Monday, April 20, 2009

One More for the Vine

The simple stories have not died,
The songs of youth, they are not lies.
Oh, April! Days of passion come
And truth is served when truth is done.
As love is crying all the while,
The miracle is in your smile,
Oh April, under loss and grief,
The surest sign of whole belief.

And, branch by branch, the lordly vine
Embraces you and me and mine.
No feeble graft: we are absorbed,
We know our name, we know the word,
We know the one that conquers us,
Who gives the kiss of peace, the just.
Oh, April, April child, your day has come,
The month for falls and cuts--all to be done
Upon the vine that crawls to us so we may grow
Just as we perish, and to be more than we know.

August 5, 2002

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Father to Son

Those rooms are made for mortal sleep. They are not yours,
Nor are they mine. I would not build a house with doors.
Push out of bed, push out of the room. While ears can range
The body never rests in death, but constant change.
Now go and find your brothers, hiding in the gloom,
Who love the light and truth but fear too much the tomb.
And if you see a room that doesn't need a door,
Please tell the ones inside it what you're knocking for.

May 31, 2003


One of the Easter poems I have written. I will trot out the others anon. I wonder whether I have an Easter song in me this season.

Looking Inside the Tombs

The last entry is fraught with ambiguities. First, you have to know a little something about Holy Saturday. (I have been blessed to study with one who knows more than a little.) Then, there is the soupy language. What exactly is a dangerous love? How could one presume that all are Christian and have a Christian understanding of love, and even then, how could one presume all Christians would understand what a dangerous love is? I cannot pretend myself to comprehend the danger of love as the disciples of every age have done.

Further, I am not quite sure from whose perspective these lines are given, and I do not know to whom they are going for certain. Is it a man or woman speaking? A straight or gay person? Is it Peter? Mary Magdalene? Me? J. Alfred Prufrock? To whom do these lines go? Jesus of Nazareth? The God of Jesus? An absent lover? An unrequited love?

Perhaps the perspectives keep shifting. I have been listening to Dylan's story songs, especially "Tangled Up in Blue" and "Abandoned Love." Or there could be multiple perspectives being presented simultaneously.

Where are we? Jerusalem, or Boston? "Nine forty-seven on holy Saturday night." Is it 2,000 years ago, or was it just last night? Who knows whether it matters. And God knows what is really happening here. Confession coupled with imagination, or imagination coupled with confession, leads a writer to say curious things. The most cagey artists never really tell you what they're confessing, and there's no telling what they're imagining. Now I understand why.

So I decided to play with the ambiguities. Against my better judgment, I have conflated eros, philia, and agape. Further against my better judgment, I have also played with the thoroughly discounted legends shrouding Mary Magdalene. (Pope St. Gregory the Great got it wrong.)

And there it is. The piece works well because it resists a single meaning while bearing a wholly overwhelming feeling. But it also fails for me because I resist it. I don't want to engage it. I don't know if it's virtuous or blasphemous ... and I don't want to know, either. However it is, it hits too close to home. Hints of joyful love behind me, hints of glory before me. But in this moment, neither is there. What is here is not pain, because I have been too privileged and too clever to be caught by real pain. What is here is only a lonely, lonely longing.

I look through keyholes into tomb-rooms, hoping they are empty, but hoping secretly I will find someone. Why? So I can be courageous? What will I do if I find someone inside? What have I ever done but turn away?

Every day of my life is a Holy Saturday, and I am the cemetery custodian, keeping death and new life at arm's distance.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday

Nine forty-seven
On holy Saturday night.
My soul lost its heart.

A dangerous love
Covered us until yesterday.
Now you are gone.

You met my midnight
And made a sun of mercies
Burn the horizon.

You feared not to walk
With the wind on the water
And bid me to sail.

Friends who see despond
Don't know what I understand:
They cannot touch me,

For only you could!
In your hold would I be still,
Not still by myself.

I dreamed of your flesh
And dreamed that I tasted it,
Warmly in my mouth,

Kissing my own god,
But awoke to the gray day,
Kissing my own ghost.

I am lonely, lonely,
Longing for you
On holy Saturday night.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sad Song

I could not care when I was close to you,
Whose love turned quick when it could not possess.
Was yours no love? Was mine no care?
The round ill fits the square.

What stealthy air disturbs my sleeping room,
Where shadows' corners keep the voice that makes
A madman of a happy child?
The round confines the square.

She means much more to me than I to her;
My words get lost in laughs and beery breath.
If I can't speak, how can I see?
The round defies the square.

And no one shows me how to offer up
The presence of my absence. With a shrug,
My gods put God to doleful death:
The round condemns the square.


April 26, 2003

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Crooked sounds are coming down the darkness
Bruising homes of empty sounds and spaces.
Loud or little, in the air within, without,
Is noise. Will spirits sing tonight?
The silent cover heads and hearts to listen.

Watch and pray, we say as friends, forgetting
We are always crashing secret gardens.
Or, we sleep like sickened children, keeping
Hostile dreams that youth despair at seeing.

One by one, the noises sink, pervading
Lousy angry men and flustered women.
Youths in hiding in the streets or shabby
Shelters where they squander money falter
On the broken glass and shrillness hovering.
All these bodies flit confused, without a sigh.

The silent keep their faces clean, their
Hearts at rest for love's command: decrease.
Revealing cymbals, horns, and violins,
They wait no more: the sacred song begins.


This poem I wrote on August 9, 2002, two days before I left my home in North Babylon, N.Y., for Baltimore, where I lived for the next two years on my pilgrim journey.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Jesus Blues

They say you love me, say you're loyal and true
They say you love me, say you're loyal and true
But now I'm hung up, 'cause you mean it, too.

They see you in the starlight, see you in the blood-red moon
They see you in the starlight, see you in the blood-red moon
If I had their sight, I'd say you're coming soon.

They see you in the clouds, gonna break up the sky
They see you in the clouds, gonna break up the sky
If that's the way it is, I think I'm gonna cry.

You gave me riches, gave me every day
You gave me riches, gave me every day
Why'd you go on giving what I've got to give away?

You healed the dying, fed the poor some bread
You healed the dying, fed the poor some bread
Seems so hard of heart to judge them when they're dead.

Don't you love the sinner, don't you hate the war?
Don't you love the sinner, don't you hate the war?
Don't you see I prayed, then I sinned some more?

Take me if you want me, take me, I don't mind
Take me if you want me, take me, I don't mind
But mercy, will you like the soul you find?

Some call you Jesus, some call you holy Christ
Some call you Jesus, some call you holy Christ
Whoever you are, we better think twice.

I'll sing my gospel, I'll sing my blues and rhyme
I'll sing my gospel, I'll sing my blues and rhyme
O brother, have mercy; Jesus, take your time!


I wrote this song on Dec. 20, 2006, when I was in an Advent frame of mind. But it seems to me more fitting for Lent and for Holy Week, in retrospect. Or it could be ultimately a song for Pentecost. Maybe you can take it whenever you find it, however you find it. Take it for its blues and take it to your broken heart. Just don't take it to the bank. Anyway, I thought it was worth posting right here and now.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Foolish Song

Attend to your sight, put away your romances,
Pray from the darkness, the better to praise the light.

Keep closed the door, it will not confine you,
It cannot contain me, or what we suffered for.

Trust in the foolish, the things that are weak,
Things we remember only when boom turns to bust.

Love has disarmed you, and power is yours to deny.
Now that you're ready to perish, be born from above.

And speak of your friends with secretive speech,
Seek as your own their most infinite, intimate ends.

And when Gog and Magog come to sweep up the sands,
Keep your lamp burning and set your face like a dog,

Until firebells ring from the heavenly night,
Deafening all but the saints in the city who sing.