Monday, January 18, 2016

grief, cliched.

I heard someone say once,
that grief was a
tsunami.

I was ready.
when I got the phone call
I steeled myself for the onslaught:
the waves pouring from my eyes,
the gasping breaths of loss and ache --
the roar of it all.

the cliche of it all.

I drove myself the 7 hours
home to the grave,
pale hands sturdily grasping
the steering wheel,
the radio blending a melody
I couldn't hear;

the frozen corn fields a too-apt metaphor
for this grief that wouldn't come.

there are a lot of moments
people don't tell
you about losing a father.

the way I would cradle
my fifty-seven-year-old mother
in the dead of night,
crawling into her queen-sized bed
that was now a raft in an endless sea.
my body filling the indent
where thirty-three years of marriage should be.
her tears, oh,
her tears.

the mechanical way
I went about living,
neither here nor there.

the way people watch
for you to fissure
and you wish you would
that if you could,
if you please just would
follow directions:
the onslaught of memories
rack your body,
relentlessly pour from your eyes,
with no pensieve to hold them safe
for an audience

but memories were never good
at being told what to do,
never one for arbitrary milestones,
anyway.

so you tiptoe around
your own life,
waiting expectantly for
the trigger.

you do settle into
the emptiness,
eventually.
the dull void,
the deafening
you wrap around yourself
like a blanket.

this is life, now.

but then on some no-name day
a flannel shirt grabs
you and pulls you into a bear hug,
the plaid a little too familiar,
a little copper smelling,
like your dad's truck.
the shirt doesn't have any words either
so he doesn't pretend that he does.

this abrupt comfort
is your undoing.
the tsunami: here,
at last.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Emmanuel (Luke 1: 28-38)

It was a tall order.

She was to carry the Son of God in her womb.  She was favored in God’s sight – a status that belonged to the Israelites, but now God’s favor was here; it was real.

Yesterday, she had been engaged. Her life was following the path of all good women in her day: engagement, a happy and fulfilling life with a good man, her future spreading before her. The promise of children she and Joseph would raise to love this God of the Old Testament.

A God who, yesterday, had not seemed so close.

The angel had said, “The Lord is with you!” when he greeted her. She hadn’t realized he would mean it so literally.

She wasn’t just going to do important Kingdom work, but be part of the most important kingdom work: being the mother of Jesus – ransom and savior of the world.

A scene from the Garden of Eden came to mind. God told the Serpent that a descendent of Eve would crush Him. Later, there was the first Passover. It was by the blood of a spotless lamb that God’s people were spared. It was grace.

Isaiah’s words, so lovingly studied night after night came flooding back. His words spoke of a new lamb, one who would bear all the world’s griefs and sorrows. Thousands of years of broken, wandering hearts would be laid on this servant.

She felt the weight of her own sin, her heart a Gomorrah that was no place for a Holy God.

Her son would be an offering for her guilt – the better, perfect sacrifice that was promised at the beginning. Her baby boy would be the atonement the weary world sought. A reconciliation, at last. A thrill of hope.


What is there to say but, “I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” This a shallow echo of what her son would say thirty-three years from now: “Not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Monday, November 30, 2015

Who Would Have Dreamed

Once upon a time, there was a man and woman in a garden who trusted in the lesser things and not in the good Great One who created it all. The man and woman traded a perfect reality for a shadow of it because the doubts were growing. It was easier to trust what they could see and touch instead of the Great One -- He was loving and Great beyond what they could understand. His love comforted them and His greatness made them tremble. He could never be completely known.

And as is the way with the lesser things, less became More. Their love of it severed them forever from the Great One. 

As they left the garden, the Great One promised: "It will not always be so! I will come to rescue you! And when I do, I'm going to do battle against the snake. I'll get rid of the sin and the dark and the sadness you let in here. I'm coming back for you!" (The Jesus Storybook Bible, p. 36).

God, the Great One, kept his promise.
"The God who flung planets into space and kept them whirling around and around, the God who made the universe with just a word, the one who could do anything at all -- was making himself small. And coming down... as a baby" (p.  129). 
This little baby had a Great Rescue to accomplish:  "My life will break and God's broken world will mend. My heart will tear apart -- and your hearts will heal" (p. 292).

Jesus endured the horrible, endless silence of God turning his face away so that we would never have to. It was a plan set in motion at the beginning of time and the Great Rescue came to us as a humbled, helpless baby.

"Who Would Have Dreamed" - Prepare Him Room, Sovereign Grace Music
And who would have dreamed or ever foreseen//That we could hold God in our hands?//The Giver of Life is born in the night//Revealing God’s glorious plan// To save the world 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

ghosts

I was in the back seat
of Great Aunt Nell's
SUV,

my face nearly pressed
to the window
on some back road
in northeast Mississippi.

I turned to speak to --
you weren't there.

I forgot
this was the status quo.

There are places you will never go,
where I will venture, alone.

Another argument with my brother,
twenty years coming out to play --
a side of me I don't want you to see
because there are too many sad,
angry moments haunting the scene.

