Forgiven

The-crucifixion-Pietro Lorenzetti-1340s

The Crucifixion, Pietro Lorenzetti, 1340s

Poem for Good Friday

I wondered at another’s strength,
begrudged her victory despite the cost,
and was ashamed of being not as strong.

I contemplated Jesus on the cross
while I forgot the resurrection
and the lessons: gratitude, compassion;
and I walked away from grace, ashamed
of clinging to my body and not
making of it such an offering.

I shunned companionship, ashamed
of wanting it—a friend, an intimate
would be too soft a pillow for a
head that ought to bear a crown
of thorns instead—and with such cruel
thoughts, in solitude, I clawed my spirit
even as I prayed for God to spare me
suffering and loss

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Sweet Celebration

Jan_van_Eyck_-_The_Ghent_Altarpiece_-_Singing_Angels_1427-1429

The Ghent Altarpiece: Singing Angels, Jan Van Eyck, c. 1427-1429

Hymn for the Forty-Third Day of Lent

Somewhere, somehow,
even now in the universe,
all is joy; all is peace;
all is well.

Show me the place where
the stars celebrate thee;
thine angels and saints dwell
in harmony there.

Prayer is the doorway;
love is the key to the
place where Creation
rejoices in thee.

We must be near, for
the music I hear
is a sweet celebration
in praise of thee.

All of Creation sings,
“All is joy; all is peace;
“all is sweet harmony;
“all is well;
“all is well, indeed.”

Amen.

 

Safely to the Shore

Duccio di Buoninsegna The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew 1308-1311

Calling of the Apostles Simon and Andrew, Duccio Di Buoninsegna, 1308-1311

Prayer for the Forty-Second Day of Lent

God who made us and sustains us— God, immortal and mysterious— when we are ungrateful, even our complaints are manifest of sweet abundance: air and water; bread and butter; shelter from the cold; and your embrace when we surrender deep in prayer—as babies, weary even of exploring all the wonders of the world, its lights and colors, sounds and textures, burrow into Mother’s shoulder, fearless in her equanimity.

Yet we fancy ourselves victims of ungentle circumstance. A small annoyance, not attended to, becomes infected. Swollen, red, and tender to the touch, it spreads to the extremities, and farther— others suffer the contagion. Thus can friends on Saturday be enemies on Sunday, and, by Monday, legion.

Gratitude does not require the sky to be forever blue, or that the sun appear at every moment we consider opportune. Not every day is halcyon, not every month is June, and there are bitter winds that penetrate each layer of protection, entering through skin and bone to pierce the heart. Small comfort then to know that even when the sun’s invisible behind the storm or hidden by the circle of the Earth, it shines as bright and will be visible precisely when it ought to be. Small comfort too are food and shelter — even friends, if friends remain (we might have driven them away). A few are stubborn: let them in, for they can rub our feet and startle languid faculties awake — the ones that sense not heat or cold but grace.

We are not patient, though, no matter that we’ve had our share of warm, fair days and peaceful nights. We hear the thunder of a distant storm; we witness human cruelty, we wonder at the blind impartiality of nature, and we are bewildered at the magnitude of evil, at the unpredictable caprice of fate, or doom. Disaster may be out of sight but looms in some malicious posture, poised to strike when least expected. So we watch and worry, like a sentry whose antagonist has neither form nor name; and we neglect whatever bounty has accrued in our distraction. We forget to feast. We lack the energy and appetite for our accustomed satisfaction. Those who suffer and survive have told us they were somehow more alive than when the breezes were benevolent and calm. They learned to be astonished that amid catastrophe and cataclysm, life goes on.

You have warned us to be leery of the sleek vocabulary of the merchants of salvation. When they speak, their words are vacant. When they pray, their prayers are memorized and animated, artful, eloquent, and uninspired. Their lines are well rehearsed, but had they truly died and been redeemed, their phrases would reflect (it seems to me, and I have been there) something of the grave; not so articulate—there are no words; would be forever fresh, a quiet wonder— if they had been saved. If one has been to the abyss and fallen in, then one is humble, having little need to understand, no reason to pontificate… but rather one is moved to celebrate the mystery and to be newly grateful, day by day by day.

Having suffered condemnation, having been appraised and come up short, and having then been lifted and embraced — one cannot judge, cannot condemn. The court has been adjourned and all the prisoners released. We have no jurisdiction; it is not our place to round the sinners up and put them back again. Our duty, then, is light and brings us joy: To know as friend a stranger, one who will, like each of us, be tried; and one thing more: To gratefully remember how the tide that swept us out to sea — when we, in mortal danger, cried out, “Save me!”— pulled us gently to the shore.

Amen.

 

Sigh from a Lady Robin

robin-female-wikipedia

Poem for the Thirty-Third Day of Lent

It seemed a small, inconsequential ripple on the
surface of an ordinary day; a causeless wind
had risen from a placid bit of sky, dislodging a
mimosa stem distinctive for its pinkish silkiness
and scarcity—the only blossom of its kind for
acres upon miles and recognizable by rows of
arches bearing tiny, oval leaves in pairs,
unanimated partners in an English country
dance; the petals too are unremarkable at first,
too pale to draw the eye, and circular, like
almost-white confetti.

