Arts

The Arts section of Orient Lodge

Strawberry Marrow

I lift up mine eyes to the hills
and the structures
look like
Hebrew characters.

Class was challenging this morning
feeling almost
dissociative
in a good way.

I sit and write
as the sun beats down
like God’s warming love.

I am holding many concerns.

A friend has marked himself safe
in the fatal earthquake
in Japan
not far from where
my daughter lives,
shaken,
but okay.

A woman
who cannot have children
weeps
over those taken
from their mothers.

I pray for the sick and oppressed.

A classmate walks by
and offers me strawberries.
They are sweet and fresh
and remind me of the Zen story
about tigers, mice, a vine,
and a strawberry.

How sweet it tasted.

I am living deeply right now
sucking out all the marrow of life
and treating each moment
like the host in an Orthodox Liturgy;
death mingled with resurrection,
each drop being so sacred
it must not be spilled.

Vigil

Furtively we crept to the wake.
The room was dark and full of pictures.
We had hoped he would be the one
We had hoped that this would be the week
when we arrived at the capitol
with great fanfare,
but the crowds turned against us.
They gave him the death penalty,
executing him like a common criminal.

Now, we huddle in silence, sadness, shame, and fear.
Will they come for us next?

Suddenly, there’s a commotion.
One of the women has returned.
She says the body is missing.
Is this the final insult,
a desecration of his grave?
Another returns.
She has seen a vision.
She says he’s alive.

I am shaking;
terrified and overjoyed
with no way of understanding
what all this means.

Make #Wakanda Great Again

I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable watching people paint their faces and cheer on combatants representing some idealized group of people they identify with. People chanting USA! USA! at a hockey game are vaguely disturbing. Those chanting “blood and soil” are even more frightening. To what can we say the same about those posting Wakanda Forever?

I don’t want to post spoilers to the movie Black Panther, so I’ll keep my comments more general. If you have not seen Black Panther yet, please, go and see it. Ideally, go see it with a diverse group of friends. I’m a white male who has spent a bit of time trying to understand the black experience in America, but my understanding is very limited.

If you have time, read up on the slave trade. Read up on colonialism. Read up on the lives of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. I recommend James Cone’s book, Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare. At least in my white male mind, some of the dynamic of Martin and Malcolm is played out beautifully in Black Panther.

If you are really motivated, spend a little time reading up on post-colonial theory.

As you watch the movie, think about the responsibilities that come with privilege. Does T’Challa have privilege? What can white folks learn about wielding privilege from him? Think about reparations. How do we make reparations and seek justice and reconciliation for evils that our previous leaders have done?

After you see the movie speak with some of your black friends about how they see the movie from their experience. Ask the women about the weaponization of hair.

Then, if you find messages of Wakanda Forever appealing, ask yourself, are you saying it in the spirit of Nakia, of Eric Killmonger, or perhaps a little of both. Be prepared to own some ambiguity and think about how you might share Wakandan knowledge.

I am not a Racist

Trayvon, Michael, Eric, Sandra, and Tamir,
I am not a racist.
From Charleston to Charlottesville, with confederate flags and statues of Robert E. Lee,
I am not a racist.
From taking a knee to washing with Dove,
I am not a racist.

I don’t have a confederate flag on the back of my pickup truck,
but I don’t see what the big deal is about,
it’s part of our history.

I don’t tell racist jokes, at least if there is anyone I might offend around,
and I try not to laugh too hard when someone else does.

I am not a racist,
but I don’t get why those people
are blocking traffic
or kneeling during the National Anthem.

I argue with my friends
whether Dove or the ad-agency is more to blame
ignoring my complicity
in over four centuries of systemic racism.

Can’t we just make America great again,
like when everyone knew their place
and we didn’t have to think about
racism and injustice?

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Thankful Ignatian Poetry Online

Last March, I attended a workshop on pastoral care at Fordham University. It was the beginning of Lent and I spent a little time praying in the chapel before the workshop started. I picked up some literature about the Ignatian Daily Examen and thought about how I might work aspects of it into my prayer life.

In May, I went to a poetry conference at Yale Divinity School, where there was additional discussions about Ignatian spirituality, including references to the Daily Examen. It struck me. I should write my reflections from a Daily Examen as poems.

So I started two months ago. My goal was to put up a new post every evening. Over time, the poems have become shorter fragments. I haven’t always managed to polish and post them in the evening and at times, I’ve posted several at once after the fact.

I’ve also thought of this practice as part of other goals. Bringing poetry and gratitude into the daily discourse online. At times friends of mine have participated in gratitude challenges. Some post regularly about Thankful Thursdays. Others post wonderful poems about the stuff of their daily lives. It seems like these sort of posts are especially important in these current days.

I’m not sure what I will do with the Daily Examen posts I have put up. Some I may further polish into better, more complete poems. Some might be combined with others for some sort of longer poem.

I’m not sure yet. However, I invite all of you to join me in a poetic Daily Examen. A good card that is helpful in thinking about the Daily Examen can be found on the Ignatian Spirituality website.

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