Respecting the awesome power of words!

grief

Blood Ash

26

 

I didn’t want to say
the words this year.

“You are dust, and
to dust you shall return.”
kept asking
to be transposed
with something more honest,
like, “You were
in high school this morning,
future slowly unfolding;
but now your blood
is pooled on the ground,
your organs motionless,
your body lifeless,
your family screaming
a caustic cocktail
of rage and grief,
cameras intruding
like uninhibited perverts.”

How dare we regurgitate
a vacuous litany
propped up on
flimsy thoughts and prayers!

If we can’t be honest,
and say we’re not willing
to change anything
to slow the parade
of body bags,
then we need
to just keep our
damn mouths shut,
hunkered down
behind the walls
of our callous indifference.

Who will compose
a liturgy of lament?

Who will sit in this bend
of hell’s river,
sieve net in hand,
scooping the shrapnel-torn fragments
of hope as they drift
toward the abyss?

Answer me!

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 

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I Remember Your Name

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Those who’ve loved and left
by way of death’s door
are not really lost.

I call to them,
call on them,
recall them
in so many ways.

The names of love
are like decorations
for the tree;

ones I’ve had
for years; ones
whose stories have
made me who I am.

If I leave them
in the attic
or the basement,
their memories will not
stay in the box.

They drift in and out
of moments and conversations,
deep and rich as ever;
never nameless,
no matter what,
even when I struggle
to not say them.

I remember your name,
and in its speaking,
who I’ve been
shapes both who I am
and who I will become.

I remember your name,
and as it’s vocalized,
life is breathed once more,
in me, through me,
beyond me.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Vintage

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When I see them appear
in the corner of an eye,
it makes me wonder
what year they’re from;

what story is long buried
beneath the surface,
in the attic or the basement
or the back of a huge wardrobe,

where someone thought
they’d never be found;
but something happens;

a series of seemingly
unrelated events:

a song sung in just
the way you remembered;

or the wafting essence
of bread being baked
or the scent a favorite cuisine
you haven’t had in years;

or the way the light comes
through the trees;
or some other dormant trigger.

There we find ourselves,
tears flowing like
an artesian well,

conjuring up emotional baggage
from eons ago,

begging us to uncork
vintage love, pain, and grief,
and sip our way
through a story
of healing,
if not resurrection.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Prayer for the Holidays

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We pray, O God, for all those who enter the holiday season with a sense of overwhelming sadness: those whose sadness is brought on by heightened grief of the loss of a loved one; those who are sad because the holidays bring acute awareness of family or relational dysfunction or discord; those whose sadness comes from an inability to create the Norman Rockwell life that marketers and advertisers use to create a restless desire to purchase; those whose emotions are overcome by the incongruence of life in the first eleven months of the year, or the painful difference between the “haves” and the “have nots”; and those whose sadness comes from any other reason. Help us, O Lord, as your children, to be keenly aware and ready to open our ears and our hearts to those who are anything but happy for the holidays, through Jesus Christ our Lord…..

We pray, O God, for all those whose holidays will be consumed with the overwhelming task of rebuilding their homes and their lives: those whose neighborhoods have been ravaged by hurricane, flood, tornado, earthquake, tsunami, fire, or other disaster; those whose neighborhoods and lives have been turned to rubble by monster machinery of war. Help us, as your children, to have the grace to offer who we are and what we have been given to alleviate their suffering; through Jesus Christ our Lord…..

We pray, O God, for all those whose holidays will be consumed with worries about health and wellness, for themselves or someone near and dear: those whose holiday appetites will be diminished by chemotherapy; those whose holiday schedules will be filled with radiation, physical therapy, or booked for surgery; those whose glasses will be raised, not to toast, but to chase down handfulls of pills which they hope will extend the quality and/or quantity of their days. Help us, O Lord, as your children, to support, by your grace, all efforts at health and healing, through Jesus Christ our Lord…..

We pray, O God, for all those who are leaders, in our congregation, our community, our state, our nation, and in the world: those who make decisions about the direction of our congregation’s ministry and mission; those who direct funding, support, programs and protection for this city, this county, this state, this nation, and for all nations. Give us the courage to demand and support leaders who are willing to risk and sacrifice as much for peace and justice as we ask our military to risk and sacrifice in support of war; through Jesus Christ our Lord…..

In the midst of this Advent season, O Lord, give us unfailing hope through your unimaginable promise; give us unquenchable joy through your gift of deliverance; through Jesus Christ our Lord….