Then I wondered why I noticed it at all, this
inconspicuous, lopsided, faintly aromatic bit of
tree, though, inattentive as I tend to be, it likely
thwacked me on the head. Perhaps I was
reminded of a sigh as from a lady robin settling
in—a plumpish mound of feathers, rust-red belly,
glossy wings, and watchful eye, a shelter for the
objects of her sole responsibility… her task
exquisitely uncomplicated, satisfying
nonetheless, affording her the sweetest possible
contentment, since—without the least idea
why—she does the job she absolutely must, the
very thing the universe insists upon and in the
only way that she, in body, soul, and spirit, can
give comfort and receive it.

There are those more learned and articulate
than I who understand the management of
such impeccable performances—some who, in
the name of knowledge, out of curiosity, assign
particular behavior to material stimuli and dare
to ask if creatures love or merely seek to share a
warm, dry place in order to survive. But I am
certain that, when something seeming
unextraordinary tugs at my attention, God has
sent an invitation to be witness to a miracle,
reminding me to scrape the cobwebs from my
eyes and clear my vision, so that when a
common dawn throws warm, fresh sunlight in
great bands across the sleeping plain, which
fairly leaps with sudden jubilation at the hint of
summer, greening as days lengthen, quickening
apace, I see in the changing, always and
inevitably, grace.

robin-baby-eggs-wikipedia

Waiting for Resurrection

acorn-time-lapse-geekologie-dot-com

Acorn underground, part of time-lapse video of an acorn becoming an oak. See the 3-minute video on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZK4LjURtaDw

Poem for the Thirtieth Day of Lent

Like seeds dropped carelessly among dry weeds,
for what seemed an eternity we waited, tiny
miracles of life and possibility. We waited
comfortlessly, frozen, numb below the crust
of earth where we’d arrived, not understanding
why or how, borne by which wind or for what
purpose. There we lay, absurdly small and
weak, without the power to exchange our
situation with what we aspired to be—the oak,
the grapevine, even (if we had no other choice)
the common milkweed—anything alive
and free. We waited, with our destinies
obscure, obeying the imperative of life, until
the earth around us warmed and softened,
waking our imaginations. Smothering in
darkness, blind but sensing that the equinox
had come and gone—the sun returned at
last and lengthening the days—how urgently
we longed to break our bonds and dance.
And still we waited, waited on, exhilarated,
frightened, eager to explore; we would have
chosen to emerge before our time, too soon
discarding our protection but for intuition’s
wise reluctance, warning of another killing
frost… and so we waited, waited on, until
we thought that we must climb out of the
grave or die. Denied, we grew impatient, tried
to plan how it would be, and doubted our
ability to push through the detritus of
innumerable seasons, layers of debris that
moldered as we slept—dead grass; damp,
matted leaves; entangled roots of ancient trees
compounded by neglect and entropy… a feast
for worms, perhaps… for us, a trap, impenetrable
by such means as we possessed, without
momentum, drained of will, and utterly unequal
to the task….

North Wind

Willem_van_de_Velde_II_-_Three_Ships_in_a_Gale-1652

Three Ships in a Gale, Willem van de Velde the Younger, 1652

Poem for the Twenty-Ninth Day of Lent

The wind is from the north. How long,
for how long must my body tense
and buckle with the frigid blast,
which sets its path against the pallid
rays of sun not near enough
this early spring to moderate
the chill? How many days, I wonder,
just how long will hope last in
this brazen resurrection of
the winter past, or will the coming
equinox and lilac buds
be my defense, these harbingers
of sweetness in the softer season
not so far from where I shiver
in the unforgiving wind?

And yet it ends, like every storm.
The wind will change its course and come
‘round from the south, its baggage light—
a surge of warmth and stories from
the sea and from the delta and
the river’s mouth, and from the poplars
at the shore and from the songbirds
that alight in them at evening,
when they’ve feasted and returned,
their appetites replete and nothing
more required of them than to be
grateful for the shelter of
a nest as night descends, affirming
though the sun is setting it shall
surely rise again.

Where None Had Been

angels-the-baptism-of-christ-masolino-da-panicale-1435

The Baptism of Christ (detail), Masolino da Panicale, 1435

Poem for the Twenty-Eighth Day of Lent

Heaven wept so many tears
(the angel told us), there began
a waterfall, and streams appeared
where none had been.

Where none had been, there filled a lake
and angels gathered there to pray
for you; we grieved not for his sake—
He lives today.

Where none had been, now rivers run
of joy and sorrow, side by side:
sweet, healing streams of tears that come
from angels’ eyes.

Throughout the night the angels prayed
with him—Did you know he was near?—
until the first and bravest ray
of dawn appeared.

His soul (the angel said) is young
and curious. Upon his face
shine wisdom and compassion, love
and Heaven’s grace.

In this life or another, you
will know him; trust your intuition.
With him will go angels, too,
as they have done

through eons long passed out of sight
since God in love created him
to be a ray of holy light
where none had been.

In memory of Monty Fey 1936-2011