November Nomad: Lessons From The Road

Flexibility is the jewel of youth.
I am not young.
Nevertheless, I can roll with it
If the road requires –
Provided certain non-negotiables:
Good coffee, hot shower.
Otherwise, I am Thor Heyerdahl.

I love my children and those I have adopted.
Settled happiness is listening to
Insights and laughter
From the offspring of my youth.

I love mountains. Earth above me is
Ultimate humility.

I love Montreat mountains – Assembly Inn,
Hewed from the rocky side of the bowl that
Holds Lake Susan, cold air straight from
God’s pure storehouses into my hot lungs,
Frost on every brown leaf under the laurels.

I love going to another church and singing –
No, shouting! –
Receiving the sermon from the lips of
A man of God, deep conviction and
Deeper healing. Oh! Thank you, Lord!

I love my in-laws. What I learn from them is,
As another said, A long obedience in the
Same direction. We love to think compromise
Is smart. They teach me it is not.

I love beauty. My heart sings of the beauty of
Antique stores – tiny cream pitchers in striped
Stoneware, sideboards chalk-painted buttercream
Leaving dark cherry exposed. Deep
Knowledge that time is fleeting and I am too.

I love a table of shared food – green curry in my
Daughter’s first home. Bennet Avenue by
Candlelight.

I love my children’s loves. I am speechless over
Their finding their soul’s friend.

I love traveling with Andrew. How many times we
Laugh and say, I was JUST thinking that!

I love going. Well, I hate packing with a
White hatred. But, I love the first vista of
Smoky blue mountains just past Knoxville.
I love woodsmoke and
That fall sun that both slices and mists.

I love the quilt on the wall at
The Yellow Deli – two-inch squares of
Upholstery fabric become, in the hands
Of the artist, a window onto a creek bank,
Shadowy undergrowth and light-tipped leaf,
Silver water over moss and rock bed, and all from
Crushed velvet sofa scraps.

I love hearing God tell me that
He is my rock and I am the
Apple of his eye; I can hear him deeper
When I’m on the road.

      

    

     

   

   

    

            

     

     

     

     

Psalm 17 and 18

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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.

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.

Hints Of Fall

Hummingbird sups warily at the
Red-prismed glass feeder. He has been here all day
Defending his patch.
Occasionally he is strafed by a rival,
Or bombarded by the squirrels higher in the
Pecan tree. The squirrels are in full fall gorge-mode,
Gnawing a fraction of the million pecans into sharp
Shells and shavings all over the walkway,
And dropping pecans heavy as padlocks
From the nethermost branches,
Onto the tin roof in shocking
Explosions.  All day. On their smoke break,
They chase each other round and round tree
Trunks, claw-skittering up the bark, using touching
Limbs as a high way in the air. Their tails swish-
Dancing for balance, they hop the power lines,
Mouth full of fat pecan, and steal off secretly to
Stow their victuals against a coming bleak day.

            

          

Michigan Meanderings of an Alabama Girl

Lilacs. I now understand Walt Whitman enthralled with lilacs in the dooryard. May twenty second and lilacs are having their glory moment. Walt was right; lilacs seem delicate but are mastering.

Birches. Frost wrote about birches, and I get that too. Birches’ trunks are their song to the world rather than limb shape or leaf play. Ash-white trunks, black ribbed, these tall proud ladies nod slightly to the lake wind and continue their long obedience.

Firs. Fir stands are the densest of north wood settlers. Dark and thick, Tolkien and Lewis both would have loved a Michigan fir stand.  It is alive with Narnian sighs and Mirkwood warnings.

Trillium carpets and cherry blossoms and clean lake wind and lake gulls which must be different from sea gulls, having chosen the non-salt life, and a little red cabin in the woods on the big lake. I expect any moment to see Pa with his rifle and Ma in the dark, mistakenly petting a bear instead of their friendly heifer in the pen.

Audubon Bluff Trail. Black squirrels are startling when you are used to plain-Jane grays. White tail deer, fiddle-head ferns conferring together, mosses and sequoias, swamps and cattails, dunes and a tame lapping lake today, Poe’s Raven cawing and Longfellow’s Hiawatha haunting. Michigan, I can’t figure out what you are!  But your motley is most beautiful. And oh all the poets, gone but still living, who breathe their cool observations and immortal words to inform my enjoyment. What an extra rich layer of pleasure to know they too stood in green, green woods glimpsing blue water and it came out as a song.

It’s hard to know whether to look inland or water-ward.

The lake’s the thing, Hamlet might have said, the vast breathing personality that draws the eye and clears the mind of all lesser things. The lake forces big questions: “Reckon with me,” it says. “If I am, then there must be something even bigger and deeper and bluer and colder and gustier and livelier and lovelier.”

Yes, it all leads to doxology.