Now hear us, O God, as we join our hearts and voices together to pray the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, as we pray together….. Our father……

© 2017 Todd Jenkins


Sutherland Springs

sutherlandPhoto by Owen Jenkins

 

“Thoughts and prayers” screech
in my ears like fingernails
across a chalkboard,
regurgitate into my throat
like the most heinous of tastes
come back to haunt me,
a platitudinous chaff
of phraseology.

   In the motionless void
   that follows, my eardrums
   are pierced by the echo
   of gunfire;

      another mass shooting,
      further propelling
      the land of the free
      to an insurmountable lead
      in the gold medal chase
      for death by firearms.

   We cry “terror!”
   when we see difference,
   and “mental illness!”
   or “lone wolf”
   when familiarity surfaces,
   all the while
   doubling down on weaponization,
   as if terminal violence
   were the antidote to rage.

Is there a tipping point
where the right to die
of some other cause
rises to the level
of the right to bear arms?

   Or should we bury hope
   next to the latest
   bullet-riddled victims,
   shrugging our shoulders
   in surrender
   as the second amendment
   rises to the throne
   of supreme deity?

Lord, have mercy,
because we have
completely lost the capacity
to birth it ourselves!

   © 2017 Todd Jenkins

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

 


Weeping

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While Ezra prayed and made confession, 
weeping and throwing himself down 
before the house of God, 
a very great assembly of men, 
women, and children gathered 
to him out of Israel; 
the people also wept bitterly. 
[Ezra 10:1]

In weeping, our hearts
are wrung out
of all that stands
between us and our true selves,
between us and our neighbors,
between us and God.

In every province, 
wherever the king’s command 
and his decree came, 
there was great mourning 
among the Jews, with fasting 
and weeping and lamenting, 
and most of them lay 
in sackcloth and ashes.
[Esther 4:3]

Our squeezed-out spirits
can then absorb the gifts
we need for the lives
to which we’ve been called.

Jesus began to weep.
[John 11:35]

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Selah

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As an acrostic of storms
accumulates on our news feeds,
their names aligned
like Beelzebub's old-school Rolodex,
we beseech you, O God
of wind and water,
to breathe a calming counter-wind
and send sponge-clouds
to hold the deluge,
so rain is more gently squeezed out
in manageable and absorbable amounts.

As the earth trembles to our south,
gaping wide to swallow portions
of Central American civilization,
we pray for a tangible presence
of your sacred tether, O God.

Give hope to those digging
through the rubble
in search of life.
With and in your strong
but tender hand of comfort,
O prayer-catcher,
gently hold the tears
of those buried in the grief
of loved ones lost.

The forests are ablaze, not
with the light of your glory,
O God, but with a consuming
fire of destruction.

You, who created winds
that can be whipped into storms,
we implore you
to breathe extinguishing spirits
and send blanketing rains
upon the woods and neighborhoods,
shielding firefighters
and all life in peril's path.

May our prayers have hands,
feet, wallets, and hearts
that know not national boundaries,
speaking, acting, giving,
and breaking for all, near and far,
who find themselves
battered and unmoored.

Let us refract your love, O Lord,
through the dispersive prism of grace,
that all may know your rainbow promise.

Wind and water, earth and fire,
all elements of creation's glory;
so let it be imagined;
so let it be intoned;
so let it become.
Selah, selah, selah.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Gospel

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We live and breathe, O God,
in a world increasingly beholden,
not to the gospels of Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John,
but rather to the gospels of division,
fear, hatred, and violence.

Remind us today, and each day
of our earthly sojourn,
that you did not create us
for such divisive, loveless,
hopeless, and destructive purposes.

Give us courage to speak
your truth to privilege and power –
the privilege and power
we've been granted,
the privilege and power
at the top of the constitutional
and governmental food chain,
and all privilege and power in-between.

Give us compassion to feel
the anxiety and hurt rising up
from those who regularly find themselves
at the short end of the stick
and the end of the line,
with targets on their backs,
because of the practice of their faith,
the color of their skin,
the nation of their birth, or
the configuration of their chromosomes.

Give us wisdom to recognize
the greed and indifference
that turn a blind eye
for profit's sake.

Give us integrity to live into
our created purpose,
so we may speak justice,
walk humility, and breathe hope.

As followers of the resurrected one,
we are called to be his voice,
his hands, his feet.

Show us how to live and love,
so we and our broken world
can find ourselves
pieced together by and
mortared with grace.

So let it be spoken,
so let it be lived,
so let it be done.

© 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