Thursday, December 24, 2015

No room for why

My monastic cell, narrow as a gate.
No room for why; 

discouragement or zeal;
joy or despair; comparisons,

emotions; conviction or doubt;
stripped of everything but one,

last dot of self from which to witness;
offer silent praise and prayer.  

To be so tiny, my cell
must open to the sky;

have no walls; the whole
round planet for its floor

and contain in its every unfolding moment
the complete history of existence.

Narrow is my monastic cell; only long,
deep and wide enough for God.

O child of God, the scripture says
enter into a closet to pray.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

In the silent holy void

In the silent holy void

Like mewing cats outside the fishmonger's
door, lovers say Your name

knowing not how else
to get to the nourishment,

warmth, fresh milk and bloody entrails.
Everything comes true in the end.

No need for disputation, two blind men
arguing over the color of the sky.

There's profound wisdom in knowing
how profoundly ignorant I am;

truth coming near, I must depart
to let it manifest, light the world

except for the dark shape which is me
in the silent holy void

where words fade, lose their power
to persuade or be persuaded.

To say how lovely it all is,
is to say too much.

O child of God, seal your lips about
those things of which you know so little.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A shared life

A shared life     

The island in the zygote –
floating miniscule and fragile;

island in the womb –
so vulnerable, so vulnerable.

The island in my head – so insubstantial,
so subjective; inside my skin – so mortal;

the island in my chest – so isolated, so lonely.
White dab of sand in the middle

of a dark blue sea until the Ocean Itself
leaves footprints along the shore.

Accustom yourself, its pattern reads,
to a shared life.  And for years now,

my island fortress has been shrinking
under the determined elements of truth –

wild winds, brutal storms, the heavy seas.
When every place you trust,

the footprints read, underfoot is gone; 
everything you thought solid proven flimsy,

the truth will swim into view –
truth to drown in; truth vast as the Ocean

encircling your sad
and dwindling little island.

O child of God, every man is an island
until reclaimed by the Ocean of Love.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Arther and Sarah's wedding (excerpt from Aubrey's Vigil)


