Poem: Cutting Nets

Net.JPG

Cutting Nets

And all the while you were told
I was imprisoning you,
I was at work doing something much harder:
setting you free.

And here you are,
the nets cut.
The sky opened,
ready to fly.

I watch your wings spread
and you leap into your own unknown,
careing less about your destination
than your freedom to become

whatever you desire.

About this poem

A poem to and about my daughter, my son and my wife, who I love with my whole heart. Time shows truth.

Tom

Poem: Layers

4_resize

 Layers

Arrive early, before the museum is full of tourists.
The light casts drama on the implements,
on the tools of simple trades
when work was hard, but without complication,
reminders of how you once saw the world.

You need those reminders.
Growing old has taught you the complexities
of ripples upon ripples,
of sharp-toothed animals under the floors,
and brokenness that pervades each of us,
surely as breath.

It is one of your greatest flaws.
That is what the learned doctors who probe your mind
tell you again and again.
You believe what you see, what you hear.
Like a child you believe.

You feel foolish, that at your age,
sixty-two years come and gone, you are only now learning
that few things are as they seem,
that life has layers, each coloring the other,
that emotions and truth are not the same thing,
even when they are.

You liked your innocence better.
It was easier, quicker, safer
until it’s falseness swallowed you alive
and left you for dead at the side of the road,

Today, you are slower.
Even here in the Shaker museum piece,
you look twice and abandon the image you see
of beautiful simplicity.
Now, you see the sweat. The hard work,
the broken hearts that came to this place in search of sanctuary,
in search of God,
the layers of relationship and passion and agony
of lost lives looking for nothing more than simple peace,
rarer than gold
and twice as valuable.

About this poem

I turn 63 in a month. At times, I wish I were younger. Things were simpler. Only they weren’t. I was just blinder.

The picture was taken at the Hancock Shaker Museum near Pittsfield, Mass. It is the washroom.

Tom

Poem: Abandoned

3 bw_resize

Abandoned

You spend far too much time breaking into abandoned buildings,
factories, churches, and homes long ago left,
windows barred with slabs of plywood,
doors locked from within.

The word is appropriate, abandon,
with its dictionary meaning of behavior
without consideration for consequences.
Miriam Webster would be proud of these empty spaces,

left like lovers, when they no longer have value,
and like abandoned lovers, there is disbelief and then ripples,
upsetting an ever-growing ring of people, real people,
not numbers or theories, but hearts and souls,

Locked out the spaces they once worshiped
and built their own lives upon.

In a generation, the locked doors become blight.
Windows break in storms and vandalism.
Bricks fall, one by one. Flowers grow in the cracks. Roofs leak.
Beams rot and bow. Graffiti appears, fades, and appears anew.

And the doors remain locked from within.
No one, it seems has keys.
No one, it seems, is interested in bringing the dead to life.
There are consequences to resurrection,

and that is not the purpose of abandonment.
Better to lock the doors and pretend nothing exists.
It is easier. Cheaper. It causes less pain
to the one who once owned love, but has moved on,

still in possession, but without interest
in another raising the ruins.

THese are the buildings I enter in.
These are the souls I listen to,
not believing in my power of ressurection –
I have long ago proved I have none –

but to capture the last glimpses of life
in these empty shells. To capture
and remember them before they are forever gone.
Abandoned.

About this poem

About buildings, which are too often abandoned. About people, who are also abandonded.

Tom

Poem: Lost Worlds

valentines_resize

Lost Worlds

Sit still for a moment.
Breathe in.
Slowly.

Smell the spring.
The vibrant earth beneath you.
The wildflowers, fragrant and bright.

Yes, bright.  Look slowly.
Do not let your eyes dart from bloom to bloom.
Linger a while, and see.

See the colors.
Purples and pinks and yellows and white
and a thousand shades of green.

Linger a while.
See the texture. Glassy and smooth grass.
Feathery flowers. All moving.

Be still. Just watch
and the wind set the small world at your feet
to dancing.

Listen closely.
To the wind. To the creaking of the trees.
to the small bees hovering hungrily over each blossom.

 

 

Thoughts: Self Sufficient

self sufficient_resize

“You were always so self-sufficient.”

That’s what my mother told me. I was a couple of years out from my divorce. No longer in the dark place that had consumed me for so long, but not yet fully emerged from that place either.

A strange thing happened after my divorce. My mother and I grew close. We had always loved each other, but as the divorce unfolded, I was honest with her at a whole new level. I talked to her of my struggles and my failures and she opened up to me about her own as she never had before.

We had been talking about the relationship between my father and I. He and I had had a love-hate relationship for much of our lives. There were periods where, between his drinking and his underlying anger, he was abusive.

I didn’t see it that way at the time. I didn’t see it for a long time in fact. It was just what life was. It was not until I went into therapy after the divorce that it started to leak out. And too, others began telling me what THEY saw. They saw it far more clearly than I did.

