I am a pallet

I am a pallet;
a collection of oaken slats, each
born in beauty and silence
raised and nurtured by
cool streams and
rooted in the dark earth,
grown into a home for the
skitterers and flyers
whose place was my branches,
making the ground beneath
a shady spot for the moss
and the brush.
A provider of peace and comfort.

Offering the resistance of only
density and gravity against
the saw and axe, I am
cut down and sliced
for the strength of my flesh,
hastily assembled as an
empty box enslaved
by twisted iron nails;
my once living burl now
drying into rough,
brittle bones, a
square skeleton.

Once divinely ordained
as a caretaker and provider
of peace and comfort,
I am relegated to a vehicle
for plastic junk. Stacked
and transported, sitting in
hot trucks, waiting to be
unloaded, thrown on a pile
and set in the hot sun,
cold rain, or freezing snow
until more plastic junk
might make me useful again.
I have found my place in
dark, dusty, forgotten corners,
set down in piles of muck
and rat shit, skidded on
rough concrete, broken by
tired workers, themselves
overburdened into carelessness
by their own slavery.

I am
used up and broken,
filthy and stained,
gnarled, cracked, and
cheaply repaired until,
an eyesore,
my iron jailers now rusty and
exposed, I am
destined for the fire.

Waiting outside, I am
noticed by one who can
see beneath the scars and dirt
who sees value in what I once was
and who knows I have my story.
Picked up and taken home,
brushed off and pried apart,
my parched slats creak and
groan against the pry bar,
some giving way as the cruel
nails struggle to keep their grip
in me.

He cuts and sands these
boards, cleaning off the years of
broken splinters and
the filth which has been
ground into these grains,
revealing patterns of color and
beauty which had once lived
inside of me.

I am remade into something
new, something beautiful and useful:
a chair, a table, a sign proclaiming
something precious and fun.
A birdhouse or feeder, or
a bed for a beloved friend.
I am, once a purveyor of junk,
then junk itself,
now, a thing to be cherished,
a provider of peace and comfort.

I am a pallet:
Reclaimed. Repurposed. Restored. Reborn.

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Faces

A thousand a day
Or more
I walk by
A warm smile
A distant gaze
Polite hello
Vexed evasion
Sometimes…
Contact
A momentary
Keyhole
Revelation
A story
Underneath

How often I wonder
Whether a
Passing face
Calmly hides
A soul scream:
Confusion
Loss
Rejection
Loneliness
Desperation

Seeing the crowds
He had compassion on them
Because they were harassed and helpless
Like sheep without a shepherd

“There just aren’t enough workers.
Pray for more.”

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Hummingbird

I don’t know much about hummingbirds,
what or whether they think as
they zip about in their incessant frenzy.

I don’t know what makes them stop and
stare at us—fragile feet tucked lightly
under their tiny hovering bodies, no

bigger than my smallest finger—
sitting on our porch in the evening.
Gingerly they dip their long beaks

Into the plastic flowers of the
feeder, sipping freely of the sugar and water
left their by their lumbering giant neighbors

before darting away into the bushes.
It just seems to me that they relish
their smallness—that they inhabit

their fragility with an inexorable
energy.  I know that their buzzing
fills my heart with joy and that

I cannot help my laughter when they
chase each other around the yard,
careening through the branches

like a green and red blur.  This is
their world, I think.  And as much as I
would like to see myself as their

benefactor, as the caretaker my story tells
me I should be, I realize that the world
my kind has created is simply not conducive

to their frailty—that the harshness of our concrete,
electric world of profit and loss does violence
to the beauty of their fragile lightness.

Today, I found a small hummingbird dead on the
hard sidewalk, no doubt having flown headlong into the
plexiglas door her crumpled body lay next to.

The flowery bushes nearby seemed to droop
in my imagination as if mourning a life stolen, as if
grieving that she would no longer sip their nectar.

And, for a moment, I was reminded of the
words of the Lord that not one sparrow will fall
to the ground that God does not care for.

And I remember his next words, “Don’t worry—
you are worth more than many sparrows.”  I
wonder whether he smiled as he said it

because I don’t feel worth many hummingbirds at all.
My own people treat their own with no more
care than the sidewalk had for this bird.

