Clicking Hyperlinks

John 15:9-17

Above all, love is seen in the love
of the Father. When we click on the word Father,
it opens on the Father’s love for the Son.
When we click on the word Son,
it opens on the Son’s declaration
that he shows his love for the world
by laying down his life for his friends.
When we click on the word friends,
we learn they are friends of the Son
for as long as they follow the commands
of the Father to love one another.
Reading the unfolding message
of the Gospel of John
is an endless explosion and expansion
of hyperlinks where all words
are interconnected and self-referential,
summed in the seamless command of love.

Bud and Mary

In 2022, I completed a book of poems about my parents and the life my three sisters and I shared with them. To open the collection of poems, click THIS.

Poetry Stream

Click THIS to view the complete collection of weekly postings since December 2018.

Image: Goðafoss, Iceland

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Historians lust for great events,
the violent one percent,
so nothing happens nearly every year.

Stamford Bridge and Hastings stretched a month;
whatever happened years before
or since that raven glut?

For each combatant, hundreds more
were not involved, as Norseman, Norman, Celt
and Saxon plowed the green

or toiled the cold Atlantic,
gave birth in perishing huts or softly sang
for children alliterative lullabies.

Click THIS to view the complete collection of weekly postings since December 2018.

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NOTE: I wrote the following poem a few days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill I, the leader of the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church, claim they are waging a Christian holy war in Ukraine. Their claim is the very opposite of the teachings of Jesus. War is NOT the answer.

Sacralized Violence

Look down on the Great Plain of Esdraelon
from the hilltop at Nazareth. History is written in blood.
Deborah and Barak routed the kings of Canaan

at Taanach by the waters of Megiddo. The torrent Kishon
purged the Canaanites. Josiah was slain by the forces
of Pharaoh Neco at Megiddo. Saul and his sons

were decapitated after battle with the Philistines.
At Jezreel, Jehu killed Jehoram and Ahaziah
and, following that, he slaughtered all their men

and all the prophets of Baal. Then he turned
to Jezebel. He ordered his men to throw her
to her death from the palace window where she was eaten

by ravenous dogs. But Jehu wasn’t done!
He hunted down and killed all the royal princes
and had their heads displayed at his command.

Jehu invited the worshippers of Baal to come
to a ceremony, then trapped and murdered them all.
He converted the Temple of Baal into a latrine.

Thousands of ordinary men were killed or maimed
because ambitious kings invoked the deity.
The arms of the survivors were weary from all the decapitations.

Kishon is a winding river of entrapment and slaughter.
The Plain of Esdraelon is a place of tragedy and war.
The oldest scriptures record such sacralized violence
by men. To credit God is the brief of the nihilist.

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Summer Romance

Of all my days to middle age,
you gave me less than ten.
So little time

from moon to rising moon.
A meteor flared and fell
on an August night

now thirty winters dead.
The lingering light:
for that I give you thanks.

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the hard-breathing trout
explaining death
to a child

NOTE: This is a true story. When our son Matthew was eight years old, I took him fishing for the first time. I had to explain what happens to the trout after it is caught. It was a lightbulb moment for him.

Matthew celebrated his 53rd birthday three days ago.

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The Hills of the Central Coast

Under a raspberry haze, row after row
of the smooth-sanded hills of the Coast Range
compress into a flat two-dimensional view.
Except for the accidental live oak here
and there, bare grassland is all I see.
Telescoped ridgelines are like art-paper cutouts
stacked on a canvas: the lowest are khaki tan;
the highest in the back are on the brown edge of black.
Only the silhouette of the topmost ridge remains
at the coming of night. Unchallenged by city lights,
a tsunami of stars washes over the world.

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The Illusion of Separateness

The ancients called it ekstasis,
or outside oneself.
But does that really happen?
Are we ever outside ourselves?

Lovers do not live in time—
coitus, and then a shift in focus:
the clock starts…

Glint of sun off a jumbo jet
turning to the south…

jet noise morphing into chattering birds…

the salt taste of pure joy
while body surfing…

the old man stroking the smooth bark
of the curbside tree he used to climb…

Not one of these experiences
stands apart from me,
outside of myself.
Nor do I stand apart from the not-me.

I am a cell-sized component
of the whole body of all creatures,
organic and inorganic, in the cosmos.

