Invocation of the Son

Since I haven’t posted since October, here’s a poem for you.

I’ve been toying for a while with the idea of writing a cycle based on the traditional missal sequence. Not much progress has been made so far, but this short invocation is inspired by that idea.

Invocation of the Son

Heavenly hosts are quite silenced before this vast miracle.
Great terrible creatures who shout their praise to the First and Last
beyond beginning or end, whose immortal voices shake the pillars
that hold time and eternity upright—Holy, holy, holy—
who lift themselves on gleaming pinions as far as East and West,
who always with fiery eyes behold the ever-burning Flame—
Now at His word they are all dumb and meek and still in wonder:

A mother cooks a simple supper for her large and rowdy family,
adding too much salt to the mixed vegetables, and the constant Flame
still consumes her heart and lights her face. A young man,
sinking to his knees in a dark storage room, rises from the workplace
directly from the dirt into the presence of the Lofty One.
First and last meet in the rounded softness of a newborn child
as they once met in a virgin’s womb—for the Word is flesh.

I’ve noticed (perhaps you have as well) that my poetry has become much more straightforward than it was several years ago, much less cryptic. This shift hasn’t been intentional, but I’m not dissatisfied with it. What do you think? Do you consider my earlier poems on this site inaccessible? Do you find this simplistic? I’d also like feedback on the ideal form and content of an alternative Anabaptist mass or even a broader liturgy.


Our kaleidoscope
is rolling through rural New York,
top down, sun shining, upstate maize tasselling
in the September heat
of this endless Sunday.

A Smokie and a trash fire 
watch the road a quarter mile apart.
We don’t watch them back–
our eyes are full of alt-rock tunes,
sneakers, Pringles, and tangled whiskers.

Cumulus hangs from the blue of the sky,
but we are neither just nor unjust. 

Purple thistles reach from the ditches,
cursed and blessed with life like us.

Our vital lenses
fog from time to time, 
but we’ll push on, if we can hold together,
toward the north, toward the border,
toward God-knows-where.


New year, new page…

It feels like an age since my last post. It’s been an age, to tell the truth. But here’s a poem (I’ll get back to prose eventually—I promise!) fit for a new year: a poem about life and death, about outer space and inner peace. Enjoy!

Reach, boy,
catch the starlight.
Reach out and up,
grasp blue-cold Sirius, gold Capella,
thrust your hand toward the furnace of Betelgeuse.

Reach, boy, and
touch the hands that hold
stars in place.

Touch them if you can
put your fingers to the holes
from which light falls

So far.
So far to fall. Wouldn’t you rather
earth met sky
black on black, brass on iron, and a sudden spark,
a man at the horizon,

arms stretched?

Day Two

Yes, it’s been almost five months since I last posted. I have few excuses, really.

For three weeks in July and August, I toured Poland with the Hope Singers. Writing about a trip like mine can be hard—how does one accurately and objectively describe large-scale worldview adjustments? But here’s a poem (because who says poems need to be objective? Subjectivity is half their beauty) that begins to describe my tour experience. Or at least, it describes a program on our second day of tour.

Day Two 

have you seen
my heart?         I left it first
in Kolbuszowa, I think, at
the centrum kultury.         have you asked
Craig, the American?         have you asked
his wife?         his kids?         maybe
the lights guy knows

have you seen
my heart?         have you asked
our audience?         those unexpected people,
did they take it like they took
our program— our concert—
our muddled radośćią?         and call for
an encore?

have you seen
a heart full of prayer, and
half-learnt Polish texts, and connections
too vital to be faked?         a heart
full of sandwiches and coffee and hospitality?
have you seen  a heart
drenched,         a Szczebrzeszyn chrząszcz*
in a summer thunderstorm,
in a sudden outpouring of
foreign grace?

*Wół mnie pyta: “Po cóż pan tak brzęczy w gąszczu?”
We’d stopped in Szczebrzeszyn earlier in the day to see the beetle. Plus, Brzechwa’s famous poem remains one of my outstanding memories of tour.

P.S. I love feedback. If you have questions or comments about the style or the content of my writing, leave them at the bottom of the page. Or message me privately via my contact page.

In principio

In the beginning was the Word.

