Moon Walk

[Image description: a nearly full moon shining from behind silhouetted trees and layered clouds.]

Be still. And know.
The wisdom says.
Good wisdom, stillness.

But some nights my skin is too jumpy
and knowing seems too far away.
I have to move, to walk,

to push past the door
and the neighbor’s floodlights
and the tallest trees

and take step after step up the dark path until I can see.
Her.
There.

Close, relatively speaking.
Her satellite beams shimmering through the night
as they have for millennia

while people long forgotten gazed at her light.
I marvel at the way she gazes back
from among stars or clouds.

Shifting, watching, breathing,
awareness expanding to the motion of
seas and orbits and how we’re each, somehow, both small and needed.

Some knowing arrives in stillness, without seeing.
And some seeing leads to greater knowing,
in the right light.

Contemplation

[Image description: full frame of backlit, swirling storm clouds]

Eyes closed, yet
mind still prone to wander,
flounder, forget why I even started.

Not my intention to practice silence
the way rain falls from the sky.
Sometimes far too long between.

Sometimes far too much
at once to be absorbed, pooling,
ponding, where once was only dust.

Steady, is my intent.
Anchored, moored, awash,
continuous flow, leaving silt to settle.

Instead, dustbowl mind, swirling,
whirling while I search for calm,
realize, return, resettle.

Time passes, waiting,
suddenly aware, full presence,
taste of possibility,

a sliver more assurance that
there could be a God and if there is,
she is here, in me, in everything, and she is Love.

Finding

[Image description: Blue sky filled with billowy white clouds, behind a line of trees, with a field of grass and wildflowers in the foreground.]

In what some consider
heretical musings,
dangerous thinking,
playing with fire
on slippery slopes,
asking for censure,

I find space for questions unwelcome
within either/or constructs
of other people’s god.

I find insights
previously obscured
by certainty that stifled
doubts along with creativity.

I find explorations
and longings
formerly restricted
to a certain collection of words.

I find companions
willing to clasp hands,
jump,
free fall,
enjoy the vastness,
the beauty,
the tenderness,
the wild wilderness
that beckons within,
that knows without seeing,
that new life is what we’ll find.

Wary

[Image description: dirt path through a woods with green undergrowth on either side, sunlight streaming through the trees.]

Wary of myself these days,
unsure if I’m sculpting feelings into words
or shaping words around my feelings.

Knowing letting go
creates a void that’s hard to name
in someone else’s terms.

Inhaling, try to conjure
semblance of truth
from fragments of what’s lost.

Sitting in the silence
that I once thought of as God
and finding

hesitation,
exhalation,
invitation

to new words
to save my own soul
from paths that aren’t for me.

Normal

[Image Description: Shadowed canyon walls on either side of a river, blue sky, rock formations, and light from the rising sun in the background.]

Well, thank goodness we’re getting back to normal
as evidenced everywhere we go.

Regulations disregarded even before they’re even lifted
it all feels so normal now, doesn’t it?

As if three and a half million people have not died
of a pandemic made worse by refusal to act for mutual protection.

As if entire communities didn’t get sucked into a cesspool of conspiracy
or refuse to give a damn about their neighbors while fawning over unethical politicians.

As if children are not being killed in their own homes
by bombs and guns funded by world governments.

As if people are not dying, starving, fleeing devastation caused by destructive policy,
only to be caged on the borders of the countries that caused the most harm.

As if our tax dollars are not being used to kill and imprison and oppress
while the instruments of oppression are heralded as heroes.

As if rights of protest, votes, and safety aren’t being gleefully stripped from the vulnerable
at the manipulation of the rich and powerful.

As if people aren’t losing people, losing homes, losing peace, while being called lazy and selfish
for not sacrificing all on the altar of the economy for others’ convenience.

As if water and trees and the earth herself are not being ravaged
and her protectors are not cheated, brutalized for corporate gain.

As if Christians don’t worship corrupt, abusive men and follow them blindly
down a path that is nothing like the love of Christ.

As if there is nothing to grieve, nothing to morn, nothing to learn from,
no reason for pause or grace.

As if everything is fine, so totally fine, nothing to see here, everything is so, so normal
as long as you spend your money, demand service and subservience to your whims.

As if normal has not always been this tragic, trauma-filled ruin
that only those with privilege can pretend not to see.

As if those whose eyes are open don’t have the power to imagine and co-create
and bring about a better way than normal.

Losing god

[image description: two dark curtains closed except for a gap near the top where sunlight streams in.]

Knob turned
and door pushed open,
asleep until newly spoken to
and unable now to stop my own
annihilation,
transformation,
re-creation
into what is not entirely yet clear.

Unable not to shake
the hand-me-down scapegoat god,
the one we’re supposed to wait on
to make things better
or end it all

that absolves of collective work for change,
keeps distracted, focused on individual charity
that stokes self-righteousness,
keeps tight control,
as if parceling out crumbs to “worthy” individuals
will set things right.

