Body Politic, or Intensive Care

Whom the fire burned
is under gauze.
Was it once black or white or non-white?
What the closed eyes?
What myriad colors swirl beneath the bandages?
Sins of color stain even a child.
What absolution have we
if we offer such sacrifices as the gods decree?
And if it walks like blind Tiresias
what will it prophesy
but death which comes to all
and judgment.

“Yellow School Bus” © Glenn A. Buttkus: “A school bus must have a plethora of pulsating and reflecting lights, because nothing is more precious than its cargo.”

In keeping witht the theme of minimalism in art, Sanaa at dVerse writes: “I want you all to select one out of the twelve photographs shared … and write a poem. It can be an Ekphrastic poem, if you like. Go philosophical. Go dark or romantic or solemn. Share what you feel about Minimalist photography when you see it. The idea here is to provoke an emotion, and what better way to pour them out other than poetry?” Click on Mr. Linky and join in.

Knife-walkers

Girl with Balloon or There is Always Hope, original mural by graffiti artist Banksy (2002) on Waterloo Bridge in London’s South Bank; photo Dominic Robinson, 2004

writers are knife-walkers
we walk to make the final cut
where the blade
ruptures the heart

surgical artists dissecting ourselves
in the Circus Maximus
for the amusement of the gods
in their curtained prosceniums

they, eviscerating each other,
we rip ourselves up to see the truth
in fictional lives stitched up later
as scarred tissues of lies

only to find we’re not hopelessly alone
that our arteries flow into one another
through artful bridges of aqueducts
leading one to another’s aortas

in ancient tides and ocean swells,
each as wombs incubating embryonic
lives of who we are meant to be
where the bone meets the marrow.

Today Tricia Sankey guest hosts at dVerse Poetics, and she challenge us with writing about risk. Inspired by Tricia's own poem, well, writing poetry is a risk for me, but as I tried to say, one well worth taking when it's done in community like the poets at dVerse. Thanks to one and all.

The Table

Sitting across the table from you
Wonder what you’re thinking
Is it just the food? Something more?
You look up. The sweetness in your eyes
Dispels all doubts in wedded bliss
All conversations merge into one
There’s no one for me but you.

Sitting down at Your table with You
Dark the vagrant thoughts in my head
Not on the bread, nor on the wine
Your living Presence hid to my eyes
Your tender, humbling gaze on me, I look up:
Enthroned majesty cloaked in a naked Lamb
Slain for the love of a sinner like me
There’s no one for me but You.

Image by Bouf16 from Pixabay

Arsenic and Old Lace

For Laura’s dVerse Meeting the Bar prompt “of poetry craft and critique, ‘to turn again, about turn again‘ we are employing the device of ‘epiphora/epistrophe’ which makes use of consecutive end line repeats of words or phrases. The optional extra is ‘Symploce’ – a consecutive repeat of first and final words.”

Laura points out that ‘epiphora’ is also “a medical term for excess tear production,” which can result from both comedy and tragedy. And so I have incorporated quotes from the classic Frank Capra film, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” to write a farce and an omen, reflecting perhaps something of the state of the world today.

In Melbourne one night I dreamed of you
Cold-eyed in June with summer roses hanging tough
Knew I’d meet you when the four horsemen rode
With plague and famine and war on their hooves
With plague-driven carts bouncing off their hooves.

Continue reading “Arsenic and Old Lace”

From Tree to Tree

Ribbed, malnutritioned, unhallowed eyes knuckle mine
And without turning I see in wintry desert climes
A thing to be desired above all others
A taste to consume and be consumed by
A reign of terror sublime where worms meet flesh
Of tree-fruit hung, mouth-watering pulp of initiation
Plucked, bitten off, in excess of secret concupiscence

In ravishment of the verboten, for that which I hate,
I had done, and thus doing, am undone, the unmaggoted
Fruit in its rainbow pride turning to dust and ashes
in my mouth. For I have traded a Love without price
For emaciated fruited-husks littering the fields of deceit
Yet again, an unslumbered hungering malice ever-stalking
At my heels, until out it comes, the vinegared indigestible

Bulk of it spilled vomitously, wretched retchings of a fool
Words and deeds like knives ungorged flying mercilessly
And I with unclean hands, naked in the cool of the evening
Hidden, yet sought, drawn to the hallowed treed shade where
Gratuitously, there is room for me, manna for me, Bread of life,
Water that quenches my thirst, Whose wine-dark blood
Spent in mercy divine washes over and covers me so
To walk at last in honeyed valleys and orchards free.



Song of Songs 2:3
[She]: As an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
so is my beloved among the young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

Continue reading “From Tree to Tree”

Sightings (1)

The first time I saw you I wondered
at you, a pale pink floret
in the shade of a tree

content with stray rays
of sunlight on the forest floor
a passing delight of its denizens

a woodland note of praise to your Maker
under whose gaze
you contentedly lie.

