Illumination

I wanted to be angry
When you started work on the decayed hallways
Lined with dim outlines of emptiness.

Dust filtered down
And the foundations shook;
What a mess you’ve made.

But this is the grace of sight:
Not that I can see the cracks and breaks,
But that through them
I may glimpse the sun.

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Still Learning

They didn’t teach me
How best to express an ache
For people I don’t know,
Or how to help heal a wound
That never closes.

They didn’t teach me
Five steps to fix an evil next door
And a continent away.

But they did teach me how to love
They taught me to stand up
They taught me to be compassionate
Even when I’m afraid.
They taught me grace, grace, grace.

They taught me that no one is perfect
They taught me to listen, carefully.
They taught me “I’m sorry”
And they taught me apologies paired with action.

They taught me to paint with all the colors
Because no one ever made art
Just staring at white paper.

They taught me “all men are created equal”
And Jesus loves me, so He must love you
Just as much.

They taught me so many things

But here I am, still learning.

Never Forget

It’s a sunny and perfect day again,
But this afternoon the airplanes
Remain on their straight paths across the sky.

I see a building with two colors of stone,
And a chronological sea of benches.

I thought never was a long time,
But then fifteen years
Still feels like yesterday.

 

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Bookmarks

Currently: A paint chip, “English Channel”,
From when we considered painting the living room
Some version of navy blue.

Previously: A gum wrapper;
An envelope with a Polish return address;
A strip of mint green ribbon;
A ticket I didn’t buy, for a Corinne Bailey Rae concert
Which I never attended.
Once, a hair tie.
Often, ripped corners of old coupons and junk mail.

I have a collection
Of real ones, neat and rectangular,
Complete with tassels and everything.
But rarely do they have the initiative
To be there when I need them,
So instead I fill the pages with bits of life
Snagged from side tables and pockets,
Colorful, folded, and sometimes torn,
But always ready to remind me of where I am.

Driving After Midnight

I don’t remember the very first time
I loved driving at night,
But I recall an early July evening,
When a phone call at 1am snapped me
Out of self-pity and
Took me and my car keys out the door
In search of a gas station for supplies
To help a friend stranded on I-495.
And as I drove there, on the bend
Just before the state line,
I saw what they meant by open road,
And I felt relieved of a worry
I’d refused to consider.

Lately I’m more inclined
To driving highways at night
Without even a plan or destination,
Chasing green signs and red tail lights,
Music playing loud.
Except I don’t sing. I sit and
I think,
And I move faster than usual.
I sit quiet and straight
While the vivacity of the world
Pours through the windows,
Tugging my hair and taking my breath,
And the only choice
Is whether I’ll return home,
Or keep driving–
In the dark but
Between the lines going on forever.

A Fortunate Poverty

This is not the grace I was looking for,
This nibbly bit of blessing,
Dragging me through one more day,
But just barely —
Like the painful frustration
Of brushing out every tangled curl
And split-ended knot,
Only to face the same task the next morning.

I’d prefer a measure of Dying Grace,
The kind packaged with enough Courage and Faith
To carry me through many moons
And unto some glorious ending.
Instead here I am
With my plain, everyday ration
Whose meager portion obliges me always
To return for more each morning.

 

Knowing Doesn’t Always Translate

You know you’re safe, right?
It’s just the fear,
Just the fear telling you what to do:
A recoiling from the appearance of danger,
Forgetting the reality of harnesses and ropes.

So I tell myself I’m not afraid;
I tell everyone else as well.
I pretend to be daring and courageous–
Exercising my cunning skills
In lying to myself
And presenting a brave front.

I hope no one sees my hands shake,
Or the way I feel my feet
Almost slipping.
My stomach is a thousand tangles.

You know you’re safe, right?
You can come down if you want,
But you’re letting Fear decide.
Is that what you want?

So I climb higher and higher
With sweaty palms and shivering knees
Until I reach the top.
I hear cheering which I’d rather pretend
I didn’t need,
As if I’d conquered something.

And with feet to the edge
I hope no one will hear my breath leave
When I jump.
Can they see how white my knuckles are?

Count to three then jump.
You know you’re safe, right?

One, two, three…

That Thing Which Keeps Me In

Hope, so they say,
Is a thing with feathers
Which springs eternal:
The sustenance of faith.

For me, what is left:
Defaulting to hope
As a seasonal activity
Intermingled with rainy clouds
And bursts of sunshine,
Here again, back again.

Tattered and frayed,
This year finds me
A little worse for wear.
Yet still I cling
To tendrils of hope:
Searching for beauty
In unexpected places;
Taking wobbling steps
With strong certainty;
Weathering the days given me
With quiet joy
And sure expectation.

In Reference to the Pothole on 1st Street

I drive over the same pothole in the road
Every time I come home.
Today I notice it
Like it’s something special,
Like that bump I feel
Is suddenly worth noticing.
I suppose it could be a metaphor
If that’s what I really wanted.
The way it appeared in the wake of a snowplow
Over a year ago
And is always patched yet always widening
And how I drive over it
Over, and over, and over.
I know my car can make it
But still I worry.
One day my tires will burst
Or something else will break.
Who knows.

So maybe my life is summed up
In driving over the same patched potholes
Over, and over, and over,
Praying I hold together
Just one more time.
And maybe you could draw
Significant Spiritual Conclusions from this
If you really wanted.
Something about Total Depravity
And/or Man’s Need For Grace.
Maybe you don’t even need to go that far
To realize that I’m human
And therefore a Natural Born Idiot
Who bets her car
On the potholes
Because she doesn’t want to change lanes
Right before turning onto her street.