At Sunday Mass

Through the high long narrow
I can see trees
Not the ground
Not the sky
Just branches and leaves
Through the windows

As the Mass moves
In stately predicable rhythm
Call and response
Hymns and prayers
Familiar patterns

The priest
A man, always a man
In this big C Catholic
Leads us, of course
Being the designated hitter
Like major league baseball
Still exclusive of women
Unlike baseball, though, his team is women
Ushers, servers, communicants
Mostly women
Serving before the altar
Of priestly man-ness

I want to stop with God
With those trees
The green leaves
The softening sunshine
I want my mind to rest
In the Divine
I want a luxurious pause
A time out
I want to be put in a corner
With God

But the man keeps
In his fancy lace-trimmed
With his memorized ritual
His prominence
His permanence
His his-ness

I want the God, the Goddess of trees
But here I am
Standing, sitting, singing, saying
“Something, something be with you”
He says
Every Sunday I hear it
Every Sunday I mumble
With the others, stretching out my hands
Palms up
“And also with your spirit”
We say
Every Sunday
You’d think I’d remember the words

Ah, but I am never really here, am I?
Sometimes when I am lucky
I am quietly with the trees
But mostly
Mostly, I am simply raging
Raging at the ungodliness of it all

And I am more with the Grateful Dead
Than with the trees
Or the ordained priest
Or his eternal God
“If I had my way, if I had my way
I would tear this whole building down.”


Bluegrass Friday

A small highway
Just two lanes
Avoiding the urban
Traveling quietly
Past farms and fences
Between the city

The corn maze
Largest east of the Mississippi
Second largest in the nation

Past a small market on the highway
That is only a highway officially
But feels like a country road

We stop at the market

Selling food and drink
Beautiful crafts and
Tacky souvenirs
Sandwiches, soda
Beer and wine and
“Market-ritas ”

We take our drinks
Out the side door

On the expanse of lawn
Dotted with those old wrought iron
Tables and chairs
Surrounded by white Christmas lights
Strung high
Backed by trees of heaven
Trash trees, Woody calls them
An invasive nuisance
But with pretty leaves

Off to one side
A corn hole game and a truck tire
The tire decorated for Halloween
Pumpkins and a sheet ghost
And a store bought skeleton

Under a cloud speckled sky
The musicians slowly gather
At the biggest table

As we drink our market-ritas
And eat our sandwiches
Back a-ways
At a smaller table

Two young girls,
Then a couple of middle aged men
Pot bellied and patriarchal

One of the young women takes up a guitar
And sings
Getting but not needing
Not asking for
The older men’s approval
“She can sure belt out a song…
Don’t need no microphone, her”
“And she plays a mean guitar”

A young man named Jacob
Arrives, tunes up and
Softly sings a ballad
Accompanying himself on his guitar

Guitars, fiddles, harmonicas
A mandolin
And a big ole bass
Picking up the
Rhythms and keys
Of each tune

An older woman arrives
Pulls up a chair,
Puts her guitar at her feet
She pats it, with no particular rhythm
For a few songs
Then she lights a cigarette
Picks up the guitar
And starts playing and singing
Cigarette dangling from the side of her mouth

A young woman tunes up her fiddle
Sings Wayfaring Stranger
In a clear echoey soprano

The group that is less than a group
Much less than a band
Shifts: expanding, shrinking
Playing for themselves
But aware of those of us
Sitting on the edge
Back a-ways
Maybe wishing we could
But not really understanding
That musical dialect
They speak so well

“Jacob, when are you going to give us another song?
Don’t wait to be asked, boy
Just start playing”

The group keeps going
The songs keep coming
The traffic keeps rolling

A bluegrass Friday evening
With Woody

Life fits easy
Like a comfortable shoe
Or a familiar tune

Wisdom Woman

[In dark days, it is sometimes easy to appreciate that Jesus’ first recorded miracle was turning water into wine]

Wisdom Woman
Lady God
Old Crone
I thank You
I thank You for my irascible, difficult, long-lived mother
I thank You for my disappointing, luminous, strong-willed daughters
I thank You for my own conflicted, questioning, always-questing self
I thank You for You
For Your psalms that made me something of a poet
For Your hiddenness that makes awareness of You so sweet
For words, words that comes so easily
Even after three glasses of wine at dinner with my mother
I thank You for women
Though we be ignored
Though we be marginalized
Though we be disbelieved
Though we be assaulted
Still, I thank You for all women
All my sisters
Sisters who suckled at Your generous breast
Though secretly, unknown to the loud, boisterous
Powerful, commanding men
I thank You for our strength
For our share of Your Wisdom
I thank You that we know You

Be with us
Bless our days
Our comings and our goings
Our psalms and our tears
Our efforts and our failures
Bless us with Your hope, Your love
And our faith in You, Wisdom Woman God Almighty

Maria Goretti in Heaven

[Maria Goretti is an eleven year old Italian girl who is a saint of the Catholic Church. She died in 1902 from multiple stab wounds endured resisting a would-be rapist. She was canonized in 1950 as a “virgin-martyr.” At her canonization ceremony, Pope Pius XII asked the hundreds of young people gathered to celebrate her elevation to sainthood,”Young people, pleasure of the eyes of Jesus, are you determined to resist any attack on your chastity with the help of grace of God?” A resounding “yes” was the answer.]

