Saturday, December 15, 2012

Esther: The Sunday School Version

I never understood the story. I thought it was weird when I first heard it in Sunday school, and I still do. I was right about most things then, except guacamole—while it may be green and gross looking, that stuff is delicious.

Esther is a story that doesn’t make easy sense. The heroes aren’t obvious. Everyone is a victim or a villain. The story doesn’t make sense, but it sticks with you like peanut butter on a dog’s tongue. The villain sets a trap for the apparent hero, and then the trap is turned on him. One mass murder is traded for another, because of one woman doing what her uncle told her to. And God takes a breather through the whole story, comes back in the next book, Job—which another weird one.

But these stories are in bible, so we have to preach about them, we have to extract morals, we have to reduce them to three-point propositional statements that don’t lead to more questions—there’s too much ambiguity and questions in our lives already, we don’t come to Church for more complications. So ignore the blood bath at the end, and the less-than consensual sex—make Esther a children’s story where Esther the Hebrew Barbie and her wise uncle Mordecai save the Jews from ancient Hitler. Simple. Easy. Moral. And this helps us Sunday school kids understand and cope with the world we find ourselves in. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Lost Keys

At the mission drop-in center
I stand and stare half-asleep
into half-light as clients
shuffle-in, leave garbage bags
as place holders before lining-up
for coffee and sugar.

They smell like the street—
mouthwash, liquor, and sweat.
Addicted and tired with problems
beyond us. But we try,
we do what little we can--
which for me includes 
handing out socks, coffee,
and the occasional bag-lunch.

After they sit-down again
a chorus of heavy-breathing
and snores hum under
Christmas music—
I continue half-sleep prayers.

A rush of sweatpants
rages past—“I’ll fucken kill ‘em,
I don’t even fucking care.”
I ask a stupid question—“Hey man,
how’s it going?” And he answers
with a parade of expletives. His keys.
He left his house keys by the computer.
And they weren’t even his keys.
And now they’re gone.

Receipts erupt from fleece pockets,
no keys. The phone area is hastily reorganized,
no keys. Steps retraced, condescending questions asked
“Are you sure. . .” All we could do is done. And still
no keys.

He looks at us like we have a secret
room in the back where we keep spare keys
for everyone who comes into the drop-in center;
if he asks the right way, in earnest, convincing us
of the gravity of the situation—
then we would solve this problem.

But we have no secret room,
no mysterious connection with the Divine
to guide us to the whereabouts of the lost
keys. They were lost and beyond us.

We offer the obvious,
boring, and responsible.
And he realizes we have no magic,
and walks to the corner,
stares out at the other clients
mumbling to himself and
running his hands through his hair.

I return to half-sleep prayers,
wondering if I was asking
in the right way, if God knew
the gravity of the situation.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gnostics on a Bus

She gets up—
short running tights,
tight and a little too short.

She gets up,
walks past men barely present, staring
through the ceiling like it was an illusion,
men trying to escape the confines of the 99 B-line,
men deep in gnostic meditation, separating mind from body,
letting the former drift like a balloon on a blustery day,
while the later remains a shell on an overcrowded bus.

She gets up,
walks past with tight black smelling-salt:
eyes fall from the ceiling
from shoulders to waist to. . .
Men return to consciousness
minds remember their tether. 

Some regain composure quickly,
eyes bouncing up from baser instincts
to ads for burritos above windows;
others follow short tights to the exit,
savoring their embodiment for a moment
before returning to their mediations.