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Baitstand Poems

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I haven't been touched
The way I would be touched.

I have been allowed by the rugged daffodils
to weep into their cups,
to contact their velvet petals whose fragrance
beckons to an untouchable source.
Today they extend your trumpeted invitation.

But you
are out of reach of my stained hands
nor do you hold me in your arms
like you held the children.
How does the arm of the Lord hold me?

My body hurts.
The aching of waiting for eternity with you
evidences a touch
that would--that will--be truly touching.
The hold I sought in others who held themselves.
An immersion.
But you.
You are flesh and we are betrothed.
Will you engulf me? May I want that?

Does the hole of the absent touch define your contours?
Is it you, Jesus, in the unseen half of the room?
Or do the lost immersed ones who have tumbled from my hold
leave this gape?

Maybe if I pass through a pasture-warm herd
of mama cows--the walls
of close, humid smell and wet hides closing in,
an army of consoling mothers
crushing me gently through this episode.


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You and I, Dear Cousin,
            How we chafed, we clamored,
                        got tangled, calloused and flung half dead,
 tumbling down the desert boulevards,
            strangers with malice in our teeth, with curses in our fists!

Yet so very near us, there beyond a wall so near,
so very near we caught the scent of it,
            was a garden of belonging,
            blooming with beloved brothers and sisters,
                        a table laid full and ripe,
                        an inheritance,
the Father of all names,
                        the promise of a family at peace.

So very far from us it was, so far
            we couldn’t even fetch our thoughts                     
            to utter the beseeching words:
                        “how…?”         “please…”

Behold the great love of the Gardener,
            whose heart was moved by our
gasping and our gall.
            One Who even let His blood be spilt just to heave us
                        up from the rude boulevards, into His lap.
            He cherished and cleansed us, refashioned
                                    and ready for nearness,
                        as we couldn’t do ourselves.

He gave us access to His      
            Garden of Belonging,           
                        having banished barriers,   
                                    and reasons to chafe,
                        having drawn nearness near at last.

Now as I wander the Garden I find
you again, Dear Cousin (Sister, Brother.)
I recognize you, but God…
            His workmanship is in you, the fragrance of His breath is on you,
                        as I am His work and am quickened by the same gust.

He has fitted us nimbly and aptly together for Himself.
We are ONE.  We are NEW.  We are HUMANITY,
            with knees that bow,
                        throats flowering with worship,
and a dance of incorruptible love.


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As you sang,
            your silver line was strung in this,
                        God’s multiverse of ascending and descending silkens.

As you strode your harmony,
traveling alongside
                        my shimmering tip-toe strands,

For an instant then,
            The heavens showed themselves thick
                        with vibrating blendings interwoven
                                    - the vast host of Song that ever will have been.

We reached it for an instant then:
            The Song Of All, the Song of the Last Shalom,
                        Whose structure is the purposed gesture of the Maker, answered
by every coursing molecule declaring His glory.
                        (All His Songs Are At Once.)

For an instant then,
            your harmony met mine,
                        acrobatically lifted it on one hand, even as
you are held,

until we balanced seeming complete,
            a mother and a son winging strings of AMEN,
                        weightless miniature of the Sovereign that gave birth to us,

Such love in that!

This is the Good Vibration, seated at the Right Hand,
            that fetches us now for an instant as guests,
                        but will one day
                                    flight our voices enfolded into the rich repose

of our forever HOME.

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Because the generations kept silent,

Because we cobbled black boxes to be unopenable -
Boxes to put God into because we objected to His questions -
Boxes we coddled in our laps and admired for their six fixed shiny sides -

As those at the foot of God Mountain declined
to speak and be spoken to by the Author of Fire,
Folding their reason and reasons into their sleeves
and inside their socks to muffle
The promise of too much to fathom,
Preferring to hear from a man than from the Man-Maker,
And finally spurning the man as well -

Our black boxes, because of them The Sword has allowed
The full wealth of its holy weight
To fall, to smash our precious black boxes,
And our black boxes have exploded like peonies of fire
upon our senses incapable of receiving (because “I prefer not to”),

That our black boxes are so broken so smashed so sharded
And God so furiously unfolds from His confinement there
That a new breed of beauty is given utterance uncontainable,
In a tongue that propels us to gather before-beginning
And after-end into the “eternity in our hearts”,
And come to our senses moments before dying,
Our parched faces brilliant with colors no one has ever seen.

