Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Forgetfulness by Billy Collins

by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue
or even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall

well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted   
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Billy Collins, “Forgetfulness” from Questions About Angels. Copyright © 1999 by Billy Collins. Reprinted with the permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.
Source: Questions About Angels (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999)

Inheritance by Siri Live Myhrom ("Life is hard.")

Inheritance:A Poem

by Siri Live Myhrom

My mother had a mantra
that connected dots through every year,
every difficult event:
            Life is hard.
It was always said gently and meant tenderly, often preceded by Uff-da
or whispered as a quiet descant
with the bruised and urgent love of a mother
as she held me:
            Oh, honey. Life is hard. Oh, honey.
For 37 years, it was the sympathetic balm applied
            to scraped knees and mean words
            failed attempts and broken hearts
            bad colds and depressive breakdowns.
Any pain was wrapped up in her arms
and the immutable fact
of the enduring un-easy-ness
of our days.
And she knew something of how hard it could be,
my Midwestern mother, born on a prairie farm,
broken by polio at eight,
paralyzed for a year, taught herself to walk again
by holding on to the bed mattress or her mother’s coaxing hands.
But her body was never whole again,
always faltering and bent, always tired, always aflame
with relentless twisting pain.
Yes, she knew it: Life is hard.
            hard like a kick from a milking cow,
            hard like hauled wood and cast iron stoves
            and cold pine floors and stillborn baby siblings you never knew,
            hard like the unwanted hands of your oldest brother on you,
            hard like January ground that the dark wind pounds down.
Life is hard.
I felt the inheritance of that fierce story
passed down to me like a burning coal —
the kind that can soothe the ache of winter nights
if placed in the right container
but that will take the flesh right off you if you hold it.
I saw this:
that while we cannot rip away the verses
that burn in the palms of others,
once they are handed to us and become our inheritance,
we are given some holy choices:
        embrace and recite
        revise and restore
        toss into the flame
        take up a blank page and create new.
When I hold my daughters and sing this new song,
            Does life feel hard right now? Sweet girl,
            I’m so sorry it feels hard right now —

and we talk later of what beauty can rise
from that rough and nourished ground —
I sense a harmony with my mother’s refrain that hangs
like sweet strung music in the background:
            the hard places make a good foundation
            for rest
            for rebuilding
            for steadying yourself again,
            for dancing
            for practicing over and over
            the patient strides and daring loops of staying upright
            while in uncertain motion.
            All winter long, no matter how ferocious the cold,
            the roots are cradled: frozen darkness, too,
            can be a still, quiet kind of love.
And I know this intensely —
when I hold my girls and the moment of their earnest pain,
their small hot hands clinging to me,
remembering and blessing my mother,
I can do what she did so well:
I can make myself a soft place for them
in this hard, beautiful world.

Ray Suarez on the future of religion in America

Suarez' talk was really thought-provoking. I have been pondering the things he talks about. I even recently said to a friend, when we visited them a few weeks ago, that I was starting to think maybe church would need to be a place where we got together and did things like prayer and meditation and you didn't even need to believe - or end up believing -- in God.

https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/06/05/ray-suarez-on-the-future-of-religion-in-america

A keynote address given in St. Paul by award-winning journalist Ray Suarez about the future of religion in America.

Suarez said we have to figure out "how to continue to be part of faith communities in a country where we can no longer demand, where can no longer be sure of, a certain cultural deference toward religion that prevailed through most of American history, and we're wondering if it will still be a feature of our common culture by mid-century."

"Even the most optimistic among us about the future of faith communities," Suarez said, "has to concede that, writ large, as an American institution, religion with a capital R no longer speaks with the authority, the convening power, it once did."

There are regional variations across America, he said, and in twenty states "no religion" is the largest religion. These states are concentrated in the West and in New England.

Since the period of the 1960's to 1980's and beyond, Suarez said "it's fair to say that inheritance, heritage, family custom, started to mean less. People felt that they were spiritual free-agents in those decades in a way that they might not have earlier in the century... You might have felt compelled to stay with the religious group of your family, of your ethnic group, of your linguistic background, of custom."

