All winter we anticipated the figs Three years ago Woody planted two fig trees Trees, he warned, (My tree experienced husband) Weep the first year Creep the second year Leap the third year And our fig trees leapt For joy This year Last year, one tree gave us A few juicy figs Plum rich, wildly satisfying On our dinner table Our mouths remembered that taste As we watched our leaping trees Bud out, we saw those infant figs And our mouths coveted their musty sweetness But our trees could not evade The pirate birds With light bodies, strong wings Sharp beaks, gripping feet And a taste for ripening figs We hung sparkly twists of metal We got a dog Long legged, deep bark Beautiful white Squirrels and rabbits Run before her Deserting, finally, the banquet Of our summer vegetable garden But oh those birds Those beautiful pirate birds Who feast on our figs Laugh down at our dog Laugh among our sparkly hangers Laugh with their bellies Full of young figs While our mouths salivate In vain anticipation Of the never to be Ripe figs on our dinner table
What God has joined together let not fear pull apart let not water drown let not life sunder But when it does why then cannot the good remain at least for the children When life hands us lemons we are told make lemonade Who can reach high above the sour to grasp a sweetener for lemoned families From whose hand drips down the honeyed sweetener into the sour juices of divorce Whose strong arm can clear a path through the impenetrable forest of never was, never could be Can faith forgive Can hope redeem Can love endure Can God
How much longer, God, How much longer shall I live? A hawk circles, circles Now higher, now lower Now wide, now narrow No, not a hawk A vulture Searches, waits Hungry with a wide hunger Its own language Wordless but loud Cracks the vaulted sky The hungry vulture circles Waits for the answer That is death Over springtime’s soft green shoots Over summer’s emerald growth Over fall’s gray brown tree limbs Over winter’s white cold The vulture circles Now higher, now lower Now wide, now narrow I remember when I looked up And saw hawks, falcons, eagles And felt my body could soar with them Now, today, I feel old, cold My neck would hurt, I think, Were I to look up And what would I see Just that vulture, waiting Waiting for the carrion That he expects will answer His hunger What will answer, finally, My hunger? Will my spirit grow When my body dies? Is this the short asking inbreath Before the long answering outbreath?
When I walk through an open door
I expect earth beneath my feet
I look for the expected daisy
Not the unexpected papaya
I expect to walk not swim
Breathe air not water
Delight in the known
I want to be amazed
And yet I look only for the known
I want to be transformed
And yet I expect only the expected
I look for the straight path
Not the twisty maze
I long for the scent of the daisy
With the memory of my daughter’s wedding
But if I stoop to smell the daisy
Will I miss the papaya on the table
Waiting for the bite of my teeth
To let its golden juice run down my chin
As I inhale an unfamiliar sweetness
As I swim through the unexpected
As I maze my way to an open door
That I did not even know was a door
I breathe in as I turn the knob
I breathe out as I pull the door inward
I breathe in as I step outward
God, lead me through my known
To your unknown
As I breathe out expectations
And breathe in unexpected grace
Thoughts from a morning in church and an afternoon in the garden:
We create God in our own image, bestowing desired power and glory on that image, and imprisoning it in words.
We experience God in nature, opening ourselves to the insistent richness and diversity of divinity beyond words.
