The Arts section of Orient Lodge

Lent 2016

“You are about to enter unchartered territory”
my internal GPS announced
as I sat in traffic
on I-84

I looked at my fellow travelers
stuck in their cars
and wondered,
“How is this commute different
from all other commutes,
this pilgrimage,
in a post modern

Lent starts soon
and giving up chocolate
isn’t unchartered territory.

“We confess…” I thought to myself.
What sort of Lenten discipline
echoes that?
Giving up our addiction to fossil fuels?

Somehow, that sounds like world peace
not only unchartered,
but probably unattainable.

What is attainable,
with God’s help?
How do we discover
our unknown, undone deeds?

How do we become
more conscious
more loving,
while stuck in traffic?

That would be unchartered,
maybe even life changing,
a worthy Lenten discipline.

The Death of an Unintentional Racist

He didn’t have
a racist bone in his body
in the colloquial sense
of a bigot
treating others,
unlike him,

He always tried
to help those
less fortunate
than himself
even though
he didn’t believe
in affirmative action
or acknowledge
white privilege.

He was advanced in years
as the car industry faltered
and the city became poorer
and blacker.

He was stoic,
self reliant,
and continued to drink the tap water
even after
the city
started drawing water
from the river
and health advisories abounded.

We’ll never know
if it was the bacteria
in the water
of the now predominantly
black city,
or just his age,
that killed him.

(Categories: )


Dave thought back
to that day at summer camp
when he made lanyards
with his friend Billy
and the help of a camp counsellor.

It was
one of the most important gifts
he gave to his mother that year
which she accepted graciously
without a trace of irony.

Years later, Dave read Billy’s poem
and wondered about his own presumption,
giving a lanyard to his mother,
as if it mattered.

The memories came flooding back
as he kneeled next to the open coffin
saying good bye to his mother
who was clasping a crucifix
with the lanyard attached.

Hannah listlessly dusted
her son’s bedroom
like she had every day
since the overdose.

Everything was still
in the same place
as that fateful day
and she wondered,
what could she have done differently?

Her eyes fell upon a piece of plastic
a lanyard, artlessly woven,
by her son
at summer camp
years ago.

If she had accepted it
with a mother’s true love,
maybe he wouldn't be gone

Gary paused
as he swept the rec room
at the summer camp,
pieces of popsicle sticks,
remnants of copper,
some paper mache,
strips of plastic.

He looked at
the incomplete
and wondered
what would become
of the campers.

(Categories: )

The Edna Project

I can’t remember when I first came across Edna. It was probably during a high school poetry class, or perhaps scanning through an anthology. She didn’t make much of an impression. Years later, I saw a one person play about her. It was at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which I went to regularly back in the 80s. It was a long time ago, and I would often see five or six plays a day, so I must admit, I don’t remember much about the one person play, other than that I enjoyed it.

My next encounter with Edna St. Vincent Millay was as I was listening to the emerging artists selected to play at Falcon Ridge in 2015. One group, was Liz and the Family Tree. I had problems finding them; eventually finding Liz Queler and Seth Farber and their album, The Edna Project. Like with my experience of Edna at the Edinburgh Festival, the songs from the Edna project blended into the mix of the twenty four emerging artists. I enjoyed them, but couldn’t especially remember any of them. In my notes about the emerging artists, I shared a link to their webpage and Facebook page, and simply stated that I hadn’t found a favorite song from them yet.

In December, Liz contacted me on Facebook saying she had just come across my blog post and offered to send me a CD. I must admit, I don’t listen to CDs much anymore. Most of the music I listen to is streaming, but I accepted and when the CD came, I had to figure out where to play it. My laptop doesn’t have a CD player and the CD player in the family room hasn’t been set up for years.

It turns out, however, that my car does have a functioning CD player, and I was looking for something new to listen to on my commute. So, for the past several days, I’ve been listening to The Edna Project repeating on the CD player for an hour and a half each day as I drive to and from work.

I guess a good way to start to think about The Edna Project is to wonder, what would it be like if Edna St. Vincent Millay were a twenty first century singer songwriter? What would it be like, if she trekked from her place in Austerlitz over to Hillsdale?

My teenage daughter has grown up going to Falcon Ridge. She kicked along to the music of Jian Ghomeshi in her mother’s belly. Later, probably when she was around five, she ran up to Dan Navarro to tell him that her favorite song was “Teacher Teacher”. Then, it became Freebo’s “She Loves My Dog More Than Me” that was her favorite song. As she approached her teen years, she started listening to Katy Perry and Taylor Swift and has now moved on to My Chemical Romance, Fallout Boy, and Panic at the Disco. Their music surrounds her just about everywhere she goes.

As I listened to The Edna Project, I could not help but think what a better place this world would be if more teenaged girls listened to Liz Queler and Seth Farber singing the poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay. There is a nuance and subtlety in their music that is missing from most pop music, and there is at least as much romance and intrigue.

So, what songs do I like best from The Edna Project? I’m still not clear. They mingle together in my mind. “There will be rose and rhododendron … The chilly apple from the grass warmed by your living hand … Blessed be death that took my love… like a fish scale or a butterfly’s wing…but, oh, the little hill they took, - I think I am its mother…wonder what sort of people could have had this house before … I will plant bergamot at my kitchen-door…we neither kissed nor spoke …If I can’t be sorry, why, I might as well be glad…scattering the blue dragon-flies… I knew her for a little ghost …”

The CD is still in my car player, and I’m wondering, what other collections of sung, or even read poetry can I find next? I’m listening to Billy Collins read his poetry aloud, and looking for other poetry to listen to in the car.

Not only would the world be a better place is more teenage girls were listening to The Edna Project, but more poets and songwriters should too, and there should be more projects like The Edna Project. It seems like putting Emily Dickinson’s poetry to music other than the Yellow Rose of Texas might be a good step.

To Seek the Unexpected

Perhaps it should be
my resolution
for the New Year
or even
my mantra
for the next twelve months.

To seek the unexpected.

Maybe, it will even become
a poem.

To seek the unexpected.

Like going alone
to an unknown museum
an unknown artist
and finding a new love

instead of running with the crowd
at the big museum
past well known paintings
at their blockbuster

or taking the backroads to work,
less direct,
less traffic,
but worth it
for the different horizons.

This evening I went to church.

It wasn’t a high holy day
like Christmas or Easter.
It wasn’t even Sunday.

It was less than a week
after New Years,
when the usual resolutions
start wearing thin
and your thinking of taking down
the Christmas decorations.

seeking the unexpected.

What was it like
for the Magi
traveling to a different country
and finding the new ruler
in an unexpected place?

What was it like
for Mary
having strangers visit
after her unexpected
and long expected

What would it be like
singing the familiar hymns
praying the familiar prayers
with a small group of faithful
on a weeknight?

The one thing
about seeking the unexpected
is that you usually find it
and it is wonderful.

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