Suarez challenged the audience to come up with a "convincing demonstration model, if you will, of what community, and commitment, a life of joy might look like... and find the things people yearn for as they look for connection and community."

"Loneliness," Suarez said, "is one of the most compelling threats to health. Why isn't THAT the problem we're talking about?"

Ray Suarez is former host of NPR's Talk of the Nation and a senior correspondent for PBS NewsHour and Al Jazeera America. He's a member of the Washington National Cathedral (Episcopal) leadership team.

Author of several books including "The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration: 1966-1999," "The Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America," and the PBS companion volume "Latino Americans: The 500-Year Legacy That Shaped a Nation."
Journalist Ray Suarez spoke in St. Paul Thursday, May 30, 2019 at the Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul Annual Assembly.


Sunday, December 8, 2019

shoulders

I have always had kind of a thing about broad shoulders. Guys with broad shoulders are handsome. When women walk confidently, swinging their shoulders, I love it. I like the saying about Chicago being the city of broad shoulders (the real quote, from Carl Sandberg’s poem, is “City of the Big Shoulders”).

In Isaiah, and in the Messiah, it says about Jesus, “the government will be on his shoulders.”

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
~Isaiah 9:6

Don’t you love that part of the Messiah?



Last Sunday we read the 9th chapter of Isaiah (with “the government will be on his shoulders”) as part of an Advent devotional. As I read it, I got another image -- Jesus with a lamb on his shoulders. We often see that image when listening to Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep in Luke:

Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.”   ~Luke 15:4-6

Statuette of the Good Shepherd. Vatican Museums, Pius-Christian Museum.
Same shoulders. Jesus’ shoulders bearing the government -- being the king and ruler of all -- and Jesus’ shoulders carrying the lost sheep -- loving a tiny, powerless creature. At first I thought how opposite these two images of Jesus are. That powerful leader of all vs. a tender loving caretaker. But thinking more about it, maybe not.

When we think of a king, the leader of the world, we think of power, someone who can do anything he wants to do, and make others do his bidding. The image of the loving Shepherd seems the opposite of that, someone putting the needs of a poor helpless lamb before his own. But the Kingdom of God is often called the “Upside-Down Kingdom.” As this sermon from Len Betterink says:

Over and over we see things getting turned around, turned backwards, turned upside-down. Jesus said that in his kingdom the first will be last and the last will be first (Matt. 20:16).

He said that whoever wanted to be great would have to be a servant (Matt. 20: 26).

The apostle Paul said that God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, that he chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Cor. 1:27).

According to Paul, Jesus was equal to God, and then he emptied himself and made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant (Phil. 2:6-11).

Jesus was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, so that through his poverty we would become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).

After a while, you get used to the pattern. Things that make a person important in our world become unimportant in the Upside-Down Kingdom. And the things that seem weak and humble and poor — they make us better people and take us closer to the heart of God.

In the Upside-Down Kingdom of God, Jesus with both the government and the lost lamb on his shoulders makes perfect sense.

Thank God for his upside-down amazing love.

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https://belz.blog/2017/11/02/in-heaven-southwest/

In Heaven, Southwest

Thursday, November 2, 2017
In Heaven, Southwest
boards C60-C1, B, families/
extra assistance, then A.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Sashiko from "A contemporary practice of Japanese style mending" by Hilary Jones.


Crazy Quilt
by Jane Wilson Joyce
The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia
is cracked. California is splitting
off. There is no East or West, no rhyme,
no reason to it. We are scattered.
Dear Lord, lest we all be somewhere
else, patch this work. Quilt us
together, feather-stitching piece
by piece our tag-ends of living,
our individual scraps of love.

If fear and pain is the backdrop, then the thread is what holds it all together.
Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery.
—Wendell Berry, from Hannah Coulter
from Patchwork Patterns by Rachel Wilkerson.

