The Fount of Every Stressing

The desert land is my promised land
the new world is my garden of leaving
the manna from heaven is my king’s feast
the water spilling from the rock is my unsettled refreshment-
and yet I’ll complain.

The coat of many colors is my technicolor cutthroat
the burning bush is my desire’s flame out
The “know us” ark is my cruel ship
the torn commandments is my soul’s delight-
and yet I’ll complain.

The first day is my created girth
the second day is my fittest survival
the third day is my operation desperation
the last day is my resting day-
and yet I’ll curse you
(because I can’t see me).


The Blanket Upon the Babe

We knit with a needle-
with every stitch there’s a snatch
before the scab there’s a scratch
now let Us pass through the eye of the people.

The yoke begins with the yarn-
with every weakness there’s a weave
before the Light there’s a leave
belief is not a mansion, but a barn.

They pattern after a print-
with every frost there’s a freezing
before the thaw there’s a thieving
in need of heat? There’s the hint.

Pull the Thread Through

I’m on the hook
A crocheted oath
Woven by a needle
Plucked and pulled
Tied up in nots
Untangled in naughts–
Commitment is a noose
Choking me more
the completion of each row
leads the ship to the shore
while the sea and the sand
washes over the whore
and the stand that I take
is me slamming the door–
The scarf is a vow
He’s waiting to renew
at long last the loop is Him
now pull the thread through.

Taking the Lord’s Name in Vein

For once, I don’t give a damn.
As a newborn, I needed my mom.
As a teenager, I needed an identity.
As an adult? I need something to hang my hat on.
But, as a pig, I desired the filth.
As a monkey, I desired to swing in the vines.
As a cow, I desired the herd…and to be heard.
However, as a road, I wanted people to drive all over me.
As a shoe, I wanted people to share their sole with me.
As a carpet, I wanted people to walk all over me.
For once, I don’t give a damn.
As a pen, I must be mightier than the sword.
As paper, I must be a messenger in my reincarnated life.
As a book, I must be bound to a singular oath.
But, as a heart, I cannot love without striking a cymbal.
As a mind, I cannot help but think I’m missing the point.
As a soul, I cannot bind myself to my mate.
However, as a man, I long to be broken.
As a woman, I long to be swept away.
As a child, I long to have faith like a…
God don’t! God did! God…will.

Stickfigure #3 (Salvation Army)

Marching in 4/4 time
is more difficult than you think.
We can all move to a beat
but most not by the same drummer.
Timing is as irregular
as a child playing house.
Unity looks like a triangle to some
or perpendicular line to another
We all want to talk about the front lines
but no one wants to take the first bullet.
Our faiths are like Normandy,
and our purpose like an uncivil war.

Let your 16th notes be banished
like a two-faced romantic.
Crush the hope of the enemy
by opening your hands to conviction.
Resolve the end of your narrative
by admitting that conflict isn’t a necessity.

I am an Army of one
with an I.E.D. under my welcome mat

Yet, I am also an Army of Two
taking orders from a singular I, and not the plural You.

Stickfigure #2

Death Row is my escape
a daily anticipation of the end
knowing my sentence will bring about
a prepositional phrase–
the last statement–
a triumphal exclamation point.
“I’ve been guilty from the beginning!”
A lethal dose of truth,
an injection straight to the veins–
I’ve had my day in court.
The evidence stacked,
the witnesses saw who I was,
but now, I’m doin’ time, doin’ time
my sin? Was always at the scene of the crime.

Two books, and a West Virginian coal miner

No poems, no cute or witty stories with even less clever one liners.

Just an honest blog about where I am in my life.

You need to know that I love being a husband. A father. A friend. A teacher (how did this work out I’ll never know), and I love being realistic while holding on to optimistic ideals. As I told my students last year, my life (as far as I can tell) is complete. I tell a lot of stories when I’m in the classroom, when I speak at church, or when I am with friends. I’d like to think that, while it might be annoying to listen to my blase stories, that I feel like I’ve already lived the life of a 75 year old man. The thing is, I’m only 32. Everything I have ever wanted out of life, GOD has blessed me with. Its not like I’ve had only one or two goals but really, when I reflect on my life, I’ve been given everything I wanted. How many people have you met that can say that?

