The trees reach up with deep green limbs Waving fingers with verdant grace. Sunlight dazzles in warm still shade. Silent the song of breathing hymns Lifted up from a wooden face Straining to reach heaven as made.
I lie still for an age Shrouded behind death's mask: Silent at last. No dance and no glib jest. Stillness my companion and I would rest. Fine bells will ring no more. A shroud wraps my frame tight: earth embraces. My time is now my own: No lords need I pleasure, save the one Lord. Let me rest here in peace for I am done with life as a royal plaything: and I would rest.
It has been a while since I have contributed to the D’verse Poets Pub. I needed to let off some steam after a couple of interesting things happened in my world today, so here I am.
The challenge for Poetics Tuesday is bringing life back to a person through poetry. I was thinking about the literary character of Yorick from William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” today, so I thought I would expand upon the life of this character. I wanted to explore the themes of vanity, death, and service to a royal family that is portrayed as more than a bit dysfunctional.
Less than two weeks waking in this old town: a parking lot altar stands for an hour. Old wedding superstitions are mirrored: Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue picked by coincidence. A space for lawn chairs marks a short moment where oily asphalt holds holy thin space.
Psalm instead of song, mask instead of mic: Word and prayer still anchor our shared time. Only one more Sunday moment is left. Sorrow asks for blessings on the marriage of heaven and earth to continue on when my service is but a memory.
In this space renews“Asphalt Space” by the Distracted Pastor, 2020
a sacred vow held quite dear
for two centuries
This is sacrilege:“This is Sacrilege…” Tanka, Distracted Pastor, 2020
Chemical warfare before
Pictures are taken
With someone’s Bible proving
The book is held as a flag.
The narrative bothers me deeply: A peaceful protest is cleared with a form of chemical weapons so that a secular leader can take a photo with a Bible. I love the Bible, I read it, and after watching the news I think of the words of Deuteronomy 27:19 (NRSV): “ ‘Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan ,and the widow of justice.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ ”
“ ‘Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan ,and the widow of justice.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ ”Deuteronomy 27:19, NRSV
An inheritor of privilege holding a Bible while an oppressed people asking for the very justice required by God require medical assistance. The situation makes me feel sick to my stomach. A person murdered in public after a long string of abuses on others of the same race, people calling for justice, and being met with chemical weapons in the streets… Elsewhere, widows and orphans met with the same force for the social crime of demanding justice. This cannot continue.
Justice demands action, righteousness demands action, holiness demands action, and our own children’s futures demand action. This must change.
Take the fragrant dough.“Big Heart” by The Distracted Pastor, 2020
Fold it: let it grow.
Treat it gently: Just like so…
Heat oven below.
Place with care—don’t throw.
Listen to the news…
In-law wearing riot gear…
And hurting people…
Slice the bread to toast,
Brew a dark decaf French roast:
Seek the Holy Ghost…
I wrote this poem to express the challenge of the morning. I sat to write a poem to go with the toast made from an experimental loaf I made yesterday, The loaf was made with a lot of care.
While thinking about what words to use, I listened to news about tensions over police brutality. I heard a lot of frustration with a broken system. I thought of the gasping words coming from a man who could not breathe. I thought of burning buildings representing inadequately an unjust system that seems fire-proof. I was already grieving when my wife came down to tell me my brother-in-law went to work in riot-gear today.
The poem starts very clean and measured with a rhyming pattern, devolves as the world intrudes, and ends right where I am as a person: sitting quietly and listening for comfort and wisdom. The title comes from the thought I had and the original first lines: “It takes a big heart; to hold joy and grief.”
Well worn bumpy sacks wait to be released anew in another home. Adults loose a sigh as boxes begin to swell with children’s treasures. Children pack away items all will trip over in a few months time. Parents ponder why long dusty beanbags take space both now and later.
Sweet smiling children“Beanbag Haibun,” Distracted Pastor, 2020
will fill a fresh and new place
with “priceless” treasures.