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains


Lydia spent the night last night, and this morning she colored this picture for me. It's from a coloring book of Psalms. I looked up Psalm 121 on my computer and she read it aloud to me. I talked about how she could remember God was always with her when she looked at mountains, and when she looked at her shadow ("your shade at your right hand") and she giggled in delight, especially when she pointed out her shadow right behind her as she stood in the sunlight from the window.

Awesome Grandma moment.

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Can't we be friends?

I felt like this article said a lot of things I've thought. I never was a "guys' girl," but I do remember being shocked to learn that -- seemingly -- nearly all guys are not capable of separating "the purely intellectual friendship of a woman who’s just happy to hang out, from an opening to someone who might become a romantic partner — or at the very least go to bed with them." I know you can't generalize that all guys are the same, but I do remember my surprise at how prevalent this was.

https://psiloveyou.xyz/do-them-all-want-to-f-k-me-and-other-questions-of-a-guys-girl-4f4687d0fef5

Do They All Want To Sleep With Me? — And Other Questions Of A Guys’ Girl

Being a guys’ girl is all fun and games — until you realize you’ve been the one in play all along.


I recently read Girl Logic: the Genius and the Absurdity, by Iliza Shlesinger. Perhaps you’ve heard of her. If not, go find one of her specials on Netflix.

