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.

En Pointe

Sarah of dVerse asks us to choose a poem we’ve read over the last year and write a response to it in conversation, as it were, with its preoccupations. I’ve chosen John Updike’s “Fine Point,” written just weeks before his death in January 2009. His consciousness of our tainted public and personal history, and faith’s endurance as he alludes to Psalm 23, is what engages me most. And so my response, “En Pointe.”

En Pointe

What divinity is this that tempers our clay

with hammers of wrath expended on temple,

church, in our uneasy play with pagan tunes

of lust? Even as we covet our neighbor’s lamb

we would sing tuneful papyrus songs in our Babylon

with lyres hung under willows, calling out as children

“Abba, Father,” knowing we are heard by the Name

of One who bore the curse of our sinful rebellions.

O Son of David, thou whose lips have tendered infinity –

“It is finished” mercy and justice united blood

spilled and body spent on the cross so that Surely—

yes, “surely”— and all the days of my life wilt thou

pursue not merely “follow”— poor substitute

for the ancient tongue which reaches out in mercy

as unbounded as a lover’s song of songs to me

now to dwell in the house of the Lord, forever. Selah.

Wingless Phoenix in Wal-Mart

360px-Mosaïque_Phénix_01

A wingless phoenix in Wal-Mart
By Special K and Quaker Oats
Stands mid-aisle, stock still, face pinched.
His eyes shift blank and stare
At a nightmare in the lightning flashes of his brain
Even with the doctor’s little pills, Franken-Berry,
Untethered chemistry, synaptic discord
A conflagration he could barely control
Or it would blaze into fiery immolation

As it was doing now
Had done a thousand times before
But for the clenched claws
Would knock down the hazy stupor of the day
Into wide Tartarus.

Storm-flash gone, he lifts his hand
Past packaged heads, past canned voices
Past paranoia, past schizophrenia
For the Lucky Charms
Broken bits of childhood psalms
Crayon memories
Of a Man walking on water
Leading him home
A child of God by name.


Nota Bene (June 10, 2021):

I wrote this poem some time ago but it remains my favorite, not least because it deals with a subject close to my heart: children and adults who deal with various forms of mental illness ranging from autism to schizophrenia. If you yourself or someone close to you suffers in such a way, you know that life is a daily obstacle course in ways we can barely understand. This poem is dedicated to them and those who care for them. May God’s grace be their strength and their stay.