Respecting the awesome power of words!

healing

Flow

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What is it about the thirst
for retaliatory blood flow
that blinds us
to the immutable truth
that no life –

  neither the first
  nor the second 
  nor the last taken –  
  can be conjured
  to return by violence?

    This river always empties
    into the oceans,
    where the only blood type
    becomes the universal commingling
    with salt water,
    which is the gathered sea
    of divine tears.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins
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Control

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    We crave it,
  whether we admit it
or not;

      especially when
    we’ve lost it
  for too much
of our lives.

          Love is about
        risking the relinquishment of it
      to someone we hope
    will set aside self
  long enough to unlock
the mystery of relationship

        in ways that allow us
      to rise above
    self-condemnation
  toward the mysterious
whisper of grace.

    Once this feline’s murmur
  has been unleashed,
all bets are off.

    This is the only neighborhood
  in which we can learn
to relax and let go.

      We pray, O Lord,
    to find even
  a small place available;
a fixer-upper will do;

        where we can begin
      the gentle task
    of allowing ourselves
  to be rehabilitated
by grace and forgiveness,

      into a dwelling capable
    of reflecting light
  into the dark corners
of both self and others.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Breathless

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     He goes to the meeting
     like it’s any other meeting,
   because he’s the one
   who’s supposed to be in charge,
maybe even the one to whom
some people look for answers.

     He knows he has to tell them,
   and he has to do it quickly,
but he doesn’t know how.

     So he opens the meeting with a story;
   not the once-upon-a-time kind,
but a story nonetheless.

     Using third person pronouns,
he distances himself from reality.

     It’s a painful story about a family
     who looks, on the outside,
   like they have it all together;
   but, inside the walls,
things are crumbling
more than anyone else knows.

     A teenage child has drifted away,
     raging on the inside,
   yet also indicating
a willingness to end it all.

     Having been in a lockdown
     adolescent psych unit
     for therapeutic intervention
   for several days now,
   tonight is the first time
   their child will have the privilege
to call home;
but there’s no guarantee.

It’s up to the child.

     For the story’s painfully
     twisted ending, he says,
   “This is a story about me.
   I am going home
   to be with my wife
and sit by the phone,
hoping it will ring.”

     He gets up and walks out,
   feeling as if
   he’s fighting his way
out of a vacuum,
gasping for breath.

     That’s the day a church  
   became acutely aware
   of its need to minister
to its pastor and his family.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Race

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    It's really just a contest
    to see who can arrive faster
    or with more support;

  so when we shoehorn it
  into biology, we're often
  escalating the competition,
  by declaring superiority
  of one group over another.

Suffixing imaginary genetic match
with "ism" isn't always about
old fashioned hate spewed
in the light of day.

  Sometimes it's much more subtle:
  an unspoken framework
  for socioeconomic and cultural mores
  tilting everything in favor
  of predetermined medalists.

    We don't have to ask for it
    or even recognize it
    to be complicit.

  All we have to do
  is deny or ignore it.

It will march on,
grinding unchosen ones
into dust, while anesthetizing
the rest to seductive
and powerful privilege.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

“Free Ears”

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      That’s the sign
     I’m going to hand-letter
    on poster board
   and hang across
  the front of a card table
 near a busy
pedestrian intersection.

Perched behind
 the advertisement,
  I’ll offer an empty chair
    for passersby,
      leaning-in as they
       take a load off,
        giving their stories
         a roost to call home.

   What tale
  would you spin,
 right there in front
of God and everybody?

I might tell
 of the gut-punch
  that overwhelmed me when,
   over a six-week eternity,
    my mom permanently crossed
     from full physical function
      to forever flatlined;

how I lay awake nights,
 bouncing between
  trying to wake up
   from the nightmare,
    and silently plea-bargaining
     with nothing but
      my own life
       and confession as leverage.

      I used to think
     that telling it
    to anyone who’d listen,
  over and over,
 could somehow
change the story.

Then one day
 I realized that I
  was the one changed
   in its telling.

  You don’t have
 to wait for the sign, table,
and chairs to appear.

I keep my free ears
 with me most of the time.

What about you?

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Bam!

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Our culture of violence didn’t appear
like 4th of July fireworks,
bursting on the scene in technicolor.