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(co-written with Kate Peper)

My horn,
majestic arc 
for conquering 
and to conquer,

At last submits to the crown of thorns,
and is refashioned to fit 
Abraham’s lips (that uttered, 
“I believe”, 
and God called that 
while quiet Isaac, 
willing lamb like Israel, 
is bound to the wood he bore.

Now my horn 
Is Abraham’s 
His Son, 
His only Son,
His beloved.” 
And His name, 
sounds from this mountain.

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November Sky

Your mother
Is taking you to the symphony tonight,
And I am invited to come along.

Under cover of a black moon, 
She tells me,
Some savage terror is prone
To sneak up screeching
And make away with her scalp.

But not on this night. 
Behold, the moon is fat,
The tones are round and rich,
And even the colonnades are brilliant
With colors that hope toward reunion.

Tonight her mouth shimmers
With the skater's dance of remembering
This season of your coming, of your going.
You tower over her,
Surprising her with how you
Weave your hair.
Perfect, all your choices -
She has watched as you've grown,
And also as you've remained 
ever the high-chair pup
Just newly uttering love.

November sky tugs 
at the hem of heaven,
Starving for you,
While the dome of Symphony Hall
Disguises the maddening hunger,
As though we were all together,
The anxious barrier finally battered,
Singing "The Lord Is Come."

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In a back room of raw air,
I serve you as you
prepare for emergence
onto a stage swelling with waiting for you .

No longer fit for ordinary fare,
you issue your turn,
face set like the blade's edge
toward parture.

You sway, stripping.
You rip, sweaters shred.
Unkempt, you sweep
fibers from your shrinking frame.

Under sweaters: more sweaters,
and pants with secret panels.
You flit, pull, pinch,

You pluck at straps, seams, elastic, foam.
Underwear: released at last.
Underskin: repulsed, torn.
Underbones: squelched, rejected.

Undermoisture: chased to a far drawer.
Underbreath: sweet to smell yet forsaken.
Underbark: silver timber discarded.
Underfractured leaves: finally old friend dust.

Now that you are unrecognizable you can emerge
onto the stage - your meadow of moment -
curtain rent just for you, and
some promised audience of angels applauds.

While I, most unqualified of servants, rarified,
left with ash on my fingers
(I'm wearing your decline)
What do I know of the Great Undressing?


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Beautiful grief runs a vast and wild range, like buffalo.
I hunt the consoling silence, but it is beyond my arrow's fall.
Follows me around but stays just out of reach.
The smell of someone close, but no neck to throw my arms around.

Beautiful grief makes me hungry like buffalo.
Grazing for the thick but having to hold place in a long prairie line.
Digging for thorny language to make the inklings stick,
but they wisp and hover, undefined.

Beautiful grief swallows hours silently, like buffalo.
Slow to turn when called by name, the wrong name.
Slow to swallow what has been churning in the cud.
This body now transparent and far past fetching.

Beautiful grief blows sweeping through an empty tent, buffalo's roam.
Swift to scatter intimations assembled,
I am reduced to a thudding marvel of simplicity.
O give me a home


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"Objects in heaven are closer than they appear." - Myles Weiss

When you're nigh ninety-five
(both the highway and the miles of years of "My Way"),
nearness is the narrow feeder-interchange
leading to "GOD'S WAY HIGHWAY",
easily missed when one tire is bucking on the shoulder,
missed seeming to be further down-stretch than it is,
missed by the belittling eye, the squint,
the staunch countenance,
shunning the Navigator, "recalculating,"
again, "recalculating your route."

