Rain Mates

Let’s just skip the stones

and get dirty.

Mud pies in the face.

Bear disgrace.

Fall into place.

Wallow and weep

into each other’s eyes.

The river’s a half-peck

away from your cheek.

We’re weak,

let’s cinder sneak.

We know who we are

from where we were,

and now is now.

The Oh, Honestly

parts of us wait

in the rain,

the ripples

kissing each other

with grace.

Love Let (For Maria and Rob)

Now I lay me down,

to remember long ago,

when the words failed,

when you came into the light

of this world, quiet, at peace,

with barely a coo.

We held you, and a new

reality weighted our arms.

A new real creased

and increased our hearts.

 

In all my quarter century

I never knew such mystery.

Now I’ve seen the unfolding of you,

as color infused your baby face,

age on age, and grace on grace.

 

So now, we release,

smile, cry, sing,

of what is yet to be.

And that’s the thing,

to be, that is the question.

To be love, not simply in love.

To move love until it moves you.

To grip love like a blankie remnant.

To hold on as waters rise,

and the sun sets.

To find solace and comfort

and safety in the other.

To love and let love.

Pop Quiz

Let’s flip our pencils

and pray for erasure

of our projections

and scribbled premonitions.

 

Let’s put our pencils down

and face to face each other.

Let our ears understand twice.

Let our mouths grace once over.

 

Let’s stop passing notes

folded like footballs.

Let’s hand in hand be

vulnerable respectfully.

 

Let’s close our test booklets

and study each other.

Let’s not worry about grades,

but graces to pass before passing.

You Are

I say my prayers fast

before my mind

pulls apart these folded hands.

God, You are.

 

I lift my arms

as a child reaching.

an alchemy of receiving and giving.

Father, You are.

 

I run into the world

with a tension, attention

to the beauty and brokenness.

Jesus, You are.

 

I breathe without thought

exchanging bad air for good,

grace folding me.

Spirit, You are.

Pink Teddy Bear

She had flushed pink cheeks and her eyebrows wouldn’t sit still. Emily’s eyes, fixed on mine, wore anxiety and a shade of sad. Their teddy bear was dead, the one that connected my dying mother to my living six year old child. She couldn’t look at it. The bear she had covered with some of my work uniforms in our walk-in-closet. Emily’s guilt and grief were bound tight. Emily had forgotten to put the bear back up on her bed and Charlie our dog mangled it. Another loss.

The bear had been in the care of my mother until she passed away last year. The shaggy pink bear was looked after quite nicely by my mother. She made sure to send messages through me to Emily about how the bear was behaving. I told my mother how Emily was behaving.

IMG_0005

There is an album on my desk filled with written thoughts and poems and stories about my mother. On the cover is my mother holding the bear. It is one of my favorite photos of her. Emily sees the photo whenever she passes my desk. I reassured Emily that it was going to be okay. Her sadness awakened in me a sleeping grief. We shared it for a while.

I sat on the edge of our bed as Barbara spoke tenderly to Emily.

“I’m sorry you are so sad. It hurts doesn’t it? You know what? Grandma is babysitting the bear now. They are together.” Barbara, mother, kept speaking comfort and assurance to a little fractured heart. Mine.

Her words came from a mother place. Emily was comforted and I was too.

*

A year has passed since my mother died. It was early on a Monday morning. The all night vigil had taken its toll and I had fallen asleep. My head rested on the edge of the bed next to her womb. I woke to find her birthed into a greater light. One day I will awake and see her again, but not yet.

Stones In Hand

Are stones for throwing?

 

I threw them

at miniature plastic tanks and army men.

The images on CNN framed grown men

heaving stones at armor and assault rifled soldiers.

We were boys once.

 

Mr. Johnson across the street taught me

to search for rolling rocks.

The roundest rocks would roll

all the way down and around the corner.

Gravity and grace on asphalt.

