Parabola

Parabola: The path of a projectile under the influence of gravity.

And we arrived squalling,
after deep immersion in warmth,
projectiles shot into the world, tumbling end

over end, caroming off walls of bent law,
jolting down the rough scree of injustice,
dragging the long tail of generations.

We split the air, the air streaming around us,
feathering up behind in colors only seen
against the dark clouds of history.

What drew us forward was hunger
for justice, memory and longing.
Also, accidents of place, conjunction
of powers, and limits.

How long we ascended,
thrust over gravity!
The arc of ambition, a certain defiance
of inertia and the cost of fuel.

The wide heart of goodness,
the cool fire of sacrifice.

History is a book of stone,
open always to the chapters
that will break your bones
when you fall.

Leap!

We who are alive
shall be caught up
in the arc of this parabola.

We shall rise and fly,
somehow stay aloft against
the gravity of this hour.

Life Gone

The cat pounced before I could move.
The bird was on the rail in front of me,
then in the jaws of the cat.
No more — and no less.
I could not even protest.
How do you argue
the point?

Time's up, said the tide
as it rolled in.
Moving on, said the sun.

But wait! I said,
to the cloud passing over.
Wait . . .

Last Days

We all want to be riding on
when the summons comes.

Going on, going toward,
to be seen as willing ourselves

into the next day and the next,
circling the lake once more

and then finding the passage
between the mountains to

the upper valley starred with flowers,
with ships of clouds running aground

among the trees and the trees dripping
with spring and life in droplets,

and then to hear among the rocks
the deep, the dark deep resonance

of the old sweet earth, again
and again, before the end.

Absent Gods

When my father died, I was not there.
I was a continent away when the call came.
I cancelled my class that night,
not willing for the welling eyes of my students
to unstop some hidden spring of tears
deep within the man
I thought I was.

In an instant I was four, my face pressed
up against his overcoat, the collar faintly
smelling of cigarettes and travel and
the clean bite of snow in his hair.

He would fly down from the gray sky,
to be with his parents and me for a day,
clattering across the lowered drawbridge
of my heart, past the flickering lamps
of dim memory, and into the courtyard
of the present.

He was the closest god that I could know.

Gods become less real the more they are
not present. Their absence as a being
shape-shifts by fate and circumstance.
We name it, shuffle memories, love it more
than less, understanding without knowing.

Wavewalker

I was never one for miracles.
They seemed like wishful thinking
or the inevitable Coke machine
at the end of the last road out of
the last town at the far tip of 
the continent at the bottom of the world.

Experience, says Hume — that's the
ticket. Experience refutes the ignorance
of barbarous nations who believe in
the miraculous. Miracles break laws.

A thirsty person sees a far-off lake
lying across a desert road. What
are we to make of that? This is
the world, every natural law at work,
busting up our sight, creating out of
scraps lying around things
that cannot be.

Then comes Jesus striding from wave
to wave, throwing demons up against
the wall, pulling loaves and fishes
out of loaves and fishes, and I read
about it and I say bread that is eaten —
chewed and swallowed — lasts longer
than the water of life at the far end
of the desert road, which I could have
and die trying. 

When You Are Wounded

When someone is hurting,
the first thing they must do
is answer the question,
"Are you alright?"

It's call and response,
a ping-pong of language,
a catechism of guilt performed.

The wounded answers
between clenched teeth,
"I'm fine, I'm fine. Really."
Then the business of caring
can take place.

We will ride our invisible horses
into the wind. But we are truer
to the earth of which we are made
to say, "There is a deep abyss here
that I must climb out of — help me."

There is a silence when we reach someone
that is better than words. The silence
of grasses moved by the breeze. The silence
of a hand laid against a cheek. The silence
of a blanket laid over one's feet.

It's true: shock rises like heat
off the pavement. We come
from a far place in the wake 
of an afterthought. How will
our minds grow into our bodies?
But attention surely must be paid.

Forgive us our laggard ways —
how we now live —
we are asked to live
faster than sound,
reaction crucifying
perception. 

After Sunday

Like a guest awaited that arrives resplendent
and inevitably leaves, Easter is and now was.

All during Lent I saw crosses everywhere
in telephone poles, airplanes overhead,
the twisted rebar of burnt-out buildings,
at the throat of the thin girl outside the 7-11.

"He died for your sins," I am told. I don't deny
my sins; they are before me in my path, burning
cinders through which I must find my way. Time
and reason don't avail. This is not the question.

The disciples on the Emmaus road encountered one
whose voice they knew but could not recognize.
He stopped with them, he broke the bread,
he blessed it and then disappeared.

On Monday the machinery clanks up again,
buses wheeze and lumber. What change has come?
After every death a breath that's drawn
feels like a gift received and a grief remembered.

Every breaking body, every breaking heart,
points always in all places to the real,
the weight of stones, the newness that is possible,
the vanishing of the Real, whom I have been
running toward ever since.

Perfect Circle

You were the perfect circle, hammered upon
the anvils of our peasant selves.
You were the desert night, cool points
of stars to our nets and fish and warm lake waves.

We followed you down all the foot-sore roads
north and south, east and west. Birds circled
darkly against the jagged light of noon.
Where the body is, they will gather.

We here have left everything for you,
what's in it for us? And you said, No one
who has given up all for my sake, but will
receive all and more in the kingdom of my Father.

I said I would follow you down, even to death,
but here I am. They broke you, smashed the circle.
You said you'd rise on the third day. I will believe it
when I see it, my Lord of the circle, my Embodied Star.

Breaking News

The controversial Yeshua, a faith healer from the hill
country, was hanged today near the Empire Steet
turnoff, just off Highway 95. Police were called out to
direct traffic and prevent pileups, as people slowed to
catch a glimpse of the charismatic young teacher and healer.
With more on the story, here is WFCK's Brittany Weeks.
Brittany, what can you tell us?

Well, Tom, as you know, it was just five days ago
that Yeshua — he goes by one name — entered DC
in a triumphal parade. He was driven in an open Jeep
down Georgia Avenue to the cheers of thousands.
He was widely revered for his work among the poor and 
homeless, opioid addicts, immigrant groups, woman
and children. But not everyone appreciated him.
Some I talked to in the crowd told me they had heard
news reports that he was a pedophile and that he
associated with prostitutes, far left activists, and terrorists.
He was arrested late yesterday and brought before the
Evangelical Tribunal for Justice on charges of sedition,
corruption, and tax evasion. The Tribunal reached a
unanimous verdict of guilty on all charges at four a.m.
this morning and by noon he was executed.

Back to you, Tom.

Thanks, Brittany, and now with more on how the
weekend weather is shaping up, here's Ashley!

The Sifting of Wheat

I cannot forget what he said:
"Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat."
I am Simon, aka Peter. Please don't call me
'The Rock.' That was Jesus — who always loved

a nickname — getting ahead of himself.
He saw in me things that none of my friends
could see. Things that even I couldn't see.
Things that weren't there. But he was sure.

He was always sure, except for once.
"Who do people say that I am?" he asked.
He was groping for an answer.
So, I blurted out what we were all thinking.
"You're the Messiah!" I said. "You're the Son of God."

We were thinking it, but not with any certainty.
It was a line cast out ahead of us in the hope
that we could drag ourselves upstream
against the current.

Now it's over. He is dead. And we are adrift.
We are huddled like castaways in a boat.
Was it all for nothing, his sufferings, our hopes?
I can go back to fishing. I will always be a fisherman.