nail
or delivering soda or drawing good blood
into rubber-capped vials, writing on a blackboard
with yellow chalk, twirling pizzas, pray for peace.

With each breath in, take in the faith of those
who have believed when belief seemed foolish,
who persevered. With each breath out, cherish.

Pull weeds for peace, turn over in your sleep for peace,
feed the birds for peace, each shiny seed
that spills onto the earth, another second of peace.
Wash your dishes, call your mother, drink wine.

Shovel leaves or snow or trash from your sidewalk.
Make a path. Fold a photo of a dead child
around your VISA card. Gnaw your crust
of prayer, scoop your prayer water from the gutter.
Mumble along like a crazy person, stumbling
your prayer through the streets.

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National Poetry Month: One Art

I have lost so much in the span of forty years, everything from material goods to loved ones. I used to let it bother me but now I realize that everything is impermanent. I still have attachments to people, places and things because I’m human but I look to Elizabeth Bishop when I eventually lose what I’m attached to.

“One Art” — Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

National Poetry Month: In Flanders Fields

I took an International Politics class this semester. During the short time my mindset on the US involvement in foreign affairs has changed.

Yesterday, the US military carried out an airstrike in Syria in retaliation for the Syrian president attacking his own citizens with chemical weapons. This hasn’t been the first airstrike carried out against another country and it won’t be the last. We’re too involved in other people’s conflicts, sometimes for a worthy end but mostly to be a distraction from the problems here at home. Case in point, bomb Syria so that the news cycle will focus on that and ignore the likely fact that a Supreme Court justice will be selected without the traditional majority vote.

It was the first world war where the United States started looking to become a power player on an international stage. The US had been involved in foreign affairs before. We acquired American Samoa through armed conflict. We occupied the Philippines until 1946. But it was WWI where President Wilson decided that the US could become a power player. Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the United States entering the Great War.

There’s a poem that reflects on the soldiers lost during the first world war. It’s a poem I’ve always teared up over because it strikes in my soul the devastating consequences and the meaningless of war.

“In Flanders Fields” — John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Ugh

It’s been a pretty horrible day. The weather is shit. The rain from yesterday has turned into this vile rain/sleet/snow mix. I have no energy. It feels like someone came along with a syringe and removed my mojo.

To top things off, I learned that the legendary Don Rickles passed away. Don Rickles was the king of the insult comic. With his passing, it’s really the end of an era. All of his contemporaries are gone. The comedy world, the entertainment world has lost an icon.

National Poetry Month: Invocation Of The Muse

I had put down my pen and put away my paper. I thought that I was done but, when I turned 40, I realized that my voice was still there. It had only been silenced because of the things I had experienced. Now I’m back to writing.

In the Odyssey, Homer invokes the Muses, the Grecian goddesses of art and knowledge. The “Invocation Of The Muse” is one of the most famous prayer to the Muses. I’m inspired by his plea to the Muses as I start writing again.

“Invocation Of The Muse” — Homer (translated by T.E. Lawrence)

O Divine Poesy
Goddess-daughter of Zeus,
Sustain for me
This song of the various-minded man,
Who after he had plundered
The innermost citadel of hallowed Troy
Was made to stray grievously
About the coasts of men,
The sport of their customs good or bad,
While his heart
Through all the seafaring
Ached in an agony to redeem himself
And bring his company safe home.
Vain hope – for them!
For his fellows he strove in vain,
Their own witlessness cast them away;
The fools,
To destroy for meat
The oxen of the most exalted sun!
Wherefore the sun-god blotted out
The day of their return.
Make the tale live for us
In all its many bearings,
O Muse.

Of Chakras & Scripture

Wednesday has become as spiritual as Sunday morning.

On Wednesday afternoon I have my connection group. We’ve finished The Book Of Forgiving but people are finding it difficult to find copies of the next book at the library. The book, Between The Dark And The Daylight, is $15.45 on Amazon but that’s a little steep. I have the e-book and I found two used copies for less than $10 so I’ve ordered them and they’ll arrive sometime next week.

Laura isn’t feeling well so I was in charge. I wanted to accomplish two things at the meeting. First, I wanted to check in and make sure people were okay with the books we’ve been reading. We’ve been reading a lot of personal growth books. I feel that, the more we grow as people, the more we grow in spirit. Thankfully, the group is on the same page.

Second thing I wanted to do was give a brief introduction to the author of our next book. We watched Brène Brown’s Super Soul Sunday episode before we started to read Rising Strong and that seemed to give us an idea of what to expect. I couldn’t find a complete version of Sister Joan Chittister’s Super Soul Sunday appearance so we watched a few short clips of her appearance.

When connection group ended I made my way to meditation. I’ve been skipping it lately because of church leadership classes but I felt the need to attend. Niki wasn’t there so I was able to sit in with Jai Jay.

I haven’t done a chakra clearing meditation in a long time. I used to scoff at chakras but I’ve changed my tune after doing research. The body is a mysterious thing and sometimes our energy gets stuck. From my root to my crown, I knew there was a reason I felt I needed to come to meditation and chakra clearing was the reason why.

I asked Diana to inform whoever was going to run leadership classes that I was going to be a tad late. Guided meditation ends at 6:30 while leadership classes start at 6:30 and I still haven’t found a way to be two places at once. It’s pouring rain and has been for hours now. Meditation when it’s raining is short of magical but walking the few blocks to church not as magical. I was about 15 minutes late, exactly what I had figured but Rev. Deb was only starting when I arrived so I didn’t miss a thing.

It was an interesting meeting. We’re at the point where we’re discussing what type of ministry we’d like to become involved with. The church is in the process of trying to find a new building because we have to be out of the current one at the end of the year.

Our current vision statement says that we “lovingly transform lives by including all, inspiring each other, and influencing community” and we’ve focused on those three “I” statements the last three years. Because we’re at a stage of change we were talking about drafting a new vision statement.

As an affirming church, we are filled with marginalized people. I’d think that the marginalized would be more accepting but that’s not the case. I feel that we should be a church for all and when I say all I truly mean all. If a person, no matter if they are a murderer, rapist, homophobe, etc and feels repentant in their heart, they should have a place at our church. Acts 3:19 says “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

But I learned tonight that there are people in my church that feel that there should be some sort of litmus test before you can come to our church. I don’t know how that’s going to affect me as I move forward but I hope I don’t bump against others because of the social justice aspect I want to bring to the church.

National Poetry Month: Spaces In Wrong Places

What I especially love about poetry is that it doesn’t have to be so damn serious. I love that poets can mess around with the form and function of what a poem is supposed to be.

“Spaces In Wrong Places” is a great example. It’s by Macaulay Culkin, yes of Home Alone fame. It’s not the best poem. It’s not going to win any awards but I’m still in love with its cleverness.

“Spaces In Wrong Places” — Macaulay Culkin

Igo tsp ace s inw rong pla cesl ike a bo ywi thn o bra ces,lik e a crow d w it hn ofac es, l ik e ac op wi th no c a s es.
I g tspac es inwron g p l aceslik ea ca rwi t hn orace s, li k e aba llw ith nob ase s, l ik e a d eck wit h n o ac es.
Ig ot sp a ce s inwro ngp la ces lik e a mov i ewi th n och as es, likea me al wi thno g ra ces, l ik e a flow er w it hn ov as e s.
I g o tspac es inwrongpl a c esl ike a p honewithn o trac es, lik e a sh o ewith nol aces, a n d aprea cher w ithn o pr ais es.
I go tsp a c esi n wr ong p l ac es.