 

One of my older brothers showed me

how to skip stones at Hogset Lake.

Flat stones were prized skippers.

Side armed flings placed abbreviated touch points

across the water and we counted.

 

The gravity has weighted the stones

in my hand and I stand.

Shoulders slumped and a loose grip

on judgments to be thrown.

Will I be the first to cast one?

 

Or will I let it roll or skip and wonder?

I would cast one for fear of being found out,

and Jesus would keep writing with his finger.

 

Would Jesus have stopped writing if they handed him their stones?

Who’s Side Are You On?

We picked sides decades ago.

No asking of preference.

We climbed in.

 

Four a.m., this morning after the end of the world,

I raised my arm over your head

like a first date clue.

You came close and rested your temple

on my collar bone.

 

You wished our room was pitch black.

It would have been a long blackness

last night as the solstice yawned.

You and I hidden,

pressed together quietly awake.

 

You said you couldn’t stop thinking.

I fumbled for just one thought,

A deep one, for my arrogance

only acknowledges deep thoughts in the night.

 

A thin line of separation.

 

Center bed, no man’s land.

The space between us.

You on the right,

me on the left.

 

I wonder how many times we crossed

in cover of darkness?

How many times have we pulled

the other over?

How many times our back to back

disagreements ended in rendezvous?

 

I like it when we hold hands

as we stare at the ceiling.

Our favored hands threaded,

our thoughts lying on the pillow cases.

 

Let’s have a sleep over tonight.

Your place or mine?

Christmas In 20/20 Hindsight. Our House Number Was 2020 and How Grand It Was.

Christmas Morning at 20/20 Grand

 

The house sat at the dead end of a street jammed with ten kids.  My mom could barely lace up the shoe.  Yet she worked hard to make this time of year special.  My wife has a tinge of sadness when I tell her we would get clothes for Christmas and one toy.  I keep forgetting to tell her the other stuff.

Like the mistletoe hung over archway right under the plaster “Last Supper”.

Like the strung popcorn and cranberries that twirled around the tinsel strewn tree.

Like new fireman pajamas.

Like the hand knit stockings with a jingle bell dangling in the middle…twelve of them strung across the sun porch windows…each one with a knitted name.

Like the smell of mince meat pie.

Like the early years heading off to midnight mass.

Like hot cocoa made from real whole milk and sugar and cocoa after being out in the cold.

Like the snow which formed long cotton balls of ice and slush were fused on the bottom of our snow pants.

Like the Ames Brothers and Bing caroling us in the background.

Like the Christmas bells that hung on our back door year round…They sometimes made me think of the magic of Christmas on a hot August night.

Like heading downtown to see the Nativity and being kinda scared of the eight foot shepherd that stared right at me.

Like when we would eat the un-yellow snow.

Like when Bob McDonald, Dennis Shields and I would comb the neighborhood and steal Christmas lights off of the bushes and throw them in the street to explode like firecrackers.  (Until we got caught trying to steal some off of a front door frame)

 

Then the waiting.  The twelve step waiting.  “My name is Jerry and I love Christmas morning.”

“Hi Jerry.”

Ten kids on twelve steps equal anticipation, impatience, giggling, flatuation, more giggles and squeezing for position on the lowest step.  We tried to be quiet and yet just enough noise was generated to rouse the sleeping Santa at the bottom of the steps to the right.  Said Santa just went to sleep a couple of hours ago (But we didn’t appreciate that).

A gurgled “not yet!” would waif itself around the corner…then more sleep breathing.

“Almost…”

ZZZZzzzz snarf schoogle smack smack

We could see the colored light seeping around the corner from the living room.  Our imaginations would be bouncing off each other like the little white dot that jumped a top of the sing along with Mitch songs on T.V.  We knew there would be underwear and socks and pajamas…but what of our “list” would be under the tree.  Which present of the urban sprawl under the tree would be ours?  No matter the lowest girth of the fern it could not contain the gifts.