The point I want to highlight from her book is (spoiler alert) not really part of any of her stand-up specials. Even though Iliza and I are very different people in many ways, by reading her book I found a strong commonality: we’re a couple of guys’ girls.
Iliza’s whole chapter on being a guys’ girl is very spot-on. My experience fits exactly what she describes: “It’s not like I specifically set out to become one; it happened naturally.”
There are a few factors that bring a girl to cultivate more friendships with guys than with other girls. For some of us, connecting with other women just doesn’t come naturally. Men seem simpler to deal with (when there’s no romantic interest on the girl’s part, but more on that later). Around them you can say anything, be anything.
As a rule, I don’t feel as comfortable around other girls as I do around men. I was never the most feminine of women. Makeup was a mystery to me until I turned 25, which was the same age when I finally learned how to properly blow-dry my hair. Before that, I used to think of hair driers as something for emergencies only. I nearly put mine inside a glass box in the bathroom with a sign: break glass in case it’s below 50ºF outside and you forgot to wash your hair 3 hours in advance. To this day, I’m completely lost when it comes to flat irons and curling wands.
Hanging out with boys so much has that effect. It’s a never ending vicious cycle. You start hanging out with boys because they’re easier to deal with. Around them, you don’t wonder why you can’t hide your dark circles with makeup as well as Lucy does, or if you’ll ever manage to starve yourself enough to have abs like Debra’s. You don’t feel inferior for your clothing choices because you’re not standing next to Allison and her perfectly assembled, on-season, trendy outfit.
There are so many questions involved in hanging out with girls. Like, how much boy talk is too much boy talk? How much weight should I say I’m trying to lose this week? How can I pretend to care about Stacy’s flat iron dilemma? Ceramic or titanium? Is forming a star with our fingers for a picture still a thing? If I just nod and smile, will they catch on that I’m not enough of a girl to keep up?
I never had any questions when hanging out with boys. Boy’s harden you up with crude jokes at the same time as they allow you to relax with their incredibly low standards for what constitutes good company. So things like makeup and hair and clothes become less important, and when you notice, it becomes even harder to connect with the girls than it was before.
Like I said, vicious cycle.
I don’t want to be unfair to girls by implying all they care about is looks and clothes, just as I don’t want to be unfair to boys by implying it’s all pizza and fart jokes all day.
I have connected at a deep level with many wonderful girls throughout my life, it just has always been simpler and far easier for me to find that connection with guys.
Of course, boys are only easier to deal with when you’re not into them.
It’s 100% true what they say: once we put a guy in the “friend” category, he becomes an assexual being. When we say that he’s like a brother to us, we don’t mean it Game of Thrones style. Not ever. We mean he holds as much sex appeal to us as a seashell. And maybe not even that.
And that’s impossible to change.
My behavior next to a guy I’m interested in is completely different from my behavior next to a guy I consider a friend. For starters, coming up and saying “hi” to someone I’m interested in is a struggle, while around my friends I’m spontaneous and loose. I’ve recently got better at it, but I still get very nervous around guys I find attractive.
A relaxed time is one thing a girl can expect from guy friends, but Iliza accurately points out another aspect of the dynamics:
My earliest memories of being five at the preschool’s playground all involve me running around playing with the boys. I’d spend summer vacations surrounded by them, biking, climbing trees, bodyboarding, playing soccer and hide and seek. My knees couldn’t catch a break, they were always scraped raw.
I liked the idea that I could keep up with the boys. Short of belching the alphabet, I’d do pretty much anything.
But then I grew up. And even though I still occasionally played basketball with the guys, those friendships became less about physical accomplishments and more about intelectual discussions and shared interests.
And that’s when we’re back to Girl Logic. Iliza separates the guys’ girls into six different categories, from the truly sports fanatics to the funny girl through “The Hot Chick Dudes Claim Is “Like a Sister” but You Know They Secretly Jerk Off to Her Instagram Pictures”.
I never really second-guessed any of my guy friendships. Not even when I discovered, a couple of years after high school, that one of my great friends from that time had lied to everyone that we’d kissed. Not even when another great friend sent me texts at 4 am telling me he couldn’t stop thinking about me.
Not even until recently, when a third friend (or so I thought) decided to drive 7 hours to see me and got extremely disappointed when I treated him as no more than just a friend. To be clear, before he hopped in his car, I told him I was involved with someone else (which was true), but he came anyway.
So, it just recently dawned on me that many of what I had always considered to be great friendships had had their starting points on a guy being interested in me.
I just always thought that the arguments against male/female friendships in the movie weren’t exactly accurate.
I guess you can call me naive.
If you remember the movie (or haven’t seen it), Harry meets Sally and tells her women and men can’t be friends because “the sex thing always gets in the way”. He explains to her that a man can’t be friends with a woman he finds attractive because he’ll want to have sex with her, and he can’t be friends with women he finds unattractive because, in Harry’s words: “you pretty much want to to nail them too”.
All my life I’ve heard people tell me that I’m pretty, despite sometimes looking in the mirror and not being so sure of it myself. I know I also divide opinions a bit. I know some men think I’m stunning, while others look at me and go “meh. No big deal”. But no one ever thinks I’m ugly.
This isn’t me being conceited, this is just what I’ve learned after almost 30 years of being alive in a western society.
It stands to reason that many guys first approached me because they thought I was pretty and perhaps they could get some. It just never occurred to me that their friendship had hidden intentions, since it never occurred to me to first become friends with someone I’m interested in — if you remember, I find coming up and saying “hi” nearly impossible to do.
I used to not really question my friendships with guys. Now I have one major doubt:
I supposed I used to think that Harry’s argument in the movie was flawed because it paints men as sex-obsessed animals, incapable of separating the purely intellectual friendship of a woman who’s just happy to hang out from an opening to someone who might become a romantic partner — or at the very least go to bed with them.
And I spent my life giving men more credit than that.
OR I spent my life too distracted to notice the hungry wolf eyes of those I had already put in the seashell category. Because if I’m not interested in a man as more than a friend, how could he?
But of course, just because you’ve a-sexualized someone in your mind it doesn’t mean they’ve actually became asexual beings. I’m ashamed to say I’ve only recently came to this realization.
And that brings me to the second major question involved with being a guy’s girl:
Are any of them interested in me for who I am more than for what I seem to be?
I’d like to give my friends more credit and believe that they are. I’d like to believe no one would bother to be my friend for ten years if they didn’t get deeper value from my friendship than maybe eventually attain the opportunity of perhaps someday obtaining sexual gratification.
Still, I know my overall perspective on being friends with guys has shifted a bit. I won’t suddenly start avoiding forming these bonds, but I feel more equipped to do a better job separating the men who can put their sexual desires in the back burner and value the friendship from those who’ll take any opportunity to come on to me.
Meanwhile, I want to celebrate my friendships with other girls. After all, they’re not nice to me because they want to f*k me (most of them, I think), and that makes any difficulty in connecting a thousand times worth overcoming.
Names have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Ruby's grace.



