Dissonant Bells

A procession of cars. 
Church bells toll as sparrows sing. 
Their morning spiritual sits heavy on my chest,
disintegrates my bones,  
extinguishes tongues of fire that dance above my head, 
silences mad utterances that rattle my teeth. 
(I remember honey-laden bees,  
fragrance of blooming shooting stars, 
twilight lost in Irish locks,  
and dissonant bells of church 
in Sunday morning rain.) 
The procession continues
towards the Tabernacle of Saints and Sinners. 
(And to think, light of my eyes,  
that once, my love was yours.) 

Prophecy 7 plus years ago...



you were 6
i hugged you as we twirled
from kitchen to porch your chubby cheek pressed against mine
we whirled down the steps
across the lawn
the man in the moon grinned
& sprinkled us with pixie dust
i thought you'd ignite
in colored flames
like a catherine wheel
on the day of the dead

then the sparrows sang
& the man in the moon
closed his eyes & i sobbed
till my larynx almost burst
& my heart escaped
& vanished
into the cresting light
in the east


Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley - Slave Mill (Acapella)

How A Temper Grows Up

In the morning there is a doorway—
bare bone soft feet step bare
so as not to make floorboards scold.

Voices lowered by the dawn,
a small body pressed to the lapel of a kitchen wall,
a cast iron skillet speaking pancake batter.

This is the world of the newly born,
plus the alleyway off Galt Ave.
and the front yard tree with branches for arms.

There is rage at the taking of things,
lullabies to sooth the inability to dress oneself,
to bathe oneself clean of the day.

The outside is where the swings are
that keep from the sky, where I learn
feeling the wind is like flying standing still.

If I am to be here there must be a blaze,
or at least something that spits and howls
and is not too stubborn to die after burning.

When I learn to love
remind me of the whip between my teeth,
of the bees trapped in my mouth.

Call me home twice like dinner is cold
before I run to beat you
to the place my breath is heaviest.

Most times I can’t find my hands,
left inside where the world can’t get in
if I close the door tight enough.

In here these voices claw at the wall
loud as shadows and I fight them
like my fists have never known flat palms.

I have calmed this rage to a rain
you will still smell in your clothes
the morning after.

By Makenzie Berry

The Peace Of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
- Wendell Berry 


Dirge Without Music by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.  Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone.  They are gone to feed the roses.  Elegant and curled
Is the blossom.  Fragrant is the blossom.  I know.  But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know.  But I do not approve.  And I am not resigned.


memory #85: The old man in the wheelchair

It was difficult for grandfather to accept his body was failing. In his frail shell, there was a raging wind, and his soul was young and willing; but his days were soon filled with long winters, and they came like an avalanche, and they weighed him down and suffocated the life out of him. He realized there'd be no more springs. "I guess we’ll be taking my elephant skin to a nursing home," he said, laughing as my young son tenderly caressed the pachyderm skin he found so exotic and wonderful. "QuĂ© piensas astronauta," he asked my son. My son smiled and rested his cheek on his great grandfather's arm.

It wasn't long after our visit, perhaps a week or two, that my grandparents grudgingly moved to an assisted living facility. It was there they befriended an old man in a wheelchair who never had visitors. He hadn't seen his son or daughter for years. Every time I drove mom and dad to Muscatine, Iowa, for a visit, we'd invite him over.  We'd bring him sweets, word puzzles, and knickknacks, but mainly we'd just engage him in conversation. He'd share memories of his wife and kids.  Sometimes it was emotional, but I always managed to hold my composure. Whenever he'd see us, he'd roll down the hallway as fast as he could. He'd wave and greet us with, "Buen dia, amigos! Buen dia!"

After my grandparents passed away, I was so preoccupied with my own problems and issues that I pushed him into the deep recesses of my mindscape where he slowly faded into obscurity. But years later, while talking to a friend whose parents were contemplating moving to an old folks home, I recalled the tiny, old man. Ever since, when dwelling on my mortality, I imagine him in his wheelchair, by the nursing home entrance, underneath the apple blossoms, anxiously waiting my arrival.                                                  


memory #121: Tattered hide

Saray, I remember when your dad pastored, for a short time, in Happy Union, Texas, or was it Cotton Center? He loved baseball, and he gave me a black outfielders baseball glove. Every time you guys would visit he'd toss the ball with me. I'd catch every ball he threw. I felt I owed it to him out of respect for his gift. Long after you guys moved away, I cherished that glove. I had it for years until it was tattered hide and disappeared from my life.


memory #43: And so it was

When we visited South Dakota, towards the end of summer, we passed close to Moorhead, MN. Though I was born there, I know nothing about that town other than my parents worked the fields nearby. I thought to take a detour and visit the city, but I ran out of time.

It did bring a story to mind concerning dad. A moment that, though appearing insignificant, was an essential step in his Christian walk. It was the 50s, and dad, a new convert, was excited to be back in Minnesota so he could preach the Word to fellow migrants. Tio Pilo was dad’s right-hand man. They had crates and a blanket as a pulpit. They decided on weekends they’d visit camps and preach and enlighten their brothers and sisters. The first morning they drove to a field there was a multitude. I’m sure that summer hundreds turned up to their makeshift services; and, over the years, I’m sure those numbers grew in the telling from hundreds to thousands and, on an occasion, during a moment of euphoria, I believe I might have heard a million. This particular morning, as they looked across the field, it must have seemed like 5,000, and they must have wondered if their tacos and coffee would, like the miracle of the five loaves and two fish, feed the multitude.

Dad said they were surprised the workers knew of their coming. They were anxious to spread the Word, so before the car came to a complete halt, they jumped out and immediately set up the pulpit. The crowd was milling around in small groups and had their backs to them, but dad felt as soon as he started preaching, the mass would turn and be filled with the Holy Spirit! He said, “We’re like Mexican Billy Grahams!” They had the biggest grins. But as dad began to speak, he felt the tension, and the mood quickly changed. Suddenly a stone came hurtling towards them, then another and another. Soon they were being pelted, and screams rang out, “We don’t want los hallelujahs here.” It was then they noticed the dice and the money. They have never moved so fast in their lives! As they sped away, stones bounced off the car and curse words they didn’t know existed seared their ears.

That day Dad and Tio Pilo made a promise. Like Steven who was stoned to death for his believes, they would continue their work; and if stoning was the price to pay, so be it:  "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.' At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him (Acts7:56-58).

All summer dad preach the good news whether he was talking to a friend as they worked the field, or spreading the Good News during lunch break, or merely proclaiming the Messiah’s love and forgiveness to whoever would listen. He never, ever let a stone or the threat of any type of stoning deter the preaching of the Gospel. His journey had begun, and it would forever change the course of his life and those around him. In his heart he carried a verse, Philippians1:21: “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” It’s inscribed on his tombstone. And so it was...


The Loons In The Fox

Loons in the Fox
in my veins
even locomotive #3
chugging along
the lost railroad track
has no passage to deliverance

I will not allow you
O jocular Ghost
to alleviate or rearrange
a singularity I created
a golden calf I manifested

In this iniquitous moment
let me suffer

so I can be godlike tomorrow

Dissonant Bells

A procession of cars.   Church bells toll as sparrows sing.   Their morning spiritual sits heavy on my chest, disintegrat...