In the Light of Day

IMG_4187My first prayers this morning, God,
were made with a light heart;
well, lighter than the prayers that followed.
More screams, more shots, more deaths
I did not need to see to grieve.

Details slowly filtering in. Death count
rising. Victims unsurprised but scared.
“Eventually it was going to happen here.”
Dear God. Dear God. Dear God.

And then the sun shone through my window.

And I remembered:

Brightly colored winter coats glinting in the sunshine
as their wearers fled their school,
leaving classmates, teachers, friends
slain behind them.

And I remembered:

Sun blazing over lines of students
older, tears a-streaming, fleeing,
leaving classmates, teachers, friends
slain behind them.

And I saw:

Sun blazing over lines of students today
filing toward their buses home,
leaving classmates, teachers, friends
slain behind them.

The sun seared my eyes through eyelids closed
to stopper flowing tears.
“All who do evil hate the light,” said Jesus.
But in our times, they work their evil
in the light.

If this is what we do by day, O God,
then let each day be blanketed with clouds.

But no. We can not hide. We must not shade our eyes.
In blazing sun, exposing all
hypocrisy, pretense, and lies, I pray:
Change our hearts, O God.

Let us love our children,
let us love our neighbors,
let us love the stranger
more than we love power:
The power at a moment’s notice
to deprive a soul of life.

Let your clear light reveal our love,
and not, once more or ever,
the tragic consequences
of our fear.

Amen.

Can I Pray For…?

DSC_0189Can I pray for peace, O God,
when the bullets fly
and the blood soaks
the weeping soil?

Can I pray for shelter, O God,
when the houses burn
and the earth yawns wide
to breathe out fumes?

Can I pray for safety, O God,
when leaders condemn
the innocent with the guilty?
“They’re animals.”

Yet what else can I do, O God?
I raise my voice for peace.
I rush to help the volcano-shocked.
I condemn the condemnation.

What more can I do, O God,
but pray that You
will have more agency
than I.

Amen.

What Sounds Do Angels Hear?

What sounds do angels hear?

The soft deep moan of rolling stone,
sand crunched to sand beneath,
softly sighing air drawn through
the widening portal. 

What sounds do angels hear?

Did these working tones obsure
the insects’ songs, the chattering leaves,
the scrape of claws, the murmuring brook
around the corner of the hill?

What sounds do angels hear?

The night-bound stillness
of the sleeping city,
stones sighing as they settle,
a thousand dreaming murmurs?

What sounds do angels hear?

The sudden inhaled breath,
the heartbeat strong beyond all hope,
cloth scraping over stone and skin,
the sudden thud of feet upon the floor?

What sounds do angels hear?

The splash of tears on dust?
A meditative humming? Deep-drawn breaths?
Or, after a silence to encompass all the world,
a gale of laughter from the deepest wells of joy?

What sounds do angels hear? 

Haste

Meersburg_Neues_Schloss_April_2010_1020028aHaste, haste!
The storm clouds still obscure
The sky, but worse, the darkness
Of the Sabbath looms.

Haste, haste!
To pull the blood-slick nails
From flesh now unresisting,
Blood no longer flowing.

Haste, haste!
To lower the once-living form
And lay it in the waiting shroud:
No time for spices, they must wait.

Haste, haste!
To carry our beloved One observed
By soldiers and centurion who said,
“This man was truly God’s own son.”

Haste, haste!
The tomb at hand, the body placed
To wait two nights until
We may return with spice.

Haste, haste!
For now, all done which may
Be done, our eyes may stream
With our Good Friday tears.

The image is by Waldemar Flaig.

Really, Jesus?

Robert_Leinweber_001

Really, Jesus?

Last Sunday, it was, “Go and find a donkey.
Then untie it, lead it here, so I may ride.”

Just anybody’s donkey, Jesus?
Don’t you know that they’ll object?

“Just say, ‘The Master needs it.’ That
Will do.” You think? You think it will?

How embarrassing for us, my friend:
It did.

So now, the festival at hand, it’s time
To take the lead for once, and ask:

“So Jesus? Do you have a plan,
And where should we prepare the meal?”

We ought to have known better. “Find
a man who bears a jug of water in

His arms, and follow him. The place
He enters is the place. The table

Will be in the upstairs room.
Prepare the feast; we’ll follow!”

Really, Jesus? Find a man and follow him
Because he bears a jug of water?

How embarrassing for us: it worked.
I guess we’ll have to trust you, Jesus, now.

