“The World in a Drop of Rain.”

I wrote this one this evening, in response to world events. I hope you like it. 🙂


The World in a Drop of Rain

I sit here, in my slowly lowering chair,

And dream of summer, with all its sultry Sixties grooves.

The bitter winds and slush all fall away,

Leaving me with the world in a drop of rain,

And verdant dreams as green as grass in June.

 

Why do the nations rage, like winter winds,

Still howling threats of thermonuclear war?

Why do we bluster, in our nagging fear and pain,

And hound each other with the threat of force?

A great stone wall, a guarded parapet,

Can keep hate out, but still locks stern fear in,

And fear makes everyone a prisoner.

We amble all around the prism, staring out,

And watch our fears reflected in the glass.

We check ourselves with prejudice and pride.

 

Unless all countries come from the same muck—

And rest assured, they do—no one’s a shithole,

And we cannot cast our stones so easily,

Because we sit inside the prism fear.

We all come from the same dark, ancient dust,

The same primordial plasm beneath an African sun…

One mote of dust cannot judge another,

And we can’t see each other for the specks

Of hurt and hatred lodged within each eye.

 

I mean, the world’s too cold and dark to throw more shade;

Each gentle word’s a soft, subtle, solar ray,

And every smile’s alight with possibility:

We reach across the aisle to join our hands;

We knead the dough, and cut the peppers up,

And toss them in the scarlet aromatic sauce.

We snap the beans, and husk the waiting corn,

And break the bows, and shatter all the spears.

We follow all the errant shooting stars

Along their splendid cosmic arc of love.

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“The Archer’s Kiss.”

I wrote this on New Year’s Eve. It’s deliberately allusive, rather than pointed. I hope you like it! 🙂


The Archer’s Kiss

I’m past the drama of the firefight.

I ponder moonlight and the sullied, greyish snow.

My fearful thoughts, like flunkies, careen from left to right;

Some keep their peace, and some will see the light.

No matter where I turn, my fury starts to grow.

 

Even in my rage and reticence, I dream,

And all my dreams involve a sort of fear;

I mop and vacuum till the floors all gleam,

And mount the chin-up bar to let off steam,

But everything is slowly coming clear.

 

What is my fear? I fear the quiet most of all,

The silence that still echoes through each room.

Each book and picture from before the fall

Speaks to the whisper’s dreadful, aching, thoughtless pall;

These memories fill me with sorrow, angst, and gloom.

 

I hear unspoken words, and mouth unanswered prayers,

Still sitting at the table in my grief.

Each spotless dish reflects a world of cares.

Each sitcom’s a reminder. No one shares

My pain. The world can give us no relief.

 

And yet, I cry in pain, and you still hear my cries.

You take my calls; you fill my life with song.

You help me dry my failing, tear-filled eyes,

And offer me both wonder and surprise.

You help me to redress the ancient wrong.

 

What can I do, and who should I now be,

To quell my aging fear, and glimpse again the bliss

That filled me with June’s sunlight, pure and free?

The moonlight, and my memories, sing to me,

And offer me Apollo’s lingering kiss.

 

His soft quicksilver lips fill me with light,

And clear the clouds of doubt and rage away.

His kisses warm me on this winter night,

And help me know my suffering aright…

And thus, December is a summer’s day.

 

The archer’s kiss fills me with soft, poetic peace,

Surrounding me, just like December snow.

My thoughts of grief and sorrow crowd, then cease,

As wine and music give my seraph soul release.

Now I’m unsure, but someday soon I’ll know.

“The Climate of Conversation.”

On Monday afternoon, I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation, and am now a doctor of theology! I’m a bit confused about that, going forward, but it feels important. 🙂

I sort of came to view my thesis as self-talk, the kind of motivational discourse with myself that empowers me to act in the world. When this poem talks about language, that’s what it’s talking about. I hope you like this. 🙂


The Climate of Conversation

It’s difficult to learn to live again,

To dwell within the silence as a friend.

I poured my grief and joy into a conversation,

Into a mode of discourse with myself

Where I embrace the Word that shapes my life.

 

What is that Word, still hanging on my lips?

Can I not now record it for the world to hear?

How does it sound? Is it a Hebrew phrase,

A lyrical line, like laughter in the wind?