It was more like Virginia creeper,
slowly suctioning its way
up the facade of society,
one wall of war,
one generation of weapons,
one identified enemy at a time.

It thrived when lethal force was baptized
as the answer to differences,
legitimizing an economy freighted
on escalating weaponization.

Under the guise of order and law,
we not only sanctioned it,
we also sanitized it,
so that, in our eyes,
it was not gruesome,
but glorious.

Soon, it became the framework
for much of our entertainment.
We praised our children
for emulating it in their play;
we secretly desired to be its heroes.

The only time we notice it —
the only time we object —
is when the tables are turned,
and it’s used against us
by ones who perennially
feel its boot on their necks.

By then, it’s too late.

It courses through our veins,
a toxic cocktail of rage and blame,
embalming our souls
for useless photo-op preservation,
as if it’ll somehow matter
when they say,
with venom oozing
from sharply cornered sneers,
“But they look so nice,
so respectable!”

Lord, send legions
of your angels,
for we have dispensed
with most everyone else!

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Whistle

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    The ten o’clock train
    cruises through town,
    whistling in the dark
    to signal its passing;

  and I, years removed
  from parallel steel
  and locomotives,
  am transported
  by its lonesome warble
  to simpler, childhood days
  when marbles,
  baseball cards,
  and bicycles ruled.

What would I give
to return to such naïveté?

  Nothing.

    I am marrow-deep convinced
    that hope
    is far more securely grounded
    in a future where questions
    drift on the wind,
    and life’s complexities
    are navigated much less
    by certitude and
    much more by grace.

  Grace of more
  than tiger’s eye,
  banana seat, and
  clothes-pinned trading cards;

of grief and pain
ripped deep,
when a parent left
and broke our hearts,
preparing us
for spindly love
to slice us to the marrow.

  Now, this is a box-car
  I would hop,
  to ride to who-knows-where,
  with hobos born
  far and near,
  in search of bread and wine
  to quench and satisfy
  the empty rumbling
  in our souls.

    Do you hear
    the whistle blowing?

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


One Foot

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Shadows cast themselves
across the path,
entirely convinced
they are chains,
if not barbed wire,
fully capable
of strangling all movement
in any direction.

But I, vessel
of light and dark,
fire and ice,
have burst
across their boundaries
time and again,
brimming with hope
in a sea of despair,

not because
of who I am,
but because
of what love’s done;
not because
of what I’ve done,
but because
of who grace is.

Let us,
both you and I,
break into
an all-out sprint,
flinging ourselves across
these penumbral barriers
like Olympians
at the finish line,
leaning into
and breaking the tape
of victory’s wreath.

This is the courage
by which we 
who’ve plumbed
the depths of despair
keep putting one foot
in front of the other,

because our deeps
keep telling us
there’s not only light
beyond the valley
of the shadow of darkness,
but life
in its richest manifestation.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


4 Steps

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Love
Betrayal
Death
Resurrection;
four steps
of the dance of life.

Forth and back we go,
moment by moment,
step by step;
dips, turns, spins;
often breathless,
even dizzy.

Seldom are the people
in our inner circle
all on the same measure,
much less the same note.

Rarely do our tempos coincide.

But if we pay attention,
and hold one another
with tender, open hands,
the dissonance
of our differences
is significantly overshadowed
by the rhythmic sway
of the cosmos’ heartbeat.

Thump, thump.
Thump, thump.

Breathe.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Three Days

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Or is it forever?

Since creation’s dawning,
dirt — humus —
has absorbed whatever liquid
gravity pulls toward earth’s core.

Grief trickling from all eyes;
brow-sweat of every effort;
life-source of each animal;
all soaked into the soil
as thirsty sponge
drawing all toward the center.

Gethsemane could be
no exception.

Anxiety of relational rending;
exertion of mortal desire;
arterial drip of ethereal hope;
all lay the groundwork
for betrayal, struggle,
and surrender.

Then there followed
three days of hell.

They stare at the ground,
waiting for creation
to happen all over again;

all senses and emotions
begging for dirt to be shaped
and breathed into once more;
afraid that it won’t,
yet scared to death that it will;

and the trinity of human desire
saturates the ground
over and over and over again:
tears, sweat, and blood.

Luke 22:44
In his anguish 
he prayed more earnestly, 
and his sweat became 
like great drops of blood 
falling down on the ground.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins