Category Archives: Poetry

Free Listening

I am pleased to have three poems included in The Galway Review this month:

https://thegalwayreview.com/2017/06/10/jill-crainshaw-jill-crainshaw/

 

Source: Jill Crainshaw – Jill Crainshaw

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Dust

I am dust; to dust I shall always return.
But don’t assume as you disturb my rest

with your omnipotent kitchen broom that
I am mere debris to be swept up and away.

Remember. We are interfused, you
and I, suspended in each other,

vestigial particles of endless galaxies,
diminishing and becoming, deposited

but for a moment amid yesterday’s dinner
crumbs and dog hair. Tomorrow?

I am cyclonic, demanding skeletal trees
to dance with me through dry valleys;

or I am breathed out by destructive
detonating demons only to settle, leaden,

on a sandal-sheathed foot severed
from the child who sat at grandma’s

table while she cooked the evening meal.  
But I am also the cadence of the soil, eternity

dug up in a spade and sown with ordinary
mystery. Still, don’t assume I am magic either,

or that you are, except when in a distant
sun-soaked garden we tango with the departing

light and time’s muted colors bend onto our
backs and we carry life across ancient seas

to fertilize the future. Remember. You are
dust; to dust you shall forever return.

Dust was in the news this week. Popular Science reported that dust from Asia might be fertilizing sequoias in California (http://www.popsci.com/asian-dust-california-sequoias). In stark contrast, another headline from this week reads—“Inside Mosul, a huge blast, then screams, dust and horror.” Bombs flattened houses on a street in Mosul, and citizens were buried beneath the rubble.

Across the globe in Las Vegas, a dust storm uprooted trees, stopped traffic, and interfered with visibility (http://nypost.com/2017/03/31/insane-dust-storm-wreaks-havoc-on-las-vegas/). And the Washington Post tapped into a dusty metaphor for a political perspective: “Another Trump Promise Bites the Dust” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2017/03/31/another-trump-promise-bites-the-dust/).

Taken together during the Christian “dust and ashes” season of Lent and on the week when the lectionary remembers a valley of dry bones dancing again (Ezekiel 37) and the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11), these headlines remind me of how complex and ordinary, fragile and resilient, sometimes life giving and sometimes life-destroying dust-birthed humanity is. These headlines also remind me that we are all connected across complex geographies to each other and to creation.

We are dust; to dust we shall return. In between? God calls us to carry in our bones the light of Gospel justice and hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does Death have an infrastructure?

Into the Woods

 

While reading Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder I was struck by the phrase “death’s infrastructure.” My thoughts turned to the ongoing news and debates about health care and this short poem emerged.

Does Death have an infrastructure? Or do we
read about the end of life as we know it
in the morning newspaper, fresh as a starched
shirt until Nell in the nursing home
looking through smudged reading glasses
for the daily crossword skims one more
sensational headline that promises Truth
but whose blurring words already smell of fish?

 

Answered Prayers

Dr. William Barber, II, is a hero. He wrote a letter to the editor that was published in the New York Times on February 3, 2017, following the National Prayer Breakfast. I have continued to think about that letter and the powerful words he quoted from Frederick Douglass (1818-1895): “I prayed for freedom for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”
*********
“These times we’re living in
call for courageous people,”
the preacher said that day.

I am not brave.
Never have been.

Bravery is something to be
read about in storybooks
where quixotic heroes
ride out on prancing
stallions to do battle,
sabers flashing in
magnificent sunlight.

Bravery is something to be
prayed for in church
where harsh living
daylights must first pass
by saintly stained-glass
sentinels of bygone years
before being transmuted
into the kinder, gentler
beams that caress Sunday
morning’s bowed heads.

Isn’t it?

Or maybe we should
pray for freedom,
like Frederick Douglass did,
walking in faith
until our legs are braver
than our thoughts.

So, in this present cloud
of unknowing, being not
brave, we resolve, if
we can find the honesty
to do it, to live on
as best we can,
stringing together each
momentary breath
like pearls of hope to
place with the gentleness
of a lover around our
fear to name its wounds
as our own and journey on
not in spite of
but with it.

For out there, where the
times we’re living in
call for courageous people,
the groaning ground that
soaked up the life-blood of
all who died unjustly just
trying to live
needs the redeeming touch
of feet determined to walk
with their fear until
their legs have learned
to move each day to the
rhythms of justice,
mercy, and love.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge is in the news this week because of a controversial four-lane highway tunnel designed to be built underneath the ancient site. Reflecting on this mysterious monument and its much lauded geometric perfection, I wrote this poem in an experimental (for me) fashion–circular, with each three-word phrase containing seven syllables–for perfection or wholeness. The one-word lines each contain four syllables; on the fourth day, God completed the material universe. The beginning and ending lines each have fourteen syllables.

stonehenge