“Weeping Sky.”

This is resistance, take two. I hope you like it…but even more, I hope you can reach out to others with greater empathy after you read it.

I owe the phrase “power-mongers” to singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn, and I adapted the phrase “red calamity” from a line in Tennyson’s “In Memoriam A.H.H.”


Weeping Sky: a Sonnet in Protest against the Passage of the A.H.C.A. in May 2017

The shadows elongate, and fill my heart;

They press their leaden weights upon my chest.

The terror tears my every thought apart,

And fills me with a violent unrest.

A racist, ableist, sexist health-care law

Deprives good people of their dignity,

While power-mongers trade in shock and awe

And feed their souls with red calamity.

I pause for breath. Despite the weeping sky,

And gloomy news that makes me feel dismayed,

I’ll face grim chaos with an open eye,

And let no thieving thugs make me afraid.

I pray for equity, and won’t relent.

From Trump’s new health-care bill, I here dissent.

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“An Outcry for Outcasts: a Meditation on Donald Trump’s Executive Order Restricting Refugees in January 2017.”

On January 21st, 2017, I wrote:

Although a fascist reigns in Washington,

And Earth is steeped in hate and bigotry,

We’ll march until the chains all come undone,

And everyone—all humankind—is free.

All right. Freedom is a good end-goal, but what about now? How do I deal with the INCONTROVERTIBLE FACT that Donald Trump has just banned refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries entry into the States for months?!

  1. Access is a human right. ACCESS IS A HUMAN RIGHT!
  2. He’s certainly angered clerics and laypeople all over the Middle East…which does the multiple peace-processes there no favours…
  3. He would remove people like Ali Khoshbakhti Vayeghan, an Iranian nearly returned to Iran by way of Dubai, from places where, nominally, they can be SAFE.

Let’s back up. Let me be perfectly clear. If access is a human right, and if everybody—EVERY FUCKING BODY—has an inalienable right to life, liberty, and human flourishing…

Then Trump’s order banning refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries is IMMORAL as well as illegal. Detaining, deporting, and violating innocent human bodies is WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!

The order is immoral because it violates Matthew 25:35, just as a friend pointed out indirectly the other day. In that verse, Jesus asserts, “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me…I was in prison, and you visited me.” ALL HUMAN BEINGS NEED WELCOME, because when we welcome each other we grow together, and we increase the possibility for flourishing for ALL…but no. Mr. Trump would cast people he doesn’t even know into regions of possible and unspeakable terror and pain. Holy fuck…I can hardly breathe.

Trump also ignores, and therefore violates, Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22: “When the alien resides with you, you shall not oppress the alien…” Oh, AND Numbers 9:14 and 15:15-16: “You shall have one statute for the resident alien and the native.” Trump doesn’t have one law. He has two. Heaven help us, he likely has many laws…which, of course, reminds me of Tacitus. “The more corrupt a nation is, the more laws it has.” And absolute power corrupts, absolutely…

Okay. What can I do? How do I resist Trump’s executive order from here?

  1. I can—and I do!—affirm the dignity of my neighbours who are Muslim, and I signal-boost them whenever I can!
  2. I also scour the Qu’ran for material on hospitality.
  3. I breathe deeply, and promise myself to begin (anew?) each day to treat people with dignity.
  4. I celebrate the achievements of Muslims and persons of colour. In the former case, these include architectural concepts, Arabic numerals and algebra, and (some) literacy…oh, look, coffee. Apparently, coffee comes from Ethiopia and/or Yemen. Did Trump forget?
  5. I cry out every time I hear of Muslims being killed.
  6. I complain every time, every time, I hear of our media misrepresenting Muslims or people of colour.
  7. I will pray with, as well as for, my Muslim siblings.
  8. I will read Rumi, and possibly Gibran.
  9. I will continue to listen to R&B, rock and roll, and soul…and I will expand my palette of sonic inspiration to Middle Eastern music.
  10. I will report to my brothers and sisters of colour that I am a person of safety.
  11. I will join in solidarity with those affected by the mosque-shooting in Quebec in January 2017.

