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.


evening notes...


"Mary, remember The Edge at Six Flags in Gurnee?  You were scared to death when the cage rolled out and, for a moment, we were suspended at the precipice.  The boys that were so brave and making fun of you suddenly panicked and wanted off. You looked at them and grinned, then suddenly we dropped, and you laughed the whole way down while they screamed like banshees and called out to God. That's how I remember you. Barely ten and full of vim and vigor." 

How amazing is the Creator? Our sun, a perfect size, at an ideal distance, warms the earth as it spins on its axis and circles our life-giving star; and it, in turn, circles our galaxy at the outskirts of the Milky Way, and the Milky Way spirals as it moves through space. This has been going on for billions of years. Everything is moving somewhere, someplace.

Of late, my mind dwells on the grand scheme; or, maybe, I just do it more often. Laura always says I'm off in La La land. Anyway, the whole time Alice and I talk I'm on autopilot. I feel as if I'm in another reality, as if I'm swimming the Jordan River, and I'm neither on earth nor in heaven. Maybe I'm in a higher plane of consciousness. All I know is at this moment I'm not entirely here, and I feel a presence like a sun's touch on my skin, a warmth that permeates my being.

When I drop Alice off, Mary is home. She left work early because of pain in her legs. It's disconcerting. I hug her three times. I do everything in threes. It's a dumb superstition like not stepping on cracks or not walking under a ladder, but more importantly, I'm having a running conversation with God. It's personal like a son speaking to his father. I ask Him for strength as I hug her three times. Each time I hug her a little tighter and a little longer. Mac is there, Jessica is there, Junior is there, Mary's beautiful granddaughter, Sol, is there. I hug them all as if an embrace can take their fear and pain away. In reality, I'm just trying to comfort myself. I say my goodbyes and walk out the door. I smile the whole time because everything is fine. It's all good.

Outside kids head home from school, a mother walks her baby, a couple of guys argue the lack of defense in professional basketball, a tabby chases a squirrel up a tree. Everyone and everything goes about their lives as the earth spins through space and we continue our journey. I'm overwhelmed with emotion. I pull away but quickly turn into a parking lot and sob, but soon sorrow leaves my body. I sit quietly and release the pain; until, all that's left is the hum of tires on asphalt, the wind rustling leaves, and the chatter of people going about their daily lives. To the West, the sun illuminates bellowing clouds. It's ethereal, and I'm calm and serene as I immerse myself in Living Waters.

Mary, there's something greater beyond this realm, something beautiful, something unimaginable. It’s a path we all must walk, a way that leads to The Jordan River. Sooner or later we all cross that river. Our Messiah has prepared a place for us on the other side. Mom and dad will be waiting for you; and, in a blink of an eye, I will also be there. Believe me, we will rejoice together.

Be strong. The Holy Ghost will comfort you. And when you finally release the spirit, it'll be the beginning of eternal bliss. It's an absolute truth and His promise. And Mary, never forget, I love you more...


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


Marvin Owen Berry

He was a Kentuckian with a Texas drawl acquired by forty years of life in The Lone Star State. He was sparse and deliberate with words, and they seemed to occupy space longer than usual before slowly dispersing like smoke. He wore jeans and flannel shirts and caps and boots and Buddy Holly glasses. He always sported a beard that articulated a certain symmetry of being. He wasn’t religious, but he was spiritual. Folks usually conflate the terms, but one can exist without the other. And in today’s volatile and turbulent days, when at times we can’t tell a Christian from a non-Christian, much could have been learned from a man who seemed to live life in peace and harmony with those around him.

I remember the first time we met, and within five minutes of exchanging a few words, I liked him. I felt a kinship and thought, “A man after my own heart.” He lived life as he saw fit; and in many ways, he saw this crazy world as I did. We had many things in common like being the eldest son and being honored with our father’s names and being passionate about the Cowboys and loving our families.

His siblings said he was a gentle soul; and as they reminisced, they couldn’t remember conflict or confrontation with him. I found it surprising, yet believable. Time seemed to slow down with Owen. He lived life a second at a time and enjoyed the moment. He never worried family or friends with problems and never asked anything of anyone, and he cared less about keeping up with the Joneses. He was content with the essentials. He was who he was and made no excuses for it.

In the end, maybe that’s what moved me the most, his simple ways and the beauty in the way he embraced his life. And as birds began their morning song and the sun broke in the east, an old-time gospel echoed in my mind, “There will be peace in the valley... There’ll be no sadness, no sorrow.” Unabashedly, I wept. I mourned a man who lived life on his terms and left us way too soon. His mom, brothers and sisters, and friends will miss him.

May the Creator be the guiding light on your final journey, Big O.  Hasta luego, mi amigo.


The Third Being

This one was born in a river,
wrenched from the warm liquid
of a mother’s womb --
brought forth from water to water
and lifted to light by the hand of God ...

Listen --
day flees the wild country,
scurries beyond the belly of the Spirit
and abides in the Mansion of Infinite rooms.
Earth is void of light.
Dogs cower from the dark.
He knocks at my door.
Should I let him in to sup?
Who is this third being --
this colossal weight that tickles my sacs
and strokes my loins?

She waits in the kitchen.
Her finite hovel hurtles --
To the cesspool at the end of creation.
You take her.
Dance a mad tango.
In your fisted bones, a bushel of hair --
ruby beads --
strands of a hundred centuries.
And on your lips,
the stain of the Virgin Mary.
And in your groin,
the sting of Jezebel.

Why do you do this?
There is no honor in it.
Why do you allow this?
There is no honor in it.
Grandfather --
who is this third being
that stalks the night?

In my mortal heart,
three men fight;
in the broth of my bowels,
one butchered boy.

Did not my Old Man die for you?
His scream transfigured Golgotha.
Why, then,
why, then, this weight,
this third being

-- these strands of a hundred centuries.