Respecting the awesome power of words!

grief

Smoldering

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Perhaps, love can be
broad and wide,
the way fields of wheat
slowly stretch across
the Midwest plain,
meting out their grain
as daily Eucharist.

But it can also be
deep and swift,
like a fierce river
cutting through a canyon,
washing us downstream
toward an ocean of delight.

It seems, for any given
person, place, and time,
we neither get
to choose the terrain
on which their love finds us,
nor when it takes flight,
winging toward tomorrow,
fragmented pieces
of our hearts in tow.

Ours is the task
of withstanding
the cavernous echo
of its passing,
cobbling together
a sense of hope
from the memories
and ashes of a flame
no longer burning.

Ours is also the call
to add the wood
of our own bones,
while we still can,
to the fires
of those around us,
in hopes
that our own embers
may somehow
help to kindle
others’ remembrances
of grace sufficient
for opening hands and eyes
to resurrection.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins
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Color Me Here

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Whatever choices you have
in your box of crayons;
whatever their condition —

worn down to a nubbin,
paper peeled and tattered,
broken in half —

take the one
whose hue reflects presence
and absorbs distance;

use it to fill in the spaces
between the lines
of the real-life drawing
that are me.

However that appears,
it’s who I want to be.

When words have
run their course,
for better or worse,
and nothing’s left
worth saying,

I’ll sit with you 
in the silence,
as we remember
what we can of yesterday,
as we struggle
to breathe through the weight
of today’s hurt,
as we hope our way
into tomorrow.

Yes, take that crayon
and color me here.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Dis-couraged

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My mind could not
    wrap around the unraveling
  of the plans I’d made,
so orderly and logical were they;

but far more than that,
    it was the way their unfolding,
  in my imagination,
  made me feel so majestic,
    so accomplished,
    so free, soaring above
  the daily fracas of life,
    the way an Amway sales pitch
  paints for you a Rockwellian portrait
  of contentment and success,
    not only in the end,
but even in the middle of it all.

It was as if
    a ginormous asteroid
    struck my world without warning;
  the cavernous crater left behind
bore the curse word, “cancer.”

She had so many years left,
    or was supposed to,
  and I had even more;
or did I?

I thought my heart had stopped.
    I knew it had broken
  into more fragile and jagged pieces
than I ever thought possible.

That was 1986,
    and here we are,
  32 years gone by;
  many twists and even
a few wrong turns.

If you had shaken
    your little snow globe back then,
    and shown me
  what’s around me now —
    who’s around me —
  I would have laughed out loud
  at the absurdity of it all,
    staring in disbelief
  until the last flake drifted
  through the heavy liquid
to the faux ground.

But here we are,
    aren’t we?
    You and I surrounded
  by a great cloud of witnesses;
  our hearts blessed, broken,
    poured out, over and over,
  forever being pulled
  toward someone else
    with whom the gathered fragments
can be shared.

Deuteronomy 31:8 It is the Lord 
who goes before you. 
He will be with you; 
he will not fail you 
or forsake you. 
Do not fear or be dismayed.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Breathe

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So many ways I can imagine
for you to find your way
out of this steep canyon
of grief;

the sun rising across
the mountains of pain,
or at least a waxing moon
reflecting hope across the valley
from a starlit sky;

memories of laughter
flashing across the screen,
interrupting your suffering
like bulletins from
an Emergency Broadcast System;

long-forgotten stories
of hope and love
retold and rekindled
at tables surrounded
by grace and comfort food;

mercy and forgiveness
floating through your dreams and
into your marrow like smoke
from a lazy campfire.

All of these are what
I pray for you,
but most of all,
I hope you breathe.


When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”(John 20:22)

© 2018 Todd Jenkins


The Empty Chair

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(Whispering with our Jobs)

 

I would draw us
a picture of integrity,
with my stick-figure artistic skill,
so we could clearly see
the image toward which
we are called to live,
so we might feel the breath
of hope on our necks;

but I’m all out of paper,
and the point
of my pencil cannot
bear the weight
of the space between us;

so, instead,
I’m just going
to sit here beside you
in silence, listening
to the echo
of your psalmic distress,
offering you little more
than the percussion
of my beating heart,
the rhythm of my respiration.

