Arts

The Arts section of Orient Lodge

Ramadan

“That looks like cancer”,
the bereaved mother
who had lost her son
to neuroblastoma
said to the handyman
carrying his bottle
of some weird
bright blue
power drink.

I thought it looked
more like solvent
or perhaps one of
those nasty chemicals
they pump you full of
during chemo.

“At least I’m safe here”,
she said
as she adjusted her hijab
looking down the street
at the homeless man
selling cigarettes
to the drunks
and addicts
when three young black men
ran by
chasing a stranger
down an alley
as something went wrong.

The sun hung high in the sky
shining on the just and unjust,
the Muslim, the Christian and the agnostic.

It would be three more hours
before she could break
her Ramadan fast.

The Pilgrim

He carefully placed his foot
thoughtfully, deliberately,
in front of the other,
as if
he was walking
on holy ground,
or on a journey
to some profound
destination
diligently pursuing
his passions
into the wilderness.

He sat at the table,
joyfully ill at ease
as if he were
an honored guest
whose welcome came
unexpectedly,
undeservedly.

He lifted
the dark
multi-grained
bread,
lovingly made,
to his thankful lips
remembering
so many other meals;
the day old
factory made bread
once
perfectly similar
to every other slice
before being squished
onto the shelves
of the outlet store.

He remembered
happier times
when he would take
the hard sour dough rolls
and a slice of cheese
or apple
that his mother had provided
with him as he disappeared
into the woods
for a day long
childhood hike.

Quietly
he listened to the clamor
of his brothers and sisters
as he shared a brief smile
with the soup kitchen
volunteer.

A Mid Life Love Poem

It’s harder now
writing love poems
stuck in traffic,
perhaps because
of the constant
sixty miles a day
commute
over the past
six years.

Sixty miles a night
when courting
was so much easier
when the destination
was sweet uncertain
expectation
instead of
sweet certain
eventuality.

The two hundred
and forty seventh
meat loaf
is still
as good
as the first
but it is harder
to find
new words
of praise.

The synchronicities
and knowing your beloved’s
words
before they are spoken
continue to provide
structure
and support
in this messed up world
but it is less astounding now.

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A New Starting Line

Graduation,
marriage,
starting a new job,
buying a new house,
becoming a parent,
burying a parent:
we cross these thresholds
sometimes blithely,
innocently,
joyfully;
sometimes bitterly
only after
much struggle,
suffering,
and sometimes only
when we set our face
to Jerusalem.

There is a certain sadness
of saying goodbye to old friends
that joins our joy
as our new identity emerges
on the new leg of our journey.

We set our faces
towards our next destinations
or at least
our imaginings
of that destination
in our limited
understanding
and prepare
for rejection along the way.

It is scary out here
after crossing the threshold
after saying goodbye
to those we love
after setting our hand
to the plow
longing to look back
like Lot’s wife,
but knowing
we can’t.

Perhaps
none of us
is truly fit
for the kingdom of God.

Perhaps
none of us
is truly fit
to so much
as gather the crumbs.

Yet still
Jesus says
“Follow me”.
Yet still
the call is overwhelming
and the finish line is
the new starting line.

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Transformations

Uncertain change
is terrifying.
Those that belong
in two worlds
frighten
and confuse us.
Newts and frogs
are the stuff
of witches’ brews.

We make room for
the tadpole
or the caterpillar.
Their change is expected.
Although
the tadpole
changes
into something still uncertain
a frog
of earth and water.
At least
the caterpillar
changes
into something beautiful
a butterfly
of sky.

Now
we are asked
to accept
humans
of uncertain gender
not male
nor female
maybe changing
from one
to another
or maybe
remaining
in a non-binary world.

Like the mystic
they hear a voice
that they are something
they are not yet
and the change begins.

They seek out a trusted voice
a friend,
perhaps a guide
already further along
in their journey.

They start making
little changes;
hormone replacement,
contemplation.

They grow bolder
and tell more people.

On their journey
there will be other changes,
the way they look,
the way they present themselves
the way they think of themselves
what they are called.

Their family may reject them.
Their family may support them.
Either way
their family may not
fully understand.

They set their face
towards Jerusalem
towards an uncertain future
longing to bury their dead
and say good bye
to those that cannot follow.

Slowly,
the tadpole becomes a frog,
the butterfly emerges,
the man becomes a woman,
the woman becomes a priest.

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