 So John Aubrey was called upon to officiate the wedding of Arther Stanley Tucker and Sarah Mary Aubrey, one week before Christmas, l960.  Arther's brother Charles stood up with him. Nell Aubrey served as Sarah's matron of honor.  The Tucker's came in their finest clothes.  Callie got Burgess to buy her a new dress for the occasion.  And she visited the beauty parlor for the first time since her own wedding.  The extravagance of such things distressed Vera no end, but Burgess was pleased with the outcome.  Callie came to the wedding as a Moore ... not a Tucker.  With the change of her name came the severing of some of her ties with the family; she was determined to try her new wings; get shed of the past, so that one day – it couldn't come soon enough for her – people would forget she was ever that dirty, ragtag little Tucker gal.
            Callie, indeed, was a revelation to many when she entered that Community Center on the arm of her husband.  A lot of the folks hadn't seen her since her own wedding.  She and Burgess didn't attend church services after their marriage.  Burgess had confessed he never was much of one for church anyways; the only reason he went before was because he knew Callie would be there.  Callie was humbled to the point of tears.  It never failed to make her wonder, the way God turned things around on people.
            The evening of the wedding, she came a little early, walked the aisle slowly, was fussed over by the womenfolk.  She was feeling proud of her new clothes, her new husband, her new station in life:  Who's that?  Why that's Mrs. Burgess Moore.  She lives out in that big ol' house in the West Fork of Bennett Holler.  She's with child, you know.  Don't she look nice, though.   The news was out about the baby, tongues wagging with winks and nods. She was proud, too, of the baby she carried inside her.
            But, of course, after being seated, before too long, everyone's attention was drawn to another, being escorted down to the front, as the organ played softly, where three aisles had been reserved on either side for the bride and groom's relations.  The beauty of about every woman there paled in comparison to the beauty of Lois Aubrey.  Even with a baby at her breast, she still made for a handsome woman.  She carried herself, and was doted upon by others, like a queen.  She struck Callie as being even lovelier than the first time she'd ever seen her.  She wore a dark blue dress, sleek and smart like from the advertisements in a magazine.  Her figure had filled out a mite, there were a few faint lines upon her face, but at twenty-six she was still in the full flower of her womanhood.  Being led down the aisle by Buck Aubrey to her seat in front, she effortlessly turned the head of everyone there. 
John came out from the side, down front, followed by Arther, Charles, Dudley and Virgil Tucker.  They wore their Sunday best.  Then, came the Aubrey women to match up with them; Nell, Judith and Annie, all in pale yellow dresses.  Kenny Weeks, Nell's son, was the ring bearer, ten years old, serious, stiffened up with fear, as he carried the pillow with the wedding bands.  Then came another delight of the evening, almost enough to steal the thunder from the bride.  It was Rosie, carrying herself down the aisle much like her mama did, favoring her mama in her dark, natural beauty.  Like Lois, she shone like a distant star, cool as dew.  Mary Elizabeth was beside her, outdone by her older sister, as was her fate.  She was three and a half years old; Rosie a week away from her seventh birthday.  They were the flower girls, though Mary Elizabeth was too struck by the crowd to do anything but cling to her basket of petals with one hand and to Rosie's dress with the other.   Rosie, for her part, was tossing the flower petals from her basket with  serious intent.  When she ran shy, she reached over into Mary Elizabeth's basket and grabbed a handful of hers.  She was the miracle girl.  Everyone knew it.  She was touched by the hand of God.
            Sarah Aubrey was not to be outdone by anybody, though, on the day of her wedding.  She appeared on the arm of Stuart Aubrey as the bridal theme played on the piano, clad, of course, and veiled in the purest white, lovely as a dream.   Sarah was a big-boned, gangly girl with long legs, but in her gown she seemed to flow, delicate and lacy, down the aisle to meet up with her man.  John yoked them together, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, pronouncing that what therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.  The words from the scripture cut deeply into John.  His eyes fell upon Callie seated next to her husband.  He felt rebellion in his heart, envy for Arther and Sarah, starting off with a new chance at life.   He wondered vaguely how he missed the mark so badly ... and where he might go from where he now stood.
            After the ceremony and the run back down the aisle, the newlyweds cut the cake; Sarah tossed out the bridal bouquet to a waiting gaggle of unattached females.  Behind them folks gathered up the folding chairs and cleared the floor for the dance.  Onstage, the curtains parted to reveal a band of musicians with banjo, mandolin, guitars, fiddle and bass fiddle.  Hollis Byrd took to the microphone.  He announced the first song:  the Kentucky Waltz and asked that the floor be given over to Arther and Sarah so they could dance the first dance alone.  As the music began, Arther took Sarah in his arms.  They swept across the bare floor.  The crowd cheered for them. 
            Burgess and Callie had found a seat against the wall.  Callie watched her brother swing Sarah
around the room, lovely in the flow of her white gown, Arther's face flushed and handsome.  Callie tried to settle it in her mind ... now she was kin to the Aubrey's.  She couldn't help but feel a tinge of pride in that.  Though it meant she would be closer to John and being closer to John mixed sweet honey with rock salt.  ‘Ain't it funny how God does a body', she said to herself.  'All their lives scattered, false in many a way an' awry, yet tangled up together so nobody could break loose.'  Sarah and Arther on a new path together.  Callie wondered if they were free as they seemed.   She reckoned not.  She reckoned nobody was ever free from God Almighty.
            Suddenly John was standing beside her.  He offered her his hand.  "May I have this dance?" he asked.  She could find no words with which to answer.  John looked at Burgess.  "May I dance with my new sister-in-law?" he asked. 
            "If she wants to," said Burgess, his eyes locked onto John's.
            Wordlessly Callie rose from her seat.  John took her hand and led her onto the dance floor.  Other couples had begun to join Arther and Sarah, but now everyone's eyes were fixed upon the preacher and Callie Tucker Moore.  Her dream came to mind, the dance with John on the edge of the cliff.  It was dreamlike now on the dance floor and just as scary.  But when he took her in his arms, she vowed not to care anymore; to just dance the dance with the man she loved; had always loved.  She knew he was looking intently at her, but she couldn't raise her chin.  "Callie," he whispered as they circled the room.  "I ain't much good at this.  Forgive me.  I ain't danced since I was a young buck."  Callie felt every curious eye upon them.  The eyes of Lois Aubrey.  The eyes of Vera Moore.  The eyes of her husband.  She threw back her head and shook her hair free from her shoulders as John swirled her around. 
            "Thank you for askin' me," she said.  She looked John straight in the eyes.
            "One of my most painful regrets in the last few months was that I never danced with you," John told her.  "All those times up on the hill when you danced for me.  It never entered my mind to join you.  Whut a fool I was ... what a fool."
            "God makes fools of us all," Callie told him.  "I don't know why He does.  For sport, I reckon."
            John didn't answer, but smiled at her.  She was beautiful and she was in his arms.  She smiled right back at him.  While the whole crowd watched them dance.  The music ended.  John let Callie go.  Followed her with his eyes as she walked back to her husband; her eyes lowered, her heart afire.  The next song, a rousing banjo tune, lit out in a scamper and a floor full of dancers began to swing and swirl around John, standing still and alone among them.  He turned, dodging the flow of intertwined couples, and made his way to side.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Elephant shapes