In trying
to absorb your lament,
I feel distant repercussions
of the kick to your gut
delivered by the emptiness
of divine absence.

I will not feign
to answer the pain
of your abandonment
with elementary lessons
learned from my life
that are more non sequiturs
than I realize.

Instead, how ‘bout if I sit
in the vacuum with you,
until your subpoena
of the divine kicks in
and the empty chair is filled?

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Violation

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Your courage is inspiring.
Never underestimate
or forget that.

  I feel a fire.
  At first I believe
  it is yours only;
  the coals of anger
  and rage, fueled
  by violations
  and their attempts
  to dehumanize you.

    After I stand uncomfortably
    near the heat
    for a while,
    my bare feet blistered
    from its remnants,
    I realize that I do not
    want it to be yours alone.

  I want — I need —
  for it to be mine;
  not because doing so
  will reveal the depth
  of your ache in ways
  I can fully comprehend;

but because a candle
flickers in my dreams,
dawning on me,
like the sun rising
across distant mountains,

  casting both light and shadows
  on my own identity,
  revealing a painting
  of worth and healing
  that is inextricably woven
  into this inferno.

    In morning’s light,
    I realize that we
    must have worth together,
    or we will have
    no worth at all.

  I know that my tears
  will not cool, much less
  extinguish the blaze,

but I also know
that their flow
is the path
that connects us,
not only to one another,
but also to the selves
of dignity and respect
for which we were created.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Dry Sockets

IMG_7537Photo by Dan Tice

 

When the tears don’t fall,
yet you feel their weight inside,
pressing like the weight
of additional atmospheres,
yearning to find
the equilibrium of release,
I wonder if they’ll create
an alternate route of escape.

Might they rise
through the vocal chords,
their savory blend
evoking tender words
of compassion for others
who are hurting?

Could they escape
through fingertips,
forming stories of hope
and courage for those
on and beyond the margins?

What if they caused muscles
and ingredients to merge,
so that comfort food
was prepared and shared
with people neck-deep
in their own grief?

Where else have you
felt them leaking grace
into the world?

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Prostrate Psalm

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Here we lay, prostrate —
  not because it’s our choice —
  but because the kick
    in the gut
    of this teenager’s suicide
    has knee-capped
    our expectations of reality,
  and our dreams
  of how it’s supposed to be.

Cower, with our lips
  in the dirt,
  or crane our necks
    toward starless heavens,
    seem to be our only options.

If it’s all the same with you,
  O one whose claims
  to fame include
    the entirety
    of the cosmos’s creation,
    I think we’ll grovel
    for a while,
    grinding our teeth
    against the grit
  of what might have been —
  what could have been.

After our molars
  have been worn down,
  long in the tooth on grief,
    when we once again
    find the emotional wherewithal
  to turn our spirits
  toward the heavens,

we pray you’ll hold us
  in your strong but tender palm,
  opening to us
    the vast universe of hope,
    undergirding us
  with the fabric of love,
  washing our tear-stained cheeks
  from the fountain of grace.

If you won’t do that,
  don’t bother to attempt
  anything else.

Selah.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Unfolding

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Photo by Gay Jenkins Howell

 

    We cast our prayers,
    O God, toward
    the bank of the river
    that seems most solid,
    most under control;

   and then earth shakes,
   and water surges,
   swirling us toward
   unstable stacks
   of unknowns
   and uncontrollables.

  Give us courage
  to float toward
  whatever happens,
  confident in your
  in-the-flesh promise
  to be present
  to and with us
  no matter what unfolds.

 These, and all prayers,
 we offer in the name
 of God-with-skin-on,
 Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins


Blood Money

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Money, money, money,
money; money!

At some point
it becomes blood.

You don’t get
to decide
when and where.

That’s a weight borne
by those who pay
for the cemetery plots,
caskets, and embalming.

If you decide
to attend a visitation,
don’t you dare attempt
to excuse yourself
with either a disclaimer
or the cliches
of infotainment.

All you get to do
is listen and feel;
hear the wailing laments,
and sense the rage,
anguish, and grief.

Let death’s pallor
wash over you.
Take it all in
and then
take it home
and sit with it.

When it has run
its course
through your innards,
then you’ll be
allowed to speak,
to act, to enact.

For God’s sake,
find the chutzpah
to act!

© 2018 Todd Jenkins