Belief (6)

no longer mine, but Thine, Father,
my will to yours aligned
through twists and turns on this dark road
sight fails where Your hand guides

these steps I climb are harder yet
than they have ever been
time spent with You in expectant prayer
seems now almost a bygone tale

in sorrows, sickness, mourning my sins
but for You, God of hope, would crush my frame
each muscle, tendon, cord of heart
Your hand weighs down on me

trusting You in whom is life
weakness in humility to bear
strength, wisdom from you to receive
all my glory in Christ alone

tho’ muttering pain speaks itself
most clearly in complaint
even then in love do You take hold
and raise me to Your throne

here where angels throng,
martyr songs remind
that whate’er we lose we find
in greater store in Christ

so speaks Your word
by Your power, a fellowship of joy
in Father’s love, the Spirit’s peace
and the limitless grace of the Son


Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Image by gabicuz from Pixabay

On Prufrock Reading His Love Song: A Palinode

Image from “Dante’s Inferno,” a video game

Grace at dVerse asks us to meet the bar by writing a palinode or palinody, “an ode or song that retracts or recants a view or sentiment to what the poet wrote in a previous poem.” She has various examples of this and I’ve chosen to follow Monica Youn’s model. Modernists like the young T.S. Eliot have always intrigued me, their loss of faith, their perceived dissolution of any moral center so that it could not “hold” (Yeats) leading to a hellish fragmentation of their psyche, the untethered remnants of a “lost generation.” Their poems nevertheless are replete with the religious symbolism of earlier ages. I thought I’d pluck a character from one of Eliot’s most famous poems (“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”) and see how he would do in a palinode.As a palate cleanser, which you may be in great need of after my clumsy fan fiction, listen to the Jeremy Irons reading of Eliot’s poem below. Click on Mr. Linky to read more dVerse palinodes and join in.

Continue reading “On Prufrock Reading His Love Song: A Palinode”

Job’s Wife

Inspired by the Georges de La Tour painting below, the following poem attempts to give an added voice to the eloquence of Tour’s work by “unmuting” Job’s wife. As a character in the Book of Job, a Gentile living during the time of the patriarchs, Job’s wife is not prominent. But, perhaps, she delivers the most bitter blow to Job. Through her, we hear the voice of Satan speaking most directly to Job when she asks,  “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). In the midst of his sufferings, I believe Job’s greatest challenge was to withstand this voice and choose to trust God.

Job Mocked by his Wife Georges de La Tour (17th c.)
“Job Mocked by his Wife,” Georges de La Tour (17th c.)

No, Job, I didn’t sign up for this.
The ships lost at sea, drowning spices
Camels marauded, flocks lit into carrion husks
Children buried by an ill-wind where they danced
And my jewels? Bartered for funeral meats

Shall I proclaim it for posterity, inscribe in stone
Your endless complaints, the hollow sounds
Of jagged grief and friends’ scorn?
Look at me! Washing our rags, hiding my shame
From the maids that I once kicked out of doors

Job, I didn’t sign up for this, my darling.
Your boils how they stink where they fester
Open wounds that run dry and break open again
The prayers that you whisper late into the night
While in the city they dance and they dine

Gentiles we are, not of Abraham’s tribe!
The God you both serve has given you hell
So leave it, I tell you; curse Him and die!
Don’t live like a fool trusting Him with your life
When a stillborn child has much better luck

I heard you this morning sing like a lark,
Of your God who will come to intercede and save
Who with your own eyes you will see at last
So you’ll wait, diseased, though you’re slain. You’re mad!

The sacrifices you offered once smoked to the sky
Yet you speak of a Redeemer as if he were a man
But, husband, what broken body, what blood can make clean
Hearts bitter with hate, hands wicked with lust?
This God that you worship is too holy, too proud
Do what I say! Curse Him and die!

I didn’t sign up for this!
Do you hear?
I didn’t sign up for this.


Job 19:19-27
All my intimate friends abhor me,
and those whom I loved have turned against me.
My bones stick to my skin and to my flesh,
and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.
Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends,
for the hand of God has touched me!
Why do you, like God, pursue me?
Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?
Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
Oh that with an iron pen and lead
they were engraved in the rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!

Roughly reworked from an earlier version for dVerse "Poetics: "Exploring the Narrative Voice," guest hosted by Ingrid. Thank you, Ingrid for a superb prompt. More dVerse poems, at Mr. Linky's.