Elephant shapes                                                                                      

This spinning earth from time to time,
may turn my head
but, I dare not long neglect my duties –

too many who depend on me,
eyes uncertain asking –

How are things on your side? 
Any news from up river? 

Father shuffling toward another death,
mother befuddled with fear;

loved ones sent out daily to gather
fresh greens in abandoned minefields.

Whistle while you work, my Beloved advises,
but, keep digging.
The stench of death is on the breeze;

crocodiles at the watering hole,
only their eyes visible above the surface.

I keep an ear to the rail; gleaning
what I can from the shimmering air –

for my own files, of course,
but also, for loved ones

who keep asking for the truth
of rescue and escape.

I’ve little time left for pottering about, pursuing pleasure, 
arguing in the dark over elephant shapes.

O child of God, everything is in His hands and yet,
there’s much work to do before winter sets in. 

Friday, November 20, 2015



You taught Peter to walk on the water –
until fear turned his feet to lead.

Now, You’re urging me to float
this concrete body

upon a plane so insubstantial,
not grabbing or flailing;

not reaching back upon the empty
mechanics of swimming,

but lying gently
in the shape of a cross,

drifting towards infinity,
feeling at my neck’s nape,

and the small of my back,
Your fingertips …

until they, too,
dissolve into Ocean.

O child of God, trust the Sea.
Roll with the waves.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The land of Nod

The land of Nod    
When the cord is cut, our original attachment,
not just to mother but also Father, any other,

the wound is so deep and great,
rarely does it heal over a lifetime,

wandering the land of Nod in the hope
of a poultice, a concoction of ultimate remedy.

Over the aeons, we have gotten plastered
by every voodoo cure, herb and root,

mustard seed and devil’s club;
chased the old wives’ tales

around every bend and corner
and come up empty and hurting,

none the wiser and further
impaired deep in the core

where it all begins and never leaves,
where the world’s cataplasm cannot reach.

So the dog chases its tail, the tale of human history,
unable, it seems, to turn and face the truth

of our permanently attached oneness
and our hidden-in-plain-view non-existence.

O child of God, you and I are not we but One
means the notion of you must be abandoned.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The root of courage

The root of courage                                                                           
Cor , the root of courage,
Latin for heart,

from which it springs.
Yes, a heart grown faint

but only when we coronate
its pretender, its appropriator,

the Vizier we employ
in heartbreaking irony

to meet life’s threats,
real and imagined –

the very maker of fear,
the saboteur of love,

ever in opposition to the heart
by dominance, usurpation

of the cor, the coeur, the core
from which all courage springs.

O child of God, yield your head
to the heart’s dominion.

Friday, October 30, 2015

A brief coupling

A brief coupling                                                  
Words that rhyme
some people think of as poetry.