That’s how it started. God spoke two words into the endless emptiness of eternity:

—Yehi ‘or, let there be light, and there was light.

More than that, it’s been obvious from the start, from the time when He used to walk with Man and Woman in the afternoon shade: God loves communication. He loves hearing His children tell Him all about their hopes and dreams. And He loves to reply, to break the silence with a word or two; He loves to bring a little of His light to their childish darkness.

They bear His image, these children of His. They have a little of His character ingrained within them. They have a little of His love for words. They have a little of the power with which He expresses those words—because words are powerful. They have a little of the same urge He has to create, to use His words to bring light to dark places. They have a deep-seated need to use those words to worship Him. But these children are just that: children. They haven’t learned all the tricks of their Father’s trade.

And there’s an Enemy out there, a pervert, a predator who wants to use and abuse the children for his own ends. An Enemy with the cold slimy heart of a snake coiled and ready to strike. An Enemy who’s learned how to use words. Not his own—the Enemy has no creative power. But it didn’t take him long to figure out how to twist the Father’s words, how to use their innate power for his own purposes: seduction, desecration, destruction. And it didn’t take long for his pernicious plans to infiltrate the innocent minds of helpless children.

So now they’re no longer innocent. The children of God know how to use the power of their words to worship and serve themselves. And far too often they do just that. The gift of language, that precious power with which He entrusted them, is turned against Him. The word that created so much is found to be able to destroy it even more quickly. The word that once brought light to life out of an endless darkness now snuffs that light without a second thought.

God looks at His twisted children, and His heart breaks for them, and His Spirit stirs within Him, and He whispers the saddest words:

—You are not my people, He says, and I will not be your God.

The story doesn’t stop there, of course. Because we children don’t hear His words, God sends His Word to begin something new—In principio est verbum,  in the beginning is the Word. The perfect Word, the eternal Word, with the power to create us a way of escape from the Enemy’s abuse.

But it’s strange how hard it is to unlearn the habits the Enemy taught us. It’s terrible, really: we still seduce and destroy our brothers and sisters with our words. Without a second thought, we hurt and crush and disregard; we bite and devour each other.

Recently I’ve been thinking about how terribly we of the household of faith treat each other, how judgmental we are toward each other. We let our little differences get in the way of the communication that God meant us to have. Instead of talking things over, we love to criticize them loudly (I guess pretending to know it all makes us feel smart). We love to bite off heads. It gives us that crazy rush of adrenaline.

But sometimes when heads are bitten off, the damage is irreversible.

It’s not that we’re not supposed to use the power of words. Au contraire, God intends us to use that power for His kingdom. And that’s where this problem is most serious: though we know God, we don’t glorify Him as God. We become vain in our words, and our foolish hearts are darkened. We’ve been given words that free, yet too often we use our words to bind. When we indulge in verbal cannibalism, neither the eaters nor the eaten are taking the time to go teach all nations.

James looks at this whole mess and comes down hard on it:

—No one can tame his tongue. It’s undisciplined and evil, it’s dripping with deadly venom.

But he goes on to say that God can tame it (which makes sense after all: shouldn’t the One Who created words be able to reverse the damage we’ve done to them?):

Where people are jealous, where they look out only for their own interests, everything will be twisted and degenerate. But when they get wisdom from above, they become pure—peaceable—gentle—reasonable—merciful and fruitful—they are freed from bias and hypocrisy. And those who make peace, those who scatter the seeds of peace, will reap righteousness.

That’s a vision for the church, it’s a vision for this blog, it’s a vision for you and a vision for me.

He’s a Palestinian. Everyone involved in his society, from the American diplomat with a hat four sizes too big for her to the dirt-poor goatherd, knows the destructive power of words. But Manal Hreb says it so well:

Bein hachoshekh la’or elech tamid
uvachol makom shelekh.
Eftach chalon, chalon shel ‘or,
v’azra zi’rei ah vah.

Bayn al ‘atmah w’al nur sa’amshee dayman
wabekul makan sa’amshee
sa ‘aftah shubaak, shubaak annur
wa sa azra buthoor al hohb.

Between darkness and light I will always walk,
and wherever I will go,
I will open the window of light,
and will plant the seeds of love.

And it all starts with a word.