The scarecrow lay prone. Pumpkin head in cold wet mud: weighted base cast down. Crimson chested birds peck for brave spring early worms as humans shiver. Lifted and shaken, the scarecrow hangs in her dress: wrinkled by Jack Frost. A child sees her friend risen from the muddy pit: arms open to hug. Windchimes dangle low: ringing out their joyful sound beside laughing child…“Spring Scarecrow Haibun,” Distracted Pastor, 2020
Run, little daughter!
Laugh, giggle, chuckle, and play!
Enjoy this moment.
Empty streets below skies blotted by ashen hued puffs. No voices carry on cold wind As footsteps seem noisy intrusions... This is a still place... Listen within. My soul breathes, heart beats: life. This is a still place...
Yesterday it rained a lot here. From morning until evening, the skies were filled with rain and the temperature was just a few degrees above freezing. The few walks that I took with my dogs and children were taken on streets drenched in rain. The streets were mainly empty, which is pretty normal in quarantine. The cold rain only made the walks chillier, the yards emptier, and the entire area’s mood more somber.
For the last few weeks of quarantine, I’ve been slowly reading through Richard Rohr’s “Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer.” I say that I’m reading it slowly because the price of Kindle books has taught me the wisdom of rationing books during this time of stillness. My personal budget for books has not grown even as the time to read them has increased…
The book is interesting. I do not always agree with Fr. Rohr’s writing, but thankfully my beliefs do not require me to agree with someone’s entire belief structure to glean wisdom where I find it. Let’s take this idea from Fr. Rohr which strikes me as particularly interesting on page 96:
If contemplation teaches us to see an enchanted world, cynicism is afraid there is nothing there. As a people, we have become cynical about ourselves, our world, our future. Some rightly said, “The problem is no longer to believe in God; it’s to believe in humanity.” We’re tremendously under-confident about what it means to be human. For many secular people today we live in a disenchanted universe without meaning, purpose, or direction. We are aware only of what it is not. Seldom do we enjoy what it is. Probably it is only healthy religion that is prepared to answer that question. Healthy religion is an enthusiasm about what is, not an anger about what isn’t.Richard Rohr, page 96 of “Everything Belongs”
Yesterday, the world was empty, wet, cold, and windy. The weather outside was fairly to quite miserable. The news on the radio was not very warm and cuddly. I could have easily chosen to be angry about the world. I could choose to embrace anger, anxiety, fear, or despair.
Instead, I smoked a turkey that we froze in our freezer last fall. Earlier in the week I brined the turkey with a homemade brine. We thawed the turkey in a brine for five days. We brought the brine to a boil before cooling to room temperature prior to submerging the turkey. We smoked the turkey with cherry wood chips with brine in the water pan. With three hours left, we put potatoes underneath the turkey to smoke and to be flavored by any drippings falling from the turkey.
The day could have been thoroughly miserable, but there was opportunity to find joy even in the midst of a dark world. We cannot choose the world in which we live. We can choose how we try to approach the difficulties. Sometimes there are neurochemical challenges which require medical help, patterns of habits which are detrimental, or a propensity towards anxiety, depression, or fear; however, we still can make a choice.
Last night, we had smoked turkey with smashed smoked potatoes. The turkey was moist and flavorful, the potatoes were tasty, and the inevitable cranberry sauce was devoured. We have enough leftovers for the next few days today and turkey broth cooking in the slow cooker. Even these moments can be beautiful if we choose to find a reason for hope and joy. Perhaps you’re not a cook or have nobody to cook with, but this day is still the day we have for today. We can choose to be enthusiastic about what is rather than angry about what is not.
Brine Recipe: For every five pounds of turkey: 1 clementine sliced into wedges, 1 tsp prague powder #1, 1 tsp peppercorns, ¼ c brown sugar mixed into a brine made with enough water to submerge the turkey)
Dreams like fog drift out from the depths of night.
