Church is a machine for the making of saints,
not so different from the making of sausage
the process of which you don’t want to see.
It may be the same with the saints––
God at work in the human soul, sweating
betraying an image we cannot abide.
But who’s to say what goes on inside any man
woman or child? God knows and perseveres,
poking, prodding, sometimes with fire
seeming oblivious to the pain induced, which
must be serving some purpose, some use,
hidden as is the process for making sausage.
If ever I needed further proof
that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
was still active in our fallen world,
I found that proof in you. In your seeing
what had to be done and doing it
with a passion that consumed your life.
A prophet indeed, and more than a prophet––
a man for all seasons, tested and found
worthy of the task assigned.
Now you go on in support of the life
you called into being by your bold action
knowing this is how the kingdom will come.
… the moment one definitely commits
oneself, then Providence moves too.
The Scottish Himalayan Expedition
To walk from periphery to center is the longest walk
one makes in a given life. No matter when
it happens––at 3, 15, or 73––no matter, only
that it happens, lands you at the creating center
committed to fulfill the work of your life,
most immediately, the work of the day.
Who’s to say but you what the work is
discerned in silence and fed by a hundred moments
of deep joy. Go ahead. Take the walk of commitment
from periphery to center. I double-dare you
to fall down and kiss the ground that is creation
of which you are a part, so help you God.
I’ve come by grace to this sacred time
I call the moment at hand.
I celebrate at the kitchen sink,
this altar, the yes of resurrection
of promise of clean dishes and glasses
raised up out of scum and residue
rinsed under water hot and flowing.
Again tonight I give the altar call:
Clear the table.
Wipe these dishes.
Come on, you kids:
Let’s get this show on the road.
This child, this Yemenite child
more than half-starved,
his body carved of bone
and swollen belly
this Yemenite child has a name––
Mohannad Ali. He lies on a pallet,
a hospital bed, waiting to die
or live. (He’s only five.)
His face bisected by light and shadow,
his dark eyes look out into mine
from the photo I keep on my desk
to remember him.
Consider humus, that gift to the garden,
of rot. Layers and layers of life lived
of hurt and healing God knows
and presses down upon, compacting soil
and all matter, factored in to fertilizer
that grows the soul, making a way
for humility in place of arrogance.
Death before life is axiomatic; only
hear what Jesus said: that a grain
of wheat must fall to the ground before
it can ever give life; be gathered, threshed
and ground to flour, to make bread, to be
broken and fed to all for the sake of God,
who is Source of life, of rot, of humus,
that gift to the garden. Consider.
no birthday I know of, no anniversary,
temperature working up to hot
grass and gardens brown with drought––
on this day the temple curtain is rent
and I return to the throne of my life
after an absence of ten years from the day that I
as a non-Jew, who had known the facts
of Holocaust but never felt them, read poems
by those who did feel them, read poems written
by those who died, and by those who survived
the horror to pass on the truth of that shadow
that dogs the light.
I went underground that first day, not knowing
why I wept, and continuing to read the poems
until it became clear: I was in the bone house
of God, grieving with him for his own children.
Three weeks of weeping for his chosen ones,
three weeks of filling an underground lake
with tears. Three weeks of remembering day by
day the lives caught in the agony of those poems.
I never returned until today, had not even known
I was still missing, still there, deep in the earth;
a silver thread in my hand had kept me connected.
I know all this through no book,
except the book of my listening life
opened to page one, where it newly begins.