Something Else

I sent you the link to the rare Mary Oliver

Interview in hopes her wild voice and

Silky words would inspire you to write.

I knew she’d wooed your mind when

You began texting me quote after quote

You’d copied down, this one your favorite -

I SAW WHAT LOVE MIGHT HAVE DONE

IF WE HAD LOVED IN TIME.

But you never sent the one I hoped

You’d hear and pause to consider -

WHEN THE MORTAL DIES

IT WILL BECOME SOMETHING ELSE -

For that is the line the poet spoke that

Made me think of you.

 

Now that you’re gone my grownup thoughts wrestle with

Exactly what that something else is that you’ve become.

While off to the side the faith I held as a child

Holds that You’re now a part of everything from

The warmth of the winter sun to

The unself-conscious laughter of children to

The fragrance of lilac blooms in June.

For in death you were swept up into him

And since he holds all things then it’s not a stretch

At all to say you’re now a part of the grand show.

Mary Oliver would say you’re EVIDENCE OF THE CONTINUANCE.

But Kara Tippetts would grin wide and say Oh, Mary,

After death there is something else.

There is everything else. There is Jesus.

 

P.S. – You’ll have to forgive us if we have days or weeks where

We are unlikeable in our grief. This is only because we liked you so very much.

Death may have lost its sting, but it still burns.

And we press on here in the strange beauty of sadness.

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This World’s Work

Calm yourself. Listen.
What you’ll hear is the sound
of a world you did not make
but have been invited to join.
If you hear innocence then
you’re still not listening for
this is not an innocent place.
But once you hear the singing
of underground miners picking
toward the prize then you know
you’re on the right track for
there is work to be done, hard,
filthy, oh-my-aching-back labor
to find the veins of hope and
then carry it to the surface.
This has long been this world’s
honorable vocation, the work
that both satisfies and sustains.
 
 
 
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Those of the Broken Cross

He raised his hand to make
the sign of the cross
but after touching his forehead
his hand fell limp.
No breastbone, no left shoulder then right.
He was too weak.
He died later that day.
This had a profound effect upon
the young priest,
this passing of his father
in weakness.
 
At first it was awkward.
It felt unfinished, the hand wanted more.
But as time passed, which it always does,
the movement gained ease
by both priest and people.
They were referred to by others as
“those of the broken cross”
- a phrase of derision.
But for them it became
formative, an outward sign
of their inner dependence.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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The Lovely Things

A little money was put aside
now and then. Not for children
or wife or the future. Just for me.
My goal was to pool enough to
purchase a costly watch, the kind
you buy once and wear until you
die then pass to one who lives on.
This extravagance would be far
beyond what may have rounded
the wrists of the dairy farmers and
mill workers in my family’s tree.
As expected their voices spoke loud
like the disciples who felt the alabaster
could be sold for much and given
to the poor. But then another voice,
my mother’s, spoke and shushed them.
“Stop bothering him for pete’s sake.
He is my beloved son, and our lives
pass much too fast. A few lovely things
should mark our mortal time.”
 
 
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Examen

Forget everyone else.
Consider yourself.
Gather up all your leftovers.
Your baskets full of
should-have-been.
Bring them to a still place
late on a clear day.
Give thanks for it all.
You will feel like a fool
and you may well be.
Give it anyway.
You will leave dissatisfied.
But you will have witnessed
the multiplication of the stars.
This is not a miracle.
Yet it might be enough.
 
 
 
 
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Twenty-one Sons

An angel was there with a wicker creel to collect the heads.
He was told there would be a number but twenty-one sons
was more than a number. The angel was tempted to drop
 
his creel and draw his sword and save every mother’s love.
But he had his orders. He stayed his hand. The vengeance
was not his to take, just the heads. He stood at attention as
 
“Ya Rabbi Yasou” spilled from their gutted throats but could
not tell if what he heard was faith or fear. Probably both.
By the time he finished his task his arms and wings were
 
ruined red. He had heard the blood of the martyrs is the
seeds of the church. How anemic. He believed the blood of those
sons further filled the cup of foaming wine, fueling the fury.
 
 
 
 
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After the Ashes

All we Baptists knew was that Lent
was some misspelling of  what you
pulled out of the dryer so your clothes
would get good and dry. But while we
may not have known the letter of liturgy
we possessed its spirit for about this time
every year we’d begin to stay late after
mid-week prayer meeting to rehearse
spring’s special – the Easter cantata.
That was our giving up, our fasting from
time spent on whatever it was we usually
did on Wednesday nights after church.
As Baptists we believed revelation comes
hard so we memorized songs and narration
as penance to tell our town of the wonder
working power in the blood of the lamb.
Finally our practice would be made almost
perfect as Easter broke and our robed voices
would bloom with the poetry of good news.
But truly, such joy came only after the ashes.
 
 
 
 
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