Wrote this one back in, like 2002. Channeling my inner James Tate? Maybe. Feeling a little silly for sure. Just found it again.
I eat my Chinese food with chopsticks
because I can and I want you to know it.
And it’s just fun eating food with sticks.
It’s a guy thing, liking sticks.
I know what Freud would say but it’s not like that (mostly.)
They’re just plan fun, those sticks.
They’re an extension of the arms.
A source of extra torque and,
as any guy’ll tell you,
more torque is a good thing.
Half the fun of sports is hitting stuff with sticks —
torquing off so to speak.
And your mother will cheer you on
instead of yelling “You’ll put your eye out!”
You can make a lot of money swinging sticks.
They have contests. People bet on them,
those powerful men swinging their sticks.
Sticks mean business. Sticks convey power.
Who’s that leading the parade?
Why it’s the guy swinging the stick!
A clarinet is sometimes called a Licorice Stick
but that’s a swinging of a different kind
and no less fun.
Licorice is a tasty candy stick.
In fact all the best candies are sticks.
And it’s not a festival unless there’s food on a stick.
The best way to eat kielbasa!
The guy who invented the wheel gets all the attention,
but to make wheels work together, what do you need?
I think you can guess.
And nobody ever complains
teach me song, i
would sing, teach me
love. i would
i were open
to it. teach me
i should. show me
& touch – that much
i would offer
to her. teach me
more – a way
to reach her
hesitantly. teach me
to be sure.
— BP Nichol
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
Joy Harjo The Woman Who Fell From the Sky 1994
This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who says, Last night,
the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?
Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.
And then life suggests that you remember the
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.
Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won’t give you smart or brave,
so you’ll have to settle for lucky.) Because you
were born at a good time. Because you were able
to listen when people spoke to you. Because you
stopped when you should have and started again.
So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.
— Eleanor Lerman, from Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds. © Sarabande Books, 2005
Last night I was making my holy hour (really, a half hour of contemplation but that’s what I call it anyway) and, because I could feel my ability to stay awake slipping from me, I decided to engage in contemplative abstract art. Using pastels.
About 15 minutes in a voice chided me and said, “This isn’t real prayer. You’re not directing your thoughts toward God. You are not being still. You’re using God as an excuse to play with crayons.”
Well, maybe so. God gave me this desire, this gift of being able to be satisfied to play with crayons for a half hour even at age 54, this childlike love of colors and art, this source of joy. And I decided to use it in His presence, being the Me He created me to be. Thankful for the space and time and the resources to do it. I wasn’t physically still, but with art keeping distraction and drowsiness at bay, my ever restless mind rested in 30 minutes of what God gave me to love.
I think about how I look at my own children when they are enjoying something, engaged in some activity they love, and they aren’t aware that I am watching. Like when Olivia moves to music she loves. I know that in that moment I couldn’t love them more, just for being who they are. Why would God not rejoice in watching me similarly?
And, in this morning’s meditation from JesuitPrayer.org, this wonderful poem:
before your God.
Let your God look upon you.
That is all.
God loves you with an enormous love
and only wants to look upon you
with that generous love.
Let your God love you.
—Edwina Gately (b.1943), published in There Was No Path, So I Trod One
I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”
— Denusha Lemeris
Hat tip to this fellow blogger who was kind enough to post this first
I wrote this back in 2001, just a year after graduating with a degree in Futures Studies (now called Foresight) from UH. Posting here because my brother wanted to use it and I couldn’t find it here. Since this is the “place for my stuff,” at least digitally.
Reading this after 18 years or so, it’s held up pretty well. Which I am not sure is a good thing.