She left behind her torn body
It was not glorified, just gone

She was welcomed
But not by an old father
Bearded and stern but kind.

She was welcomed
By an old Crone
Who frightened Maria
Until She smiled
And opened Her arms.

Safely on Her lap
Maria smiled
She felt her soul calmed and quieted
Like a weaned child with its Mother.

Quietly, the old Crone asked,
Can you find forgiveness
My dear one?

Oh, Mother, Maria replied,
I forgave him before I died
They already tell of how
I forgave him
As I lay dying.

Ah, child, sighed the Crone
My sweet girl
That was well done
But can you forgive them?

Them? Them?
I do not understand, Mother
Only he attacked me
Only he tried to defile me
Only he killed me
And I have forgiven him.

Ah, child, sighed the Crone,
My sweet, innocent, pure child
But can you forgive those priests
Those men who say
They are My representatives
Those execrable priests
Who told you that rape
Would rob you of virtue
Would rob you of purity
Could ever defile you?

And Maria, with opened eyes
Snuggled closer and cried,
I do not know, Mother,
It is hard.
Please, can You do it for me?

Friday Night

Sitting in a booth
In the glorified hamburger joint
With four lines of description
For each fancy-named burger on the menu
Including the ones made from
100% grass fed free range
New Zealand lamb
Burgers with
Garlic aioli, carmelized onion
Sautéed wild mushrooms
Tzatziki sauce, organic ketchup
The music a little too loud,
But only a little
The waiter a little too friendly,
But only a little
The pace – the ambience, I suppose – a little too fast,
But only a little
The menu makes me smile
Not exactly with delight
A more rueful smile
At the necessary pretentiousness
Did they begin in Portland?
But the food is delicious
And Woody sits across from me.
I am slightly astonished and bemused
To realize I am comfortable here.
(Slightly astonished sounds like
A little bit pregnant
Or somewhat unique.
Let’s just say
I am astonished.)


But grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

(Ephesians 4:7)

What, then, is the measure of a gift?

Do I measure by satisfaction:
Is it what I needed?
Is it what I wanted?

Do I measure by comparison:
Is it better than other gifts?
Is it better than what others got?

Do I measure by value:
How much did it cost?
How special is it?

Do I measure by the giver:
How much do I care about the giver?
How much does the giver care about me?

Do I measure by the effect:
What does the gift do for me?
How does the gift make life better?

I have measured gifts
In all those ways
And more, at times.

I have felt hurt by gifts
That didn’t measure up.

I have hurt others
By my reaction
To their gifts
That didn’t measure up.

I have given myself gifts
That didn’t measure up.

“According to the measure…”
What is the measure of Christ’s gift?
What is the measure of my gratitude?

Ah, Paul, you tricky apostle.
There is no measure, is there?

An immeasurable gift
Calls forth immeasurable gratitude.

God, Person without measure,
God of steadfast love,
God of enduring faithfulness,
God of all my days and ways,

Let my response, my gratitude
Be as immeasurable as Your gift.

Catching Up

Wow! It’s so good to see you. You look great. How long has it been?

Years, decades, a different century, a different millennium.

It sure was a long time ago.
So much has changed.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone remembers anymore, what it was like.
Sometimes I wonder if I even really lived my memories.

Oh, say, remember Jerry? Remember how anxious he got about taking tests?
Didn’t he sit next to you to take the GRE so he wouldn’t be so nervous?

He did, but it didn’t work.
When I saw Network – that reporter who sweated through his shirts when he tried to anchor –
I thought of Jerry taking the GRE.

Didn’t he live with all of you in that big house near campus?
Was he the one who started the fire in the oven, that brought the fire truck out?
Didn’t you have to scramble to hide the dope?

Yes, yes, all of that.

Wasn’t he from New York?
Wasn’t he the one who thought we could drive to San Francisco in one day?

That sounds like Jerry.
I remember going with him to Yellowstone.
On the drive there, he kept asking why no one had built a city on all this land.

You know, I never really knew…
Were he and Sharon ever a couple? Were you and he ever a couple?

Oh, we didn’t really do couples back then.
But Jerry, well Jerry only thought he was interested in us.
Then he said he was bi, but finally he just said he was gay.
It wasn’t a big coming out deal. He just told a few of us, his close friends.
I remember how nervous he was – almost as nervous as taking the GRE.

What ever happened to Jerry?
You and he were such good friends.
Did you stay in touch?

We did for awhile.
I still think of him, but I’m scared to try to find him.
He moved to San Francisco in ‘81.