Wherever you may go from here,
To all the dizzy heights of power, be

Assured we’ll go. We’re right with you.
I’ll not deny you once, nor let alone

This weird prediction of three times.
The rooster can withhold its cry

Until the crack of Doom, and still
I promise I will not deny.

Until, of course, I shout, “I do not know
The man!”

Then weep and weep and weep.

Really, Jesus.

The image is Peter’s denial by Anton Robert Leinweber. 

Christmas Eve 2017

Bebe_(Nativity)_Gauguin_IMG_7276“If I had Gabriel here
I’d slam my fist upon his nose,”
she thought (though did not say).
“He promised me the King of Kings
and here I lie, exhausted,
in the courtyard of the noisy inn
with my newborn son
whimpering in his sleep
where the spear-tipped straw
of this poor manger cradle
has pierced the blankets once again.”
She thought, and thought again:
“Well, no, I wouldn’t hit him.
Angels aren’t for messing with.
He’d deserve it, though.”

The inn had settled down at last
from raucous greetings shouted by
familiar travelers to their regular
companions, settled down from
moaning of the mothers, ministrations
of the midwife, helpless loving
sounds from father inarticulate
with worry, settled down from newborn
baby’s wail soon smothered on
his mother’s breast, settled down from
traveler and sojourner and nosy neighbor
come to see exhausted mother,
anxious, wary father,
child outraged
to be deprived
the comforts of the womb.

The inn had settled down at last
when new uproar approached
and scattered Mary’s thoughts of angels
(impious though they be).
A band of men, their faces sleepy,
peeked through each courtyard gate
along the street, in search of… what?
the weary mother wondered.
She could not see expressions
shadow-shrouded, but could see the waves
with which they summoned all
their comrades through the crowded
courtyard and approached
the manger bed.

“Forget angels,” Mary thought,
“What good is Joseph if he cannot
keep these wandering herdsmen
from us and this child?”

Now words emerged from mouths
less agile than an angel’s,
words of (really?) angels
praising God upon a hillside,
dispatching them with messages
of God’s over-arching favor
into Bethlehem to see a child
(o come, they’ve seen a child before)
laid sleeping in a manger.

Once started speaking, they could not
be stopped, repeating in their
rasping voices promises of glory,
wonder, all the Earth’s salvation,
to all its peoples, peace.

Much later, when they had run long short
of words, had taken their eager
wishes of good fortune, their ragged habits
(if not the lingering smell of sheep)
out of the courtyard, back unto the hills,
Mary’s weary mind returned to thought.

They had not been the royal messengers
of old, like courtiers of David, no.
But they had brought the message
loud, and strong, and clear.
Emmanuel. God is with us.
Sleeping now, still fitfully,
still irritated by the straw.
Emmanuel. Yes, God is with us.
Even here in noisy Bethlehem.
Even now in this no-comfort place.

Emmanuel. Yes, God is with us.

Even here.

Even now.

The image is Paul Gauguin’s painting “Bebe” or “Nativity of Tahitian Christ.”

Fireworks

In my youth (as I recall through mists of swirling memory),

A fireworks show strolled at the pace of, oh, a baseball game. 

The pitch! A single rocket soars into the night

Its firey trail to mark ascension to the heights,

A swing! A hit! A long fly ball, or rather,

Globes of glowing color flash across the night. 

Then, pause: await the next deliberate pitch,

The next delightful glory in the sky. 

And now, as I survey the skies of Baltimore,

Where rockets climb in pageantry

Around the Inner Harbor, I see that we have changed

Our sport. Baseball has lost place to football

(Soccer to Americans) in the rapid pace 

Of these ascending spectacles.

Indeed, this fireworks show has paused not once,

As if the referee had never called offsides, 

That neither team had scored a goal,

That every track the ball had traced

Above the emerald turf had swerved,

Approaching not the boundary of play,

And summoning the players to chase it

Once again. 

I sigh. Is it just simple, pure nostalgia that

I find that I prefer my (granted, poor)

Old memories of fireworks shows “of yore?”

Or is it that I’ve come to value pauses,

And anticipation, and the poignant joy

Of wondering just where upon the rainbow

This next starburst will have found its flame?

Well, both, I’m sure, and more. 

For I have come to live much of my life

Uncertain of the rainbow’s hue ahead,

Of rocket’s shape, and whether it will sigh, or pop,

Or boom. 

Yes, I’ll watch this grand, frenetic fireworks show,

Appreciate it,

Glad that in the climb and soar of life,

I have the grace to pause from time to time

And breathe.