Or is it Scots Gaelic, roughened with a burr?

What language holds the word of ontic power?

 

I can’t be sure if earthly language holds the key

To all the power that I unlocked yesterday.

That doesn’t really matter; I think the point

Lies in the dialogue of sheer delight,

The discourse that lays claim to all my flesh.

My body’s captivated by the holy word,

Enjoined to sing in its discursive chains.

 

Where can I find the joy of conversation?

I find it on the iron chin-up bar

Where my synapses talk to each other,

Sending soft messages of strength and love;

I find it in a raucous Springsteen song,

And in the gentle groove of Sixties soul…

I find it in the touch of loving hands,

And in a slowly-steeping cup of tea.

 

What is the end of dialogue? So what?

I think the point is living, growing action.

We do not simply speak of love and hate,

But live them out in gardens and dark hotel rooms.

The dogged seeds of love will bloom, with time,

Into the joyful flowers and foods of generous hearts,

While anything that grows in cold and callous climes

Will wither with the coming of the sun.

 

The someday of our love is not far off,

Though nascent hatreds stoke our latent fears,

And fierce floods strip Houston of security.

It’s just beyond the threshold; through the clouds,

We’ll see it in the fiery setting sun.

“Navigator: an Elegy for Gord Downie.”

On Tuesday night, Gordon Edgar Downie died. Gord was the lead singer of the Tragically Hip, Canada’s house band; he had had a severe form of brain cancer; he was fifty-three. The Hip’s lyrics and music changed my life, so I had to respond.

So, I won’t tell you “what the poets are doing, on the street in the epitome of Vague; I won’t tell you how the universe gets altered when you find out how he gets paid…”

Instead, I will tell you this: yesterday afternoon, I grieved for Gord Downie, who–more than any other music icon, Bono excepted–contributed to my formation as a person, by both helping me to deal with anger and sadness, and empowering me to embrace my true self.

I hope you like this.

Navigator: an Elegy for Gord Downie

I want to thank you for the things you said.
They saved my life each night for ten long years;
They spoke to me in valleys and on hills.
From you, I learned to tame the holy fire
Of anger, to turn it into reasoned righteousness.
I’m thirty-three, and I have kissed a woman,
And your words partly helped me take that step.
Moreover, Bono need not sing a broken elegy
To lay my lifeless body to rest on the East Coast,
Because you helped me to know and love myself.

You helped me hear the poetry of city streets,
To find my way in Riverdale, at busy Yonge and Bloor,
On Ward’s Island in the smiling sun of July.
You helped me hear the songs in seaborne silence, too;
In Charlottetown and blessed Summerside, your poems
Helped me to count the stones. You built my heart
Anew, so that the thin glass wall
Between me and the yearning of the world
Lay shattered, next to endless cups of tea.

You built a pigeon camera for our lives;
You carefully crafted the lens of Stanley Cups
And years of pent-up hockey songs
And quiet smells of coffee. You trained
Your careful lens on us throughout your life,
Empowering us to feel our grief and joy
Through endless rants and stark, dark dervish wails.
You broke down all the forests of Kadesh;
You clear-cut them with riffs of bright guitar.
You dragged them off to build a stately house for us,
So spacious it could harbour a whole nation
Amidst the storms of sorrow and of rage.

Thanks, man. And no, you never let us down.
The only disappointment lies with us,
Because we didn’t listen carefully enough.
Your baritone’s still necessary to guide our ship,
To sing us to a higher, joyous state
Where all those in our home on native land
Will live in equity, in heart and hand.

 

“Walking Through the Door.”

This one too is for the Jeremiah Community. It’s a little more sedate; I wrote it this evening. Enjoy!


Walking Through the Door

I walk up to the gate, and touch its base;

I feel the jasper buried in the wood.

I touch the secret signs time can’t erase,

The ageless sigils of the true and good.

Each ancient letter is a memory,

And every verdant mark a holy sign.

The door proclaims its own integrity,

And, as I walk through it, it calls for mine.

I taste soft roti, and I smell the bread;

I hold my friends’ sweet hands, and taste the wine;

In song and teaching, sacred words are said,

And all our actions glow with light divine,

For we are lit by Justice’s sweet flame,

And give to gentle Love both form and name.

“Wild Raspberries.”

