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When we look critically at the many thoughts and feelings that fill our minds and hearts, we may come to the horrifying discovery that we often choose death instead of life, curse instead of blessing. Jealousy, envy, anger, resentment, greed, lust, vindictiveness, revenge, hatred … they all float in that large reservoir of our inner life. Often we take them for granted and allow them to be there and do their destructive work.
But God asks us to choose life and to choose blessing. This choice requires an immense inner discipline. It requires a great attentiveness to the death-forces within us and a great commitment to let the forces of life come to dominate our thoughts and feelings. We cannot always do this alone; often we need a caring guide or a loving community to support us. But it is important that we both make the inner effort and seek the support we need from others to help us choose life.
Poetry (6) After going to the link, scroll down to find the particular poem.
Justin Evans – “Confession”
Tim Peeler – “Hoe Boy’s Grieflets”
Rusty Barnes – “How It Begins”
Lana Maht Wiggins – “Wading Through Phoenix Ash”
Pat Riviere-Seel – “The Good Mother”
Pris Campbell – “Invasion”
Short Stories (2)
Creative Nonfiction (1)
Beth Ross – “Leatherwood Holler”
God says, “I am offering you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
“Choose life.” That’s God’s call for us, and there is not a moment in which we do not have to make that choice. Life and death are always before us. In our imaginations, our thoughts, our words, our gestures, our actions … even in our nonactions. This choice for life starts in a deep interior place. Underneath very life-affirming behaviour I can still harbour death-thoughts and death-feelings. The most important question is not “Do I kill?” but “Do I carry a blessing in my heart or a curse?” The bullet that kills is only the final instrument of the hatred that began being nurtured in the heart long before the gun was picked up.
“Contemplation is the awareness and realization, even in some sense experience, of what each Christian obscurely believes: ‘It is now no longer that I live but Christ lives in me.‘
…It is awakening, enlightenment and the amazing intuitive grasp by which love gains certitude of God’s creative and dynamic intervention in our daily life.”
Thomas Merton. New Seeds of Contemplation. (New York: New Directions Books 1961) p. 5
“It is not we who choose to awaken ourselves, but God Who chooses to awaken us. ”
New Seeds of Contemplation: p. 10.
As we grow older we have more and more people to remember, people who have died before us. It is very important to remember those who have loved us and those we have loved. Remembering them means letting their spirits inspire us in our daily lives. They can become part of our spiritual communities and gently help us as we make decisions on our journeys. Parents, spouses, children, and friends can become true spiritual companions after they have died. Sometimes they can become even more intimate to us after death than when they were with us in life.
Remembering the dead is choosing their ongoing companionship.
334 Tate Street (near UNC-G)
Saturday, August 28 7:30, Greensboro, NC
—for Tony’s cousin,
who“ made it” out safely
Frustration as old as New Orleans,
where race was the unspoken issue, keeps
those who could not leave, after Katrina.
among the masses,
huddled in the mud and the urine,
the stench of death in torrid attics,
impatience and hunger, amid
the beatings and the suicides, (to say nothing of
the drownings, explosions, and fires). Too much water:
Humiliation floats in a woman’s hurried pee—
on the sidewalk, where she’s hidden only by a dying plant,
and a gentleman, whom she thinks to thank,
diverts his tired eyes, in the begging for
a bottle of water for one’s dying father, who is ninety,
only to be denied, lacking his physical presence,
and in the floods that glisten in the sun while being
transformed into sewer-water.
The poor left their everything at the levee,
that is, if they could leave, they left everything—
in the place where their ancestors were beaten,
after being “sold south,” then freed but given
nothing but Jim Crow. And now there’s nothing
but heat and shit here by the river’s mouth.
Somehow the hell goes on and on. (Hell
being three babies, dying in the Superdome.)
Did folks not deserve better than
the armed police, who waved guns and
herded them like slaves or black pigs? A bus
overturned on its tardy way to the Promised Land:
Redemption being, once again, denied. But somehow—
somehow the folks who make it will “make a life”:
Find purgatory where there used to be hell.
In the Big Easy (after many prayers),
they knew that life was good,
first published in Washing the Color of Water Golden: A Hurricane Katrina Anthology and later in Better With Friends
It is very hard to accept an early death. When friends die who are seventy, eighty, or ninety years old, we may be in deep grief and miss them very much, but we are grateful that they had long lives. But when a teenager, a young adult, or a person at the height of his or her career dies, we feel a protest rising from our hearts: “Why? Why so soon? Why so young? It is unfair.”
But far more important than our quantity of years is the quality of our lives. Jesus died young. St. Francis died young. St. Thérèse of Lisieux died young, Martin Luther King, Jr., died young. We do not know how long we will live, but this not knowing calls us to live every day, every week, every year of our lives to its fullest potential.
Okay, so it’s been a while since I posted.
Remember Miki, the French artist who lives in Spain? I wrote ekphrasic poems to several of her lovely paintings a few years ago.
Well, Miki and her friends have started a site, Eastelspace. com, where poets and artist can meet. I joined at Miki’s invitation.
And Miki created a picture, “Helen Losse,” to which I replied with a poem, “Helen Walks In the Mountains.” Scroll down to read the poem.
And last night I found out my poem, “It should be obvious,” has been nominated by Redheaded Stepchild for a Best of the Net Award.
I‘ll be reading from Better With Friends (Rank Stranger Press, 2009) at the Tate Street Coffeehouse in Greensboro, NC next Saturday. So join me (in the open mic), if you can. I’ll also be reading at the East Bay Meeting House in Charleston, SC (Monday Night Blues) on September 27. I’ll have copies of Better With Friends for sale at both locations.
Another possible event is in the planning stage. 🙂
And it’s almost time to get back to work accepting more great poetry for the Dead Mule. Next poetry issue goes live October 5. Bye, bye, sabbatical. 🙂 Bring on the fall.
Thank you editor, Rusty Barnes.