Poetry and Various Other Sundries

This weekend, I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College, and I had the opportunity to share a few conversations with some of my favorite living poets. I shared breakfast with Scott Cairns (yes, I imposed) and met Jeanne Murray Walker at the airport. I also met a new friend, Phillip Mauer, whose poems you'll not find on the internet just yet. (One day, Phillip.) The conversations we shared were brief (too brief), but I walked away with the firm conviction that the world needs more poets who produce gentle, true poems. Search your heart. You know this is true, don't you?

Today, I'm sharing a poem I scratched out weeks ago for my Patreon community, the community that makes my writing (poetry, short fiction, various sundries) possible. I'm sharing because I generally believe in the power of poetry, and specifically believe in this poem. If you enjoy "The Pain of Waiting Is," consider joining my little Patreon community. I think you'll be glad you did.

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The Pain of Waiting Is

an empty yellow chair, a cup with no coffee, a blank piece of paper,

a simple prayer for company, comfort, a new Genesis. -this is what it means.

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***PATRONAGE FOR POEMS***

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For Jude (Advent Poem #1)

I'm starting a little poetry series for these waning days of Advent. I'll be posting a few here. For the entire series, join my Patreon community for as little as $2.00 a month. ***

For Jude (Advent Poem #1)

A year will come when December looks less like Christmas and more like Advent, a hidden promise waiting in dark waters, a buried body sojourning in the womb of an immigrant woman, pregnant.

In that year of our Lord, childhood music will hollow out, and you will be left with the muted shells of drums, a memory frosted to fantasy, the want for the peace of staying.

When that day comes, know this: In the darkness, a great light shines, even if it is shrouded by the womb of a holy mother or held in two cupped hands, bread crumbs sprinkled on the chapel rug like stars scattered in the night,

either way, body of Christ in the world without end, Amen.

To My Sons #4

We call America the land of the free, but hasn’t it become the land of the powerful? They chase after underage women then sweep it under the rug. They grab women by the genitals, or at least claim they can. The powerful purchase elections, or try to, anyhow. The powerful take and take and take and leave the rest of us to clean up their messes, sometimes the bodies. America—some have called it a Christian nation. I’m not sure what that means anymore. The Haines family retreated into the heart of the Ozarks a few weeks ago, hid in the heart of the stone. With no cell reception and spotty internet connections, we did what came naturally. Skip rocks across shallow pools in the near-dried out creek bed. Watch herons and kingfishers hunt in those same pools. Kick up dust on a long walk down a dirt road. Bathe in the musk of black walnut husks. Watch the paint run laps through the ragweed. Be.

The natural world is a gentler place,  somehow freer than the world tethered to media, to CNN, Twitter, Facebook, this blog. The natural world is every epiphany that matters. It is  a garden.

I followed my sons down a country road, and considered the world we’re giving them. It’s bleak, even in the beauty of autumn. And in that contemplation, I jotted a few notes about my hopes for them, about the things I hope they learn. Those notes became the first draft of this poem.

To My Sons #4 Life—a thousand presents to pull from packages to take, to own, to show. The Successful motivated me, us, them, everyone, with words and slogans: Yours for the taking; Bull by the balls; Women for the Victors. They lied through chubbied cheeks, taking our ambition first, Our money next, our dignity finally.

Sons, I could teach you to use those lies for advantage—yours, ours. But this is dignity: remember the joy in the diving kingfisher; laugh at the blue heron belch; mourn the bleaching crawfish carcass; taste wild honey. Know how the world of the men named Success is not this world at all. It was never mine or yours; it is ours and our sons, and it’s not for taking but for giving.

 

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Do you like the content here or in my bi-monthly Tiny Letter? Do you read it over morning coffee? Want to help defray the costs of FEEDING THIS BEAST? JOIN ME in the lab, the fun factory, the place I try out new things to see if they'll stick. (Ahem... my Patreon community.) For as little as $2 a month, you can get great content (and sweet rewards). And, if you enjoy this website and haven't yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, feel free to sign up below.

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A Monday Poem (Yes, You Need Poetry)

The world is off kilter (if'n you ain't noticed). There's no need for me to provide the laundry list of proofs. You feel it, don't you? These seasons beg me to remember the gentleness of faith, and today, I'm offering this poem as just such a reminder. And as a brief reminder, [tweetherder]let's discuss how to read a poem.[/tweetherder] Consider the title, what it might say, or foreshadow. Then, read the poem slowly, line by line. Using your imagination, see the text come to life. Then, move to the next line and do it again. At the end of the poem, ask yourself: How do I feel? or What was the takeaway?

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To my Sons #2

Some days you will race toddler tipsy, water balloon between your knees, against children more adept at the awkward waddle of boyish games. Carry best as you may–careful, careful— these sorts of events occasion failure, joy falling like eggs from the sky, spilling into a pool of whoops and tears. There, let your father’s faith be gentle, like that of a mother lifting last born from the embarrassment of empty can’ts and into the crook of forever where life’s perfume lingers.

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Tomorrow, I'll turn my thoughts back to vocation. These posts, as it turns out, have been among some of my most popular. Why? Who can say, but there seems to be a universal itch when it comes to the careers we choose. I hope to see tomorrow.

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The Poem For Redeemer, Kansas City

A few years ago, I stumbled across the poem "The Waking" by Theodore Roethke. It's a villanelle, a nineteen line poem characterized by rhyme and repetition. Roethke does something with the form, turns it into a sort of personal devotion, and when I read it for the first time, it seemed to work its way under my skin, got into my veins, did the thing any good drug does once it found the proper neural receptors. This is your brain on poetry.

This spring, I spoke to a group of pastors in Kansas City. Before taking the stage, I sat in the greenroom, praying, light music playing over the speakers.  A song began playing, and I recognized it two notes in (bass lines have a way of sticking with you; yes?). It was a deeper cut from Kurt Elling's work. It was his musical interpretation of "The Waking," and it seemed the perfect song for the moment.

"God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there, And learn by going where I have to go." ~Theodore Roethke, "The Waking"

The week after that conference, I sat in the quiet of my office and penned this homage to Roethke's "The Waking." I hope you enjoy it.

Ages and Ages (The Poem for Redeemer, Kansas City)

We watch for signs of life lived youngly sweet and take by this some memory of being too small to know the sun’s burning color.

Imagine soft clover on your laughing cheeks, as a child, and in another age remember signs of life lived youngly sweet.

Until this waking to noon heat, were we smiling with carefree children faces raised, too small to know how the sun’s color burns?

Now we raise cups to living old concerns, like knowing good, evil, not remembering to watch for signs of life lived youngly sweet.

Of all the things that come from forever our laughing child’s shining eyes were most pure, innocent to how the sun’s color burns.

Age brings knowing that cannot be unknown, like how lovers hold hands, walking, silvered, Watching for signs of life lived youngly sweet And lifting eyes to sun’s burning color.

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Now, enjoy this version of Elling's "The Waking."

***BECOME A PATRON***

Do you like the content here or in my Tiny Letter? Then I'd like to invite you to join my Patreon community. What is Patreon? It's a way for you, the reader, to become a patron, a person supporting the arts (my art to be precise), and receive behind the scenes content in return. Visit my Patreon page for more information. And, if you enjoy this website and haven't yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, feel free to sign up below.

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