And I think that, between the world my
people have created and the one nurtured
by a one and a half inch hummingbird

roosting over her minuscule eggs
high up in the trees—
I like hers better than ours.

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Chipmunks

Skittering scattering
Minuscule clattering
Tiny feet hurriedly dash
From places of cover
To places of shelter
In-between finding
Nourishment; trouble
All on the double

Pittering pattering
Tranquility shattering
Comically squeaking their
Miniature survivalist drama
Leaving the traces of
Their incessant activity
For me to spray away
Which I do every day

Nervously shaking sheaves
Of flowers and hasta leaves
Brown backs striped
Jet black and white
Perk their tails in
Endless signals of
Diminutive distress
Perpetual unrest.

Deceptively they charm
With their movements of alarm
Avoiding in their behemoth world
Predators which fly, slither, and creep
Carefully, they live their
Petite adventure
Reminding me as they do
That I am quite small, too.

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Murdered

The news has murdered me.
I want to write, but I am smitten
by an angry barrage of stories
of a people overtaken
by fear.

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Goodbye, friend

It is not clear
who found whom
that January day in 2011.
I may have been walking
but we were both caged,
each needing a type of freedom.

Our friendship, since,
has endured many changes and places.
Your heart was always
big enough to include
everyone who was important to me.
You did so without complaint,
without reserve.

Now, I am not sure
what a day without you in it
will look like. I don’t know
how I will sleep and eat
without your voice,
without your warm presence
in my lap in the evening,
next to my wife at night.

I wonder how much you realize
the forgetfulness of mortality which is
unique to my species. I wonder,
when your body began to break,
if you knew that I was not prepared,
that I was afraid to acknowledge
the end of our fellowship.
I wonder if you know how
frantically my mind began to work
when you stopped coming
downstairs or to bed at night—
how it begged the Lord for hope
that the grown-up part of me,
which suspected, was wrong.
And when I came to accept
that you were leaving me,
how frantically it has worked
to recall every moment,
to lock tight the sound of your voice,
the sensation of your paws and tongue,
the scent of your breath and the rhythm
of your purring.

I wonder if you know how afraid I am
of forgetting your friendship.

A good friend told me that you need me
to tell you that we’ll be alright, that
you need me to let you go peacefully.
I trust her because she is wise and
because she loves you, too.
So, I will try to muffle the sound
of my heart shattering when
you breathe your last. I will
try to remember the promise
to a creation waiting, as a
woman in the pains of childbirth,
to be restored and renewed.
I will continue to hope that, someday,
you and I will see each other again and
we will both be whole and new.
I will try not to crumble to pieces
when I say to you today
“Goodbye, friend.”

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Post-Easter reflections of a lapsed minister

I can easily find ten thousand people who are grateful to Jesus for dying on a cross for them.

Something about not burning in hell forever just feels right.

I’m sure I’d be shocked to find ten who were willing to climb up on it with him.

The way of the cross is considerably less attractional.

And so the sincerest of “the saved” will turn exegetical backflips to justify and dismiss every kind of evil done by powerful people in the name of God.

There is no one they’ll love enough to experience even the slightest discomfort.

“Who am I to judge?”

“There are two sides to every story.”

“What good is being critical? It’s not constructive.”

“We’re supposed to submit to our leaders.”

And, so, evil continues, but not because good people won’t fight.

Oh, they’ll fight and kill to keep oil prices down.

People continue to do evil in God’s name because no one will say, “I’d rather lose my job than participate in this. I’d rather leave this church than condone this….

“I’d rather die than kill my neighbor…or even my enemy.

“I’d rather die unjustly with my neighbor than profit from his injustice.”

Social justice is a nice talking point, as long as it’s about little brown kids on a distant island.

When it’s about your neighbor…that’s a different story.

Evil is regrettable…but it pays the bills. And that’s what matters.

Thank God that Jesus died so we wouldn’t burn forever.

If only the Resurrection implied that we can die with him rather than kill our neighbors to save ourselves.

Wait a minute….

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