And so we sat and she snored.

And so we fidgeted and she took cleansing sighs.

And so we creaked the steps with our buttocks and she swallowed the sugarplum fairy like a hair ball.

I imagine a committee meeting on the landing was held to appoint a scapegoat.  Someone had to directly ask the exhausted Merry Marilee (My mother Santa Clause) if we could descend.  Most likely it was Carol.  The baby.  The spoiled.  The cute.  The Cindy Lou Who of our who’s who.   Surely Mom would be sympathetic to her soft cry for freedom.  The stairs that imprisoned us all like Babes in Toyland held us.  The rail slats like iron bars on which we would drag our tin cups of impatience cuffed us.  Our bodies staggered on risers like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir…yet our voices(begging)didn’t evoke yuletide inspiration per se…more like pleading for parole or pardon.

Then we would hear a rustling and our fidgeting stopped and earwax melted to aid listening.  Out from the North Pole rose an elf in a nightie.  Red was her bed head hair as she passed.  Her cats eye glasses guiding her one eye to the coffee pot.  I could hear her flick open her cigarette lighter and flick her thumb twice.  The fridge opened and shut.  Cupboards knocked a few times.  Then she walked past again to her room to get her robe.  I swear I saw her smirk a little and a sleepy twinkle in her eyes.  We reverted to silent body language…eyes popping out…hands almost clapping…nudging…touching…scooting.

She once more came out of her den and fetched her coffee and sat in the living room.   She had a box-seat for the show.

“Alright, you can come see…”

We did see.  Not her face glowing, but lights, and sagging stockings, and sleds, and stuffed animals, and candy canes hanging on the branches.

We did see.  Not the whole picture of her thinking and choosing and remembering sizes.

We did see.  Not the exhaustion and sore muscles.

We did see…and now that we had seen from our box seats, we would all call her or stop by her north pole to appreciate the memories.  That gift is greater than any on our “list.”   Memories of the ambiance of what she created for us.  Each memory is a step on which to sit and wonder, like a child, how she did it.

This year the memories sit under each of our ten trees. All my siblings and I will miss talking to her and stopping by for pie in the evening. I wonder if there is mistletoe in heaven. I hope so. I hope she will be waiting there for us with some hanging over her head as she smirks and purses her lips. Merry Christmas mom.

 

 

 

Just a Poultry Encounter. Part Three of Three. Talking Turkey.

Smiley face

Thom continued to tell of his dream…

His head and neck then disappeared and a translucent uncle Thommy floated above the Hubble family table. He hovered over grandpa’s comb over, Lauren’s  pigtails,  Kelsey’s cornrows, and grandma’s poofy grey arrangement. He saw the horn of plenty and the expanded double leaf table full of plenty, and there in the middle, his body. The center piece wasn’t the candied yams or the mashed potatoes. It wasn’t the salad, cranberry sauce, or the green bean casserole.  It wasn’t the cherry, mintz, or pumpkin pie.  It was the body of a bird raised free.

“Oh Thom. Thom,” he began, “Take a good look. This family is bowing and thanking God for the gifts they are about to receive and I was one of them. I was the one in the middle to be carved and given to each. This is why I was raised. Look at them. Before they sat for prayer I was able to float around the house and listen in on conversations. They have their dysfunctions and differences. They have their favorites. They have their spoiled last borne. See that little one over there. Her name is Emmy and she took special care of me when I was just fluff. Thank goodness she lost track of who I was!

It would be arrogant to tell you that they gather just because of me. No, it’s their God given desire for connection and the God-image in them. This holiday is just one reason they make efforts to come together. It’s a human thing, we wouldn’t understand. They pray to One bigger than their collective experiences. We fulfill God’s design for us.  We feed, but more than that, our species in America feed thankful bodies, thankful hearts. Your destiny is at hand. You could be in the middle of all sorts of possibilities. Redeeming moments, forgiving moments, loving moments, joyful moments, meaningful moments, all basted in the juices of thankfulness.”