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Bus Poem: My Iranian Gentleman

In his soft-spoken, conspiratorial voice
he told me his name,
but it flew in one ear
and out the other
and I failed to ask again.
To this day he is: my Iranian gentleman.

His jackets were a blend of wool
and cigarette smoke.
Occasionally, he gave me a hint
of yesterday’s cocktail.
He was a determined reader of books
in English and Farsi—
books about Kissinger, the Shah,
Mohammed Mosaddeq, Iraq,
and, of course, Iran,
the headwaters of every sadness.

Saucer eyes flickered
behind tortoise-shell glasses.
Whip-thin, he looked taller than he was.
With a full head of hair
not yet entirely gray,
he was once a handsome man.
Once he was a man of importance,
a corporate lawyer in Tehran
until the students drove him out.
Now he works at the EPA.
I could not get him started
on the law or the environment.
His only public passion: Iran
and what America should do about Iran.

Three daughters in Qom,
an ex-wife somewhere,
a lost career—
the man was lonely
and wanted to go home.

I ride a different bus now.
I did not expect to miss him,
but I do.

So much fruit beneath the husk
of political grievances
was never shared—
his daughters,
his youth at university,
Persian history and culture,
adjusting to American life.

Strangers on the bus
are best kept that way.
I do not like to show my cards.
But this option for a healing friendship
slipped away to my regret.

NOTE: I wrote this in 2004 when I was working in Bethesda, MD.

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deep grasses choke
the broad path
we used to walk
our past is lost
in a seamless field of green

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Just Asking Questions

Change, development, and growth
is everywhere we look
in academics, the business world,
science and technology,
in music, the arts, in history,
and in our own evolution from youth to old age.

We think nothing of it!

And yet, persistently, we are asked to believe
humankind is created in the image of God
of which the image of God
is an Aristotelian unmoved mover
eternally unchanging, remote, and judgmental.

Does that make sense?
If we are created in the likeness of God
and we swim in a stew of change
where nothing is static,
why are we likened to an unmoved mover
and not to a dynamic wellspring of spirit?

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NOTE: “Circle of Love” is one of my poems for choir. The words are set to Handel’s “See, The Conquering Hero Comes!” Play this music and sing along:

Circle of Love

We offer communion to a weary world in pain.
We share our bread and wine with the troubled world again.
Welcome to the stranger who seeks to be our guest.
All God’s children are sacred; every child is blessed.
Communion offers hope when the future is dark with doubt
when women and men believe there is no way out.
Come share with us the healing power of love
where the blessed spirit is descending like a dove.

We offer communion to a weary world in pain.
We share our bread and wine with the troubled world again.
Come, neighbor, come and join our circle of love
where the love of neighbor mimics heaven above.
Love of God and neighbor is all you need to know.
Our circle of love remains wherever you may go.
We offer communion to a weary world in pain.
We share our bread and wine with the troubled world again.

Melody: Handel: Judas Maccabaeus HWV 63 / Part 3 – 58. “See, The Conquering Hero Comes!”
• Main melody lines 1-2, 3-4, and 7-8 both stanzas
• Secondary melody lines 5-6 both stanzas
• Key: G major

Cadence: stately (not fast)

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The Way

The way eludes the snare
of language. It is hard to catch the wheeling birds
scurrying up helixing stairs,

but harder still to catch the way with words.
The heart that hangs stretched and framed
is not the heart of hearts;

the way that can be named
and then defined is not the way.
The way conceals itself by being nameless.

Abundantly clear from far away,
the mountain up close fades to shades of white;
such vastness mirrors the way.

The patient, widening eye controls the night.
Eventually, patterns emerge,
defining themselves with immanent light,

suggesting a subtle demiurge
behind a shadowy veil
behind another veil on heaven’s edge

behind the tangible veil
of earth; for earth is the pattern for humanity,
then heaven for earth; and through the farthest veil,
the way spins out our destiny.

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Micah 5:2-5

The prophet Micah foretells the fall
of the corrupt and faithless elite of Jerusalem;
the fall and revival of the Kingdom of Judah;
the Messiah’s birth in the town of Bethlehem.

Because of Bethlehem, we honor Micah.
We are mindful that the great and good
often come from out of nowhere
and not from the gilded houses of the world.

Born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth
by ordinary folk Mary and Joseph,
Jesus came from out of nowhere
to shock the world into the Common Era.

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