Stay Bright, Yellow

“Stay Bright, Yellow”

Stay bright, yellow
Roughshod blue the bliss of it
Corner it free to humility
Bother the pride loose
Trill the tree-lit melodies
Emblazon green
In ragged hearts
Gush on the joy
Glory forth the holy
Genuflect the new life
Grace unspeakable
Stay bright, yellow


WhimsyGizmo at dVerse asks us to use any variation on the word "bother" to write a quadrille (a 44-word poem). Click on Mr. Linky to join in!

The Mole People

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields very kindly invites us to join the Friday Fictioneers in their weekly creative quests of a hundred words or less prompted by a photo. Click here and join in! Photo prompt © Anne Higa  

The Mole People

In the underground caves we lived the squalor that passed for life
Each of us coveting the other’s baubles, driven by transient desires
One took another’s wife, someone her neighbor’s pearl of contentment
Deceived and deceiving we lived as opulent moles in a darkness unrelenting.

We were aware of an abundant life above ground, one richer in life and meaning
We yearned to quench ourselves in the unfathomable joy of its Light pouring
Through the dim recesses of our shadowed being, but mechanically going to and fro
We multiplied our labors seeking promised pleasure in glinting mirrors of craving eyes.


Dear reader: A little background to the above poem. In reading the 20th-century philosopher René Girard, one can’t help but be struck by how the last of the Ten Commandments focuses exclusively on covetous desire, something that the second tablet of the law enumerates to a certain extent. Thou shalt not covet. Girard finds the breaking of this law to be the root of violence in every culture. Here’s how he explains his theory of mimetic desire:

In reading the tenth commandment one has the impression of being present at the intellectual process of its elaboration. To prevent people from fighting, the lawgiver seeks at first to forbid all the objects about which they ceaselessly fight, and he decides to make a list of these. However, he quickly perceives that the objects are too numerous: he cannot enumerate all of them. So he interrupts himself in the process, gives up focusing on the objects that keep changing anyway, and he turns to what never changes. Or rather, he turns to that one who is always present, the neighbor. One always desires whatever belongs to that one, the neighbor. Since the objects we should not desire and nevertheless do desire always belong to the neighbor, it is clearly the neighbor who renders them desirable. In the formulation of the prohibition, the neighbor must take the place of the objects, and indeed he does take their place in the last phrase of the sentence that prohibits no longer objects enumerated one by one but “anything that belongs to him [the neighbor].” What the tenth commandment sketches, without defining it explicitly, is a fundamental revolution in the understanding of desire. We assume that desire is objective or subjective, but in reality it rests on a third party who gives value to the objects. This third party is usually the one who is closest, the neighbor. To maintain peace between human beings, it is essential to define prohibitions in light of this extremely significant fact: our neighbor is the model for our desires. This is what I call mimetic desire.

René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, pp. 9-10. (Click on the title for more of this excerpt.)

Easter Morn

Grave clothes left behind
see death’s dominion broken
in an empty tomb

Light the air, so bright
silent glory transpiring
the King ascending


John 11: 25-26
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’”

Belief (5)

Based on the Gospel of John, chapter 9

“A man they call Jesus” he tells them
the source of his healing
he who had been born blind
sitting in the temple
day after day
begging for alms
when suddenly
one spits on the ground
makes mud, covers his eyes
sends him to wash
in the pool of Siloam
and immediately he sees
this one who had never seen before
“Where is he?” they ask him
and he can’t say until that same one
finds him, after he, now healed,
had been thrown out of the temple
for recounting the miracle, for saying,
“If this man were not from God,
he could do nothing.”
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
this man asks him. “Who is he, sir?”
the healed man wants to know. “Tell me
so that I may believe in him.”
The healer reveals himself as the one
and the man replies, “Lord, I believe,”
and worships him
he worships him!
well, wouldn’t you?
if you were blind from birth
and your eyes are opened
with a bit of spittle and dirt
and you come up out of the water
and you can see! oh God! you can see!
but not just anything, like a temple
not just anyone, like a robed priest
you can see a man they call Jesus!
Prompt from Peter Frankis of dVerse challenges us to "Meet the Bar" by "Coming full circle."

Rebirth

For the listener, who listens in the snow, And, nothing himself, beholds nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
— Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man”

There ought not to be anything but that my mind has ordered it so —

So I had been taught — for the mind is designer

Reality but the by-blow, bastard child that diminishes as I diminish

But that the Emperor of Ice-Cream has clay feet

Which stand on eternity’s threshold eyeing a feast.

There the bread and wine of Thy design

Grain and grape sweetly lies upon the tongue

To “taste and see the goodness of the LORD”

Yet nothing tasting if not sanctified by Thy Word

Blood spilled and body broken

Spoken gospel of love heard by a few

Who once nothing being are born in You

Till nothing become sons and daughters

Alive to You.

Originally posted on This Jolly Beggar.

