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?