Troubled thoughts steal all the warmth from our bed.
Hazy glimpses of events filled with fright:
I dream of habits I would bury dead.
Cold winds blow down the dreamy lane
Where dreaming guilt weighs down my soul.
Eyes open to a world more sane
As thoughts bend to the night's dark hole.
A staccato heartbeat
Slowly calms itself down.
I live where fingers meet
As soul seeks Heaven's Crown.
I would forget
Dark dreams untrue:
Part ways and yet,
Guilt clings like dew.
Below the sun
I kneel and pray.
I seek the Son
By light of day.
Sunlight burns away fog
Revealing ways to see
Not all is miring bog.
There is much good in me.
Drifts lift to reveal a good heart
That seeks to be a good parent.
Terror unveiled to have a start
In desire to straighten parts bent.
I cannot change past nor keep dreams away
But sunlight reveals that the day has come.
Fog burns away over a cold clear way
Where any future has yet to become.
On empty path
Through woods by still waters:
A shrouded path for another.
This poem is dedicated to a church member who passed away this last weekend. I’ve visited him for over five years in various facilities as he’s fought through various struggles. His journey is now beyond my sight and in God’s hands…
Steel cut oats linger in salty water
As coffee scents waft in the humid air.
Gray light trickles in through old still windows
As lazy flies begin to greet the day.
All is now quiet as mother and child
Bask in dream filled worlds beyond human reach.
The dogs sleep without a care in their heads.
Only the black cat watches with my soul.
If I could keep this moment in a jar
I would save it for darker days to come;
Yet, each day comes once and fades far away.
So, I sip and enjoy while I still can.
“Still Morning” by the Distracted Pastor, 2019
The other night I was stretching after a long day. We had spent the day with my wife running a garage sale while I helped to clean up the garage. My feet ached, my shoulder hurt, and I needed a good stretch for the Whole Life Challenge. I wrote this poem while reflecting on the events which took place while I stretched out tight joints while my wife washed up behind a closed bathroom door after a hot day in the sun.
Stretch your arms to toes
While your crying toddler wails
As her mom showers.
Stretch your sore shoulder.
Call to your lonely toddler
Who wants her mother.
Stretch your angry calf
As you pray she'll let mom be
After a hot day.
Rise to reach for her
As the door opens for her
Then closes on you.
Drink some cool water
As toddler storms the shower
With love and gusto.
“The Stretching Poem” from the Distracted Pastor, 2019
Today’s Rethink Church prompt is “Amazed.” The photo is from a local graveyard. As Easter dawns, there is life in the dead places of this world. While this photo was taken at sundown facing west, the sun is rising in the east over this graveyard as this poem is published. If I were to title the haiku, I might title it “Jesus’ checklist for today.” May Easter light fill your lives this day.
Today’s Rethink Church prompt for Photo-A-Day is “Believe.” In Christian tradition, Holy Saturday is a day of both anticipation and solemnity. Depending on your tradition, you may spend it celebrating or you might spend it silently.
I chose the photo I selected because it is my hope that we each tend to our light of faith on this holy day. May it burn brightly however you celebrate Holy Saturday.
Today’s Rethink Church prompt is “Remember.” We do.
Today’s prompt for the Rethink Church Photo-A-Day is “Among.” I decided to share a photo of my child and I sitting back and eating one gigantic matzoh cracker. It is my belief that there was laughter at the Last Supper in addition to seriousness.
Today’s prompt for Rethink Church is “Here.” I decided to share a photo from the local zoo. Here’s why you should always look before opening a door. You never know who is waiting on the other side of the door, so you should keep your eyes in the here and now. This is doubly true at a zoo.
Today’s Rethink Church prompt is “Found.” Here’s a photo of Pastor Rob finding a different kind of sheep than usual.
Holy Week is really intense for me. I have been working to have a sense of peace, but things are often a bit chaotic with last minute preparations.