It must be, others opine,
musings ingeniously inspired

or stilted profundities, oddly arranged.
Some insist upon evocative phrasing

or words obscure and impenetrable
and yet poetry is not words at all

but a redolence that drifts
through the bars of our cages

or not even that but a dark, bloody,
nuanced display at a moment’s notice

on bright, open leaves, stolen like a breath
from the reader’s chest, a brief coupling

alluding to, more or less,
the gasping, thunderous truth;

a hint of the ultimate affinity
for which every heart pines.

O child of God, why ever endeavor
to put into words what true poetry is?

Friday, October 23, 2015

John meets Cyril - an excerpt from Aubrey's Vigil

          The old DeSoto made it fine to Piedmont, where John left his daughters with Lily Polk.  It was fifty miles on down the highway from there when the soft punk of an explosion sent clouds of steam streaming out from under the car's big white hood.  John pulled over onto the grassy shoulder of the lonely two-lane.  It was flat, piney country. He was still a good hundred miles from Dallas.  After a time he was able to lift the hood, releasing a billow of steam and he could see the damage that had been done; relieved to find that the replaced water pump didn't appear to be the cause of the malfunction.
            He felt a presence near him and lifted his head from under the hood.  There was a raggedy pick-up truck pulled up behind the DeSoto with three dogs in the bed.  They began to bark when they spied John.  An old man with shaggy hair and beard sat behind the wheel, watching John through the windshield.  He made no move to get out of the truck.  He tapped his knuckles on the back glass and the dogs grew silent.  John walked back to where he sat.
            "Hello there, sir," said John.
            "Troubles?" asked the man.
            "I think it's just a busted heater hose.  I pro'bly can fix it with some tape I got in the trunk.  But I need some water to refill my radiator."
            The old man flung the door open and climbed out of the truck.  The dogs jumped down and followed him over to the DeSoto, giving John a good sniffing on the way.  His clothes were as dirty and raggedy as the pick-up truck.  He stuck his head under the hood to look things over for himself.
            "It's right there," said John, pointing to the tear in the hose.  "See it?"   Up close, the old man stank strongly of sweat, dogs and cigarettes.
            "My place is down the road a piece," said the man.  "Let's tape her up an' I'll take you there an' git you some water."   As he turned to face him, John was shocked to see that the man wasn't old at all, maybe in his late thirties.   His filthy condition made him appear old, his hair matted and tangled, the lines of his smudged face caked with dirt.
            "I'd be much obliged," said John.
            The old truck rattled along the highway at about fifteen miles an hour, the dogs roaming the bed of the truck.  The man was in no hurry.  He lit up a hand-rolled cigarette and offered one to John.
             "No, thanks," said John.  "My name's John Aubrey," he said, offering the man his hand.
            "Cyril Rodgers," said the man. 
            "I'm mighty grateful to you for stoppin'.  An' to the good Lord for sendin' you my way."
            Cyril turned toward John, his eyes wide with mock surprise.  "The good Lord sent me?  You mean it was the Devil who busted your radiator hose?  Or was it the good Lord?"  John was surprised into silence. "I believe it was the Lord," said Cyril.  "He's always up to some mischief.  I wonder why He done it."  John couldn't think of a thing to say.  Cyril laughed at him.  "Where you headed?" he asked.

