Respecting the awesome power of words!

privilege

Wild Words

IMG_3731Photo by Owen Todd Jenkins

 

When language is also open
    to emotion, as opposed
    to intellect alone,
    it is less controllable,
    and thus threatening
to the status quo.

Feelings, and words infused
    with their energy, can be
volatile change-agents.

I suspect that poetry,
    with its clandestine double entendre
    and metaphorical open-endedness,
    rests near the limit
    of our privileged ability to hear,
    without being shocked
into shut-down.

Narrative preaching,
    in its often-predictable 
    fairy-tale-ness,
    is good for the business
of the stock-market classes.

One of the few challenges
    to that is parable,
    which Jesus either
    used a whole lot,
    or it was about the only thing
    that survived generations
    of oral transmission and memory
between Golgotha and the gospels.

Even the remembrance
    of Jesus’ parables rarely,
    if ever, includes 
    the Nathan-to-David
    prophetic table-turn of,
“You’re the man!”

Security, prosperity,
    and social dominance
    are mammon
    of crack-cocaine allure,
    depriving those addicted —
    both speaker and listeners —
    of the essential gift
of life-giving manna.

Their anesthesia-like qualities
    stand guard at the door,
    duct-taping emotion’s mouth
before it ever leaves the heart.

“Big boys don’t cry.”
    the guards say, and,
    “Frozenness is a sign
    of chosenness.”
    as well as,
    “He who controls his feelings,
    and thus his words,
controls the world.”

And then the poet
    bursts upon the scene,
    or maybe just scribbles a few stanzas
    on a sea of blank space,
    threatening to unleash
    a marrow-deep flood
of soul-wrenching response.

Lord, in your mercy,
uncork our hearts.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 

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Labor of Love

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I want what I deserve...
  but I also want to decide
    who else is and isn't deserving.

Is that too much to ask;
  to be labor, management,
    and maybe even God,
      all rolled into one?

It sounds so much worse
  when we say it out loud
    than when we practice it
      in our own hearts,
        doesn't it?

And the vineyard owner asks,
  (Matthew 20:15)
  "Am I not allowed to do 
      what I choose 
      with what belongs to me? 
      Or are you envious 
      because I am generous?" 

Grace: it's bigger
  than we hoped;
    which will turn out
      to be good news
      when we get
      to the heart
      of the matter
      and the heart
      of all that matters.

Until then, it's like a stream
  of water flowing through
    a barren land,
    carving out a beautiful valley
    and smoothing the jagged edges
    of fear, assumption, and judgment
    by which we are constantly
    injuring ourselves and others.

Let it flow,
  dear Lord,
    let it flow!

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Reflexive

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(when Psalm 22 stares back at you from the mirror)

 

"My sons and daughters,
why have you forsaken them?
Why are you so far from responding
to the their cries and groanings?

They beseech you in daylight,
wailing at the wall you’ve constructed
to separate their lives
from your comfort and security.

By night, their pleas waft
on smoldering embers
of their deconstruction."

The victors have constructed
a lovely narrative of deliverance;
their cry, God’s response;
like a sacred vending machine,
fed with the coin of deserving.

But what of those who are judged
to be subpar, those whose DNA,
language, or faith heritage
come from beyond
the 23&me dream package?

What of those who showed up
for work or school or worship,
oblivious to the call to pack heat
for self-preservation;
those who trusted that
the least of these, the lambs,
would be protected
by the Great Shepherd’s shepherds?

They counted on us to carry them;
to be there, not just in the delivery room,
but at the grocery store checkout,
the public library, the classroom,
the youth group meeting, the job fair.

Is our absence because
we don’t really care, or because
we’re actually the carnivores
circling ‘round them?

Their tongues glue to the roof
of their mouths, like jerky
dried for consumption,
salted with the tears of their anguish.

Their skin taut, revealing
a cadaverous collection of bones.

The coyotes circle,
yipping and nipping,
casting lots for what little remains.

The dream we sold them
promised they’d have a shot;
guaranteed dignity, respect,
even opportunity;
but the fine print and disclaimer
excluded them for myriad reasons,
mostly because we feared
that including them
would cost us too much.

We are slow to catch on, O Lord;
blind and deaf and too scared
to realize that tossing them
to the curb is infinitely more costly
than we ever dreamed,
because it has cost us our very souls.

Is there still time, still hope,
still opportunity to pull
more chairs ‘round the table?

If we feed those who’ve been starved,
welcome those who’ve been exiled,
humble ourselves before you and pray,
will you make your light shine 
upon us all, once again?

We wrap ourselves
with the sackcloth of confession,
and dust ourselves
with the ash of contrition,
O holy one, in hopes
that our forsaking
will not become our forsakenness.

Deliver us, we pray,
that we may live
to proclaim your story
to generations yet to come.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


DBV

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      Death by violence;
    it is the trademark
  of a culture predicated
on consumption as arrival
  and competition for survival.

