Monday, August 30, 2010

A Treasury of Wind

Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.
I command treasuries of wind.

God will say to me, the dust:
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why do you go mourning,
Oppressed by the foe?"

If you want to become what you ought to be,
Then you better learn to fear your misanthropy.

Sleep through your dreams, and you will wake up to your nightmares.

I want the kingdom of God, not Augustine's seed.
Truly there is no use in crying over spilled milk.

Wait for some things. But for other things, never wait for them again. You are not one in waiting.

Proof is not enough. You must transubstantiate your claim.

Pirate! Whose song are you singing?

"Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!"
It will be done, friend; only sing also for your prey, for you are hunting yourself.

You are not a writer. You are a spy, a mail thief, an interceptor of messages that creative genius intended for other eyes, ears, and minds to receive. The least you can do is become an excellent thief.

"And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?"
Look for the cornerstone, and you will know.

Another night on your own
No urge to go home
Your friends are strangers on the way
On a fast red line
To pull you
Bearing your burdens
Always singing your way into abstractions
Talking about God
Speaking to no God
It's colder than the summer ought to be
I've lost the magic left in me.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On a Cold Beach

Stuck in the step
Between prayer and later
On a cold beach

Painting my feelings
In oils and jams
With picky fingers

Counting up the grains
And down the time
Weathering clay to bone

Some fool wants to silo
The dungy leavings
Of my barnyard mind

Oh, don't you feel so small
When you wave to the bloody sea
On a cold beach?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


You've never been depressed
You've never tried to bounce
A concrete ball
Get up or down
Who ever saved a boring frown
Go live on a bridge
Go play in traffic
Fear is a cure for static
He who takes an oath upon a dollar
Will swear upon a dime
The days will come when you're too poor
To spend even time
There's wool to scratch your back
A pillow for your chin
And shaky dreams to put your shaken images in:
Short blond hair
Warm lip cushions
Gravity's living daughter is silently grasping
To pull you under into holy matter
The antiquity of spirituality
The geology of soul
Come, oh, come, boy
Down the caving hole
To the pips of moons
To the frosty air
Windy windy waves of water
Lashing where the squalling storm of baptism never ends
Oh mercy, oh me
See the eunuchs in the street
And they're giving you a chance, too
Buy the beggar's banquet feast
Peopled with people
Symbols that crash like cymbals
And break into fire hear fire dear fire.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Loser's Blues

Lose the blues
They said lose the blues

Heads they win
Blues you lose
Heads they win
Blues you lose

Don't save yer money
Gotta save yer soul
Don't save yer money
Gotta save yer soul

Lose the blues
Lose the blues
They said get the green
And lose the blues

Gotta live for the body
Live for the body
Live for the body
Live what you know
You don't know no soul
You don't know no soul
You don't know no soul

You gotta choose
You gotta lose the blues
You gotta choose
You gotta lose the blues

All I got to lose
All I got to lose
All I got to lose
Tellin' me to choose
What I got to lose
Tellin' me to choose
What I got to lose

Don't wanna, mama, wanna lose the blues
Don't wanna, mama, wanna lose the blues

Done lost a woman
Haven't got a home
Don't got bad religion
My friends are few
Done lost a woman
Haven't got a home
Don't got bad religion
My friends are few

Up come the devil
Say up come the devil
Up jump a devil
Up jump a devil

He say lose the lose
Lose the lose he say
Lose the lose
Lose the lose


Don't wanna, mama, wanna lose the blues
Don't wanna, mama, wanna lose the blues

Gimme rock cross fire
Dove harp boogie
Gimme rock cross fire
Dove harp boogie

Gonna be a virgin
Soon as you stop touchin'
Gonna stop drinkin'
Soon as you stop pourin'

Boy gonna win no sin all in
Boy gonna win no sin all in
Gonna sin all win boy in
All sin gonna in
Boy gonna lose the blues
Lose the blues
Lose the blues

Why don't you leave me alone
Ain't got a thing of my own

Lose the blues
Lose the blues

Why don't you leave me alone
Ain't got a thing of my own.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

89 Degrees

Up, up and under the roof, in sweat and sticky dirt
Getting hard to sleep, don't wanna see that dream
Up eighty-nine degrees, another few might hurt

I don't wanna like you, now love me do
I don't wanna like you, now love me do
Well now, what you said, now what you gonna do

Got your bag in hand, time to turn your cheek
Got your bag in hand, time to turn your cheek
You've been going so long, been standing still for weeks

Ain't a fox or birdie -- where you gonna go
Ain't a fox or birdie -- where you gonna go
Well I will go to the desert, ain't none to lay me low

What's the matter, woman, did you lead him on
Said what's the matter, woman, did you lead him on
They're all drunk in Cana -- the hour's come and gone

Got no use for money, only made me poor
Got no use for money, only made me poor
It's eighty-nine degrees, don't let it rise no more

Hey hey oh my Jesus, how long John be
Said hey hey oh my Jesus, how long John be
It ain't none of your business -- you're gonna follow me.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Apologies for My Desire

We're on the way and up the bend
I'm wondering where these journeys end
We're walking where the water swept
I feel convicted every step

You think that no one calls to me
I know my truth -- now set me free
I'm comfortable in my own skin
You'll never change the shape I'm in

The time we spent was no mistake
We know the turns we have to make
They aren't easy, could be hard
Our roads were made to drift apart

You're gonna do what you will do
I'm gonna go on leaving you
We're wiser when we never meet
Our history must not repeat

I thought I had some more to say
My unborn son just died today
Take back your tablet and your chalk
It isn't right for us to talk

O friend, why is it you require
Apologies for my desire
Of gods and men, to each their own
I'm gonna mount the golden throne

This city ain't enough for me
I'm giving you the city key
I'm soaring up the empty sky
I won't remember how to cry.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Steal My Heart

We prayed until we prayed no more
And dared to say God closed the door
The church is dark this Sunday night
And now I'm fixing for a fight

For longer than I should have done
I used to see you in the sun
The burn is gone, the itch remains
I'm peeling off a layer of pain

My lips are sealed -- I vow they'll never part
You'll never know the ways you steal my heart.

Take my evacuated place
What was a mess is empty space
My soul is cool, my mind a blank
It's you I have to hate and thank

The fight's begun in fleshy towers
Cities rise and fall in hours
I'll see you in a smile that gleams
On summer days, in rainy dreams

I'm watching you -- don't make a hasty start
You better ask before you steal my heart.

I've crucified and raised the dead
A tongue of fire rests on my head
It's time to hope for bigger dreams
I'm going down to New Orleans

Mind, soul, and strength -- you got each lesser part
You're going to have to work to steal my heart.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

All the Women Said Amen

You turned a trick on a heart of lead
There's nothing you'd refuse to bless
I should thank you for the charity of this unmade bed
But you know it's all a mess
Take back my roof, my nest, my den
And all the women said Amen.

Today I learned you have a face
Maybe tomorrow I'll look in your eyes
Before you vanish into grace
It's a poor thing to be wise
If I can be a man about it I'll write you now and then
And all the women said Amen.

The light was there before the sun arrived
Take me back, dark wind, to the abyss
Living is the truth that will survive
I believe I can do without all of this
I know I did before, though I can't remember when
And all the women said Amen.

It isn't good to be alone -- I'll be alone with you
We'll make pretend our weakness makes us strong
It isn't very smart, but it's the faithful thing to do
We'll get the hang of suffering before long
Then one day we'll be friends
And all the women said Amen.

For years we beat the path around
Until we doubted and forgot from where we came
Until again what twice was lost was found
Who cares if everything still looks the same
Our accidents we shall transcend
And all the women said Amen.

There's a lot of special people like me
We're the only ones, we can't be one in two
You ask the probability --
Say one in one to the infinite power of you
It's karma, charism, destiny, zen
And all the women said Amen.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hey Me

Hey me
Don't tempt me
You ought to know what you ought to be

Hey me
Don't mind me
I'm getting smaller and setting free

The me
You can't be
Get out the way or get in me

Leave me
You're lonely
Peddling a false identity

To me
Not to be
Isn't a question -- a malady

Your me
Is sickly
Poorer and poorer -- an effigy

Of me
Lost meanly
Swallowing, choking on destiny

My me
Wants truly
You want a you that wants a new me

Not me
The only
First and the last and ultimately

No me
You could be
Evil is but a facsimile

Hey me
You ain't me
Get out the way and let me be

Hey me
You've lost me
Wide is the mouth of victory.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Three Cameos

Awake while you sleep
He breaks death's dates, and his laughs
Destroy all sickness

Find her in the choir
Singing in the loving tongue
Dancing in rainbows

He doesn't live here
He sweeps the dusty corners
Looking for freedom

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Small Coins

Are you giving your life away, or are you merely giving it up? The difference in prepositions is as great as heaven is from hell.

Withdraw, even from withdrawal!

Never, ever call for destruction. All you know how to do is to destroy. Train all your energy and wit on creation, if you have any wit within you.

Out of the sanctuary and into the street. Leaving your church was easy. You have killed your idols. You have murdered your myth-makers. You are a cut-rate Nietzsche. Bravo. Ah, but you refuse to let go of your cherished community (which is really only a cadre), your sacred space (which is only private property), and your precious safety (which is only the surplus of conquest). Leave the fiction of home all together. Out of the sanctuary and into the street. You will not be saved until you are homeless.

Be set free, even from freedom!

"Follow me." There is no escaping it. Everyone has tried, but no one can get before you.

You are a mindless monk and heartless friar. Do not pretend it is otherwise.

Yesterday your church was a gymnasium. Today it is a hospital. Tomorrow it will be an airport.

You don't want friends. You don't want companions. You want brothers. You also want to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

For as long as you run, the horizon does not grow closer. Think instead about how you will ascend. It's either ascend or run aground.

The journey never starts over.

You said you have nothing to left to give. Rubbish. There is pain, anger, sadness, loneliness, and emptiness. Find a way to give those things away. Or have you given up on these, too?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Eggs and Scorpions

I am full of things I cannot say. I am traumatized at the empty tomb.

Now I can answer the singer of the spiritual:
Yes, I was there when they crucified my Lord.
I took his hand.
I nailed it to the board.
I even lay with him inside the tomb.
A cooling, fooling, lifeless, wifeless groom.
But then somebody rolled the stone away.
I panicked at the sight -- alone at day!

The women at the tomb are either the greatest messengers the world has ever seen, or the world's most notorious lunatics.
What? Must it be one or the other?

How terrifying it is to worship a God who is there by being not-there.

This year for Easter -- no eggs for me. I have asked for scorpions, and I shall have them.

God, be silent. Do not speak. You are so cold. Your voice would be like a rush of ice water down the neck, freezing the spine. God, be still. Do not touch me. It would mean paralysis. God, leave me alone. Do not love me. Why do you love me? It will be my annihilation.

It is not the cross that gets me. It is the empty tomb. Not the cross, but resurrection. I do not see a risen Christ in the empty tomb. I see a shadow. God is in the shadow, and God is the shadow. Christ is in the abyss. Mark, that minimalist and psychologist, saw it best.

It is no mere stone that covers the tomb of Jesus. It is a heart. A heart of stone? No, this is a body of stone. And God is the sun, burning cracks into this fine firm heaviness. God will not send the fire. The fire dwells within the petrified body. God will turn this rock into fire and leave nothing but fine glassy sand to be carried ruthlessly into the ecstatic air. Oh, that Pentecost might come very soon and consume every poor charcoal soul!

Mary of Magdala, forgive me. I have scoffed at you and all your daughters. You rouse within me intensely conflicted emotions: awe and ingratitude; desire and revulsion; respect and jealousy. Please accept my confession and grant me pardon.

I believe God is alive, fearfully alive. The presence/absence of the empty tomb makes me question how alive I am -- that is, whether I am truly alive in God. The anxiety lies in doubts about my own presence. Where Jesus has gone, do I dare to follow? Not only to the cross, but also beyond crucifixion?

There is something terrifying about a God who is capable of bringing new life out of death. That kind of God is more than love.

I am full of things I cannot say. I am traumatized at the empty tomb.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Grand Canyon

The man and woman
Smiling at the Grand Canyon
Ring the empty gulf

From the bright plateau
A dread animal's echo
Barking for water

Plummets the canyon
A metallic wave scrapes rock
Two billion years thick

The couple covers
With geologies of uplift
The ancient gorge

The animal sees
The cascading passion
Of breath and running rain

In the dry abyss
Where earth forever swallows
Everybody thirsts.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Behind the Light

All that we blessed has now been broken
We shared the love that shares the pain
It was a picture-perfect world that floated off
Our fingers into air

Here I stand and do no other
All my life I have remained
But now I see you run, embrace the prodigal
And consecrate despair

Mother, O Father,
Why don't you see me grieve
O Mother, Father,
I won't come back if I leave

I've waited for nothing
I waited, but one is one
I'm running behind the light.

What I wrote, has been written
By many hands across the page
Maybe you can burn the book and wash the wall
You can't unmake the word

Mother, O Father,
God was not God for me
O Mother, Father,
God is still haunting me

I've waited for nothing
I waited, but one is one
I'm running behind the light.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fool in the Rain

Ten billion crystals of ice in the sky
The lowly and lucky, they fled to get dry
Some of the sainted turned their face to the storm
To trample the dragon and spit on the worm
They conquered the city with spirit and art
Then one deserted -- the peace fell apart
The cancerous cell, the weakest link in the chain
Betrayed he was nothing but a fool in the rain.

A man at roadside said "I'm gonna die"
The fool looked at him and said "You're telling a lie"
Repeating his sentence the man spoke his breadth
An eclipse in his eye, a sting in his breath
He shuffled his feet, he glared two more times
The poor have a right to judge the rich for their crimes
Wade in the water, but don't be so vain
To trouble the water like a fool in the rain.

The money is running out, no time on his hands
Living on credit, no supplies, no demands
He's breaking away from the rats in the race
The living is easy when you're standing in place
It seems to be simple, it seems to be true
But sooner and sooner the debts will come due
When he comes a-beggin' for his soul to regain
Don't spend all your pity on a fool in the rain.

Beatrices teased him at the top of the hill
He married Lucinda, adultered with Lil
So many women in the eye of his mind
And so many more that his heart left behind
They wish him no ill, in fact they wish him all right
None of them knew him, but someone else might
They're waiting for daylight to break on his pain
You can't see the tears of a fool in the rain.

He's telling you something as true as he knows
We all take an error as far as it goes
Staring at dead ends, most will turn on their track
When he is ended, he brings the end back
All his adventures are sideshows for God
Spoiling the children and sparing the rod
Now take it on faith -- you've heard the refrain --
Don't get in the way of a fool in the rain.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Unknown Friends

There is no one, no one
Within a hundred thousand miles
Or a hundred years of here
That I want to be with
But you

And I
Fear the cold empty rain
Flying on the black winds, pressing
Me forward away from a home
Less than I fear a word
A name

A face
With a cry and lightning
Tumbling into my bosom
To dig the pit of my desire
And bid me to fill it

With all
The dirty unknown friends
Of God. Oh, invisible Love!
Why, when I beg one friend for me,
Would you send myriads
Like these?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Riddles and Blessings

"The beauty that will save the world is the love that shares the pain." That is the kind of wisdom I don't dare speak. That is the kind of wisdom most people never have the authority to speak. Those who do, they do not need to utter such words. They speak the wisdom with their lives. They die young, or alone, and most likely forgotten. But they die in God.

When God comes to your assistance, it is not only your prayers that have been answered, but also countless other prayers prior to, concurrent with, and beyond your moment of deliverance. Think about how the answers to your prayers are delivered. Then remember this: your greatest and most ordinary calling is to be someone else's answered prayers.

Christians are not gravediggers. They are not mountaineers, either. Primarily, they are farmers.

Your pain is not a delusion, but your illusions magnify it.

Talking is not a cure, but conversation is a healer.

Say what you mean. Let even your riddles be straightforward.

Let us be clear that blessings are not always clear. Your happiness is not proof of blessing. Vindications do not guarantee blessing, either. Sometimes all you have is a weary feeling in the calm of night.

Do not resist when fatigue draws you down. When boredom bears down, fight like the devil.

You are poor -- of this, at least, you are certain. Rejoice in this blessing.

Your uncertainties are also blessed. You are rich.

Friday, March 5, 2010

After Contrition

Were these last words,
Upon the final wrest of light from night,
I pray they treated not of the temptation;
Fumbled not, thickly, through the faults;
Nor settled guiltily, as a paraffinic film, onto faithful ears.
Eyes sense too poor to see the stain
And lips profane much more the alleged sight.
Now, silently, please send me into the earth
God gave to his own, and put your thoughts aside
With love and sense beneath the good black light.

August 9, 2000

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Dear children,
Go quietly into the morning.
Feel the breath of the sky over your little bodies.
Walk with wide steps. Look everywhere.
The light touches everything.
Be like the birds of the trees and call on each other.
Fly with the flock. Nestle when it rains.
Sing like you were born to do.
Be on your way.

Dear men, dear women,
Go silently into the afternoon.
Give names to all the birds and animals.
You will know the words to use.
You will know them because they will sound like the sea
And they will feel like sunfire.
Keep a room for an unexpected guest,
For the ways of life are strange and uncertain.
Be of good cheer, for clouds will always keep moving.

Dear elders,
Go deeply into the night.
Take pain, take rage,
And everything that time cannot assuage.
The helpless tears shed for defeated peace
Fall on the face whose sight will give release.
And when your names are spoken with desire,
Behold the sound unending -- feel your souls ascending,
Becoming birds of fire.

Before the Transfiguration

You dawned on me while I was null and void: your light
Too strong for sight, you knew a moonchild I would be,
Mourning with the day, retreating into the mind,
Dry fruit beneath a heavy rind. Aloft, away,
That is where your messengers went to leave a word.
I overheard in part, illiterate and poor.
And it was odd -- while falling to the sun-kissed earth,
A fetus in stillbirth, I saved the life of God.
I would believe at first, but now it's best to do,
Invoking you, offending in the faith. I leave
No hope, no fear: I do not love, but yes, I could;
It is very, very good for me to be here.
O come around, my saintly visitors of night;
This time I might remember what you prophesy.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Solitary Thoughts

"Alone at last." No, hardly last. It has been first, second, and always next. You think this is the way to holy solitude?

Go away only if you bring the world with you. Otherwise, stay where you are and drop everything.

There you go again, hiding your face from the strangers, the neighbors, and even your housemates. At this pace, they will never know you. What if salvation depends on saying hello? Or being said hello to?

When you sit in your room by yourself, eat by yourself, work by yourself, and sleep by yourself, you bring no one closer to solitude. Even the monks have each other. Even the hermits have the sun and the moon and the earth and all its creatures. Thank God it is impossible for you to dream by yourself. The communion of saints, living and glorious, haunts you from depths below your being and brings you closer to solitude.

From behind the door in the room where you have prayed, you wait until the people are gone, and then you go. And you have the nerve to look down upon honest atheists?

Stop thinking about the people you do not love: look at them. And stop looking at the people you watch thoughtlessly: you love them falsely.

You crave attention? Go tell it to the person you want least to see.

You survey your spacious life with satisfaction, as if congratulations were in order, as if you were proud of the achievement: getting yourself enough room to breathe. Sinner, repent! We all must breathe that same air.

The next time someone shows an interest in you that awakens in you a longing far out of proportion to that interest, you will know what it feels like for God to receive your prayer.

Monday, February 22, 2010

To an Infant

I marvel at you, and it is for nothing you have done.

You are the proof that love creates life. Try as we might all our lives to disprove it, we cannot. We can only unprove. Forgive us when we forget who you are.

I am happy you are being loved. I hope you will always be so loved. Forgive us when we don’t want you to be loved. That’s going to happen a lot.

I am sorry for the world of violence we are throwing you into unaware. I am sorry for all the ways we will teach you how to sin and to believe your sin is good.

You are a reality whose sanctity should never be trifled with, even when one day you yourself will act in a manner unworthy of the mystery of yourself.

You are awakening. May your awakening awaken the rest of us.

May it be a pleasure one day when you discover who you are, and our pleasure to observe your recognition of the fact.

I hope your life is challenging but not impossible. I hope your life is strenuous but not a strain. Let it have tension but not anxiety. Let it brim with vitality but not violence.

May you succeed at being a human being. May you be free to choose your own form of suffering.

Do not be dismayed if you and I fail to make a connection. Do not be discouraged if one day we can no longer speak to each other. You will have family beyond your blood. You will have brothers and sisters in the spirit. The household of God is great, and we do not have to live in the same room. What we cannot forgive of each other, what we are unable to unbind, God will release for us.

I just wrote the word “God.” You do not know who God is. That is all right, because neither do I. Go on dreaming anyhow, and I will go on praying anyhow.

Many things will go wrong, and you will know emptiness, failure, and pain. You will lose, and you may lose it all. For all that, there are things that remain. Every word that comes from the mouth of God remains. And though I do not understand how or why I say this, I believe that what has been spoken once cannot be unspoken. You are a word not spoken by human lips. You have been Spoken.

Someday, when you have grown in years and strength and wisdom, you will look upon an infant and remember things you do not know. When you do, be kind to others and to yourself.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Small Thoughts

"God himself will set me free from the hunter's snare." Stop hunting yourself.

"Today is holy to the Lord your God." It is always today.

"On my bed I remember you." Rise, pick up your bed, and walk.

"On you I muse through the night." See me in the morning.

"Your love is better than life." You know not what you say.

"On my bed I remember you." Your bed is too small.

"Let the praise of God be on their lips and a two-edged sword in their hand." No justice, no God.

"He was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil." Into the desert, not into temptation.

"Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble." So said your adversary.

"The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart." Let it speak. Let it bleed.

"When he had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry." He survived.

