Respecting the awesome power of words!

despair

May You

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For a while you shared a lifetime;
though it seems but a flash;
and never enough;
and always too soon;
and too painful to bear.

All of these are true.

May your memories,
and Keats and Oliver
and all the poets whose pens
were filled with the ink
of their own
painfully dripping blood,

and the DNA shared
with your kin — physical genes
as well as spiritual ones —
and the people who’ve been
and are your neighbors
through the years,
all weave a comforting blanket
of presence to brace
your tired shoulders
against the biting cold wind
of the valley
of the shadow of death.

May you take one step at a time,
one day at a time;
and on the days when you can
neither stand nor step,
may you find sleep,
if not dreams,
beneath a warm quilt of hope.

May there come a day
when the light pushes
the shadows back
into the deep woods
from whence you’ve journeyed
for much longer
than you dreamed possible.

May you recognize home,
once again;
and may your breath
be restored.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

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Home Depot

Randy Calvo 01

Photo by Randy Calvo
For the hearty souls, 
O God, who find 
the Depot Home away from home, 
and yet in no way home, 
we give you thanks and pray. 

For those who understand 
Matthew 20 far better 
than they wished, 
who line-up like cattle in the chute, 
or slaves on the block, 
striking a paradoxical pose 
of desperation and indifference, 
hoping against hope
to find a generous master for a day,
we offer prayer, 
knowing that it is but the beginning. 

Let us be emboldened, 
by the words and fire
of our supplications,
O Lord of labor, so we 
may recognize them as neighbors, 
aflame enough to challenge
the systemic injustice 
driving their daily auction. 

Let us be courageous enough 
to see their families, 
dependent on their labor, 
and to understand their work is also
something on which
we, ourselves, are dependent.

Whether they live around the corner 
or across the border, 
give us courage to enact love 
in tangible and nourishing ways. 

Let us skip the 23andme, 
practicing the radical hospitality 
of our spiritual genetics 
with these kinfolk of ours. 
Let us open God's storehouse. 

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Grief’s Recipe

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When the slice comes,
it matters not whether
you heard it coming.
You bleed; sometimes
through your veins;
other times through your soul,
and maybe both.

  Either way, you’re searching
  for something to make
  the pain go away; something
  to turn back the clock
  to how it used to be –
  how you’d hoped it would remain –
  if not forever, at least
  for a while longer;
  a long while.

    Here’s what I want you to do:
    find a large bowl;
    the deepest one you have.
    Peer into the bowl.
    You're going to need
    a bigger bowl. 

  Place the cavernous bowl
  on the counter.
  Look at the floor around you.
  Go ahead and put
  the bowl on the floor. 

You cannot gather or assemble
the necessary ingredients.
You probably don't even
have them all.
Yet. 

  Get out your measuring cups.
  Look at them.
  Measuring is mostly irrelevant.
  Put the measuring cups away. 

    Remember the bowl?
    The one deeper and more expansive
    than you've ever seen?
    Some of the ingredients
    will never make it
    to the bowl.

  They'll end up being scattered
  all over the counter
  (Because, at first,
  you didn't want to put
  the bowl on the floor,
  did you?) 
  and all over the floor;

You can set the oven
at any temperature you want.
It will change from day to day,
even hour to hour,
to match the shifting flame
of your emotions.
Let the fire burn like it wants. 

  Sing to the bowl;
  sad songs, angry songs,
  songs of thanksgiving,
  whatever music wells-up in you. 

    Talk to the bowl;
    share memories, ask questions,
    demand answers, use whatever words
    you find bubbling up.
    Write the words, even and especially
    if it feels like you're scribbling
    in your own blood. 

  Invite another person
  to come sit on the floor with you;
  someone who'll refrain from sweeping;
  someone with ears agape and mouth shut;
  someone who's not afraid of weeping. 

Stir everything that makes it
into the bowl.
Let it rise over night,
night after night.

  Don't worry if,
  on some nights, it doesn't rise,
  or if the same thing is there,
  day after day, or if there are
  days when there's nothing there.
  Just stir, sing, talk, weep,
  scream, breathe, write.

    And listen.
    listen, even if it is
    only to silence. 

  You'll figure out when it's time
  to put it in the oven
  by listening to your heart.
  If you put it in too soon,
  it's okay to take it back out
  and resume your stirring. 

When it finally comes out
of the oven, taste it;
sit quietly and savor it.
You'll probably detect flavors
you don't remember seeing
in the bowl or scattered
on the counter or floor. 

  After you taste it,
  wrap the rest of it in your heart
  and carry it with you,
  wherever you go.
  In due time, you will feel others
  who need to taste it. 

    Accept the invitation
    to their kitchen.
    Sit on the floor with them.
    Share the recipe.
    Give them time and space
    to stir, sing, weep, write,
    and bake their own grieving mess. 

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted…” Psalm 34:18

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Pall

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To say it casts itself,
like fisherfolk with their nets,
is as apt a description
as I can render.

Only there are no holes
to let light through,
only thick, suffocating,
blanket-like heaviness
to trap you underwater.

No one knows
where it comes from
or how it chooses
to settle on you
and not a stranger
whose flailing would barely create
a noticeable tremor in our web.

Clinicians speak
of perfect storms
and chemical imbalances  --
the likes of hail and hell
you wish and pray
were completely beyond conjuring.

When the darkness falls heaviest,
and your ears and heart
begin to funnel words
into ever-shrinking strings,
let these be the ones
sinking all the way
to the bottom of your soul,
to a place where pain is held
by love -- the only power
strong enough to not let go:

You are love with us.
You are love with.
You are love.
You are.
You.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Saturday

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What did they do,
on that first Jewish Sabbath
following the Thursday
of arrest and humiliation;
following the Friday
of trial and mocking and
scourging and flesh-piercing?

Promises for the third day
were long-tossed out
with the other rubbish,
their possibility extinguished
by the agonizing gore
of public crucifixion.

Perhaps that Saturday was one
when sorrow's adrenaline gave out,
leaving them motionless on the floor,
dry tears invisibly streaming down
the gullies grief had gouged
in their cheeks.

Maybe they drifted off
into exhaustion disguised as sleep,
only to bolt upright at random intervals,
wishing for slumbering dreams
of hope and waking nightmares
of memory to exchange places.

You would think,
whatever else was done,
said, and felt,
they could easily be convinced
that celestial bodies
were frozen in the sky,
if not backtracking.

It appears as if rehearsing
the pedantic ritual 
for burial and body preparation
may have been their only respite,
its numbing repetition requiring
just enough mental and emotional capital
to hypnotically rock them
toward tomorrow.

Will our Saturday ever end?

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


KOD

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The kiss of death (KOD)
only cost 30 pieces of silver
back in the day,
but it was intimate.

Today's KOD can be
so impersonal,
dropped from above,
droned from afar.

But let's be clear:
these measurements
we're kicking around
come from the top of the heap –
the green side of the grass.

From below, the price
is an altogether different unilateral;
it is ultimate –
not once-and-for-all,
but once-and-nevermore.

What do you suppose
resurrection will look like now?

John 11:50 You do not understand 
that it is better for you to have 
one man die for the people 
than to have the whole nation destroyed. 
(high priest Caiaphas)

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Stop

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I've never known a leader
who expects to be taken
seriously, but not literally;

someone who repeatedly
begs me to believe and
trust him, while the words
coming from his mouth
are hyperbolic at best and
blatant fantasies at worst.

Usually, the only people
who desire to match
this description are poets and
authors of children's books;

those who dare us
to aspire to more, by painting
word-images that pull us
toward a vision of grace.

The key ingredient
missing here, in
this time and place,
however, is hope.
It is wholly AWOL.

Without it, my imagination
is being pulled into
a vortex of fear.

This is not a story
I want to read,
much less live.

Stop the book,
I want to get out.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Voices

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We are fast approaching
a new and alternate abyss
of American Exceptionalism,
where any lie becomes acceptable,
so long as it reinforces
(or at least does not contradict)
our fantasy of remaining
at the top of the heap;

where the underlying "except"
is that everyone is uninvited
except us and the people
we've yet to fear or despise.

We dare not look down
at our feet or believe the screaming
of our olfactory receptors.

The pile on which we stand
contains the rotting carcasses
of all creation, consumed in the name
of security and entertainment.

Perhaps, most telling is the fantasy
on which we're hell-bent;
an altered reality –
as we are wont to label it –
in which everything is never enough
and no one can be sufficiently vetted;

an eerie vacuum
of loneliness and trustlessness.

We bow before the altar
of consumption, offering a gift
whose pricelessness is
long-forgotten: our very selves.

The (s)election of high priest
for this cult is only
with regard to appearance.

No matter which choice we make,
what happens on the judgment seat
behind the curtain in this
profanity of profanities will not change.

Hope whispers her sacred plea,
"Speak now or forever forego peace."

"Lift every voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list'ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith
that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope
that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun
of our new day begun,
Let us march on
till victory is won."
(James Weldon Johnson)

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Grate Again

A Goad
Photo by Ashley Goad

This is what came to me, yesterday, rapid-fire. Thanks to voice-to-text technology, I was able to capture the muse without risk of life and limb. Or so it seems. 

Lives of quiet desperation,
oblivious to separation,
pitting third tier hopes
against the world;
measuring the fears
multiplying through the years.

Never sure how much
the net below has shredded.
Riding anger’s empty wave
onto a rocky shore,
crashing, boardless, as the tide
goes out, to rise no more.

Beat down by ego’s fiery bluster;
candle moth above the flame,
risking all for one more chance.
Never saw this was a game;
helplessly folded into
a deck completely stacked.

Squeezed by edges of the corner
into which we’re  backed.
Vacuumed into fading light,
desperately afraid of night,

Racing toward the cliff
of insurrection
How’d we fall so far
from resurrection?

© 2016 Todd Jenkins