I wrote this one last night, as I was feeling sad about the changes in my church community. I hope you appreciate it.


Wild Raspberries

The blue sky’s empty, and the world contains no sound.

The beauty of the day courses through me like water,

And leaves me drifting on the river Memory.

I see the children playing in the park, years ago;

I see my friend in her bright bandana on the rock,

Sitting more silently than summer stars above the bay.

I shut my eyes against my silver tears,

Still feeling all the ecstasy of embrace cloaked in candlelight’s soft glow,

And the flame of righteousness still lit by wine and bread.

 

Some days, I can only sit in silence and cry,

Feeling the loss of gentle hands, the forgetfulness of eyes,

The death of every Parkdale roti shop.

My faithful friend who calls me every week,

My loved ones who will buy a pint of Wellington,

Can share, but cannot grasp, my agony.

I lapse into the stillness of a tree

Stripped bare of all its gold and scarlet leaves;

I know the silence born of mournful prayer.

 

Some days, the world’s still bright and sharp and clear;

I whistle as I walk on sunlit streets,

And feel the eros of existence in the sun.

I’ll buy a cup of coffee, and I’ll smile,

And sing Steve Bell’s sweet Sanctus to myself

To bless a meal of pasta, cheese, and wine.

Some days, the aching world is not so hard.

 

How can I vacillate between these poles?

These memories are wild raspberries:

They taste so sweet upon the waiting tongue,

But soon dissolve in bitterness and woe.

The sorrow blends so sweetly into tenderness,

Into a longing for the meals we had,

The soon-abandoned games of Scrabble, and the raucous songs

We drilled into our group’s long memory.

The woe still turns to laughing, leaping joy

When all the mustard-seeds we planted here

Spring up like blessed rosebuds and vines.

We do not build, or work, or walk, alone,

But feel the acrid sweetness born again

Each time we eat out at the Skyline, or

Each time we sing our yearning Taize songs.

 

The seeds of Love will live forever now,

Though every street and alleyway should change and fall away,

Though all our sorrows drown in amber ale.

Our paths still meet in song, in soup, in silent prayer.

We go out weeping, but our constant memories

Still bring us harvests of the fruits of joy.

“October 1, 2017: Prayers for the Jeremiah Community.”

I wrote these prayers for the last Sunday afternoon service of the Jeremiah Community, for the time being anyway. We’re changing formats. Writing these made me feel sad. I hope that you appreciate them nonetheless.


Let’s pray! I’m going to offer some specific intercessions, and leave some space for you to pray aloud if you want to. When you hear me say, Lord, in your mercy, I invite your response, hear our prayer!

            Dear God,

God who draws water from the stone,

We pray to you.

We thank you for your faithfulness to us,

Especially through your son Jesus,

And we place our trust in him.

We thank you also for our other blessings:

For sun and steady growth,

For wind and rain,

For friendship and song, we give you thanks.

At this time, in our hearts or aloud,

We thank you for your other blessings.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer!

God who leads us with fire and cloud,

We pray that your love and justice

Would be a beacon in these confusing and troubled times.

We pray for refugees across the globe;

We cry out against fascism in all its forms;

And we pray steadfastly for all those whose lives are ravaged

By hurricanes and wildfires, and made worse by climate change.

At this moment, in silence or in speech, we pray for other global concerns.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer!

Good Lord who comes to us in humble flesh,

We pray for our country of Canada.

We ask for the grace to be kind to our environment;

We grieve the slowness of true equity for our First Nations siblings;

And we ask that you would help us to fix our broken immigration system.

At this time, in our hearts or aloud,

We pray for other issues here in Canada.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer!

God who calls us to faithful service,

We thank you that we do not walk alone.

We pray at this time for our communities and loved ones:

Be with us here in Jeremiah as we change, and bless us.

Bring your love also to the Dale, Epiphany and St. Mark,

And to other faithful communities in Toronto.

Be with those we love, in sorrow and in joy,

And help us to be with them too.

In silence or in speech, we now pray for our loved ones.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer!

Good Lord who is at work in us,

Be at work in us still.

We offer you all we have been this week,

All that we are in this moment,

And all that we shall be.

In our hearts or aloud, we pray now for ourselves.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer!

We pray all these things in your name, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.

Amen!