Sometimes On A Sunday

Looking up at the arched window above
The pulpit, singing ‘Rising, He justified,
Freely forever,’  I am pierced; I don’t
Live like I believe what I sing.
Freely? Nothing is abundant.
Things. Run. Out.
But sometimes on a Sunday, in that
Set apart hour, amongst the beams
And pews, beside family,
I believe. Freely! Such a long list
Of what is free to me. Such an impossible
List for me to want or to receive, a
Not-of-this-world list – soul’s rest,
Everything that enables me to believe the
Promise so unreservedly that I come
Boldly! Freely and boldly. What kind of
King gives free and welcomes bold?
What kind of love?
What overflow!


Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church

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For Jonathan Baldini (And For Las Vegas)

Sunday, it’s gorgeous,
Though I’m the last that should speak for us.
A qualified poet must be bleeding at least,
Not savoring this glory, this revel, this feast.
The air’s shot with gold, the grass is white-kissed,
A drinkable sky, tapped pink and bisque.
It’s gorgeous, though,
Gorgeous, you know.
Problem is, the gold drops fast,
Can’t find the words to make it last.
Sisters weep, brothers fly
To the other side of that drinkable sky.
Mama wants his skin, oh, so much;
He’s never not here, she just can’t touch.
Daddy doesn’t cry; he wails inside,
‘We’re still six, though we look like five.’
But the baby’s so soft, so full in my arms,
She smells like life wrapped around my heart.
And the sky explodes yellow, red, magenta, blue.
A royal way, a Prince’s avenue.
It’s gorgeous though,
Gorgeous, you know.
Then the world goes silent; Evil shows his face.
I’ll shield you with my body and outpoured grace.
It’s beautiful, that grace, that flesh for flesh,
Monday’s sky is gray, but this flesh is blessed.
Sky wasn’t made to stay that way,
It will gold and it will part and we will touch one day.

Clogging Day Two: Triples and Buck Joeys

Day Two.  Well, you know day two of any conference; some of the bloom is off the rose and it’s not the rose’s fault. You’re tired, you’re at your conversational limit, the comfort zone is still a whole day away, the gals next door turn on the TV at 6:00 am, so you’ve got to dig deep. You’ve sweated through several shirts, but tell yourself, ‘This is a workshop; I’m supposed to look like my son’s rugby bag.’

Also, aside from the immense awe I have for the dancers in the advanced class I attended today, the clacking which invigorates the dancer, begins to try the sleep-deprived brain.  Let me clarify: I observed the advanced class. My participation was to video the teacher’s choreography and one of the professional students, at her request.  The quote of the day came from that class:

“Isn’t there a triple before the Buck Joey?”

“Yes,” said instructor Andy Howard, “yes, there is!” They all nod. Not only does that change EVerything, it seemed to sum up this whole fun experience for me.

Which leads me to the sheer delight of following the caller as he says things like “SaMANtha, Mountain Goat, Turkey, Scotty, Charleston, the aforementioned Buck Joey, and the matchless I’m Gonna Get Cha!” And all those steps can go left, right, and backwards, so you’re either ‘back home’ or facing the back wall or sitting beside Clogging Mom who is like any other Sports Mom – convinced scouts are everywhere and it is her responsibility, nay, her joy, to direct their attention to her starlet.

I got a kick out of the cloggers who came from Wisconsin or Michigan because they were wearing jackets with hoods. It is 90 degrees in Fontana Village, but I guess where they’re from they put on jackets in August and take them off in July. So September is clearly a jacket month no matter where you are.

An evening bluegrass concert capped the day allowing freestylers to take the floor and follow their heart. A three year old girl with two white-blond french braids jigged like one who understood the art form at a cellular level, like Grandma must have at the Sugaring-Off Dance in the Big Woods.  And then a husband and wife danced so entrancingly, so perfectly fit together, so gently looping their arms over shoulders and around waists, like figure skaters only warm and accessible. Like maybe we could all do that.

So, yes, there is triple before the Buck Joey. Bank on it.

   

Clogging Adventure: Day One

Fontana Clogging Jamboree; Fontana Village, North Carolina.

Here I am in the September Smokies. The leaves are just starting to get their affairs in order and update their wills because time is short. To get here from there, you have to drive the Tail Of The Dragon, 11 miles of barf even for the driver. Occasionally you might think, ‘Hey, this is pretty!’ but nausea is a narcissist, and demands fealty.  It can be deposited at the gate though and reclaimed at departure. So that’s good.

