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Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Waiting

It’s frustrating to some – to be ready for a flood response, ready at a moment’s notice, to receive the call – but to be stuck waiting… waiting… waiting… The water is there, saturating the ground, and filling the river. The water is there in sheets of ice and covering the ground in piles of snow that have not yet melted. The citizens and city officials of the Fargo / Moorhead area are anxious to do something.  As Tom Petty sings, “the waiting is the hardest part.”

Further exacerbating the situation is the continued snow and rain. Below average temperatures and higher than average levels of precipitation means that there is more – much more – water to move. The Red River is currently at 19 feet and projections see it going as high as 40 – 41 feet.

Two years ago the river crested at the record level of 40.8 feet.

Much has been done proactively to protect the cities. Permanent earthen dikes have been built, temporary dikes have been constructed. 4.8 million sandbags have been filled.

Million! They’re ready for the flood.

But they’re stuck in a waiting mode. Deployment of the sandbags will begin when the river reaches a critical stage – based on water level and temperatures. A long slow melt would be great – warm temperatures during the day and cooler temps at night would allow the snowmelt and rainfall to flow down river in a manageable flow. But the more days spent waiting for the river to crest, the more likely it is that temperatures will rise and the combined waters will flood the river.

Till then, you take it on faith, you take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part.

The Waiting – Tom Petty, 1981

Living the Resurrection


Acrylic paint, collage

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Psalm 130 - Up from the Depths

Forget for the moment that Psalm 130 is one of the "psalms of ascent;" we are sinking today. Forget the dusty travelers making their pilgrimage to the holy city, climbing slowly up the rocky path towards Jerusalem. Think instead of Jonah, thrown from the storm tossed ship into the waters, he sank into the deep, into the heart of the seas and the floods closed round him. The waves and billows pushed him down deep into the underworld.

Nearly three quarters (71%) of the earth is "underworld" – covered by the sea the great world ocean that we have arbitrarily divided into the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Indian, and the Arctic Oceans. Around the world and all through history, people have looked to the sea for its bounty. Our ancestors braved storms and waves to learn the sea and its benefits. They drew fished from small vessels and transported cargo in great ships. But beneath the surface of the sea lurked danger and death and all things abhorrent.

British journalist H.M. Tomlinson (1873 – 1958) wrote: "I do not love the sea. The look of it is disquieting. There is something in the very sound of it that stirs the premonition felt while we are listening to noble music; we become inexplicably troubled." (The Face of Earth)

Beneath the waves was the Abyss - a Greek word that you probably recognize – which means "bottomless." Though, in our modern age of science we've been able to measure the seemingly bottomless seas. The oceans of the world have an average depth of about two miles (13,124 ft.), but the deepest part of the ocean, the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean, dives down to a staggering seven miles (36,198 ft.) That's deeper than Mt. Everest – the highest peak (29,028 ft.) is high. Beyond that lies the molten core of the earth.

The sea is fearsome because the sea is dark. Though seawater is relatively transparent, sunlight only penetrates to a depth of about 260ft. As you dive down into the depths the colors disappear one by one; first to go are the reds, then orange and yellow then the greens and blues. Beyond that, all is dark. Dark and cold. Ninety percent of the total ocean volume lies beneath what is known as the "thermoncline." The water temperature there is 0 - 3˚ Celsius (32 – 37.5˚ Fahrenheit).

Mankind isn't meant to live at such depths. It's too dark, too cold, and further, the pressure in the great deeps would crush us. Hydrostatic pressure – the weight of all the water above you – at the bottom of the Marianas Trench is calculated to be 1,095 times greater than that at the surface: 16,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. You can already begin to feel this pressure building even at the shallow depth of 5 – 10 feet, and without specialized dive equipment divers can't go much beyond 180 ft. down. Any further and the pressures would crush you.

But here in the dark and cold crushing depths of the abyss we begin.

From the depths I call to you, Yahweh:
Lord, hear my cry.
Listen attentively
To the sound of my pleading!
(Psalm 130: 1 – 2)

The psalmist cries from the dark, from the cold, from the crushing depths – from the place of anxiety, death, and despair. Dreams of the sea or of the ocean are often interpreted as a symbol of the unconscious – our deep inner selves that we are afraid (deathly afraid, sometimes) to confront.

It's easier to paddle around the surface of our day to day lives: "Hi, how are you? Good, good. Are you workin' hard or hardly workin' ha, ha, ha…" But when events in our lives force us to consider our own inner depths, when we're forced to look deep inside and to ask the question: "Who am I?" or "Why do I do the things I do?" we resist and struggle back toward the surface.

It's easier to coast along the surface of life with its idle chatter and everyday tasks. It's easier to drift with the escapism of television and movies and drugs and casual sex. It's easier to not take a reflective look at our lives; to not examine who we are and who we want to become. Many people spend their entire lives drifting along the surface like this.