What God Has Done

Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?
— Ecclesiastes 7:13



what God has done
a crook in your lot
can’t be set right
by human device
bent to a degree
sorely injudicious
by reason’s measure
imperfect yardsticks
we hold up to judge
what God has done

what God has done
humility to bear
a stony field
unleveled path
that curved back
that strained heart
the roof that caved
vanquished plans
deathless grief
if we dare decry
what folly to fight
when we can’t change
what God has done

what God has done
he sent his Son
to bear our sins
to pay the price
to win our peace
to lead the crooked
down a narrow way
to carry the weak
to strengthen the tired
to lead them home
on eagle’s wings
of faith and love
of hope and joy
to open blind eyes
to see, my soul,
what God has done


Job 12: 13-16
[Job speaks] “With God are wisdom and might;
he has counsel and understanding.
If he tears down, none can rebuild;
if he shuts a man in, none can open.
If he withholds the waters, they dry up;
if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land.
With him are strength and sound wisdom;
the deceived and the deceiver are his.”

Jude 24-25
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling
and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,
to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority,
before all time and now and forever.
Amen.

Romans 11: 33-36
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be glory forever.
Amen.

 

 

A Rose To You

a rose to you and you and you
dear readers that stumbled onto this page
and familiar friends who’ve long remained
through drought or storm as balmy days
faithful ones who exchange the fruits
gleaned from weedy words and pruned vines
some tangy to the taste or sweetly spiced
all enlivened with the sunlit labor of moments
transcribed to screens of dispersed bytes
to be received like petals furled and unfurled
as if a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose
when given in love

I Saw A Guillemot Fall Today

Common guillemot

I saw a guillemot fall today
off the nesting cliffs
before it caught the wind;
I saw it snatched by a seagull’s bill
fast-disappearing in its maw.
Lazarus-like it emerged again
and I caught my breath for joy,
when swept down another gull
to swallow the fledgling whole.

Nature’s mien is none too keen
on compassion for the young.
The weak it passes over lightly
as fodder for the strong.
The world smiles at peace
entraps hopeful souls
then dogs of war do feed
while songbirds chirp
and children sing
of innocence and joy.

What means this? cries the philosopher
writing down his ethics.
Why it’s nature versus nurture,
exclaims the educationist.
Oh, hollow man, feed on love,
the poet strums a tune.
The guillemot parents of a fledgling bird
hear not the empty words.
They see beyond a skeptic’s sight
to an ordaining hand, and flying easy
from an empty nest, they’ll return again in spring.

Oh God, who takes away and gives,
our wounded hearts you see!
O give us strength to bear the pain
and rest in faith again.
Our grief we give to you once more
and pray our sight you’ll clear
to see the hope of eternal days
when tears no more we’ll fear.


Job 12: 7-10
[Job speaks] “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of all mankind.”

 

 

Seeing Christmas Light

I stand at the well at the desert’s end
the camels noisy at the trough
there’s the star blazing above me
the night sky distraught with light.
I, looking down as into a mirror,
drawn to the abyss below.

The star grows preternaturally, soundless
my cries echo it close, spilling embittered tears,
so might the well’s bounds overflow,
now the journey has been for nothing
my hopes and fears for naught.

This cankered sore that my heart is
this cauled face, disfigured husk,
what the worldly-wise has given birth to,
I sag to my knees and howl:
there is no sorrow as impenetrable
as knowing the road you’ve followed
in the end was all a mirage.

Even as death hangs o’er me
an eternal vision belies it;
alone I stand under starlight
alone I gaze at the night
this wanderer as foolish as a beast
wondering that the yawning darkness
had not overtaken the light.

If birth is but a prelude to death
what if death is the prelude to life?
Here, across trackless sands following
a star as bright as the morning shines
to watch over me in the night;
bemused I lift my eyes up
to see a distant rise,
there to see a babe born
who set the star in the skies.

Recrudescence

Slim, liminal, posterns of light
these words given and received
outskirting impossibilities
and health-riven cheek-jowling pain
absenting gormless vacuity,
Jude not Judas, thirty pieces of silver
husbandry of waterless clouds
but faith’s Canaan vine-laden
Jerusalem’s milk
unfathomable peace
Cross-borne recrudescence
and a Kingdom come.

dVerse's Quadrille #116: "possible," 44 words
Click on Mr. Linky for more quadrilles

Journey (2)

Image credit; Evan Clark@ Unsplash

Journey

water still
log submerged
balanced feet
journey of the mind

what do you see,
what do you understand?
“to reach the shore
keep your eyes on land”

feet submerged
the sky above
you whisper, what now
as your heart gives out

from misty shore
a Voice calls out
“to walk on water
you can’t look down”

can faith hold firm
Who do you trust?
what your eyes can’t see
is what bears you up