Today I woke up early and decided to make some oatmeal. I texted upstairs to my wife who was waking up for the day and she said she’d like some oatmeal. Despite texting her on silent in order to keep our communication silent, our toddler heard the buzz. We broke the first rule: We woke the kid.
I began to prepare oatmeal for my family. I split the oatmeal into our three bowls. We each had our own type. The toddler had dried fruit in hers, my wife’s was plain and ready to be doctored, and my oatmeal was mixed with some eggs and spices. As the bowls sat there, I thought about two things. I thought about Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
I also thought about where my wife and I received our bowls, which was at a local charity event called “Empty Bowls.” The event is connected with both Roberson Clayworks and United Health Services. The funds raised go to benefit the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. Every time I eat out of my bowl, I remember that there are folks in our community who don’t have food to eat.
I am fortunate to have food for my hungry belly. Others are not blessed in the same way today. I thought about these things and wrote this poem based on the three bears and hungry bellies.
Three bowls“Three Bowls” Cinquain by the Distracted Pastor on April 16, 2019
Steam rises up
While empty belly growls.
Bear-like hunger to empty bowls
Today’s Rethink Church prompt is “Prepared.” I know that it is Holy Week, but after writing all of these haigas, I cannot help but use this prompt to recommend to all new parents that they either buy baby wipes by the case or invest in a lot of hand towels.
Today’s Rethink Church prompt is “Rest.” Today I decided to share an image of rest within a family. Remember, even on Palm Sunday, that there are many ways to use your cutlery. You cannot run off to a parade with cloaks and palms with messy hair… By the way, she’s never seen “The Little Mermaid.”
Today’s Rethink Church prompt is “Peace.” Being myself, I would prefer a Haiga to a simple photo. On March 31st, a Sunday, I fell asleep on the couch. At some point, a child grabbed my phone and took this photo. I was asleep, enjoying a heated blanket, and completely unaware that the photo was taking place. Peace is sometimes that moment when you let everything go and get some rest.
Today’s #RethinkChurch prompt is blessed. My daughter actually took the picture I am writing a haiga about today. We were visiting the zoo when an albino-peahen showed off her lack of colors. She felt blessed by the moment and even brought it up in church as something that she was thankful for in her life.
Zoos are controversial in some eyes, but this zoo reminded my daughter why we should protect the wild world in which we live. Our world is filled with amazing sights which deserve to be protected.
Today’s prompt for the Rethink Church Photo-A-Day is “Needs.” I decided I would write a Haiga, but wanted to give some background. A lot of folks over the years have joked that ministers work “an hour a week.”
We work far more than that amount. I run to hospitals, go to Nursing Homes, write sermons, read books, counsel the troubled, plan outreach, visit the sick in their homes, and try to be peacekeeper in everything from committees to marriages. I have spent sleepless nights thinking about the needs of my church.
There really are nights that I have trouble even going to sleep because my church has needs that I cannot fulfill, but must rely on God to meet: such trust does not come easily even for clergy. There are nights I wake up with bad dreams as a result. Despite all the rumors, ministers often do not see God face to face. We, too, have to rely on faith.
An honest response to this prompt for me is to show an “empty” church. I do not show it because the seats are empty. I show it because the seats are full for me.
I see the folks looking for a word of life during a funeral, a word of acceptance during communion, and a word of joy during a wedding. I see folks in tears, folks with smiles, and folks laughing. I see folks in doubt on Christmas Eve who have been dragged in by their family and folks with a smirk on Easter morning who have been brought by their loved ones. I see those folks next to the hopeful. This space is a sacred space that encompasses all of those emotions, relationships, and more.
The word of the day for the Rethink Church Lenten practice is “bring.” Being myself, here is a haiga. By the way, after nearly 32 of these, I am beginning to wear a little thin. Someone remind me to take a break from haiku after this is over.
Last Saturday we celebrated my wife’s birthday with a picnic at the local zoo. I caught this image which reminded me of Noah! Bring me two of every animal!