            "You a preacher, ain't you?"
            John's eyebrows shot up.  "How'd you know?"
            "Soft hands, pasty skin; fancy clothes, but drivin' a beat-up ol' car ....  What you goin' to Dallas for?"
            "I'm speakin' to a conference of pastors."
            Cyril took a long draw on his cigarette.  "Would that be the one put on by the Reverend Harris T. Black?"
            "My God, who are you?" John blurted out.
            Cyril looked him over curiously.  "Maybe I'm an angel from heaven," he said.  He burst out with ragged laughter at the look on John's face.  "You been visited by angels before, ain't you, Brother Aubrey?"  He laughed again.  Sucked on his cigarette.  "I was a preacher once," he said.
            "What happened to you?" asked John.  Cyril exploded into laughter again, bent against the steering wheel, bangin' his fingers on the dashboard.  The dogs in back started barking and he rapped on the back glass to quiet them.  "I'm sorry," said John.  Cyril's laughter turned into a coughing fit.  John kept a wary eye on the road as the truck weaved across the center stripes.  Cyril pulled it back in line. 
            "What happened to me?" said Cyril.
            "Did you lose your faith?"
            "No," said Cyril.  "I found it."
            "I don't understan'."
            "No, you don't.  You a preacher.  You live by words.  Words never tell the truth, Brother Aubrey.  God’s too vast to fit into anybody’s mouth ... or their ears."  And, as if to emphasis his point, he clamped his mouth down tight.  The truck rattled along for a ways.  John searched uneasily the piney roadsides for the sight of a house or a storefront.  Nothing but thick woods beyond the littered, overgrown shoulders.   Cyril spoke again.   "When I quit preachin', I started listenin'.  When I started listenin' all the words dried up in me.  I stood mute before the Lord."  He stared at John, stomped down the clutch, the engine sputtering, the truck slowing down. 
            He turned onto a dirt trail that led deep into the piney wood.  John was startled to see three crosses of rough timber stuck up in a clearing to his left.   The two lesser crosses were raw wood, but the center cross was painted red and bore a Bible verse in white paint: Eli, Eli, la-ma sa-bach-tha-ni?
            "My God, My God.  Why hast thou forsaken me?" quoted John.
            "Yes!" said Cyril.
            There was another cross coming up on John's right made of pine logs, tied at the crux with rope.  Three more on his left, white, painted with verses.  And then the old truck turned a corner of thick pines and there stood before John hundreds of crosses, clustered in random ways, various sizes and colors.   They stood in front of, and to the side of a one room shack, the exterior walls of which were covered with roofing shingles of many different colors.  The roof itself was corrugated tin, rusted a dark brown.  Smoke rose from a stack jutting through it.  Cyril cut off the truck motor.  John sat gaping at the crosses.         
            "I don't preach no more," said Cyril, quietly.  "I make crosses." 
            "It's wonderful," said John.
            "It's the Lord's work," said Cyril, as if he expected a challenge from John.
            "'Course it is," said John.  "Can I look aroun'?"
            "He’p yourself," said Cyril, his manner withdrawn and apprehensive.  "I'll fetch a couple of pails of water."
            John wandered among the crosses; in the shadows of crosses, many of them full scale, some the size of grave markers, all stuck in the weedy, hard, dry scrabble of central Texas.  The dogs walked leisurely along side him.  Some of the crosses had scripture carved or painted on them.

                         For I was hungered and ye gave me meat.

                         Watch therefore, for ye know neither 
                        the day nor the hour
                        wherein the Son of man cometh.        
                        And many false prophets shall rise.

            Cyril came back with two buckets of water.  They rode back to the DeSoto in silence.  Cyril seemed chary of discussing the crosses.  John was overcome.  No words came to mind.  What the man did was somehow self-explanatory.  John felt the presence of God on that patch of land, inside that old dog-smelly pick-up truck, hidden within the dirty, ragged covering of Cyril Rodgers' soul.
            They filled up the DeSoto's radiator with water.  When John cranked the motor, the tape held.  He shook Cyril's hand, parting there on the shoulder of the highway.  Thanked him once again.  Cyril loaded his dogs back into the truck, was preparing to climb in himself when he turned a last time toward John.
            "What happened to me, Brother Aubrey," he shouted above the noise of the two idling motors, "was God put out His great big ol' thumb an' He squashed me with it.  I'm under the thumb of God, Brother Aubrey.  That's all I'm tellin'."  He climbed into his truck and drove away.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Boat the oars

(painting by Joe Disabatino)

Boat the oars

Boat the oars and bewildered lie
in your gently creaking casket;

view the flowering stars
without clarity or curiosity.

Shatter your sword. Give up
your one shot at redemption.

Abjure the bindings of every proposal. 
Store no provisions. 

Abandon all fantasies of rescue,
mercy; pardon and reward.

Invite your own demise without really knowing
what it might be like nor how to go about it,

solely as the next obedient, sequential phase,
your last wisp of a motive being

the release, as best you can,
completely, of fallacy and fear.

