Praying My Memories

Sunday mid-morning
Front porch drenched in sunshine
Or not
Or not
Front porch with the dirty white railings
The small metal what is that French word
Corner plant stand
Wrought iron furniture
The rock we brought back from 
The beach in Homer, Alaska
The pottery bowl
On the plant stand
Small stones and dry leaves 
Not filling the inside but there
The old tall brown milk jug
That my friend whose name I can’t now recall
Brought me flowers in
When she learned my father had died
Even though I hadn’t seen or spoken to my father
For what was it 3 years
Before sitting at his deathbed
With that skeletal remnant of my once
Tall father, striding home from work,
On long legs
But then the drinking
The hurts
The threats
The arrest
The time in jail for threatening
My mother
Trying to extort money for her safety
From my sister and me
We had to testify in a courtroom
Where my father sat
Seventy years old
Orange prison jumpsuit
Between two guards
Orange was not the color of love
That day
The milk jug is part of the porch
With the small animal figurines
That grace the French whatchamacallit
Corner plant stand
Figurines from my mother’s front porch
In Mississippi before she moved here with us
The rough wooden cross
That Woody made for my Sunday School class
Now sits on the small table on the small porch
Where Bev brings Mom Communion every Sunday
While I bow my head and pray my memories

From Neurotransmitters to God

Steadfast, pleasing dopamine
Soak me with contentment
As I eat
As I sleep
As I shower

Saucy, natural oxytocin
Suffuse me with love
When I reach out to friends
When I pet a dog
When I help someone

Sweet, necessary serotonin
Steep me with well-being
As I walk through sunshine
As I pause to breathe deeply
As I move through asanas

Strong, happy endorphins
Saturate me with pleasure
When I exercise
When I laugh
When I dance

And when I pray?
When I remember 
My generous generating God?

Whose gentle breath
Created a world
Whose dragon breath
Consumes only as a lover
Enflames the heart
Strengthens the will
Emboldens the soul

Steadfast God of dopamine
Grant me the wisdom to care for myself

Saucy God of oxytocin
Grant me the love to care for others

Sweet God of serotonin
Grant me the appreciation of your world

Strong God of endorphins
Grant me pleasure through my years

God of my needs
God of my wants
God of my satisfactions
God of my pleasures

Grant me your grace

Making God Happy

You know the great thing about God?
She isn’t easy to offend.

I haven’t quite figured out
How to reconcile my easy going deity
With Yahweh the Terrible
Ready to command the slaying of multitudes
Often reluctant to forgive
Without extravagant penitence
Sending His people into exile
Because they just didn’t measure up
Requiring the sacrifice of His own Son
As a criminal on a cross
With lots of blood
In atonement for an ancient offense

I learned that God
I knew Him well
Through a fearful childhood
Never dared turn my back on Him
Not for one nanosecond
He would strike me down in His great wrath
So I decided I had better become a nun
Because what else chance had I
Of earning heaven 

A little later
It was years of lonely non-faith
Because I gave up
Easier to stop believing
Than to I accept that
Nun or not
I had NO chance of earning heaven
I just wasn’t ever going to be good enough

But then
A little later again 
Hey Presto! It’s OK!
Remember that gory death
Of God’s own Son?
Well, God Himself 
The Great Yahweh
Earned heaven for us
By that ugly death

Say what?

More years of confused faith
Before I realized that
I might as well believe someone
Earned my height for me
Or my eye color
As earned heaven for me

Back in those heavenly realms
God the Eternal is 
Forever patient with me
She waits while I ignore Her
She waits while I confuse Her
With theology and theocracy
She out waits my anger
She out waits my preoccupations

She positively lurks
In the corners and shadows
Of my life

And then
When I am ready again
When I greet Her
She grins from ear
To universe-spanning ear
She does a cartwheel over the sun
And tosses the moon from hand to hand
She juggles a few stars
And throws down a sunbeam or two
Weeps torrents of joy
Claps her hands in time with the thunder
Dances through the green grass
Gyrating and grinding like a rock and roll star

Just because She is happy to see me again.


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Prayers After YouTube

[We have to create peace and reason within our own hearts and homes. Madeleine L'Engle]
We made a decision
A few weeks ago

Not to stop watching
DCI Banks and Bones
NCIS and The Durrells in Corfu
Those wonderful shows
Where crimes are solved
Arguments are resolved
Happily ever after happens
In less than 60 minutes
Each night

But one night a week
We tell YouTube to educate us
About food insecurity
Climate change
Sustainable farming
How to feed nine billion people
Many of whom want more red meat

But also India
India, with one-fifth the land of the United States
And about the same population as China
We tried to imagine 2 million people
Instead of 150,000 in our little city
Wearing masks, trying to keep distance

Today, just a little while ago, I said
“YouTube Israel Palestine history”
(OK, I admit I added “please”
But I muttered it quietly)
What we saw was instructive
But not hopeful
The narrator seemed to think
It would be more hopeful 
If we only understood
That it was not a religious conflict
Just a land and water rights conflict

So my prayers, morning and night,
Are somewhat angry these days
I know the world is as it has ever been
And my awareness has little to do with
The goodness or troubles of God’s creation

But it has everything to do with 
My own creation of peace and reason
Within myself, within my home
How do I model myself --
In love, justice, mercy -- 
On an all powerful omniscient Creator
A divine person who, I am told, is my 
Personal lord and savior
To be welcomed into my heart
But who does not protect Their own creation?