That won’t be enough, but I know I can do those things…and with all these measures, I can take small steps to END THE BIGOTRY against embodied difference represented by this hateful order.

Ready, steady…go.

 

“Prayers for Wine Before Breakfast: October 13th, 2015.”

I wrote these prayers for Wine Before Breakfast at the University of Toronto on October 13th, this Tuesday. My text was Luke 4:16-30.

I hope you like them! 🙂

One: Jesus, you say that no prophet is accepted in his or her hometown.

Many: Come ON, Jesus. Do for us what you did in Capernaum!

One: We stand astonished, and sometimes angry, at your healing and teaching.

You turn the world upside-down.

Sometimes we want to throw you off a cliff!

Many: Jesus, we don’t always know who you are.

One: You see through our small-mindedness, our prejudice;

You can cure us of our rage and our fear.

Many: Release us from our captivity!

Release us from our anger, fear, sadness, and shame.

One: Free us so that we can serve the world you’ve come to save.

Give us the grace to pray, and to act, for our world.

Many: Anoint us

One: To reach out to Syrian refugees, and displaced people everywhere;

Many: Anoint us

One: To join in solidarity with our First Nations brothers and sisters;

Many: Anoint us

One: To go out and clean up the Earth, the seas, and the air.

<silent and spoken prayers of justice for the world>

One: As you have freed us, Jesus, help us to free others in our communities.

Many: Help us to proclaim release

One: To people debilitated by illness, injury, loneliness, and despair;

Many: Help us to proclaim release

One: To all those who suffer from poverty and financial hardship;

Many: Help us to proclaim release

One: To those made prisoners of addiction, shame, and fear.

<silent and spoken prayers for our loved ones>

One: You come, Jesus, to heal and free us.

We all have dreams and moments of despair;

We all have faith and fear;

We all carry pain and promise.

We offer all those things to you now.

<silent and spoken prayers for ourselves>

One: Come with your power and your love, Jesus;

Come, and set us free.

“You Are the Flame.”

Last night, I felt inspired to write a hymn. Here’s a draft of the text. 🙂 I hope you like it!

You Are the Flame

You are the flame that warms the barren soul;

You are the tender breath of love and grace.

You are the living earth, serene and whole;

The saints, immersed in love, will see your face.

The fire of your justice fills us now,

Renews our hearts with creativity.

Oh Lover, tend our embers. Show us how

To listen for your Reign that’s still to be.

You tend the earth, and prune our fragile vines;

You coax our fainting trees to bear their fruit.

Sweet Vintner, pour your wine into our skins

And make our gardens flourish, stem and root.

You breathe upon this blue and blessed globe,

And race along the pathways of the storm!

Wind-Spirit, clothe us in your airy robe

And give our deep desires loving form!

Eternal Three-in-One, we praise your Name.

Give us the grace to see your justice flower.

Come down to earth and water, wind and flame,

And fill this living world with love and power.

“A Windswept Peace”: version 2.0 :)

Let’s try this again…here’s the heavily-edited version!

A Windswept Peace

I must address the voices that I hear:

They tell me that I’m fucked up, that I’m wrong.

They shout my doubt, and whisper in my fear,

That I am neither smart, nor brave, nor strong.

 

I cannot flee my anger or self-hate;

Instead, I’ll try to counter every lie.

I’ll face despair, or sink beneath its weight.

I must say who I am. Well, who am I?

 

I am a poet, and I sing the Sun:

I sing in Latin, and I scream my pain.

I walk between the Many and the One;

I find my truths by walking in the rain.

 

I am the bard of bombs and sarin gas;

I am the sage of sunflower, and of sea.

I stop Time, and I will not let it pass;

I am a vintner of the Mystery.

 

I am the priest of humour, and of rage:

I limp below the concrete and the steel.

I break my body on the azure stage,

And listen for the choirs that sing the Real.