Sliver of sunlight piercing curtain gap,
tired of being confined in this dark room,
this dark tomb,
reusing words
that belong to other people,
when what my soul longs for
is the voice that speaks within,
“There is another way, walk in it.”

Mundane Beauty

[Image Description: close-up of bright yellow clusters of flowers growing in a patch of Ragwort plants]

Eye catches steam
unfurling from my coffee mug
in morning light, iridescent,
driving kids to school
no time to transfer
to a travel mug
as would be sensible
to trap coffee and vapor inside,
which would have prevented delicate tendrils
capturing daybreak’s glow
and that millisecond of my attention.

How much mundane exquisiteness
we stifle with modern, sensible things.

Flights of fancy tethered
to practicality and function.

Cities once tried to
outdo each other with
buildings more grandly architectured,
more beautifully adorned,
now they order mass-produced
block building plans
and bulldoze wild spaces
to construct squat monstrosities
with no thought to
grandeur or beauty,
human potential
boxed in dull
cubicles inside.

Functionality,
efficiency,
productivity,
choking off time for leisurely
enjoying the beauty of
coffee mist on a Wednesday morning.

We aren’t supposed to
let the pretty “weeds”
grow where they sprout
in the vegetable garden
just because it’s nice
to be greeted by
their loveliness
among the broccoli
and turnips.

We aren’t supposed to
take the long way home
past fallow fields
brimming with sunny
yellow ragwort
when the more direct route
will get us to the next thing faster.

Yet I long to crucify utility,
resurrecting
beauty for its own sake.

What We Call Things

[Image Description: Close-up of woven fabric, in loose, square weave]

Harms are more ignorable in isolation.
Blame a single culprit,
a bad apple,
a place or person gone astray.

Yet, entire congregations
assembled in old movie theaters,
and pole barns with steeples,
and old-worldly cathedrals
can be convinced to
harm our own children
and call it loving discipline.

Convinced to welcome high-profile abusers
with open arms
and sold-out conferences
and chance after chance to start over
and call it forgiveness.

Convince victims they
they must suffer silently,
not to harm another’s reputation
for what (they are told),
if they’re honest,
they brought on themselves,
allowed to happen,
and call it God’s will.

State violence,
laws unequally enforced,
harm disproportionate,
wielded against those with certain
tone of skin
and this is called justice.

Powerful people
are encouraged to
rig the system,
exploit
and cheat for their own gain,
and this is called success.

Those impacted by
generations of exploitation,
are deprived of access to meet even basic needs
and blamed for not utilizing non-existent bootstraps,
and this is called their own laziness.

We convince ourselves
these are individual cases, misfortunes,
or failures.
One-offs,
special circumstances,
not all [fill in the blank].

And ignore our own refusal to call
the horrifying tapestry
woven from a thread
of domination,
what it is.

Control (or Why I’m an Abolitionist)

[Image description: sunlight and shadows making patterns on a wall and part of an interior door.]

Content Warning: Child abuse, religious trauma

Sometimes you think of that day
when you heard a friend’s mom was telling all the parents
she read they should use dowel rods to spank their children
for the really bad sins
and your stomach lurched and tightened
because you already knew how it felt to have a wooden spoon
broken over the back of your bare thigh and
you thought of the bookends you made with your grandpa
using some wood he helped you cut into triangles and two lengths of dowel
and you imagined the weight of those rods
and tried to calculate how much more it would hurt.

And you’d heard some say it takes a village
but you don’t know what to do when the village parents agree to
hit their kids with items they bought casually at the hardware store
and tell them it’s God’s loving discipline
and you know some kids don’t even get I love yous
and at least you do
and you try not to think of it
and also try to be as good as possible
or at least hide anything you think might be
a really bad sin so that maybe, maybe,
you won’t have to find out.

And then the day you see what
the marks of a dowel rod spanking look like
on someone else’s skin
and you lose your shit
and can’t stop sobbing, can barely breathe
because you know in your gut those bruises look nothing like love
and you swear to yourself you will never hit your own child
with a wooden spoon or a wooden rod,
no, you’ll only use your hand
and only not-too-hard swats to the bum
because that is how the indoctrination works
to keep you from imagining there could be another way entirely
and you think a gentler, less-bruising punishment
is the only alternative because to be part of the village
is to perpetuate its violence to maintain control.

And your heart breaks still
knowing that your children were touched
by even your toned-down version of the violence
and you hate that you ever bought into thinking your responsibility
was to control every aspect of your child’s behavior
with swats or isolation or yelling or retaliation
because these things were supposed to be God’s tough love
and keep them from evil.

But you also think of the day
that you realized that “Love is patient, Love is kind”
were not just words for wedding days
but words for every day and every part of life together
and especially your kids and you
and that guiding with patience and kindness
instead of controlling with harm and punishment
could be that other way entirely
that you couldn’t even imagine
when you were just a kid in a village
gathering up pieces of a broken spoon
from the living room floor.