And while I feel like I’ll be around for a long time, it doesn’t hurt to look back over a lifetime and reflect and rejoice. Something I told my students last year was this: you don’t go through this life for YOU–its an “US” narrative. It is with that mentality I’ve tried to incorporate something I’ve learned from West Virginian coal miners. Morgan Spurlock (from Super Size Me fame) had a show on FX called 30 Days. Its essentially the same idea as Super Size Me, only that it placed people outside of their comfort zones and live in a completely foreign environment (foreign to them, not foreign like living in another country). One of Morgan’s shows had Morgan himself traveling back to his home state of West Virginia to live as a coal miner for 30 days. Aside from it being a fantastic show, something that took 20 seconds to say has stuck with me ever since.

The coal miners, early risers and often departing their houses with everyone asleep, write their wives and families a quick letter letting them know how much they mean to them. It doesn’t take much, but its important to them because of the obvious risks of being a coal miner. This idea is brilliant–or so I thought, because these guys work in a dangerous environment. It did not hit me until later that in a way, our lives are no different than the coal miners. Just because they are aware of increased dangers in their life doesn’t mean we can be blinded by the apparent safety in ours.

So, I decided that I would write a letter to Cyndi every Monday before I left for school, to let her know how much she meant to me. I also included Gavin in these letters. Heck, I even wrote letters to our beloved Rachel when she lived with us. These letters weren’t anything special–just simple expressions of thankfulness, sincerity, and blessing. I’ve since become quite lazy with the letters, trickling to every great once in a while. Until recently.

Cyndi and I stayed up Thursday night to watch Donald Trump’s The Apprentice. Other than the laughable soap opera Trump coordinates on his show, I was a bit distracted. I had the itch to write some letters. I had nine students in mind that I felt I needed to communicate some things to. So, one by one, I wrote personal letters to them, communicating simple “teacher” advice and encouragement. It wasn’t much, but I want my students to know that I care. Each letter was hand-written, and delivered to their first period teacher. By the end of the day, one of my students said it had made their day. I didn’t really know what to say, other than, “you’re welcome.” I don’t expect my students to return the favor, nor do I want them to become my penpals. I guess I want to show them under the gruff, House-like exterior, there is a real human being that cares for them.

Tonight, I finished reading a book that I already had read. Only, I hadn’t read the book, I’d seen the real thing. Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture became a source of inspiration for me last year as I conducted my own version of a last lecture with each of my English classes. I shared with them my life, from childhood, to teenage years, college, and finally, adulthood. I then spoke about and addressed each student in my class, telling them what I had learned about them, a quality that they had that stood out, and advice for the future. The conclusion was a slew of advice that I felt they needed to hear; it was essentially what I felt was the important things in life.

What came next humbled me. The final week of classes, exam week, I had a least one letter written to me every day from a student, thanking me for the school year, how they enjoyed me as a teacher, and grateful for what I had taught them in class (in all, I had six students write me personal letters). Considering that I had 130 students last year, six doesn’t sound like a lot. It would be foolish of me to say what they wrote, but each letter has been placed into a folder I call “Why I’m Here” (I created this my first year of teaching–if I was ever having a bad day, questioning why I had chosen this career, I’d dive into the folder and be instantly cheered up).

I bring this to light because I have just finished reading The Last Lecture ( another memorial Randy wrote to his wife and kids as a keepsake). It essentially included the main highlights from the lecture he gave at his school, plus a few bonus stories. What inspired tonight’s entry stems directly from that book.