When we camped at Glacier National Park, we had no cell signal except at the office building. One day when I was there, a girl came in to use the bathroom. I would guess she was around 9 or 10, and she had some kind of mental challenge. She made guttural noises but she had some speech and she made it clear to Ruby, the office manager, that she needed to use the bathroom.

The campground had some plumbing issues. When I had used the facilities myself, Ruby told me not to flush it, just let her know when I was done and she would take care of it. They kept a bucket of water near the toilet and had some kind of method for manually making it flush.

The girl went into the bathroom through a doorway in the lobby where I was sitting. She stayed there a very long time and I periodically heard yelling and banging noises. After quite some time, water started spreading out from under the door into the lobby. Ruby came and knocked on the door. “Do you need some help?” No response. She tried again, then said something like, “Just come on out, we will take care of it.” Finally the girl came out and left the building.

Ruby and two other workers got mops, buckets, and rags and managed to get the area cleaned up after quite a bit of work. I said to Ruby, “It’s too bad that girl didn’t have a little more supervision.” Ruby agreed and then, almost in concert, we both said, “But no one knows the whole story.” Then Ruby finished with, “And it’s good they brought her to enjoy the outdoors.”

How kind was that? After all the work the little girl caused, Ruby extended grace. Moments like that give me hope.

How about you? Have you seen interactions between people where the grace of God shines through?​

What can I pray about for you?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
What is this?? A while back, I had an idea. I was thinking of some friends I wanted to pray for, but I didn't have a specific thing to pray about on their behalf. I decided to pray that they would feel God's love. I decided to send them an email when I prayed, so they'd know and be encouraged. Then I thought about my many other family and friends who I would like to encourage with prayer, and decided to start this email.
Two things I try to do:
-- Encourage you with a reminder of God's love. My goal is to avoid anything where the response is "I should..." Just a short reflection of God's love.
-- Pray for you. I'll pray with each email, and please reply to me with anything you'd specifically like me to pray for you. I'll keep it confidential, don't worry.
. If you would like to send me specific prayer requests. I will gladly pray with you. Email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Death Decisions on my Mind

That title sounds kind of macabre, but there it is. This morning I listed to this podcast from "Hidden Brain," called "The Ventilator: Life, Death And The Choices We Make At The End." It made me cry. But it wasn't a bad cry. As I was crying, I thought, "I guess this podcast was a 'trigger' for me."

If you listen to it, you'll probably know why it made me cry. It's about a family with a wife/mom who had ALS, Stephanie Rinka. It made me think of my brother Dan, of course, as the mention of ALS always does. This woman had the kind of ALS that starts with your speaking and breathing muscles. It made me thankful again that Dan's had started in his legs and moved up from there.

I thought Shankar Vedantam, the host of the podcast, had a good point that this family's story shows how difficult decisions about how you want to die are. Stephanie and her family spoke about that subject throughout their lives and Stephanie, a nurse who had seen and experienced many different kinds of death, always made the point that she did not want to live without quality of life. When she saw someone living inside a body that didn't function, she told her husband if she ever got to that point, to "just shoot her." But when it came to actually making the decision on the spot, in a kind of crisis, it was not so easy. Listen to the podcast; it's good.

As I think about this family's story, it seems to me that, although they spoke often of not wanting to lose their quality of life, they did not -- from what the story says -- actually talk about or plan for Stephanie's death. When Dan was diagnosed, he and his wife Kathy went to a lawyer and made plans to ensure financial stability for Kathy when he was gone. They faced the fact that Dan was going to die and made all the preparations they could. I think that made a big difference.

