Poem: Unholy Ropes

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Unholy Ropes

The ropes are rolled loosely in the corner.
Binding things, shrugged off late in life, often
replaced by more in some terrible cycle
of bondage.

Most were not your own. You surrendered to them
one by one, too often for the best of intentions,
not even aware of the sacrifice until
your eyes grew dim from lack of air,

your heart bound by unholy ropes
as the best of you slowly withered away.

But you did not die.
You teetered on the precipice of heaven and hell
like a drunken acrobat, dancing precipitously
as the crowd watched, unsure of what they were seeing.

You found your way
to solid ground and your roots dug down,
hungry, ravenous for the faith so lost in the morass
of failure, exhaustion, and malleability.

You found your way, and one by one,
thread by thread, cut yourself free, growing stronger
with each thin string sliced away, faster and faster,
until, beserker-like you could cut through the thickest bonds

like butter.
You became something you never sought
but always believed you were.
Strong.

The ropes are rolled loosely in the corner.
You keep them there, frayed and sliced,
reminders of how easily we become captives,
and the hard work of breaking free.

About this poem

I keep a lot of momentoes around my house and particularly around my desk. Not all of them are of good times. There’s a reason for that.

The picture was taken in Mystic Village, CT.

Tom

Poem: Current Events and Apples

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Current Events and a Basket of Apples

A few apples in a well-worn basket.
A Victorian lamp.
A tablecloth beneath them both.
Close up, slightly blurred, red flowers.
A vignette. Still life.
A place for the eye to pause,
and the mind to follow, and briefly
dismiss the rest of the world.
to grow still, on demand,
when you need it most.

And need it, you do.
Your life is a battlefield hiding
under a calm exterior.
There is too much to absorb,
fireworks and cannons,
snipers and newsmakers.
The wounded surround you.

Junkies surround you,
anger, their drug of choice,
mind-altering, adrenaline producing,
reality blinding,
swallowed alive by the things they fear,
even as they eat those around them.

It is a disease, this anger, this fear.
Contagious.
Curable, but only to the conscious,
the listeners, the wise, the ones
who slow down, breathe deeply,
and understand; who create
a still life within,
making room at last,
for the truth,

that all are worthy
of love.

About this poem.

We have become a nation of fear and anger, rather than aspiration and hope. That saddens me and scares me, but I refuse to let it infect me.

Psalm 46:10 is my touchstone.

Tom

 

Poem: A Constant Sharpening of Swords

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A Constant Sharpening of Swords

The demons are quiet tonight.
For a week or more, they have been at bay,
the days and nights bright with color,
the song of birds uninterrupted with war.

It is a good place, peace, strange and uncertain,
a place both wonderful, and you have learned,
untrustworthy.
There is no rest in it.

It is in peace you prepare yourself.
That is the lesson you have learned.
You fill your mind with truths.
You gird yourself with Paul’s armor.

You sharpen your sword, burnish your shield,
You prepare.
You cannot afford the weakness of normalcy.
For you know the demons well.

You know they have not surrendered.
They too are resting, licking their wounds
and sharpening their swords,
sure you will let down your guard

and once again, fall,
become their prisoner, their victim,
another notch in their belt of lies.
another story of a journey gone awry.

But yours is the saga of Odyessus,
failed, detoured, damaged and worn,
but always fighting for the right to simply live and love.
And if peace is not your lot, so be it.

Neither is death.

About this poem.

It’s been a good week. I am grateful, and wary. That’s what depression does to you.

If you are not familiar with Paul’s armor, it comes from his letter to the Ephesians. Chapter six:  “10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” 

There’s wisdom there, no matter what God you worship. Fighting battles alone and unarmed is sure death, whatever the battle.

The picture is of a Greek model made for a larger statue of a River God. It’s only a foot or so tall, but I love the ferociousness of it. Day to day it lives at the Hyde Museum in Glens Falls, NY.

Tom

 

Poem: Act of Faith

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Act of Faith

Cold. Dark. Just outside the hospital.
A special kind of silence.
Thoughts broken as ice, disjointed.
Legs walking on their own,
ignoring the mind.
You would rather not be here
again.
Rather not fight the dread
of not knowing
what you will find,
what form
the brokenness will take
and whether or not
you will have the words,
the grace
to heal
anything.

This is what you have chosen.
To be a missionary of sorts,
lacking evangelism
or wisdom, having no more
than your presence. A hodgepodge
of facts and
whatever spark of God lies buried
in your own struggles.

You stand on the elevator.
Ice dripping off your coat.
Your legs. Your cold mindless legs
moving forward, cold and fearful,
acting while the rest of you is stock still
and numb, the mere motion,
each step. the turning of the doorknob
an act of faith.

About this poem. 

The woman I love is a social worker. I am a part-time pastor. There are times we both are faced with situations that are beyond us.

Tom

Poem: The Strangest Work

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The Strangest Work

Nothing, it seems, comes easy.
There is work involved, and failure,
often far too much of it.
trial and error, error and more error.
Effort.
The danger of fear sabotaging
your guardian angels.

Paul was all too right,
we are in a spiritual battle,
a conflagration unseen by bystanders
with blood and gore and real casualties
falling to the left and right,
each side trying to decide
whom to surrender to
and why

the devil is so well dressed,
in Brooks brothers and a hankie tucked, just so
while God seems far more ordinary, so easily dismissed
a beggar with pockets of gold,
riches to be given away,
to any with the courage or foolishness
to believe:
The strangest work.

About this poem

The picture was taken at the Shaker Villiage in Hancock, MA.

The poem came out of nowhere. That seems to be happening a lot this week. I am not a poet these days, just a scribe.

Tom

 

Poem: Tourists

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Tourists

The cathedral is full
of tourists,
gape-mouthed, overwhelmed
at the gilding and paint, the play of light and space
and color,
everywhere, color.
Cameras clicking.
Fingers pointing.
A murmur of wonder echoes from chamber to chamber,
a museum so vibrant
they miss the quiet God of light
all around them.

About this poem

How did we get to a place where churches and temples have become museum pieces, rather than sacred space?

We are the poorer for it, I believe.

Tom

Poem: Repentance

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Repentance

Let us cease to profess a faith that has forgotten
the broken, the abandoned, the lost.
Let us put away our crosses and robes,
our pulpits and altars wrapped in old testament wrath
all holy in our forgetting that we are indeed
our brother’s keeper,
that we are neither righteous or capable
of saving souls with our hard hearts and hate
for the hungry and shattered and holy other.
that in our trappings and good fortune
we have put aside the two commandments
that could save us and those around us.

They, these two lines in a book dense with words,
are too simple.
Unadorned.
Lacking in rank or showy theology.
Too obvious in their truth
to be true.
and so we wrap ourselves in the undercard,
righteous reasons to rant,
a shell game, a magicians’ trick, all distraction and smoke
and noise. Always, the noise.

It is time to stop.
To go quiet.
To look within,
to understand where and when and how
we became broken, unblessed, angry,
to turn away from the noise and clutter
and remember the purpose of our faith:

to save us
from ourselves.

About this poem

  1. I have become that rarest of creatures, a liberal, evangelical Christian.
  2. I have tried to stay away from my politics here, because as soon as you declare an opinion in today’s world, half your audience leaves you (which half depends on your stance). But my truth leaks out sometimes. Without apology.
  3. Matthew 22:34-40 reads…  34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
  4. My sermon this week at Rupert Methodist is on repentance. I think that is what started this poem.

Off my soapbox,

Tom