"On my bed I remember you." Forsake all others.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Near Sleep

You are always awake when no one else is around. You are always awake at night. That is good, but there is another friend than the darkness.

You must learn to wake when the light arrives. The light is your first friend and always the newest.

You have been dreaming into the heart of the sunrise. You must awake into the sunrise. Do not wake feeling sad and lost, as you do.

Be awake, be watchful. You cannot pray asleep.

Watch for all. You do not watch if you look upon only one person. Love all. You do not love if you love only one person.

Look around, and let yourself be looked upon by a thousand fiery eyes.

When you must rest, pray that your rest be brief. Pray that God looks upon you from below and above, from beyond and within you.

See, listen, share. Work, watch, pray.

You are the final reason for the light God let be. Let yourself be illuminated.

In the world you are always near asleep. When you nearly wake, you will be near heaven.

Monday, February 1, 2010

When You Go

O God forgive me when you go
O God forgive me when you go
Forgive me when you go
I fear what I don't know
O God forgive me when you go

Mother forgive me when you go
Mother forgive me when you go
Forgive me when you go
The love I did not show
Mother forgive me when you go

Father forgive me when you go
Father forgive me when you go
Forgive me when you go
I reaped but did not sow
Father forgive me when you go

Brother forgive me when you go
Brother forgive me when you go
Forgive me when you go
You will make it on your own
Brother forgive me when you go

Sister forgive me when you go
Sister forgive me when you go
Forgive me when you go
A lifetime left alone
Sister forgive me when you go

Lover forgive me when you go
Lover forgive me when you go
Forgive me when you go
You will laugh again and grow
Lover forgive me when you go

People forgive me when you go
People forgive me when you go
Forgive me when you go
The kingdom I brought low
People forgive me when you go

O God forgive me when you go
O God forgive me when you go
Forgive me when you go
There's so much I don't know
O God forgive me when you go.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Inverted Gratitude

For those things that even the most thankful take for granted.
For those things that the chief of sinners could hardly forget.
For those things too difficult to word in prayer.

That your friends don't see you like this.

That couples can't feel your raging jealousy of them.

That sometimes God lets you sleep and will pardon even this mortal sin.

That you avoided a time of trial today -- but that tomorrow will surely bring your destiny.

That your wretchedness today will be followed by another fifty years of life and not end this hour.

That sometimes God leaves you alone -- but is so incorrigible that you still wind up getting what you don't deserve.

That the full moon catches you before you go crazy.

That you are powerless.

That you are a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal -- at least you know who you are.

That you have failed greatly, and that you may fail yet even more spectacularly.

That your affliction is too invigorating to be a depression.

That people do not take too close an interest in you.

That one day the money will run out.

That you will always find a way to struggle.

That you are hardly missed -- the suffering is only your own, and knowing that is a consolation.

That, while you have buried your one and only talent, some fool is dropping two more at your feet.

That, despite your best efforts, your secrets have been betrayed, some of them by your own conniving.

That you are inept enough to fail to sin small but not so incompetent as to avoid sinning big.

That the people you hate to love, love you -- and the people you love hate you in return.

That no one hangs on to every word you say.

That, to your dawning horror, more people every day hang on every thing you do.

That, when you rise, you immediately realize you have fallen.

That, after all, your concupiscence is really rather mild. That's the good news, considering that you consent to every bent desire you have.

That, in spite of your concupiscence, God will console your suffering soul with an intensification of desire.

That God is not, in fact, the kind of God who intervenes to prevent you from doing evil to others; that God lets you do what you will. Suspending the laws of creation -- that would be the greatest evil.

That you realize every now and then that you have acted as if you could suspend the laws of creation.

That one day your friends will see you like this.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Destiny Cookies

Or, more aphorisms.
You won't find these in fortune cookies.

You are praying alone? Then you are not praying.

Don't write what you don't want God to read. Better yet, if you have integrity, don't write about another if you don't want the other to read it. Put positively: if you are strong, write about another with the intention of having the other discover what you wrote.

"Suicide is painless." No, it is not, but you think it is. That is why you are doing it again for the thousandth time. Every day a suicide. It is easier than risking life.

You are bored? Somewhere a soul is dying for want of you.

You will never know how to pray if you do not first learn to watch, watch with your whole being. Watch what? Watch what you pray!

An itch is injustice. A tingle is grace. A shiver is joy.

It is all right to pray without knowing what to pray for particularly. But above all you must know how to pray. God knows what it is for which you pray.

[This aphorism is not incompatible with the fifth aphorism above. If you do not know what you are watching for in prayer, watch the one who does know what to watch.]