I’m tired.I’ve been cutting back on McLattes.I’m saving up to turn off my shoes.I saw some last week —shoes that were just plain shoes.They didn’t track where you goand then beam ads up at you.No motor oil ads while pumping gasNo cookie ads in front of the dairy case.They’re expensive ’cause they’re not subsidized.So I’m economizing to pay for somethingThat people are used to getting for free.My friends think I’m nuts.All these constant commercials,they don’t bother my friends.Just like wallpaper.They say they can tune them out.I should be so lucky.They drive me crazy.But it’s my fault —I made them my job.I’m an “Eyeball”.Sounded like a good idea at the time —just walk around and look at stuff.When I see a logo or a commercial spot,this chip at the base of my skulllets the good folks at Nielsenknow my reaction before even I do.This kind of informationis very valuable, they say.Thanks.Here’s your check.I figured it’d give me more time to write.But somehow I can’t concentrate.I can’t write more than a paragraph at a time.I get these uncanny urges to drop my workAnd flip through a magazine.I never order magazines but they come to me anyway.I’m never sure when, or if, I’m off the clock.I can’t tell what else I’m giving them.Like, last week I had this “naked in public” dream,and my landlady gave me an amused once-over lookthe next morning.Gave me the creeps.I try not to dream if I can help it.I saved for months to buy one blank wall in my apartment.It’s in my bedroom opposite my bed.No logo lamps, no meme marqees, no active windows.The wall wasn’t subsidized, so my rent went up.But it was worth it.I sit and stare at that walllike it were some kind of holy shrine.It is holy to me, I guess.One day I’ll be able to pay my own rentAnd put what I want on all my walls.For now I’ll just take refuge in this one blank spot.But if I sit at the end of my bed and stare long enough,say, more than half an hour, there’s this thingNot a voice, not a thought, not an image.Faintly, but clearly, it whispers“Get to work.”— Cody Clark, 2001
I have no talent or training. And not a whole lot of time or dedicated space. But I like to draw and make art. So I do what I can do, which is draw lines.
Sometimes the lines line up. Sometimes they don’t. Recently I’ve been into, let’s just say, intuitive variation on repetitive themes that I make up. Which also means that I pick out a basic process and then follow that process with variations I introduce as I go along.
I often do this as a form of contemplative prayer. Meditation, if you will. The repetition of my art process works as a kind of physical mantra which keeps my focus and wards off distraction. I weave my prayer into the process of doing the repetitions and iterations.
One day I will go to art school and learn how to do real art. But why should I wait? I’ll just make my own stuff up until then. And use it to keep myself in the Holy present moment while I’m at it.
After a few months of dancing on the outside of Jean-Luc Marion’s thought, reading articles and commentaries like this one because I am not capable of digesting Marion’s writing directly, I think I am content to know just what I now know about his phenomenology and subsequent theology.
I really do not seek levels of intellectual attainment beyond my capacity, but I am so instinctively drawn to the ideas of “givenness” and “saturated phenomena” and “God Without Being.”
I am enthralled with the idea of all experience as gift, for the sake of giving it. It fits my intuition that to try to capture God in a definition or concept constitutes an “idolatrous gaze,” putting God in a box,more or less. And, from the depths of my own experience, any “God” who fits in a box (even my own brain) is no God of mine.
“Love is not connected to understanding, but to faith; only bad lovers want to understand love before they love. And God gives Himself as a gift for “no reason at all,” and thus cannot possibly be limited and conditioned by metaphysics. If God is gift and love, then we ought to renounce every effort to domesticate Him into our theories.”
The very idea of saturated phenomena, iconic experiences that overwhelm us with the sense of inexplicable excess, that we can feel there is much more behind what we can see and explain, puts words to my own transcendent experiences of Love and the divine.
“Confronted by a saturated phenomenon, we are unable to subdue it to our mastering gaze, but are instead overwhelmed by it; … “consciousness is surprised, overwhelmed and drawn up short by its inadequacy.” Marion himself writes that “It is in fact a question of something visible that our gaze cannot bear; this visible something is experienced as unbearable to the gaze because it weighs too much upon the gaze . . . . What weighs here is not unhappiness, nor pain nor lack, but indeed glory, joy, excess.” The reality of saturated phenomena like icons implies a decentering of the transcendental ego, which can no longer be considered the source of meaning. This disrupts a central phenomenological conclusion, and opens up the possibility of theology that is not mastered by philosophy.”
This may be just confirmation bias. But it feels like corroboration, a reconciliation between what my reasonable head demands and heart wants to embrace as true.
I think I can stop now. These ideas are being developed by, from what I can tell, one of the greatest contemporary philosophers and theologians who seems to be tirelessly working to liberate faith from the strictures of intellectual structures. These are the very types of structures that kept my fullest expression of my faith prisoner for so many years when I was younger.
So I’ll leave it in these folks’ esoteric hands. Trying to read this stuff is hurting my head anyway.