Friday, November 27, 2020

Advent Calendar

He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.

He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.

He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.

He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.

-- Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, Anglican theologian, Welsh
priest, and poet

Blessing When the World is Ending: For Advent 1B

Look, the world
is always ending

the sun has come
crashing down.

it has gone
completely dark.

it has ended
with the gun,
the knife,
the fist.

it has ended
with the slammed door,
the shattered hope.

it has ended
with the utter quiet
that follows the news
from the phone,
the television,
the hospital room.

it has ended
with a tenderness
that will break
your heart.

But, listen,
this blessing means
to be anything
but morose.
It has not come
to cause despair.

It is simply here
because there is nothing
a blessing
is better suited for
than an ending,
nothing that cries out more
for a blessing
than when a world
is falling apart.

This blessing
will not fix you,
will not mend you,
will not give you
false comfort;
it will not talk to you
about one door opening
when another one closes.

It will simply
sit itself beside you
among the shards
and gently turn your face
toward the direction
from which the light
will come,
gathering itself
about you
as the world begins

—Jan Richardson, Methodist pastor, poet, teacher, and artist, from her AdventDoor series at
Advent 1 B, Scripture reference Mark 13:24-37

End and Beginning, © Jan Richardson

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Turtle Mountain Reservation

    For Pat Gourneau, my grandfather

The heron makes a cross
flying low over the marsh.
Its heart is an old compass
pointing off in four directions.
It drags the world along,
the world it becomes.

My face surfaces in the green
beveled glass above the washstand.
My handprint in thick black powder
on the bedroom shade.
Home I could drink like thin fire
that gathers
like lead in my veins,
heart’s armor, the coffee stains.

In the dust of the double hollyhock,
Theresa, one frail flame eating wind.
One slim candle
that snaps in the dry grass.
Ascending tall ladders
that walk to the edge of dusk.
Riding a blue cricket
through the tumult of the falling dawn.

At dusk the gray owl walks the length of the roof,
sharpening its talons on the shingles.
Grandpa leans back
between spoonfuls of canned soup
and repeats to himself a word
that belongs to a world
no one else can remember.

The day has not come
when from sloughs, the great salamander
lumbers through snow, salt, and fire
to be with him, throws the hatchet
of its head through the door of the three-room house
and eats the blue roses that are peeling off the walls.

Uncle Ray, drunk for three days
behind the jagged window
of a new government box,
drapes himself in fallen curtains, and dreams that the odd
beast seen near Cannonball, North Dakota,
crouches moaning at the door to his body. The latch
is the small hook and eye.

of religion. Twenty nuns
fall through clouds to park their butts
in the metal hasp. Surely that
would be considered miraculous almost anyplace,

but here in the Turtle Mountains
it is no more than common fact.
Raymond wakes,
but he can’t shrug them off. He is looking up
dark tunnels of their sleeves,
and into their frozen armpits,
or is it heaven? He counts the points
of their hairs like stars.

One by one they blink out,
and Theresa comes forth
clothed in the lovely hair
she has been washing all day. She smells
like a hayfield, drifting pollen
of birch trees.
Her hair steals across her shoulders
like a postcard sunset.

All the boys tonight, goaded from below,
will approach her in The Blazer, The Tomahawk,
The White Roach Bar where everyone
gets up to cut the rug, wagging everything they got,
as the one bass drum of The Holy Greaseballs
lights a depth
charge through the smoke.

Grandpa leans closer to the bingo.
The small fortune his heart pumps for
is hidden in the stained, dancing numbers.
The Ping-Pong balls rise through colored lights,
brief as sparrows
God is in the sleight of the woman’s hand.

He walks from Saint Ann’s, limp and crazy
as the loon that calls its children
across the lake
in its broke, knowing laughter.
Hitchhiking home from the Mission, if he sings,
it is a loud, rasping wail
that saws through the spine
of Ira Comes Last, at the wheel.

Drawn up through the neck ropes,
drawn out of his stomach
by the spirit of the stones that line
the road and speak
to him only in their old agreement.
Ira knows the old man is nuts.
Lets him out at the road that leads up
over stars and the skulls of white cranes.

And through the soft explosions of cattail
and the scattering of seeds on still water,
walks Grandpa, all the time that there is in his hands
that have grown to be the twisted doubles
of the burrows of mole and badger,
that have come to be the absence
of birds in a nest.
Hands of earth, of this clay
I’m also made from.

--Louise Erdrich, Ojibway poet and novelist, from Jacklight, 1984

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Advent Credo

It is not true that creation and the human family
are doomed to destruction and loss—
This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his 
only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall 
not perish but have everlasting life.

It is not true that we must accept
inhumanity and discrimination,
hunger and poverty,
death and destruction—
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word,
and that war and destruction rule forever—
This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, 
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, 
the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil
who seek to rule the world—
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, 
and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world. 

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted,
who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers—
This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh
and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, 
your young men shall see visions
and your old men shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind,
of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant
for this earth and for this history—
This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, 
that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope,
even hope against hope.
Let us see visions of love and peace and justice.
Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage:
Jesus Christ—the life of the world.

--Allan Boesak (1943- ), mixed-race South African Dutch Reformed pastor and anti-apartheid activist and author, from Walking on Thorns: The Call to Christian Obedience, 1984

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Vespers [Your voice is gone now]

Your voice is gone now; I hardly hear you.
Your starry voice all shadow now
and the earth dark again
with your great changes of heart.

And by day the grass going brown in places
under the broad shadows of the maple trees.
Now, everywhere I am talked to by silence

so it is clear I have no access to you;
I do not exist for you, you have drawn
a line through my name.

In what contempt do you hold us
to believe only loss can impress
your power on us,

the first rains of autumn shaking the white lilies---

When you go, you go absolutely;
deducting visible life from all things

but not all life,
lest we turn from you.

-- Louise Gluck, (1943- ), American poet, and teacher, US Poet Laureate 2003,  awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for 2020. Poem from The Wild Iris, 1992.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Prayer: Inspired by Caedmon's Hymn

O God the Maker, whose creation 
brings forth stuttering praises of awe and wonder
from the untutored tongues of your children,
our hearts overflow with your marvelous love.

Holy One, you weave the silken tapestry of heaven,
glorious to drink in and refresh our faith,
spread overhead like the canopy of a mighty oak
drawn anew to contemplate the depth of your wisdom.

Our feet firmly planted among the grasses,
our eyes lifted to the spangled expanse
of the roof of the world You have made, World-Warden;
we stretch heavenward like tender saplings.

You have fashioned this Earth as our home,
and made it holy by the work of your fingers
for all to rejoice in your bounty.

Gratitude and wonder are the foundation of our prayer,
surging up like a spring of water from our souls.

And now, O Creator,
gather our swirling thoughts
within the bounds of your mercy,
and grant your blessing upon us,
and all who turn their hearts to your light.


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

For Keeps

Sun makes the day new.
Tiny green plants emerge from earth.
Birds are singing the sky into place.
There is nowhere else I want to be but here.
I lean into the rhythm of your heart to see where it will take us.
We gallop into a warm, southern wind.
I link my legs to yours and we ride together,
Toward the ancient encampment of our relatives.
Where have you been? they ask.
And what has taken you so long?
That night after eating, singing, and dancing
We lay together under the stars.
We know ourselves to be part of mystery.
It is unspeakable.
It is everlasting.
It is for keeps.

 --Joy Harjo (1951- ), poet laureate of the United States 2019- , member of the Muscogee Nation, from Poems of Resistance, Poems of Hope, edited by Naomi Shihab Nye, 2020