"Suicide is painless." So is mediocrity. Both lead to death.

You are feeling lazy? No wonder. Look at all the things you do by half-measure. Lay them down; lay them all down. Better to do all of nothing before half of something, which is really less than nothing.

Don't trust the politics of one who has no interest in domestics.

"Suicide is painless." No, it isn't. You killed yourself yesterday and took out your roommate and best friend. The day before it was everybody you talked to on the telephone. Who will it be tomorrow? Suicide is the practice of non-being, and it is very painful to people who wish still to be.

You don't want to go home? Fine. Then you can go to hell.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


The lights are out, the telephone is off,
The net is down, and I am off the line.
The door is shut, the evening is outside,
The room is warm, and I am on the ground.
If only it could cover what can't hide!
I want to run around and tell them No,
But all I really do is wait for Yes,
A Yes from you, to stop the silly things
I do for God against the gods of king
And country or the dollar or the few.
Who are you that I want your love so bad?
To make me wish that I were high or sad,
Just not the rubbed and rusted spoon I am?
A lion lairing, not a wayward lamb?
If you could pluck the jewels from my mind
Or find the treasure in my cave of blood;
If you could just draw near my dirty face
And cleanse with spit the deepening sores of soul;
Then I would jump and instantly sing praise,
Then strip myself and show myself to you
And you would be the mirror seeing me
See myself. We never talk anymore,
We never see each other now. "Don't talk
To me," I told you. "Live your joyful life."
I drew my words as if I'd drawn a gun,
As if the war I'm living can be won.
Ten thousand prayers, and still I'm off the mark.
When Jesus' strangers come I keep it dark.
It is not from but for you I've been freed;
There's nothing that you've got I really need.
Your life, too safe for truth, is still a sin,
But I can't tell you, with the shape I'm in.
When I made a secret vow to resist
The vow was mine alone; not to enlist,
Entice, seduce, or mystify a mass
Or only one whose open heart should pass.
I should be glad you do not lock my heart;
Instead I've taught myself the fettering art.
I'll fasten to the mountain's dangerous slope
With neither mount nor man being moved. Of hope
I've had my fill, and now I'll keep a fast
And wonder what you'll do if you climb past.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

For a New Home

I call on you,
You who gather us in,
You who send us forth,
Holy One of coming and going,

You who give the land,
You who make the road,
You who call us on the journey long,
From land to land,
Who raised us from the ground
And to the ground return,

I thank you and I bless you
For you brought me to this land
And you brought me to this people
To a people who know where they live
To a people who know life’s grace and mercy
To a people who remember their home
And a people who are on the way back
And making this place their land again

They are your people
I am their people
And I thank you for bringing me home
Over many lands and hard roads
Thank you for bringing me home.

I call on you
To make this house my home
Strong as a mother’s arms around me
Soft as a father’s whisper
Warm as a lover’s breath on my cheek.

Holy One,
My home is here.
My home is holy.
Make this house a blessing for every friend who enters.
Make this house refreshing for my tired body and my weary soul.
Protect it, please, from storms, fierce winds and waters,
From accidents and incidents of violence,
From sadness and despair.
Watch here my waking hours with your all-seeing light,
Guard my sleep with your silence.

Help me make this home a house of hospitality for others.
Bless these rooms with laughter,
Sprinkle these spaces with tears of joy.
Give me friends to break bread with, to drink with,
To talk, to sing, to dance, to play with,
Bring them here.
Bring them to my table, to my seats, to my floor.
Let every child, woman, and man pass through my door.
They are your gift and my delight.
Bless every day and night
That rises over the people under this roof.

Remain with us, Holy One,
For without you we are homeless in this world.
We are at home in your Spirit,
And your Spirit is here.
Come down to us,
Well up within us,
Shine your light on this place,
This house, this land, this people.
Keep faith with us,
Give us hope for abundant life,
And love us so our hearts may love.

All this I pray
Through your powerful name, Holy One,
You who release the exiles,
You who set us free to get back home,
You who make this land our home,
You who are our home,
All this I pray. Amen.

Monday, January 11, 2010

At Fourth and Walnut (for Thomas Merton)

He stopped dreaming
Of impossible solitude
And in the presence of his people—
Yes, his people, the filaments of an incandescent word,
the fibrous strands of his own soul—
He became friends with his God again for the first time.

What was he doing in the shopping district?
He was about his Father’s business!
What was his Father’s business?
Adoption! Matchmaking!