Knowing full well that he was going to die soon, he wanted to communicate some truths, some advice, and some genuine love towards his family. If you’ve seen the lecture (and you SHOULD), you know how emotional it was. Reading the book was much more than I bargained for. Figuring that I knew how the story ends, I wasn’t expecting much. Instead, it ended up being only the second book that has generated a tearful reading experience for me. The tears were for many reasons. Randy pouring his heart out to his family, knowing that they would tarry on without him. Thinking about how his wife Jai would raise their kids on her own. How his kids wouldn’t have their dad around (all three kids were under the age of 6). The personal advice he gave to each of his kids. The final words his wife spoke to him at the end of the live lecture he gave.

Granted he was 47, had a beautiful family, a sweet career, and thousands of friends and adoring students surrounding him, but it never should have happened like this. Listening to his lecture, reading the book, you get the sense that he cared about US. Its the same sense I got when I read the other book that brought me to tears.

C.S. Lewis, after the death of his wife, kept a grieving journal that lasted for a few weeks. In it, he wrote of his struggles of loss, his enormous questions to GOD, and his fragile faith on life support. The book does have some closure by the end, but doesn’t resolve fully. If you read it, and your heart doesn’t break, you have no clue about US. C.S. Lewis, a man credited for bringing Christianity into the 20th Century, is vulnerable and weak after the death of his wife. All of his life’s accomplishments mean nothing in light of this loss. Its a man shaken to his core, much like Randy. If you haven’t already looked up this book and bought it (A Grief Observed), do yourself a favor and do so.

Which brings me back to the coal miner. Letter writing is not an overly complicated process. But it takes time, patience, and thoughtfulness. In the land of text messaging, social networking, and 1000s of can’t-do-without-them apps, hand-written letters are a lost art. Who takes time to write a letter anymore? Randy Pausch wrote one that has gone on to sell millions of copies, and his intention was just to communicate his joy for a life fulfilled and a call to action for his family. Lewis wrote of his weaknesses, his many larger than life questions to GOD, and his grief over losing his wife.

Maybe the coal miners have it write. John Wooden, longtime basketball icon of UCLA lore, wrote a letter every day to his wife, telling her how much she meant to him. He continued doing this after she died, leaving them on her side of the bed….for 15 years. In a world of social networking, the real network exists in letter writing. I need to return to form. My wife doesn’t necessarily need them from me, but she deserves it. So does my son. So do my students. After all, I love US. And without it, I’m not me.

In a Matter of Speaking…

When I speak, is it me?
Since I am not an architect of language
nor a visionary of communication,
it seems I am fraudulent.
A plagiarist of lyrical proportions
A hypocrite from the Shakespearean ilk.
When I boast, is it praise?
Since I am not in a Renaissance
nor an original work of art,
it seems I am a carbon copy.
An outline that has been traced
empty space in between dots, ready to connect.
When I live, is it alive?
Since I am not a picture of perfect health
nor am I a spotless lamb,
it seems that I am a broken heart.
A refugee of lifeless accelerations
a nomad in a land of homeless reservations.

Stickfigure #1

You take the good with the bad
beauty with the ugly
the truth with the lies
the hope with the despair
the young with the old
the living with the dead.

Yet, you take the thin and not the fat
you take the surface and subtract its depth
you grasp the passion and let go of reason
you embrace the now and schedule time with the later
you run to popularity and walk into obscurity
you dress for comfort instead of the occasion.

If we could see our shadows,
we would see the image of GOD.
If we could live in our shadows
we would see that we are sticks,
and not stones.

Art is/Art is NOT…

A friend of mine asked me to write about the following:

Art is–

Art is NOT–

and so I wrote the following:

Art is shades of a world like our own, but giving us a glimpse of the world to come.

Art is NOT pure (at least not anymore). Art has become a luxury, and artists have become profiteers. In tough economic times, people are spending less, yet being entertained more. See: film grosses over the last year. Art is escapism, not a companion piece that reflects realism. Sooner or later, artist will reemerge into a “neo-renaissance” era that won’t be politically, socially, or agenda driven. It will reflect the heart of man, undefiled, and reveal who we really are–sinners in the hands of an angry GOD.