 

I am the priest of honour and of shame.

I dance on tables filled with verdant grace.

I ask the questions that we dread to name;

I laugh with rainbows, and I mark their place.

 

I’m the cryptographer of lonely souls;

I can decode the language of the sky.

I see the gaps, and fill in all the holes.

I know the blue-jay’s call, the pigeon’s cry.

 

I break the codes of silence and of grief;

I unlock ancient tongues, and say their names.

I grasp your hand to give you my relief.

I hear the songs of ebb-tides, and of flames.

 

I am a lover of long cups of tea;

I love to lift a weight, and run a mile.

I love to read beneath a maple-tree.

I love a firm handshake, a brilliant smile.

 

I am a lover of some forms of dance;

I love to sing beside a June campfire.

I love the gentle touch, the longing glance.

I love to feel the thrill of pure desire.

 

I love myself; I love my body, too.

My litany can silence all the cries

Of voices that would block the real, the true;

Of hatreds, fears, and doubts, and vicious lies.

 

With every word, I feel myself more whole;

I know my mission and identity.

A windswept peace pervades my harried soul;

And then, for Love and Justice, I am free.

“A Windswept Peace”: a poem, with commentary.

Yesterday I went to a grant-writing proposal workshop, and was filled with fear and doubt–as I usually am–at the prospect of winning (or, more to the point, not winning) sums of money for my academic work. “How is my research worth anything,” I wondered, “if I haven’t yet won this award?”

I shared my fear and doubt with a few people at the workshop, who sympathized. Then I told some of my friends about it…and one of them encouraged me directly to write a response to the self-critical voices that I hear in my head.

I did so! My response to my self-doubt is below. As I wrote it, I realized that I am fucking sick of listening to the lies that I’ve constantly told myself (trust me, that’s not the first time I’ve ever had that thought!). And I want to listen–and am currently listening–to the kind and true voices, the ones that lift me up…the ones that help me to love  myself.

<deep breath>

Here goes. I hope you like it!

A Windswept Peace

 

I must address the voices that I hear:

They shout my doubt, and whisper in my fear.

They tell me that I’m fucked up, that I’m wrong;

That I am neither smart, nor brave, nor strong.

 

I cannot flee my anger, or self-hate;

I’ll face them, or be crushed beneath their weight.

To do that, I must counter every lie.

I’ll tell them who I am. Well, who am I?

 

I am a poet, and I sing the Sun;

I walk between the Many and the One.

I sing in Latin, and I scream my pain;

I find my truths by walking in the rain.

 

I am the bard of bombs and sarin gas;

I stop Time, and I will not let it pass.

I am the sage of sunflower, and of sea;

I am a vintner of the Mystery.

 

I am the priest of humour, and of rage:

I break my body on the azure stage.

I limp below the concrete and the steel,

And listen for the choirs that sing the Real.

 

I am the priest of honour and of shame:

I ask the questions that we dread to name.

I dance on tables filled with verdant grace.

I laugh with rainbows, and I mark their place.

 

I’m the cryptographer of lonely souls;

I see the gaps, and fill in all the holes.

I can decode the language of the sky;

I know the blue-jay’s call, the pigeon’s cry.

 

I break the codes of silence and of grief;

I reach out, and would give you my relief.

I unlock ancient tongues, and say their names.

I see the mirth in Roman soldiers’ games.

 

I am a lover of long cups of tea;

I love to read beneath a spreading tree.

I love to lift a weight, and run a mile.

I love a firm handshake, a brilliant smile.

 

I am a lover of some forms of dance;

I love the gentle touch, the longing glance.

I love to sing beside a June campfire;

I love to feel the thrill of pure desire.

 

I love myself; I love my body too.

These words are small, and yet…I know they’re true.

My litany can silence all the cries

Of hatreds, fears, and doubts, and vicious lies.

 

With every word, I feel myself more whole;

A windswept peace pervades my harried soul.

I know my mission and identity,

And so, for Love and Justice, I am free.