I know now how broken he was. And in his last years, not and then, the sources of that brokenness leaked out. I came to understand him better. We came to a peace in my late twenties, and as he edged towards his last years, we came to something more than peace.

“You were always so self-sufficient.”

Those words have rattled around in my head ever since my mother said them. People have accused me of that for most of my life.

Employers and business partners have used that self-sufficiency to turn me loose on projects that had nothing to do with skill sets or position. They knew whatever they threw at me, I’d figure it out. I became pretty good at succeeding when I didn’t have the resources or background to succeed.

In my church work over the years, people put my self-sufficiency to work as well. Time and time again I found myself in situations that were beyond my preparation. I lived in waters over my head. That is no less true now that I am a pastor.

The woman I love says at times that she does not know what to do for me. I am too self-sufficient.

It comes, I think, from a lifetime of not having people to help me. I do not doubt that people would have. All in all, people are good. They want to help others. But they can’t if we don’t let them know where we need help.

And often, we don’t know how to do that. At least I didn’t. I grew up in a household and a culture that said basically “deal with it.”. “Never let them see you sweat.” (Another of my mother’s favorite sayings.).  So we pack things into their proper boxes and hope the demons stay quiet long enough to get through the next day.

The problem though, is that those demons don’t stay quiet. Lock them in a box and sooner or later, when they break out, they are worse and angrier than before. Demons it seems, only shrink when we face them. Then they show themselves as the cowards they are.

“You were always so self-sufficient.”

I was. But I wasn’t. I wasn’t dealing with things. I was just adept at putting them in boxes for a while. As a kid, trying to make sense of a father that alternately seemed to love me and hate me, I didn’t deal. I put it in a box and just didn’t deal. As an adult, when I felt fear at being in over my head (A place I lived), I put that fear in a box and went on anyway.  As a spiritual person, struggling to make sense of faith in what was, even then, an angry world, I put that struggle in a box and plowed on. I had quite a collection of boxes by the time I was fifty.

Mostly, they lay dormant. But at times, the beasties would get restless and the boxes would shift and move and rattle as they tried to escape. At times they did escape, but never for long. I was adept at chasing them back to their boxes and adding new locks and chains.

Letting people in was risky. Seriously, would you invite company to your living room when it was full of boxes and crates rattling and growling? So you move the boxes to the attic and hope they won’t take too much noise. Maybe the company would just think I had squirrels in the attic. (or maybe bats in the belfry?)

It was my divorce that blew it all up. I didn’t have the emotional or spiritual strength to keep them locked up and under control. The whole army of them escaped and took over my house for a time. I was a prisoner.

No longer self-sufficient.

It’s been a long battle back. Longtime readers know something of that journey. Others have made it too. There’s not a lot new or even unique to my tale. The demons escaped, angry, rabid and out to put me in my place. They came close.

I learned to fight instead of locking things in boxes. I learned that most demons are cowards, at a loss when I fight back. I learned not to mistake their mishapened lies for the truth. I learned demons bleed like the rest of us. I learned they shrink with exposure. I learned that when I invite others to meet my demons, the demons cower.

Frankly, I think they’d rather go back to their boxes sometimes. To hide. Exposure is painful to demons. Light is deadly to them.

But I’ve locked up my boxes and trunks. Instead of locking those beasties in, I have locked them out. My life may be messier. There may be blood on the carpet (Some of it mine. Some of it theirs.), but they’ve become weenies.

And it is only now, when I have learned to share them, ask for help, and lock them out of there boxes that I have become what my mother always said I was. Self-sufficient. With a little help from my friends, a counselor or two, a pastor or two, and family and friends.

OK. Maybe that’s not self-sufficient. But it’s way better.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

Poem: Escape to the Arbor

IMG_6251_resize

Escape to the Arbor

The light filters green through the grapevines,
transforming all it touches.

The vines are old, thick, wiry
and fruit hangs heavy, close, very close to harvest,

but today it is the shade you treasure, protection
from the painful truth of the sun.

About this poem

Sometimes reality is too painful to bear.

The picture was taken at the Vanderbilt mansion in Hyde Park, NY.

Tom

Poem: The Care and Feeding of Windows

ivy 2_resize.JPG

The Care and Feeding of Windows

The windows grow with age.
With understanding and time.
They grow as you foster the repairs caused
by other people’s blindness.
They grow in grace,
yours and his,
in the listening to truths that were there all the time
but covered with vines of fear and neglect.

As you do the work and cut the vines to their roots.
as you paint the shutters and Windex the windows.
They grow
with age.

About this poem. 

For most of my youth, my father and I had a love-hate relationship. As we both aged, there was more love than hate.

For a time after my divorce, my kids didn’t think much of me. Today our love is strong. I am blessed by them more than I can express.

The change in both instances came because truth was discovered, on all sides. And more than that, because all of us allowed ourselves to believe that truth and understand the other. Our windows grew and light grew brighter. Not perfect, but always brighter.

Happy Father’s Day,

Tom