O child of God, hope for hopelessness.
Attempt utter passivity.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Wrens and sparrows

Wrens and sparrows  
I write my poetry on a crust of bread
I found in the bottom of my pouch,

dropping crumbs along the path
for the wrens and sparrows.

I won’t be coming back
this way and no one will follow

into this particular plot of trees.
The woods are deep.  I’ll write

as long as the light holds out.
God illumines the path

only one step at a time
and my own torch has been thrown down.

It’s like a crust of bread –
the moon above the horizon.

My mortal existence is a crust of bread.
This poem is dedicated

to the wrens and sparrows.
I wish I had more to give.

O child of God, venture where there is blitheness  
in dissolution; unalloyed bliss in obliteration.



Friday, October 2, 2015

Beads on one string

Beads on one string

Abstaining from honey and roots,
leather and silk ... but, that’s not it; 

five times prayer, the pilgrimage,
no, no.  Not the bread and wine

nor a grain of rice per day;
not a mustard seed; not mortification;

not abstinence; not indivisibility
nor devas and demigods ... that’s not it;

not brotherly love nor pacifism,
not the Trinity nor the One; not faith, hope, charity;

not servitude nor mastery ... not that, not that;
not the ark, the grail, the ka’aba, the holy texts,

not the Silence nor the Word,
not practices nor disciplines,

ceremonies nor performances, no ... that’s not it.
It’s not ... it’s not. 

God can reach around any corner, at any time,
and pull from the rubble a lover, a seeker, a saint.

At some juncture, to adhere is to fall away; to follow
is to fall behind – the path requiring, at times,  

abandonment of the path, faith – the leaving of the fold
and fidelity – the incoherent ravings of an infidel.

O child of God, put your faith in perplexity;
find God by renouncing everything you know.

Friday, September 25, 2015



At Ellora, they started with a stone hillside;
carved out everything that wasn’t a temple.

A poem should be like that –
from a vast vocabulary, an eliminating

of words unconnected to one another
until the secret combination is found,

unlocking glimpses of Oneness, the inter-connection.
Words that tremble and hum

when placed together
belong to the realm of the Infinite.

The truth of a poem is in its transparency –
columns of words, sturdy as stone ... clear as glass. 

O Lord, take my life.  Make a poem from it –
chip away the awkward, the unrelated, the oblique,

the dissonant and obscure.  Leave me ...
sturdy, connected, crucial and transparent.

O child of God, the Masters say Truth is not
an accumulation of wisdom but a paring away of the false.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Grace intruded

                                                                            (photo art by Suzy Sue Smith)

Grace intruded                                                                                                           

Grace intruded upon my habitual sorrow
and marked me for its own

like a pattern of ink under the skin, 
like an imperfectly minted coin,       

a misprinted postage stamp
or a raw diamond selected for its flaws.

Plucked like a flower
for a vase on a bedside table;

like a wild colt culled from the herd –
lassoed, corralled and broken;

like a shell found on the beach
or an injured bird unable to pursue
its migratory route,

I left the broad path
for the narrow and the crooked 

and now – no path at all ...
making my way as everyone must

who tramps toward the gates –
without precedent,

yet, with a Companion who by turns comforts,
inspires, fortifies and illumines the way ahead.

O child of God, Grace is beyond your ken.
To whom much is given much is required.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Stringfellow - an excerpt from Rare Birds