“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”
Romans 11:33 NRSVCE
The poet instructs us on how to call our spirit back from wandering the earth How do I call my spirit back? I am tempted to believe I call my spirt back by writing…by poetry…by reading by thinking…by striving By appreciating the writing…the poetry…the reading the thinking…the striving of others I am tempted to believe I call my spirit back by reading difficult but renowned books (Has anyone – ever – called their spirit back by reading Finnegan’s Wake?) by studying philosophy by struggling with my faith, my God, my sometimes church I am tempted to believe I call my spirit back by my own great efforts to improve myself to become more as if I am a seed and my spirit the seedling I must become to fulfill my destiny But, really, truly I think I call my spirit back when I don’t call it at all When I run through a garden sprinkler like a somewhat crazed old woman to encourage my three year old grandson to do the same When I stoop to kiss my husband’s almost bald head as I hand him leftovers for lunch because he seems tired today too tired to get his own lunch as usual I think my spirit comes back most often when I don’t try to call it at all
Yesterday I lay In the dentist chair Left side of my face numbed Feet crossed One over the other At the far end of tensed legs My left hand covered my right Resting on my stomach Clenched tight The right side of my lip Was pulled down Over the small vacuum tube That rested in my mouth To suck out saliva and blood And the tiny pieces of hardened grit That shouldn’t be On my teeth I saw her masked face Loom close over my own I saw the small round mirror In one hand And some fearsome medieval Instrument of torture Surely In the other I called to my breath Breathe in calm Breathe out anxiety Breathe in cooperation Breathe out resistance Breathe in relax Breathe out tense In relax Out tense In Out In Out Wait, I thought, Do I really want to breathe My anxiety, my resistance, my tension Out into the world? Doesn’t the world have enough Of its own Already? Perhaps I should pray Let my anxiety My resistance My tension Be a small sacrifice For the world’s sake No crown of thorns No nails into a wooden cross But perhaps a little death A tiny death Of the expectation of well-being Let me give the well-being I seek To the world Just for this hour or so Maybe Breathe with the anxiety Let calm be Breathe with the resistance Let cooperation be Breathe with the tension Let relax be
I begin to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” I get no further Before I question Father? Why would I pray to a father? I remember our father Striding home from work, whistling Hoisting me on his shoulders In the Mardi Gras crowds “Throw me something, Mistah” I remember our father Taking us to the beach Letting me sprinkle sand On his already balding head I remember our father Driving us drunkenly Onto the river ferry To his half-brother’s house In Algiers Late one night Walking in Collapsing on the first bed As we trailed behind I remember our father Getting thrown out of our uncle’s house For what we children assumed Was being ugly to our uncle’s Beautiful young wife But now I think it probably wasn’t ugly That he was being, our father I remember our father At Easter Dinner the year my sister married “I’ve never been able to say motherfucker At my own table Motherfucker, motherfucker, motherfucker” I remember… You know, this gets me no closer to God at all These memories Let me let our father rest in peace Rise, I hope, in glory Let’s try Our Mother who art… Oh shit, who art what Tired? Scared? Too fragile emotionally To shield us? Egging our father on Occasionally Or now Just old Needing help Needing care Needing attention Well, this isn’t getting me any closer To an all-powerful Supreme Being But this is the prayer Jesus taught So the Bible tells us Jesus the God-Man This is his prayer, his command To make it our own Dear Jesus Blessed with good, easy parents Whatever the truth Of the origins of the sperm that made you Perhaps, perhaps You are not necessarily Best suited to teach me a prayer To help me cross the divide to God But then again Maybe you are Maybe the best I can do Right now Is meditate on, puzzle over Our Father
The Church of my youth the Holy Roman Catholic Church (a sobriquet as undeserved as Holy Roman Empire) gives me so very many reasons to despise her not least of which is the stranglehold of ridiculous old men who call the Church HER as they rape her
But those old men have ordained readings for each day from God’s word
And those old men or their direct ancestors decided for themselves what was worthy to be GOD’S inerrant word declared so by those raping sodomizing old men
God’s WORD as filtered through them includes the book called Tobit where today I read of a young woman Sarah possessed by a demon Asmodeus who strangles her husband on their wedding night before they have intercourse
But, wait, the best is yet to come: This happens seven times YES! seven times to seven young men before the angel Raphael intervenes to save the eighth who, sadly, was not named Henry
So although I would love to despise the Holy Roman Catholic Church completely HOW can I not retain some affection for an entity that includes TOBIT as divine word filtering GOD to ME?
Dear God, my always and forever Best Friend, Faithful Lover, Greatest Security,
whether I remember You or not
whether I call on You or not
does not change Your greatness, Your supremacy
now and forever.
Help me to live now as I would want to live always:
my best life, my most generous life
for myself and others.
Help me to be satisfied,
to love myself and others,
to be as generous in forgiving myself and others
as You are in forgiving me – and others.
Help me to always focus on the good.
Keep me from despair over the not good.
For You are God,
Master and Mistress,
Savior and Advocate
of this world, of all worlds, of all time:
Sovereign, Powerful, Glorious – and Loving, Forever Loving.
Let it be so.