The dancers in the main hall fill the long room. Its wood floor is the instrument, and a thousand buck-tapped shoes play it in powerful stomping rhythm. The music guides, but the power is in the feet and taps united. And, oh, the variety of feet!

Eight year olds line the front row. Stick-skinny, knowing every step, they dance for hours.

Men who I would erroneously have pegged as football players or at least stadium rats Cotton-Eyed Joe with the best of them. One has on a military t-shirt and I think it’s legit.

A lean twenty-something with broody dark hair and glasses, looking like a blogger or start-up non-profit recycler makes every move look liquid and fantastic.  Appropriately, his t- shirt says simply, ‘Clog.’ He, too, dances for hours.

Women, women, women of all shapes and sizes, all! They know the steps to three hours of ‘fun dance’ in the evening session – not to be confused with six hours of instruction dance all day. Each new song brings a whoop and the new dance starts. They are all lovely whatever their shape or size because the body moving happily is lovely.

A four-year-old boy joins his dad for the men’s dance. He has his own little six inch long tapped shoes and he listens and follows the caller’s instructions. And so I decide that humanity, for all its frailties, will at least survive the lifespan of that child.

And then, best of all, the seniors. There are many! My favorite lady is wearing yellow and her ankles and feet move neatly, adding their nuance to the bigger loud stomping song. Her stamina is far, far deeper than mine. My favorite man has American flag shoes whose soles light up as he dances a little stiffly and upright but following all the mental moves perfectly. He knows the steps.

So, today is Day Two. I’ll be dancing in the Easy Hall today because I have learned that I am a Beginning Beginner. I’ll keep you posted.

A Girl In An Emerald Dress

I think there’s this joy,
In spite of everything.
The joy of a girl in an
Emerald dress spinning
Out her skirt to jazz
Brass on an overlook,
Chattanooga lighting the
Night sky just for her moment.
The joy of a dark-haired girl whose merlot
Lipstick matches both her dress
And her crush on a boy
With sandy bristled hair
Freshly cut. And this is two thousand
And seventeen.
The joy of plaid ties and girls with
Bare backs. No wonder the masters
Loved to paint flesh. It is, of all substances,
Piercing and exquisite.
The joy of string lights hovering low
Under the benediction of a purple-black
Vault.
The joy of standing barefoot in the
Cool hillside grass
Watching the children hug their
Cousins, their connections to this rocky top
Wide and formative.
The joy of a boy who laces his suede
Bucks, and ducks out of the office
For twenty minutes under the stars.
He’ll get a reprimand, but it will be
Worth it. The stars are their own payment.
The joy of re-union, of time-spliced
Conversations with people we knew at
Twenty and are now Fifty.
I talk to, I see,
both Twenty and Fifty
At the same time.
And it’s hard not to stare at our
Exquisite flesh, growing waxy and
Taut over bone.
Where is the joy in this diminishing?
Only in the miracle, the life-after-death
Resurrection, the refleshing of our bones,
The thrilling rush of life where death was
Certain, the wooing belovedness of
Being quickened,
The rocky top truth that we will
Dance in emerald dresses to jazz
Brass with arms spread wide like
Glory over the lights of
Another Chattanooga.


PC:  Davy Granberry

 

Floods And Scars

How hard it is to watch others suffer.  Of the many recent images, one stays with me. A man – elderly, sparse hair – is being helped through Harvey’s brown flood to a waiting flatboat. Bad enough at that. But he is shirtless. And his chest has the long, livid, vertical scar of recent open heart surgery.

And I think, Wow, Lord. This man? This scarred, scared man?

I keep my theology straight and remember where floods and scars originated – two people in a garden rejecting the greatest offered Love, Love that kept offering through His own scarred back and hands and feet. He knows scars. He loves rejectors.

But why are the most vulnerable ones, the poor, the already scarred, taken through the water while I sip my coffee in the broad daylight?

A whisper: ‘I am doing something.’

In them. In me. My guilt is wasted time. He is doing something, and He will strengthen those in the water to cling to Him and those on dry land to send out rescue boats of every shape and size.  The other comforts are still true, too:  Good will come out of this, good we cannot see. We need waking up. We are on our knees and not drunk on pleasure. This will bring healing; it is the saline flush of a filthy wound.  My close friends Charlie and Leslie, in the water right now, proclaim this truth with tears and praise songs.

Lord, Lord! Keep us soft.