Our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.
v. 1 “O, Worship the King”
The hymn we sang at the knee of our mother
who taught us the harmonies learned
in her childhood, who rejoiced in the sound
of her daughters singing, singing the worship
of God, the Ancient of Days.
Truest of all the titles of God, whose eye
is that of the oldest elephant present
on the day of creation; an eye not so weighty
with justice as mercy, a compassion so deep
it disappears into the heart of one who sees it,
to be mined only for God’s adornment and purpose.
I lay this salver down before you
with the song I sing a thing of gold
upon it, my intention to please in
an act of love. Like Farmer Hoggett
in the movie Babe, who sang and danced
the pig back to health, I would if I could
dance for you like David before the Ark
where you dwelt alone. Would you
feel less alone with my song? sung
in a voice old and unpracticed?
and what I have to offer
to you whom I love.
The dismantling proceeds apace.
First the eyes lose their luster.
Then “what?” becomes your most
spoken word, leaving “the” in the dust.
Smell? Gone these many years.
Vestiges of taste remain. Thank God
for touch, which wins hands down
as the last and most precious sense of all.
At least once a year, I re-read Tom Junod’s article on Mr. Rogers in the November 1998 issue of Esquire magazine. The theme of the issue was new American heroes, and Mr. Rogers, wearing a red cardigan, was featured on the cover.
With each year that passes, the truth of the article, its simplicity and profundity, and importantly, the excellence of the writing that does justice to the man, becomes clearer and clearer. Fred Rogers was so concerned about children and what they were watching as pie-in-the-face “children’s programming” on television, that he spent the rest of his life making TV programs that would teach children about themselves, their families and their communities; that would teach them they were lovable and capable of loving.
He accomplished this through interviews with people from the neighborhood; in visits with various professionals at their work sites; through music––he himself was an accomplished musician and composer; through puppetry; and all of this with a small cast of regulars who acted out make-believe from scripts written by Mr. Rogers.
Tom Junod had the courage as a writer to not distance himself from his subject. He was drawn in by the accessibility and sincerity of this American hero, this American saint. In these challenging times, when true heroes are scarce, here is a model that deserves emulation and celebration. Who––man or woman––has the existential courage to embrace it? A measure of humility would help with that.
You can read the entire article at
I sat across the table from you
leaking tears and talking, talking
trying to put my finger on why I wept
and felt embarrassed in a class where we
discussed the abuse of women and girls.
The tears began as I tried to articulate the need
for awareness of all those who at that moment
(when we were discussing their situations
in a much removed room at divinity school)
were alone in their abuse, with no relief in sight.
Trying to discern the reason for tears
while explaining to you the sense of distance
I felt between me and my body,
me and my skin, even while the invitation
to fill that space hung in the air.
What else would God do but weep? you said.
I rode your words bareback into that space
where compassion closed the gap. I felt
how the heart of God is the part of how
we are one with ourselves and with each other.
Mommy, come and look at this,
my son called from the back door stoop.
I can’t. I’m busy. What have you got?
His answer lost in the distance between us
I called out louder, What have you got?
A bee. He’s walking on my cheek. See?
Blinded by dishes piled up to the brink
of my mind mired down in mashed potato
I called from the sink, Probably a fly,
and chose not to walk to the stoop
where he sat waiting. In that moment
of meanness, the bee stung; starving
children bit the dust, the nails in our house
began to rust, and Jack Benny died.
And my son cried out, pouring tears,
healing rain, onto the infinite desert of sin.
My son and I toast marshmallows
over the flames of old love letters
into the ashes
of picnics past in green fields
streamed through with sepia-toned
water, clear in the way of old photos.