It's not easy, though, that's for sure. Coincidentally, this evening in the "Anerica" magazine which I receive in my email, there was another story about a family dealing with ALS, "I was diagnosed with A.L.S. With God’s help, I lived to send my son to Notre Dame." The husband/father has ALS, again the kind that starts with the speaking and breathing muscles, faces the same decisions about getting a feeding tube and a ventilator, and is thankful for having decided to extend his life with both,

One woman says she never wants to live with a non-functioning body, but then decides to do just that, getting a feeding tube first, then a ventilator. Looking back, her family feels the ventilator decision was a wrong one, that caused them all more suffering. A man decides to extend his life so, if possible, he can see his son graduate. He gets a feeding tube and then a ventilator and is still living and has been able to see his son graduate. There are differences, of course, but it still serves to show that the same decisions can turn out wildly different.

Dan decided not to get a ventilator. I know he and Kathy made that decision together and all of us feel it was the right decision. Dan's death was peaceful, as peaceful as it could be anyway. All of my family got to see him one more time before he died. I took several trips to help with his care, and our parents, his wife, kids, grandkids, sister, and many family members and friends visited with and cared for Dan. It was a sad, sad time and we still miss him greatly, yet I am grateful to God for that beautiful time as he was preparing to die. I am grateful that the death of my parents also gave us time to say good bye.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Romans 14:8

Today's devotional from the Jesuit Society (which I receive in my email each morning) had the passage Romans 14:7-12 (New Revised Standard Version).
We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister?
For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then, each of us will be accountable to God.
Ever since I was a kid, whenever I was asked what my favorite Bible verse was, I would say Romans 14:8, "If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s." I've always liked resting in the comfort that I, and those I love, belong to the Lord, whether we're living or dead.

I can remember being aware of the possible death of those I love from when I was quite small. Did you think about that as a child? I remember way back when my little sister and I shared a bed, I used to get quite crabby with her for "hogging my side," but I would make sure that I said "I love you" to her before we went to sleep -- just in case she or I died overnight. I wanted to make sure the last thing I said was nice, and no matter what, she would know I loved her.

Now, the verse still gives me comfort. Life is more complicated. There are more and more things I don't understand. I can think and think, read and read, discuss and discuss, learn and learn, but still I cannot comprehend or understand why such sad or horrible things happen. BUT, "If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s." I'll rest in the Lord.


Monday, November 4, 2019

A Primer - a poem about Michigan

A Primer


I remember Michigan fondly as the place I go
to be in Michigan. The right hand of America
waving from maps or the left
pressing into clay a mold to take home
from kindergarten to Mother. I lived in Michigan
forty-three years. The state bird
is a chained factory gate. The state flower
is Lake Superior, which sounds egotistical
though it is merely cold and deep as truth.
A Midwesterner can use the word “truth,”
can sincerely use the word “sincere.”
In truth the Midwest is not mid or west.
When I go back to Michigan I drive through Ohio.
There is off I-75 in Ohio a mosque, so life
goes corn corn corn mosque, I wave at Islam,
which we’re not getting along with
on account of the Towers as I pass.
Then Ohio goes corn corn corn
billboard, goodbye, Islam. You never forget
how to be from Michigan when you’re from Michigan.
It’s like riding a bike of ice and fly fishing.
The Upper Peninsula is a spare state
in case Michigan goes flat. I live now
in Virginia, which has no backup plan
but is named the same as my mother,
I live in my mother again, which is creepy
but so is what the skin under my chin is doing,
suddenly there’s a pouch like marsupials
are needed. The state joy is spring.
“Osiris, we beseech thee, rise and give us baseball”
is how we might sound were we Egyptian in April,
when February hasn’t ended. February
is thirteen months long in Michigan.
We are a people who by February
want to kill the sky for being so gray
and angry at us. “What did we do?”
is the state motto. There’s a day in May
when we’re all tumblers, gymnastics
is everywhere, and daffodils are asked
by young men to be their wives. When a man elopes
with a daffodil, you know where he’s from.
In this way I have given you a primer.
Let us all be from somewhere.
Let us tell each other everything we can.

Published in the print edition of the May 19, 2008, issue.