Nearness cannot be diminished by the seemingly.
It whispers now as if understating were an option,
against even the pressure in the cab at high speeds
with the windows open, wind
beating at the drums of the inner ear,
"Read the signs," it speaks softly:

"Five miles to the Last Dance Saloon,
Last Chance 4 Luv (agape flavored, that is),
Open twenty-four / seven / three hundred and sixty-five times ninety-five and counting,
Four miles, Three,
Don't Miss The Sweet Spot,
Taste and See that the Lord Is Good.
Two miles, One,
You've almost missed the Day Of Your Visitation."

Repent, for nearness is so near you can feel it breathing warm on your hair.
Turn around and you're golden.

For there's a threshing torrent a-closing in,
and it's closer than rebuttals allow.
It will career towering vast and terrific above
the windmill orchards at Livermore's pass.
With King-Sized Arms will it assemble,
filling all gaps with a liquid rendered belonging,
where your name could be etched into the Hand of the King's Tome, or

With the divisive imperative will it also disperse,
shock and tear down in its vehemence.
For the dissembled and stubborn as self,
nearness becomes extinct in that day.

Let it not be that you are among the driven chaff.
"Too late for recalculating,"
again "No way home from here."


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How shall I sing of the thread that holds me to You

When my legs become uprooted:
Like gelatin in a torrent’s current;
Fingers come fluttering off the wooden bridge:
moths’ wings in unruly wind;
Breathing wonders where to put the air and where to find it,
chasing it under stones;
Utterance becomes the alarming gutterals
of the condemned;
Heartbeat becomes a serial clamoring of mallets
against the inner solitary steel;
Attention becomes contorted debate
on the improbability of finishing what has begun;
All amidst the weakness of surprise,
the specter of defeat?

That is where the furtive, the spider’s silk,
the sliver of glint on a binding agent so delicate,
Stitches about me a keeping girdle, so I am
Dangling yet (yes) kept,
trembling above a great collapse,

Not succumbing, and this because of the miracle of
Your help, O My Lord,
Help that is not in storm and fire,
not in boasts of the false proclaimer,
Not with mariners’ plaited ropes,
no three strand cord,
But in the thinnest whistle of invisible finery
against a floating reed just there in the exact hover
to intone in a frequency beyond human ears, still and small.

This is how You keep Your servant standing,
strumming in rhythm’s unity,
marking the moment Your focus afforded,
And the trembling of my legs is Your gossamer dance,
through and until the song’s final strains swell and fade.


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The Truck

In honor of necessity: the ridiculous.
Our cargo requires it.
This Chugga-clunking melodrama of fits and lurching;
Dashboard reveals its tweezered, twisted inerds,
Crusty tires too anxious,
Stirrups too leggy,
Expired cards, punched "October ‘93".
The human voice is swallowed into a belly of clatter.
Zero visibility, this is our Vehicle of Faith.
Our lading is made up of all we have become,
gathered from lint traps and the banging of drums.
We hope for gold content amongst the circuits.
We've been stewards of a dynasty beyond our capacity to govern.  
Here is the talent the Master gave us,
multiplied like red clay in our hands,
grubby and all over our filthy breeches and skirts.
He gave it to us and went away.
What else could we do but our foolish best? 

The Road

This way is a hounded road,
threatened by petty officers and their citations.
Penalties snag on our coats and
No form of payment is accepted.
The cactus in these parts
Lunges at our fleeing rickshaw.
That old devil’s claw seed-pod snatches at
our heels and curses venom.
We are misfits
Scribbling the circumference of earth
With micro-scales of human measuring.
Like our forefathers,
We have the wrong tools for the job.
We’re among the waylaid, the detained.
We enter a plea of guilty,
waive our right to a hearing.
A frenzy of signatures flutters out the window:
Shame and a pretty penny,
we are turned back at the border.
I relieve myself in a stall with no walls,
Wash my hands in a sink whose spout spills beyond the bowl,
The motion sensor does not recognize my hand,
But next 4am even the moon sings a different sliver.
Our wheels walk on water bottles.  
Lamb's Blood for access.
Our pace in this our escape truck
Is eking out its horsepower nuggets like firecrackers,
Federales keep up the paper chase
On a steeper grade.
Rest area lies somewhere ahead;
That last one was closed due to calamities:
Flooding, fire and locusts.
Even on this wounded road
school buses and dusty back big rigs speak of God's Deep Transport,
lest we believe the road signs.
The Burn

Here is the refinery at last,
Stacks steaming and barrels churning,
apple-cheeked face masks and lime pellet ear plugs.
Here is the dock appointed to receive our crop,
Someone shovels cricket corpses into our mix;  
there might be gold in there too - like the coin in the fish's maw.
All for which we have labored,
that which has held our hopes,
Is now presented before the fire of reduction,
turned over to the assay of the smelter.
Lamb's Blood for purging,
Now we will see the ash of our wicked hearts laid bare.
Now we succumb to God's units of measuring.
Ovens sealed to hold the night of burning.
The Yield

Aqua regia, ball mill, screen and dump.
What is the weight of frailty?
The cooled furnaces are scraped, scoured and vacuumed,
a hammer's rap shakes loose every fleck of ash,
All matter accounted for.
Strain, sieve and sift.
Will there be enough gold for a thimble crown to cast before the Throne?
Now that it’s our turn to be measured
I wish we could hurry through God’s grand drama.
His scales are perfect and epic.
His wrath restores balance, though it may break us.
Ash with our number on it
Is regathered from the shafts of sun,
sampled, sorted and booked.
(Is that a glint amongst the dusky powder?)
Sweep, slap, rap, tango, repeat.
Skilled creatures with finesse bred by repetition
Motor our load, meticulous.
They enjoy being watched,
Lift their safety masks enough to
Pat sympathy and grin encouragement.
It’s not them on the hot seat.
The Exchange

No longer permitted to cross the yellow line,
no further questions taken,
Now the season of closed-door sessions.
We are divided from our leavings,
giddy, untied, excused;
thankful poverty in the care of a tender God.
The price of gold has plummeted.
Weighed and found wanting, what will be our recompense?
Lamb's Blood for redemption,
This is where Mercy makes her deigning entrance,
singing soft and still among our missteps.
For our road-shuddered fatigue we will have
An equal and opposite Sabbath.
For our scuffs and oil stains we will wear
Daddy’s too-big clothing with wafts of clean laundry.
Our wasted places for a new address.
Our bent visage for the image of God’s Son.
A double portion given for our shame
Will cover all fines and curses incurred on this journey.
For our humiliation:
The savor of orange blossoms.
In the midst of a tended garden, an olive tree
Lit by buds, golden and pregnant with song.
Lamb’s blood for life.


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Adonai delighted, from His eternal Potter’s Bench
Spoke a gathered fudge of clay,
Spoke and kneaded, breathed and mashed.
Chose the heel of His Right Hand to
Cut away a chunk,
Carved apart a people, “It is good, it is good,
My firstborn princes, bless or curse them, and
You’ll hear from Me

O Holy One,
Most Holy, High Exalted One, Oh why?
Why and why and why?
Are we set apart to suffer?
The ever tumbled and fumbling history of “oy” that is woe?

Remember, Adonai, how You found, You carved us out,
How You fashioned every hair, how it was good?
It was good, was it not, Abba, was it good?

Remember how You broke Jacob’s hip of clay
With the heel of Your Right Hand,
How you changed his name to Israel and spoke from him
a scepter and the Lion-One from Whom the scepter is not parted?

Remember how the heel of Your Right Hand
Cleaved into marauding waters,
That Your prince might pass and cleave to Thee,
Unto Thy frightful bosom?

Remember, Adonai, our camp before the face of all the nations,
As we tent by tent by row by column
Ordered in Your order?
Remember Your ardor, row by row by hair by heart?

I remember, Adonai, how we remembered and forgot,
Then remembered then dismembered,
Then remembered then unmoored,
Then mere-a-remnant remained remembering and clamoring,
“Remember, and forget not!”
We are indicted still
by our forgetting not remembered.

And all the while the nations
With their clay eyes designing, eyeing, measuring,
“Who is the god of this clay chunk?” they wag.
One nation is Ruth, another Haman,
Love us, hate us, all because of loving, hating You.
(They’ll hear from Him when their time is due.)

How then, Adonai, how did we become the burrs in the buttocks of the nations,
The ones who wore the conic hats, the red marked capes,
The yellow stars – identifiers:
The man without a home?
Call him Axelrod (let’s speak Ashkenazi):
“axel” - star in sixes,
Belabored and labeled, this wandering weed,
David’s mogen grinding as a wheel against his arm.
His arm: “rod”, Israel’s tattooed member,
Inoculated against welcome everywhere he goes.

Then because You gave it, Adonai -
A place to lay our barrel chest, our breast
at the throbbing of the earth,
As Your herds stampede, thrill, pound
against Your thousand hills,
Your soil, Your thrill, Yours to give and Yours to quake.
Your stage, your heaven’s poor reflection.
The land that no man comprehends.

How then and why, Adonai, did Axelrod become so gone and dark,
As of a turtle’s callous,
Bent with mogen on his back?
Could it be the turtle Axelrod
withdrew his head and tattooed arms and tail
Just when the heel of Your Right Hand was bruised
And wounded for his sake?

Oh, Abba, why waiting? Speak! the turtle and his mogen brilliant green,
Because the spring of life from death is in him
Whose ears will hear the call of “Axelrod,”
From the Potter’s lips that utter light’s life to stand,
A call to home, “Revive! Revive! Drink my breath, swallow my Son,
Fruit from vine and bread from earth,
That My chunk of clay
May at last rejoice in Me again.”


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You lay tilted like a beach ball losing its fill.
Dressed in a suit you picked when you were turgid,
Now swept across you as drapery;

The only way to capture fleeting knowing
as my grasp on you shrivels,

Only way to bear the chafing stillness of your place,
Hands smaller than life;

Only way to understand absent from the body,
Is to let my other eyes see, reaching, reaching,
Seeking, straining,
allowing vision that pushes beyond the corpse.

Beyond, I am privileged to perceive for a swift moment:
Present with the Lord.
Suddenly shabby, sad rose,
lilly and ribbon in deferential arrangement,
Shabby, poor gold and glitter, jewels and Sunday best.
How their gleam shrivels
beneath the heavenly beams I am now seeming to glean,
Explosive Jesus trumpeting from His Forever.
A procession: The Prevailing Glare,
The Joyous Thunder,
The Victory Strides –
So near that the windows tremble.

Shabby, pitiful death, toothpick casket,
tent of lint dressed in ashes with glasses,
just a puff of God’s breath defeats the partial,
expunges the placesaver,
shatters the dark mirror.
A puff of God’s breath:
Life is His I AM, and it is deafening.

Poor, shabby roadside attraction, this pretending at life:
Ceiling fan and electricity, as though they knew power;
Carefully hemmed curtains and linen hanky monogrammed,
As though they were fit for wearing to the wedding feast that’s coming;
Carpeted stairs with wrought iron rail leading up a lump,
as though they knew what heights were;
Sorry, sorry lavender patent leather shod feet and complex chrome wheels,
as if they could go anywhere but around.

Only way to step back and quit trying to kick you awake,
Is to set my eyes from the world’s penny treats,
Upward to fix on Resurrection Intent,
Jesus returning on the clouds to blast blinding from Him
by His sheer being
All that is out of harmony with His Thrust,
His Crown, His Stature,
His Final Season.

Ha! O Happy Day!
I will be in that procession as you now are:
Making ready for the final Making Right of all things,
the Correction, the Restoration of Balance,
the Final Filling of our ancient longings for
beyond beyond beyond
this shabby substance with which
we must make do for now.


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