      The socioeconomic sausage grinder
    uses people like inanimate ingredients
  in a secret family recipe,
where nothing matters
  but the finished product,
    and the only ones not
      on the menu are those
    who’ve schemed or entitled
  their way to a table for one.

      When you hear the engine groan
    for lack of fodder, and
  squeal for lack of lubricant,
be sure to check the list
  of ingredients needed
    to satisfy the beast.

      No matter the euphemism
    behind which it's cloaked,
  if what's really called for
are the bones and blood
  of human lives,
    maybe it's time to build
      a more just machine;

      time to confess
    that stockpiled weaponry,
  war’s machinery,
tilted and justified incarceration,
  and border-based enslavement
    aren’t really meant
      to keep us safe or
    help the weak defend
  and provide for themselves,
but to keep power mongers on top. 

      Maybe it’s time to take
    this kind of sausage
  off the menu, and
search our collective souls
  for more sustainable fare.

            © 2017 Todd Jenkins

Let Freedom Ring

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They didn’t and don’t put
their lives on the line
to save a flag or
to demand we all stand
or revere a song;

but to give citizens of their nation —
all citizens — the chance
to enjoy lives of dignity,
respect, and opportunity.

When forces within a national culture,
economy, and infrastructure
thwart such freedom for some,
pushing them to call attention
to such incongruity by the exercise
of a first amendment right,
it’s not flag or nation being disrespected,
but the notion that one experience
is the only one that’s normative.

Waving patriotism, nationalism,
or soldiers’ service and sacrifice
as objection to the objection,
are red herrings, as is the suggestion
that there are less offensive methods,
since acceptability is a big part
of what renders outcry ineffective.

Instead of attempting to  
to force all into lockstep,
may our discomfort drive us
toward the recognition
of systemic injustice,
and to a table where ears lean in
to understand, rather than recoil
to fashion argument and disagreement.

Dismissing and refusing to listen
to the stories of protesters
is the surest way to escalate
refraction of their experience
while delegitimizing their lives.

To object to dissent is to miss
the whole point of freedom.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


weR1

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Throughout history, people
have cordoned themselves off
by self-identification in layers,
climbing and clamoring to stand
on top of something or someone –
anyone or anything – just as long
as they do not believe
they are at the bottom.

In so doing, the bodies beneath
their feet are eventually construed
to be less than human.

The hardest lesson of all,
and one that upends
the whole fragile pile,
unfolds when we wake up
and realize that dehumanizing itself
is what sentences dehumanizers
to their own judgment;

and those whose hope, 
no matter how fragile and
compressed by the vitriol,
has held through the storm,
are the only ones who can lift us
all toward the sacred purpose
of our shared humanity.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Circumference

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Perhaps the human penchant
for scapegoating,
enemy-identifying, denial, and
refusal to accept responsibility,
would be a little less surprising
if we were willing and able
to admit the struggle between
good and evil going on
in each of our hearts
all day long and
most of the night.

The more and longer
we bifurcate reality,
conveniently hopping just over
the good/evil dividing line
each time we redraw it,
the deeper the chasm
of separation we dig.

If ever there was a time
for etching lines –
a season I cannot imagine –  
it is now long past.

Hope calls us to be
making circles, each one
more expansive that the last,
until all stories fit
within the circumference.

© 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

Duplicity

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Photo by Kally Thompson Elliott

In August of 2013, through the confluence of a number of circumstances and experiences, I was compelled to pull to the side of the highway one morning and record a new perspective on a portion Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus”. 

 

Give me your tomatoes,
your peppers, your hybrid  melons,
yearning to be consumed,
but not so much your tired,
your poor, your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free.

The wretched refuse of bowing
to chemicals and corporations
has our shores teeming with toxicity,
and our hearts quivering with xenophobia.

The tempest-tossed who dream
of hope will not so much be met
 with lamp at golden door
as laser sight and incarceration.

All the while, our consumptive greed
turns a blind eye to the duplicity
of deportation and the rending
of family's fabric, to which
we claim undying allegiance.

Who will resurrect liberty?

© 2013 Todd Jenkins

 


Entitlement

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When greed has run amuck,
words are turned inside-out,
like shirts that have missed
a much-needed trip
to the laundry,
stinking to high heaven,
and only discerned
by those who are
attentive to the seams.

Those in whose favor
everything's been tilted
for generations, and
in whose pockets piles
of plunder reside,
misconstrue language
to attack others
upon whose backs
castles are built.

"If they are without,"
the dictionary is rewritten
to declare,
"anything we allow them
to have must be entitlement."

And the one who created
the universe, via a vocabulary
with integrity, winces,
as tears roll down like
an ever-flowing stream,
because those whose hubris
is actually entitlement
have abandoned their own kin.  

© 2017 Todd Jenkins