Fear, Fear Not

You shall fear only YHWH your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name (Deuteronomy 6:13)

After these things the word of YHWH came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. (Genesis 15:1)

For I YHWH thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. (Isaiah 41:13)

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. (Luke 2:10)

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last (Revelation 1:17)

Fear Full:

I tire of fearing Him
I have sworn off worship

I have no shield
I dare not expect a reward

My right hand encloses only emptiness
While I wait for help

My ears ache with listening
For tidings of any joy

I cannot see beyond my fear
Had I a soul, it is but a dead thing

And yet, and yet

Fear Not:

If I just close the book
Let theologies lie crumbling
Like last year’s leaves

Small flowering ajuga
Under the maple tree
Comforts my eyes

Banks of white azaleas
On each side of the front porch
Shield the house

Soldier-straight tall irises
Encircling the mailbox
Brush my reaching hand

The backyard bird
Unseen but insistent
Sings to me of cheaper, cheaper joy

I need no vision beyond this world
I need no soul beyond this contentment
Here is the first, middle, and last

Faith, the fearful first
Hope, only hope, the muddled middle
Love, the longed for last

The Work of Wings

[This poem is more or less a meditation on Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, God’s Grandeur]

For Hopkins
The work of ah! bright wings
Is not to fly
Spread wide
Snowy white
Unmarked unmarred
Pristine pure
Holy wholly other
Above our too dirty world
Broken by our own bombs
With cratered hope
Rubbled dreams
Too ruined for rescue

Ah, no
Those bright wings
Wings of the Holy Ghost
Do not spread wide
To fly, untouched, away
But to wrap our brokenness
Close, so close
That our labored breath
As the psalmist’s weaned child
On the mother’s breast

Hidden within those ghostly
Bright wings
We yet continue to cry
Continue to try 
For peace
That peace 
We are told
That passes understanding

Perhaps -
I dare to hope
I try to breathe -
That peace beyond understanding
Is not beyond
Those ah! bright wings


At 73
I think I know, finally
how to embrace life:
aware of the wounded spots
that will cry out if I hug too tightly

Those wounds I inflicted
with the flicked whip
the pointed thorn
the hammered nail

Too often, I think,
I have nailed life to the cross
of my expectations
hoping to bleed satisfaction
from the wounded body
raised high on the cross
of my hopes
nailed hard to the cross
of my fears

I stood at the foot
of the cross of life
aghast at my own cruelty

Tenderly I lifted life from the cross
cradled life in my arms
buried life in the garden of my heart
enclosed by the stones of my sad knowing

And then, again and again,
I marveled as those stones
proved flimsy
no match for the power of life
new born but no infant
shining forth
freed from my tomb

Ah yes, again and again
have I marveled
at life

Until, again and again,
I put life on trial
and began to look again
for the whip, the thorn, 
the crucifying cross

or maybe choosing to ignore
Life’s resurrection power

Tasting God

I remember Communion
round wafer, thinner than paper
Body of Christ 
on the top of my mouth
cleaving uncomfortably 

Don’t ever chew the body of Christ
we were warned, although not in those words
those way too explicit words
we were told
Don’t ever let the host touch 
your teeth

so instead, for the rest of Mass
back in the pew with my family
kneeling, head bowed, hands clasped
back straight because slouching 
was almost as bad as letting the host touch your teeth
kneeling so quietly that no one could tell
my tongue was busy exploring what was
stuck to the roof of my mouth
Christ’s body

Once I believed in that holy host
surrounded by a great cloud of believers
I believed that my tongue
tasted God

Now I just taste bread – and usually pretty pasty bread
unless I am at a church where people take turns making 
rich wholesome loaves to break apart and share
not caring if the body of Christ, or whatever those pieces are,
touch teeth

Yesterday when I was spreading mulch
I straightened up and looked around
and tasted mulch, the dust of the mulch
inhaled and tasted
at the back of my mouth, without
touching teeth

Sometimes now I stand quietly
tasting mulch
and God

What Leads Pines to Sigh

The pines sigh only with the wind
Until the poet climbs the mountain
And hears their silent sighs

Do the pines sigh
Because they want more
That “once I was loved 
but now he is gone” sigh
Or do they sigh in contentment
That end of a day well spent sigh
Or perhaps they sigh with relief
The cake is out of the oven and well risen sigh
Or perhaps they sigh with satisfied love
After a long but not particularly deep 
Telephone call with a grown child sigh

Or do they sigh for God?
Do they pine for the divine?

Perhaps they sigh
Because they caught sight of God
Tangled in their branches
Held fast in their roots