“It was then I woke up and looked east and rousted my roosting. Time to head home, I said to myself. It is my time to walk through the door of destiny. No more running. I figured if I got back soon enough I could be a part of someone’s thankful day this year.”

I was without a word. Did a turkey really go there? Nobody’s going to believe this. I don’t believe this. I’m on my way to Berrien Springs. I’m a turkey taxi. There’s a turkey in my baby’s car seat who just gave me a lesson in religion, philosophy, manifest destiny, and the difference between free range and PPP turkey farming. What did eventually pass through by lips was, “Thanks for sharing.”

“Thanks for caring and carrying for that matter!” he responded. “It felt good to process the story to you. It was like getting the stuffing scooped out of me. I feel lighter.”

“Hey Thom, I know this is sudden, but why don’t you come to my house for dinner! I mean, I have a couple of punk mass produced turkeys in the back I can give away to two families in Mattawan. You’ve got to be thirty pounds dressed. You are what I was looking for earlier…a nice, fat, Thom Thom! We both laughed. If you’ve never heard a turkey laugh before you’ve never split a gizzard.

“I would be honored to be front and center at your house on your Thankful Day.  Blullulla!”


 

“In everything give thanks.” The Bible

Freedom and Dependency: Fraternal Twins

“Are you going to be okay without me?”

“No.”

Right before I leave for work I pop a question. It is always the same one with the same response. It is not that my wife can’t live without me. She is strong. She will survive. I can hear her singing Gloria Gainer song in my head right now. She sings along every time Gloria belts it out. The reality is she has allowed me much freedom over the years. I can be pretty independent and she knows it all too well. I roam and she trusts.

Monday morning different words came out of me. They weren’t formed in a question. They were a response to a question she didn’t ask. She probably would ask it eventually, but my answer couldn’t wait.

“No, I am not going to be okay without you.”

She smiled. We made eye contact as we always do and “I love you” was swapped as we always do. *kiss

*

I walked out and got in the driver’s seat and a voice filled the dashboard.

“Are you going to be okay without me?”

Neil Diamond nudged me and whispered something about being a solitary man.

“I am an island…I have my books and poetry to protect me…” Geez Simon and GarFUNKel, I would rather find a bridge over troubled water. It is tempting to hide behind someone’s thoughts instead of walking through them.

“Psssst, are you going to be okay without me?”

Give me a minute. Did you mean, like, I need to come to the garden alone all the time to catch the dew on the roses? Do you want every word that proceeds out of my mouth to be laced with religious overpinnings?

“Shhhh, are you going to be okay without me?”

No, I’ve tried before. It’s okay for a while, but then I can’t receive the beauty around me or hug my kids authentically or lay next to my wife in peace. I can’t hand out hope or smiles after a while. You are love and without you this bruised, groaning world makes little sense and eventually sucks the life and meaning out of me.

“I know. Did you know that I am not going to be okay without you? I want to bring my creation close.  I want to ease its groaning. That includes you. I gave freedom in the beginning knowing there was a chance of people running away with it. Silly ole humans, do they really thing they can out run my love? My Jesus came to snap people out of it; that blank stare of independence clutching freedom like a teddy bear.”

The bear is a bit tattered isn’t it?

“Listen, freedom is a wild concept. True freedom doesn’t necessarily expand, at least not in the way some understand it. Independence is good, but interdependence is better. Not co-dependence. Interdependence.

True freedom is not freedom from dependency

but

freedom in dependency.”

The original intent was to allow us to reciprocate your love, right? Not just to you, but especially with each other. I think I get it. I hope I grow in freedom to love better. To be dependent on and be dependable; that is love in action isn’t it?

“Yes, now go ask your wife a question and go to work. Feel free to live and love. I am here, all the time. I am love.”
Are you free to love? Love God? Love people?