I will cradle a raw
vulnerability that I will give to you
to have and to hold,
hoping you will
love and cherish
these wounds. please
don't shy away
when I flinch,
I promise
it's a reflex -- a protective measure
I will fight for you.
These are my oldest friend,
and they have never
been exposed
before.

one day my womb will grow,
and even though that baby will
be ours,
motherhood will dig
her claws into me
when you won't see,
drawing out tendons drenched in tears,
marrow filled with martyrdom,
an anatomy made of anxiety.
marring me from the woman you knew
to this new beast: a mother,
a mystery.

I stared out the window,
watching the Mississippi landscape.
an emptiness spread in as
the future stretched out before me.
a ghost I knew;
a ghost I hadn't met.
You,
not yet.




Tuesday, November 10, 2015

teaching tuesday: moments to remember

There are things that I want to remember from these days of teaching. I try to grasp them in my mind as if this won't always be the life that I have, -- though I can't really see anything else for me -- as if by holding onto them tightly, they can shield me against the cold, hard days.


Yesterday during Nepali club, we tried to run an organized meeting with an agenda where we DECIDED THINGS. No one was interested and you could hear it in the fading pleads for attention from my leader. I could feel it in the weariness of my own looks around the room.

So, a small group huddled around me -- I was sitting on top of a desk in the back of the room -- and we discussed what she had wanted to discuss. It was productive while the others did homework or played on their ipads.

A student sat next to me on top of the desk as I teased another about a music video that he starred in with a certain girl, which premiered at a Deepawali celebration on Saturday. It opened the door to tease him a little bit more as he told me who his actual girlfriend was -- a different girl who was in the room, but about as far way from him as she could get. Then we talked about why I didn't take a seat of honor at the celebration -- reasons that were as much from embarrassment as they were from not wanting to make another thing about me, a white person. That, too, involved a little teasing as there was miscommunication that caused me to not understand what was happening at the celebration.

Then I asked questions -- mostly about how it was that they came to be refugees and if they considered themselves Nepali or Bhutan and what all of that means. There would be an explosion of language flying around me, and maybe eventually an answer came my way.

More than most other things we have tried to do in the club, this felt worthwhile -- they have stories that are worth knowing and are beautifully complicated and take time to unravel. I see them once every other week for an hour and often it can feel like just another thing to do on my overwhelming list. But, they don't have a lot of other adults in the building to support them the way that other groups have leaders or liasons -- as the advisor of their club, though most of the time I feel a little lost and very humbled, I have the special privilege of listening to them, of being a connection that makes the school feel a little less big.

It was a simple string of moments, sitting on a desk, surrounded by a huddle of students.
It was probably insignificant to the students involved, but for me, they put so much of the humanity into teaching. It reminds me that we're not work-producing machines -- any of us, and that sometimes a moment to breathe is all that really matters.

These are the moments to live for, to celebrate, to cultivate.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Caverns


To love anyone is
to be at onceinvincible and
more vulnerable
than you ever
will be.

it is a change of state
from which you cannot
recover;
one that does not end.

In fact, it gets worse.

To love -- once -- is
to open yourself up
to all possibilities
of love –
a constant slow,
subtle prying of your ribcage
so your heart has room to grow.

You begin to notice things
that pry at the recesses
of your soul.

The little golden retriever who
toddles over and whose overeager
licks leave you sopping,
giggling a high pitched noise you didn’t know
you could make.

That elderly neighbor
with a twinkle in her eye
and a creak in her voice that carries
you through
a lifetime of stories.

A child in the park
you pass by who
runs with reckless abandonment;
the world nearly in his pudgy grasp.

You discover too late that you were a Grinch,
whose heart was three sizes too small.

And what they never tell you –
where the tale never finishes,
is how much
more room
this new heart has.

how the Grinch cries now
that he can feel;
there are days where
this new heart is
an empty cavern,
not yet filled with anything
strong enough to stay –

That at the end of the day,
you are still the Grinch
at the top of Whoville,
so far
from the twinkling
village below.

But now
your three-sizes bigger heart,
pressing against your ribs
can feel every
inch
and mile
between you
and
another beating
heart.

you’ve never felt more alive
and so terribly alone.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

my oona poem


I found this un-marked, un-attributed poem after a coworker pulled it up to teach it in her class. I was astounded at how good her writing was -- not that I don't expect my coworkers to be good writers, but this poem really resonated with me. Then as I read more closely, several of the lines felt eerily familiar. I thought, "We have really similar writing styles."  I read through the poem again. Then I thought, "I think I've written some of these lines in a poem before." I googled the lines to figure out who the author was -- it didn't come up anywhere. Then I searched folders on my computer and realized that I wrote this. It's nice, sometimes, to be impressed by yourself, and I hope that doesn't sound too pompous -- I don't fancy myself much of a writer. It was a pleasant surprise. 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The sway of the flowers reassured her.
She could breathe here.
Surrounded by springing grass,
She made for herself a pillow
And let her sorrows flow away.

A light buzz was in the air,
The bees hummed, yes,
but too, the energy grew.

It was May.
The clues were everywhere.
No longer would this grief
intertwine with the tenacious sun,
a discordant existence
strangling her soul.

Breath after breath,
She took in fresh air,
and it filled her veins with hope.

She could begin anew.