            Jim dreamed of the ibis, pure white and graceful, crossing the clear brown creek, flying directly over the Stringfellow house.  In its cry, Jim heard his name and awoke.  
            "Preacher?”  Jim spoke softly in the dark of the room.  
            “I’m here.”
            “Where’s everybody?”
            “They’re asleep.  It’s a little after one.”
            “I see.”
            “Do you want anything?”
            Jim managed a weak smile.  “That’s the question, Preacher.  I been thinkin’ about it.  You know, I . . . I don’t want nothin’ at all.  Not even to live any longer.  Not to have somethin’ I never had or I don’t already have.  I’m completely empty.  Washed up.  I want for nothin’, Preacher.  No regrets. Oh, I could’ve been a lot better man in some ways.  A better father.  Hindsight’s twenty-twenty.  And maybe you were right.  For yourself.”
            “How’s that?”
            “How you never considered this world your home.  All your life lookin’ for a way out.  And for what’s comin’ up next.  I made myself at home in this world.  For fifty-four years, I settled into it right comfortable.  I know there’s more to it.  But it never was my concern.  The other parts of it.”
            “You lived well, Jim.”
            “I did what I did.  I was who I was.  I took what came as it came.  I can’t imagine it bein’ any way other than the way it was.  The way it is now.  Can you?”
            “It’s still a mystery . . . after all these years.  Like it was when we’d sleep out on the dock and watch the moon rise against the stars.  Like when we’d skin a cat or slit a deer’s throat to bleed him ‘fore we dressed him.  Like how the mallards sit in our front yard, same time every fall, sunnin’ themselves before they move on to Mexico.   A mystery.  I ain’t learned a damn thing.  And that’s all right.  It’s good.  It’s good.”
            “Good and faithful servant.  Your faith was always bigger than mine.  Still is. Never hesitated; never questioned.  You’ve been right to live like that, Jim.”
            “You talk that way at my grave, Preacher.  You tell ‘em.”
            Jim was silent after that, drifting into a light sleep.  His labored breathing, the hum of the box fan and the distant night sounds.  It struck Amos eerily – maybe this was Jim’s last night on earth.  Last night in the body.  With the holy stars around and the dark woods and the deep black creek.  If Jim meant nothing to God just as he was right then, that little speck of a body in the great universe, if Jim’s life wasn’t good enough, right then, we are all orphans, thought Amos, without a Father, a purpose, a faith.  And I am a great speckled bird surrounded by enemies.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Of resolution and resurrection

Of resolution and resurrection                                                                

Beauty becomes a quiet comfort
in the latter years, giving of its depth

and essence without intentions or purpose,
earning our honor and attention

by virtue of its mere existence.
One day Truth will be like that.

We’ll cling to it even through
the most bitter of circumstances,

the most fearsome grief ... because it lies
so purely, so resolutely beyond our grasp.

It will taste medicinal by then –
of resolution and resurrection.

One day Truth will come to our door
so pure, so vulnerable, so lovely

it will be beyond us
to ever deny it anything.

O child of God, pray for the day truth, love and beauty
all are expressed by the same silent word.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Good Thief

The Good Thief

On Judgment day, who will your theories
and opinions impress?

O child of God, will you stand before the throne
a devout believer or as a man of faith?

Beliefs are straw a desperate man stuffs into a suit of rags
hoping to keep at bay his dark, circling fears.

A man of faith is empty.  His strength come from another source.
His coat flutters loosely from the crossbeam.

The Roman soldiers gambled for Jesus' robe
while the real treasure hung nearby, naked and vulnerable.

From another cross, the unrepentant thief railed against heaven
with a bitter tongue.  His logical assertions condemned him to hell.

But at the last possible moment, the good thief stole paradise.
He called out to his Beloved from a point of utter helplessness.

O child of God, will you go to your Beloved stuffed full of worthless notions
or become a man of faith, empty and unafraid?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Fireworks - an excerpt from Rare Birds

Shari Jewell stood at the makeshift barricade strung across the lawn at Brookley Field.  She was happy and excited, waiting for the fireworks to begin, holding to her sister’s hand on one side and her cousin Carter’s on the other.  In a crowd of highly anticipatory people standing in the thickly settling dusk.  “Is it time soon?” she asked Jenny.
            “Soon,” answered Jenny.  “Do you remember the fireworks from last year?  When we lived in Richmond?”
            “Yes,” said Shari.  “It’s loud as thunder.  And like birds of fire all different colors.”
            “That’s right,” said Jenny, grinning at Carter.  “Birds of fire.”
            “Like golden eagles,” said Carter.
            “And green parrots,” added Jenny.
            “Red-tailed hawks.”
            “Blue jays.”
            “Yellow canaries.”
            “Pink flamingoes,” rejoined Jenny.