The Lord gave you brothers!
The Lord gave you sisters!
The Lord gave you lovers!
The Lord gave you, too, to the world.
You, not what is made by you.

You make telephones
You make computers
You make automobiles
You make medicine and mouthwash
You make cigarettes
You make high fructose corn syrup
You make complex financial instruments
You make intercontinental ballistic missiles
You make racism and reaction
You make religion and revolution
These are your gifts to the world.
Put them away, put them away.

What you are given to give, you do not give of yourself.
Being human is the gift not made by human hands.

In the crossroads, in the marketplace,
Something shines.
It can’t be sold. It isn’t gold.
It can hardly be seen
It can’t be won. It comes like sun
Like God
Into the world
Into the rooms of our consciousness
Penetrating walls
Coming silently
Leaving you alone
With you for the first time.

Did you know you come from the heart
Of an empty, pointed space? Do not fear:
Everything is found in this speck of nothingness,
Everything except war, hatred, cruelty, and greed.
Here there is poverty, but not want;
Dependence, but not slavery;
The word that speaks truth to power
Without the will to power.
Evil has no reality.

Here there is nothing left to do.
You don’t have to fight for truth, justice, and the American way.
Don’t paint crosses on your friends or targets on your enemies.
You don’t have to dress up, stop eating meat, give up sex and chocolate, or grow wings.
You don’t have to choose between illusions.

You are held by nothingness. You are the figure in the ground of ultimate reality.
Let go of everything: sin, desire, self-knowledge.
That tree in Eden was chopped down ages ago.
You belong without being bought.
You were found before you sought.

You will bless your home of flesh and blood.
You will revere the night spirit and the dawn air.
You will trust the desert.
You will stop when they scream for you to do something.
You will stop and praise all this useless beauty.

And your life will be a brilliant brilliance,
A Holy of Holies
In a temple not made by human hands,
Untouched by lies.

He tucked his arms into his robe.
He looked away and smiled with secrets
In his closing eyes.

When atoms split a thousand suns arise.
When atoms fuse a thousand thousands more will charge the skies.
Poets, physicists of the soul, show us the blinding image in God’s eyes.

Monday, January 4, 2010


If you are spiritually dry, these are your options: get a wet blanket; smolder uselessly; or burst into flame.

You can forage for fortune cookies, or you can feast on the bread of life.

A married person is someone who is in a relationship with the present. A celibate is someone who is in a relationship with the future.

When you don't want what you haven't got, say nothing. When you want what you haven't got, say nothing. When you have got what you want, say nothing. When you have got what you don't want, say something.

If you want to know a secret, then you don't know enough about yourself.

With fear, there is always plenty of time. There is no time with love.

Writing good poetry about how terrible life is, is easier than making life less terrible.

Don't make the same mistake twice. There are other mistakes you have yet to make!

Don't be fooled: overearnest sincerity is a mark of immaturity.

Chastity is a joke, but it keeps life from becoming a tragedy.

A single is someone who is in a relationship with a dream. A loner is someone who is in a relationship with an illusion.

Madmen write maxims. Sane people live by them.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Lone Pilgrim Blues

Oh lordy Lord
I'm a-lookin' for you
Oh lordy Lord
I'm a-lookin' for you
Come the day we meet
I'll know what to do

Hey brother friend
Where you goin' today
Hey brother friend
Where you goin' today
Well you see these roads
I'm goin' another way

I'm a bastard son
Lust is thick'nin' my blood
I'm a bastard son
Lust is thick'nin' my blood
Gimme peace and love
Everything that's all good

Look at me, woman
I've got nowhere to lay
Look at me, woman
I've got nowhere to lay
Home is just a game
I ain't got time to play

Been prayin', Lord
Prayed in church at night
Been prayin', Lord
Prayed in church at night
Well I don't believe
But I'm prayin' right

Oh lordy Lord
I'm a dead duck
Oh lordy Lord
I'm a dead duck
No amazin' grace
Gonna change my luck

Hey, children, oh
See a lonely ol' man
Hey, children, oh
See a lonely ol' man
Now you know his tale
Run as fast you can

On Christmas Day
I was ramblin' the road
On Christmas Day
I was ramblin' the road
My mama ran to me
She wouldn't let me go

Oh mercy me
I believe I been found
Oh mercy me
I believe I been found
Jesus didn't lift me up, no
He threw me to the ground

Oh lordy Lord
You found me again
Oh lordy Lord
You found me again
Now if that's a fact
Why'm I wand'rin', then?