Category Archives: Poetry

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov

Pride and Passion Revisited

This is part of an ongoing series about the Ministry of Reconciliation.

Reconciliation (noun) /ˌrek.ənˌsɪl.iˈeɪ.ʃən/:The process of making two opposite beliefs, ideas or situations agree

Read the entire series

A Blast From the Past

This is the third time I have published this poem, or the fourth, if you include it being read live on the radio. I’ve also performed it at an open mic. It’s never been well-received.

It’s like the crazy uncle at the holiday table. Why do I keep inviting him anyway? Because I’m stuck with him. Like him or not, he’s family and so in my broken way, I love him.

At least, that’s my excuse.

When I last trotted out ‘Pride and Passion’ it was in June of 2020, in the chaos following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. I wrote this as preface:

Our nation is on fire emotionally right now, with too many shouting for scapegoats instead of pleading for forgiveness. I look back to the bleak days right after 9-11 when we were at a similar but not as dangerous a crossroads. What we see today is due to the work of the four grooms (Fear, Division, Suspicion, and Hatred). They control the reins of the steeds being held ready for the Four Horsemen: Conquest, War, Famine, and Death.

Nothing’s changed

Skip ahead to September, 2021. The paragraph above still holds. The untapped power of reconciliation remains, seemingly little used.

The poem “Pride and Passion” was written directly after the world-changing event we simply call ‘9/11′. At that time, emergency workers continued to comb the rubble of the World Trade Centers. People mourned their loved ones, or thousands of others’ loved ones they’d never met. The disaster video seemed to be on continuous loop with endless analysis.

People craved answers. People craved revenge. President Bush, that same week, announced his intent to ‘hunt down, to find, to smoke out’ those responsible for the attacks.

Now, twenty years later, Osama bin Laden is dead, many of his henchmen are either dead or incarcerated, and the United States’ long adventure in Afghanistan is officially over. I hesitate to touch on domestic politics in an essay about reconciliation and yet there’s a point.

What was once happily referred to as the ‘Art of Compromise’ has devolved into an endless cockfight of bitterness, division and opprobrium. Compromise comes from seeking understanding and greater long-term good, not immediate advantage. Reconciliation can get us there.

In the wider arena of the human heart, nothing’s changed since 2001. Sin, and a lack of repentance are still the main problems of the world. It’s not worse, but it looks worse, if bitterness and unforgiveness are our only lenses. The four grooms still hold the steeds for the Four Horsemen. And we all get to watch the livestream.

Politics is no longer about compromise. It’s about optics. Last spring, President Joe Biden said he wanted to remove US interests from Afghanistan by September 11th, the 20th anniversary of the attacks. In July he changed this, without explanation, to August 31.

The bookend symmetry of a September 11 pull-out sounds good and looks good. It fits on a bumper sticker. Twenty years to the day. But August 31?

August 31 is actually 20 years to the day, only on the Hebrew calendar. God’s calendar. The 9/11 attack was on 23 Elul, 5761. August 31 of this year was also 23 Elul. Maybe not so great on a bumper sticker. But there is a prophetic symmetry to it.

I’ll leave it to others to look for meaning. I only suggest there is some.

Pride and Passion

Time marches on,
Dragging our cliches behind it,
In the furrow that remains,
We plant our dead, and bury seeds of renewal.

When the twin towers of pride and passion fall,
Your absent human pulses leave only pulsing pictures,
And loving souls now gone leave scars on others’ hearts,
We jerk our knees, dig in our heels,
And need to pray for time to dig the furrow where we
Leave our losses, cover sins.

Turning in our bed to reach for one no longer there,
We sigh and then surrender up our own self-righteous indignation To the peace that comes from sleep
.

We ask God’s blessing on our nation,
I ask Him, “Bless all ‘round the world.”

We need collective will,
To find our enemy,
Hunt him down,
Smoke him out,
Get him on the run,
Grab him by the shoulder,
Look him in the eye,
And say, “I love you.”

Only then will our twin towers be rebuilt,
The towering pride and passion,
Built by mothers everywhere,
Who nurture children, teaching them
That conquest lies in love and service.

During the evacuations through Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, as many as 200 people may have died, including at least 13 Americans in an explosion August 26. The President’s response was, ‘We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.’ Just as Mr. Bush overlooked the Lord’s Prayer, Mr. Biden too has forgotten his Catechism.

But it’s never too late for things to change.

Granted, much forgiveness is bitterly hard, seemingly impossible. Yet it is the most rewarding. And, it leads to peace in the heart, which is where peace is most needed.

Pray for your country and its leaders. Whether you agree with them or not. It’s good for you – and for them. It’s your bit to save the world.

“Pride and Passion” was first performed September 19, 2001.
Image: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov via Wikimedia Commons

Booted feet stretched out on a wagon bed

High Summer

The peak of summer brings a pause,
A tipping point between the heat.
Work at hand and at arm’s length,
Preparing for the longer haul.

A slack tide on the calendar,
When time stands still while rushing by.
A moment between ebb and flow –
Catch your breath, catch your breath.

The sheep are fleshing out, and soon
We might be flensing out their hides.
These fragrant proto-rugs will journey
From the warmth of life to floors.

Hay in the barn is money in the bank,
Long green of the edible kind,
A safe, full of sweet calories.
Pastures will soon glow like perfect toast.

Rows of glass are marching
Toward the back of cupboards.
Multi-colored joy on the other end of seedtime –
Canned up sweet, canned up sweet.

Lingering light at night to work by,
Not as much as yesterday.
And soon enough the lantern light
Will show the way to stumble home.

When harvest comes the tide does turn,
The apples flood, the fishing ebbs,
The gardens soon are standing ranks
Of next year’s mulch a-mocking me.

In summer we inhale our growth,
Absorbing, curling, stretching, purring.
Then we turn to borrowed time –
Time to sleep, time to sleep.

Sky at sunset

Stream of Unconsiousness

Verbs are sunny days outside
Nouns lock me away
Anger collects all the adjectives
Adverbs subjectify

Sleep is a punctuation
My heart lies with the nouns
No definitions are forthcoming
Actions speak harder than words

Failures cross-connect
Building an interlocking hole
Who can take my words and say
The pictures lack some definition

My life in puns, yet so obscure
Kaleidoscopic shifting
Becomes the norm
Norm is for normal

A setting on the washer
A nominal standard
Sought by all
And achieved by none

Of the people by the people
For the people all the people
This is what life looks like
When I cast away identity

In favour of a shroud
Shrouds cover death
Which obscures hard truth –
An envelope for the eternal letter

Sometimes a disguise
For something shameful
Walk a mile in my shoes
Shined and ready to going

Nowhere except to feed the
Baby needs new shoes.
7-come-11? No – Snake Eyes
Casting lots over a broken life

Is a powerless roll of the dice
When I could easily reach out
For the One who keeps knocking
With infinite patience.

You can read more poetry here.