Monday, November 16, 2009

Where Two or More are Gathered. . .

[I'm trying to write more about faith, and particularly the Church. This is a first go at this poem, I'm curious what people think. Does it hit to similar of note to the Honk if You're Polish?]

we talk about failed relationships
eating orange chicken and fried rice.

we pick out love songs
on old jukeboxes.

we share concerns about friends not present,
wonder out-loud where they are.

we sit, half-awake, in hardwood pews
staring down at words we’re trying to make sense of.

we fight about minutia,
throw hissy fits over grammar.

we give long hugs
help each other change flat-tires.

we hold hands and give thanks
for spaghetti dinners and garlic bread.

we have awkward conversations
with WWII veterans about “kids-today.”

we have potlucks,
share recipes, and eat casseroles.

we tell secrets we’re ashamed of,
the things we wanted to do, but didn’t,
the things we didn’t want to do, but did.

we aren’t perfect, but most are trying
some of us are trying to try
but not having too much success.

we meet You in each other
and hope others meet You in us.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vocabulary Lessons

Middle school locker-rooms bristle with budding testosterone.
The posturing is mostly linguistic.
Boys without arm-pit hair discuss various acts
they’ve only heard referenced on South Park.
These young ones are stretching their new vocabularies:
calling each other quiefs
while the ones who know more than they should
paint impressionist landscapes
on the quiet ones with charlie horses.

Honk if You're Polish. . .

or Scottish, or English

I’ve got to admit
I’m more than a bit envious
when I visit friends
whose families have accents
and celebrate holidays I’ve never heard of.

I'm more than a bit envious
when they show me how to make food
that they’re parents taught them to make,
who were taught to make it by their parents,
who taught them to make it in a country
I’ve only seen on a map.

I’m envious because my ethnicity is mixed and
I have no clue what it means
to be Polish or Scottish or English.
I’ve never been to any of those places,
I don’t know my family’s tartan,
I’ve never had blood pudding,
and the only thing Polish I’ve ever eaten
is a Polish sausage;
which I only recently learned not to smoother in ketchup.

I’ve never heard Polish or
whatever language they spoke in Scotland back-in-the-day.
I’ve never worn a kilt or played a bag-pipe.
I’ve never pronounced the name of a Polish town correctly.
It’s hard for me to find any link between who I am
and who my ancestors were

The house I grew up in
did not have Celtic crosses
coats of arms or Polish flags.
We didn’t even have bumper stickers
asking those with similar national origin to honk.

I know I’m not alone in this.
There are others with lost heritages.
Some of us don’t have culture
deeper than our ankles,
least not in our ethnicity.

But what I do have
is my church,
a tiny cup and
part of a cracker.

In these things
I have roots.
I have to look deep.
I have to look close, to see

the same cup
given thanks for by the same Man
whose blood would fill it.

I have to look close
to see the same cup
Peter, James and John
drank from back-in-the-day.

I have to look deep to see my heritage,
not without blemish.
I’m not about to try and make any excuses,
but I know there’s more to my faith
than the Crusades and the Inquisition.

I have to look deep into that cracker
to see the body, the gospel,
living and continuing,
passed down
from faith to faith
from Paul to Timothy.
From martyrs in the Coliseum
to St. Francis talking to birds.
From celibate monks singing Psalms in the desert
to Martin Luther drinking beer and nailing notes on doors.
From Paul writing letters in a Roman prison
to Dietrich Bonhoeffer writing letters in a Nazi Prison.
From ancient Palestine to modern Africa.
From the apostles on down the centuries
to myself, sitting in a folding chair
looking down at a cracker and cup.

I don’t know what it means
to be Polish, English or Scottish.
My family had dropped their accents
long before I was around.

But when I look down
at a tiny cup of grape juice
and a broken cracker
I’m not quite as bummed
that I didn’t inherit
the ability to play the bag-pipe
or make pierogis
or the habit of drinking tea in the afternoon;
because when I look at that sacrament
I see a one body made of all nations
one loaf made of many grains
held together by one God
in whose image we are all made
and who welcomes all nations
to come and eat
and find a new inheritance.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Snooze Button

The errands are mounting.
They pile in the middle of the room.
The pile is a mountain.
It’s getting hard to ignore,

but I double my efforts
force my head down
and sleep a little longer.

It’s a salesman,
the snooze button,
persuasive and slick,
telling me to
worry about the it later.
It’s always later.

The errands are mounting.
I have to extend my visa.
I have to apply for insurance.
I have to find an old pay stub.
There’s a paper due next Tuesday
I need to do some research.
Credit card bills, rent checks,
library fines, parking tickets.
Floors need mopping.
Oil needs changing.
Dishes need washing.
Laundry needs folding.
Books need reading.
And I’m out of milk.

The errands are starting to avalanche.
The whole mountain is crashing down.
The raucous is deafening,
I can’t hear myself think.

But I double my effort,
shut my eyes tight,
shove a pillow over my head,
hit the snooze button
and sleep another ten minutes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

If Nostalgia Could Kill

There was the summer of whiskey and soda. And we bought big bottles of Jim Beam, with little hope of finishing. And we were regulars, with jukebox favorites and never-ending bowls of over-salted popcorn,

There were the weeks we were snowed in. When the town was Alaska. When a trip to the grocery store was a mountaineering expedition. There were Hot Toddys downtown, ugly sweater parties and German spiced wine.

There were the Thursdays when we’d read the epistles. A six-pack of beer and St. Paul guided our thoughts. We asked questions and waited for new episodes of the Office.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dear Ryan, II

I don’t understand rubiks cubes?
Do you?
Why is it important
to have the yellow all the same side.

Ryan, I don’t know how to make gumbo.
I’m afraid to try.
I’m sorry,
but I was never taught
and I don’t trust internet recipes.

I wonder what you think
of blazers with jeans,
short sleeved shirts with ties,
the language of Prairie Dogs;
Ryan I have more questions
than thoughts.

But I think,
if we were to put our heads together
we could get to the bottom
of this global-warming problem.

Ryan I’m worried about the penguins,
they have more troubles than any animal ought.
There are seals, Orcas, broken eggs,
short legs, not enough fish
and not enough ice.

Am I being clear?
I Feel a bit jumbled.

What I mean is:
I’m having a Big Lebowski party tonight
I have Kahlua, Vodka and cream
I need you to bring the ice.