“White-tailed kites.”
“Oh, come on.”
“Look it up.”
"Purple finches.” 
“Scarlet Tanagers,” said Carter.        
                “Peacocks,” said Jenny, as a final, triumphant word.  “Peacocks.”
                “Peacocks,” agreed Carter, grinning at his pretty young cousin.
“Shari!” someone called.  Kimmie Broun was weaving through the crowd toward them.  Del was following her anxiously.  Kimmie hugged Shari and then Jenny.  Del nodded.
            “Hello, Del,” said Jenny.  “My cousin Carter.  This is Del Broun.”  They shook hands.
            “Kimmie just barrels through people,” said Del, half-grinning, “then, I have to follow.  Folks don’t mind a little girl pushin’ through ‘em but a grown man is another story.”  He stopped talking suddenly.  The grin left his face.  Jenny followed his eyes to a short blond woman standing some fifteen feet away.  She was looking back at Del through large thick glasses.  She smiled.  Waved.  Del waved back.  Then, looked sheepishly at Jenny.
            Jenny studied the woman again.  She was intrigued.  There seemed to be some connection between the woman and Del.  Next to her she recognized Faye Ruff, a friend from school.  Faye spied Jenny and moved toward her.  Olive and Web followed.  There were introductions and a sorting out.  Del explained how he knew Olive from Scouts.  He seemed discomfited, shy in the small blonde’s presence.  His son Todd, Del told them, was out there in the dark somewhere.  When they had arrived, he had quickly disappeared into the crowd. 
As he was speaking, the first rocket was launched, whistling upward.  A great explosion and a burst of light sent Shari into Carter’s arms.  He picked her up, holding her against his hip.  Her face buried in his throat.  Carter was abashed and pleased at his cousin’s trust and affection.  At his unaccustomed role.  After a time, she lifted her face toward the sky and watched the loud, fiery, colored birds.
            Del stole glances at Olive who stood nearby.  Kimmie and Web between them.  We could be mistaken for a family, thought Del.  Dismissing that thought from his mind.  Watching the varicolored lights play upon Olive’s face.  Heard her oohs and aahs.  Olive turning to smile up at him every now and then.  Kimmie squeezed his hand at the louder ones.  Del wanting his hand squeezed by Olive Ruff.  He felt suddenly lonely and lost, small under the sky, amidst a sea of strangers.  A spent ember had drifted down and settled in his chest.  Lit a flame in there.  He kept his eyes on the sky as he monitored the burning within.  He dared not look again toward Olive Ruff.

            Not a hundred yards away, Amos, Wanda and Ruddy sat on the tailgate of the old Stringfellow pickup.  They were parked across from the fenced area, beside the highway.  The sky was exploding in colors above them.  Fireworks in the heart of Dixie, in the deep, warm Alabama night.  It’s like a date, thought Wanda and Amos independently.  Each, perhaps, not caring much about independence for themselves anymore.  Ruddy, sitting between them, a proper chaperone.  It felt good, to be out in the world together.  Neither had been on a date in many years.  Maybe a portent of things to come? 
She was wearing her soft, faded jeans and plain, feminine blouse.  A gold locket around her throat.  It made Amos’s heart leap.  He wanted to touch the woman to whom he sat so close.  Stroke her hair.  Explore her eyes.  He did not have the nerve.  Even when they returned to Bayou Petite, she would say goodnight while holding onto Ruddy.  And he would nod and smile and walk toward his house under the moon-shadowed oaks. 
Wanda felt Amos’s eyes upon her, his admiration and appreciation.  She was shy under his gaze and yet she felt safe.  She held her head tilted upwards, motionless, as if posing.  She hoped he would not notice in the dim light, how she was trembling slightly, blushing deeply, her breasts and neck hot in the humid night.

A great, brilliant, thunderous finale sent the crowd to their cars.  The group that had gathered around Jenny and Carter walked loosely together.  No one had anything to say.  Words seemed an intrusion.  Todd was waiting at Del’s car.  The three families parted and made their way home.  Across the field, Amos cranked the truck and entered the highway.  The beauty of the fireworks left an afterglow in each heart and mind.  And there were other afterglows and impressions, emotions and yearnings that lasted long into the night.