The Burdened Bookshelf as Will and Representation (#poem #NaPoWriMo)

full frame shot of shelf

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Each mover, save one Renaissance man
Of fellow feeling, complained of the books
And the bookshelves to display them.
Why would anyone move these thousands
Of miles and from house to house when
They are so obviously rarely used?

But the bookshelves, fully loaded, serve a purpose:

For starters, they tell anyone curious enough to look
Where and how my intellectual development has unfolded.
Second, they show all the languages I have tried to learn,
Even if I have been persistently unsuccessful.
Third, they show where my interest lie in the arts,
Music, history, literature, philosophy, and politics.
Fourth, they show that I’ve reached beyond the narrow
Confines of my family, neighbours, and local sports teams.

If you wanted to understand me, you could get a pretty
Good idea by browsing my bookshelves thoughtfully.
You’ll surely see that I am a person of profound refinement,
A deep thinker who has considered a universe of ideas.

And if you don’t see that immediately, perhaps
You’ve stumbled across some of my wife’s books.

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I Wish I Could Believe (#poem #NaPoWriMo)

man holding cross

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The prompt for day 15 is to write a dramatic dialogue. I think I failed, but here it is, anyway.

I wish I could believe in God.

It’s a free country. Believe what you want.

I can’t believe something just because I want it to be true.

I do it all the time. I believe my wife loves me.

You mean you pretend she loves you.

Fake it till you make it, baby.

But that isn’t belief.

Who are you to say what I believe?

But you implied you don’t believe it.

Yeah, well? It’s a free country.

What does that have to do with it? I can’t believe something unless I’m convinced it’s true.

Who’s stopping you?

Reality.

You know what reality is?

Not for certain, but I try to believe in it.

So you choose what you believe.

Based on evidence.

Choose different evidence.

Like when you ignore the affectionate texts your wife gets from Purchasing Control Centre?

Exactly.

I believe in God because I see good stuff?

That’s what real believers say.

And the bad stuff?

That’s the Devil in it.

And the Devil is more powerful than God.

Seems so today.

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The Impact of Utilitarianism on Unsuspecting Feet (#poem #NaPoWriMo)

close up photography a baby s left foot

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The prompt today was to use a homophone or homonym. I can’t take credit for the example, which was offered by a former student.

After her purported reading
Of Jeremy Bentham,
She said he believed
She should do whatever
Made her happy.
For example,
She should spend
Her paycheck on new shoes,
Because they will be good
For her sole.

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The Magic and Mystery of Ministry (#poem #NaPoWriMo)

backlit beach christian dawn

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Know how in the 1970s the televangelists
All had perfectly sculpted and blow-dried hair?
Well, my Daddy was at least partly responsible
For all that glitz and fancy get-up.

He didn’t do hair for anyone as famous
As Pat Robertson or Jim Bakker, but
Styled hair for some big traveling evangelists
Like Gene Williams. These guys would take the
Word of God around the world, but come back
To Galena Park to get their hair done right.
Sometimes they’d come to the house, too,
And they were always downright charming.

I used to like playing “The King is Coming”
On the piano because it started soft but
You’d be banging on the keys pretty hard
By the end of it, and my parents liked me
To play it for the preachers, even if
I wasn’t very good. And they’d always say,
“That was real good. You should be very
Proud of your boy. He’ll grow up to
Be a great Christian.”

They were always so sweet, and I think
They believed it. They made me believe
The magic. They made me believe I could
Fly when I died or even burn eternally.
They said they had to travel the world
Telling people about Jesus or else
Those people would burn forever.

They would burn forever just because
They hadn’t heard the good word.

“Why would Jesus do that,” I asked.
They said, “Because he loves us.”

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On the Disastrous Art of Losing (#poem #NaPoWriMo)

Kisa-GotamiOn our first meeting, she
Described me as a “near Buddhist,”
Meaning, of course, that I had
The ascetic qualities of a monk.
 
And it was true that Siddhartha
Helped me lose my appreciation
For things. You learn first that
Attachment is suffering.
 
But Elizabeth Bishop was more
On my mind. Like her, I had
Lost things every day, and
Most of them didn’t matter.
 
We all get practice losing things,
Of course, and we learn it isn’t
A disaster; lives are nothing
More than crude or elegant mandalas.
 
Everything will be wiped away,
And there is no use torturing
Ourselves with excessive hand-wringing,
Longing, covetousness, or desire.
 
Push on, let it go, they’re only things
After all, and the universe continues
With no pause. And still, I sit
Thousands of miles away
 
Thinking of you.
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Life, Love, and Leaving in Livingston, Texas (#poem #NaPoWriMo)

Screenshot 2019-04-11 at 08.07.26In a previous century my grandfather died
Only weeks after my great uncle.
A few weeks later, my grandmother
Made a quick trip to the grocery store
And returned to find her house in flames.

Having lost her brother, husband, and home
In a matter of weeks, my uncle Skeet
(so known because as a child he was
No bigger than a mosquito or “skeeter”)
Tried to comfort his sister.

He was a country preacher with a small congregation
In the Piney Woods of East Texas, and he
Always turned to Jesus, of course, in times like these.
Attempting reassurance, he said, “Ain’t it wonderful, Sis?
This just shows that the Lord always watches over us.
No matter what, Jesus is always by your side.”

He meant, of course, that she was lucky not
To have been burned alive, but I sort of thought
The loss of everything she loved might have
Compensated for the joy of continued existence,
But people say I am just too negative.

In the current century, my grandmother
Eventually died just a few years short of
Becoming a centenarian, so I returned
To Livingston, Texas one last time.

As we gathered at my grandmother’s house
To mourn, one of my aunts complained bitterly,
“Well, we’re gonna have to fire our preacher,
‘Cause he keeps saying the BI-ble says to
Give our money to the poor. They can work for
Their own money like we did!”

Upon learning that one of her new in-laws
Was Mexican, she demanded, “Well, are ya
Legal? If you’re legal, it’s all right, but we
Don’t need any wetbacks in the family!”

I haven’t returned to Livingston, Texas.

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Texas Tornadoes and the Power of Prayer (#NaPoWriMo)

Screenshot 2019-04-10 at 05.58.12Oh, Good Lord, y’all, I thank we better git in the house. That sky is darker than Brother Jimmy’s sermon last Sunday, and it’s flashing like a God-damned disco. It’s gonna be a gully washer, all right, but Ronnie’s got the big truck if we git in any trouble, and we can surely trust Jesus will be with us. The last time we had a toad strangler like this, a big ol’ twister turned Alma’s roof inta toothpicks.

They say on the news that Greens Bayou is outta its banks, so y’all come on and let’s pray that God will watch over us. Come on in here away from those windows, and if you hear sumpin’ that sounds like a train, let’s hide in this closet and trust Jesus to know what’s right.

Some time later:

It’s over, so y’all come on give us a hug. It just goes to show Jesus is always by our side, watchin’ over us and protectin’ us. Uncle Raymond just called and said a tornado blew a tree on Bobby’s house and kilt him.

God bless his sweet soul.

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