"That which is far off and exceeding deep, who can find it out?" Ecclesiastes 7:24 KJV

The psalmist, however, crying out from the dark inner depths of his soul, looks at himself and, there in the dark depths, takes stock of who he is and why he does the things he does. What does he see when he looks at himself? The same thing that the apostle Paul said when he took stock of his own life:

I am a creature of flesh and blood sold as slave to sin. I do not understand my own behavior; I do not act as I mean to, but I do the things that I hate. While I am acting as I do not want to, I still acknowledge the Law as good, so it is not myself acting, but the sin which lives in me. And really, I know of nothing good living in me – in my natural self, that is – for though the will to do is what is good in me, the power to do it is not: the good thing I want to do, I never do; the evil thing which I do not want – that is what I do. But every time I do what I do not what to, then it is not myself acting, but the sin that lives in me. So I find this rule: that form me, where I want to do nothing but good, evil is close at my side. In my inmost self I dearly love God's law, but I see that acting on my body there is a different law which battles against the law in my mind. So I am brought to be a prisoner of that law of sin which lives inside my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death?  (Romans 7: 14 – 24)

The Danish philosopher / theologian Soren Kierkegaard described this as a leap into the "seventy thousand fathoms" of faith, and a leap into the loving arms of God.

There at the bottom of the abyss, when we discover that we don't really like who we are and what we do; when we see ourselves, as the apostle Paul did, as one "doomed to death," because of the sin we do not want to do and the good that we want to do, but are powerless to do – do we despair? Do we give up and drown in the depths?

If you kept a record of our sins,
Lord, who could stand their ground?
But with you it is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
(Psalm 130: 3 – 4)

There in the cold, silent, darkness of our true selves we can begin to see the light of God. This light shines into our darkness (and the darkness has not overcome it…) and illuminates us. This was the Apostle Paul's experience as well: What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death? God – thanks be to him – through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 7: 24 -25a)

"To see one's darkness proves the presence of a great light" wrote the Catholic writer Raoul Plus in the book Living with God. We could not see our own moral shortcomings if it were not for the light that God's Holy Spirit shines into us. We could not know ourselves if God did not know us. And so we must rely completely on God. We must believe – even if we cannot see. We must hope – even if we despair. We must rely completely upon God.

I rely, my whole being relies,
Yahweh, on your promise.
My whole being hopes in the Lord,
more than watchmen for daybreak;
more than watchmen for daybreak.
(Psalm 130: 5 – 6)

But it's a hope in a God that we can't see we can't touch with our fingers, we can't empirically prove. It's a hope grounded in faith.

I return to the thoughts of Kierkegaard who wrote: "If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out in the deep, over seventy thousand fathoms of water, still preserving my faith."

His way of expressing things was rather complex, but what he says is that: IF I could see God with my eyes, or feel him with my fingers, or rationally prove his existence with physical and logical evidence then it would not be faith. But because I cannot see him, touch him, prove him – I must believe. I must hope. I must hold this "uncertainty" of God as certain. This is a leap into faith. A leap into seventy thousand fathoms of water. A dive down into the cold dark waters of the abyss, and there to find the loving arms of God.

For with Yahweh is faithful love,
with him is generous ransom;
and he will ransom Israel
from all its sins.
(Psalm 130: 7 -8)

With God is faithful everlasting unconditional love. With him is a generous grace – deliverance through the death and resurrection of his son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. And he will deliver his people from all their sins. It's a dive into the seventy thousand fathoms of that seemingly boundless ocean – not an ocean of despair we realize – but a deep ocean of love.

O boundless salvation! deep ocean of love,
O fullness of mercy, Christ brought from above.
The whole world redeeming, so rich and so free,
Now flowing for all men, come, roll over me!

My sins they are many, their stains are so deep.
And bitter the tears of remorse that I weep;
But useless is weeping; thou great crimson sea,
Thy waters can cleanse me, come, roll over me I

My tempers are fitful, my passions are strong,
They bind my poor soul and they force me to wrong;
Beneath thy blest billows deliverance I see,
O come, mighty ocean, and roll over me!

Now tossed with temptation, then haunted with fears,
My life has been joyless and useless for years;
I feel something better most surely would be
If once thy pure waters would roll over me.

O ocean of mercy, oft longing I’ve stood
On the brink of thy wonderful, life-giving flood!
Once more I have reached this soul-cleansing sea,
I will not go back till it rolls over me.

The tide is now flowing, I’m touching the wave,
I hear the loud call of the mighty to save;
My faith’s growing bolder, delivered I’ll be;
I plunge ’neath the waters, they roll over me.

And now, hallelujah! the rest of my days
Shall gladly be spent in promoting his praise
Who opened his bosom to pour out this sea
Of boundless salvation for you and for me.
 -General William Booth (1829-1912)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Let Roland Blow that Horn

Kar vasselage par sens nen est folie,
Mielz valt mesure que ne fait estultie.

Let Roland blow that miserable horn
till he’s exhausted his final breath,
blow till his temple explodes
and blood drips from his nose;
let him blow that miserable horn.

Roland’s already among the silent slain
and the bones of his valiant friends
lie scattered across the plane.
Let us lament the futility of his life
without damning ourselves to his death.

(For courage mixed with prudence is not foolish,
And moderation betters recklessness.)
La Chanson de Roland
Stanza CXXXI, line 1724

The Silent Slain and the Horn of Roland

Archibald MacLeish is one of my favorite poets - has been since high school when I began reading his work. 

I've been thinking about his poem, The Silent Slain today.

We too, we too, descending once again
The hills of our own land, we too have heard
Far off - ah, que ce cor a longue haleine -
The horn of Roland in the passages of Spain,
The first, the second blast, the failing third,
And with the third turned back and climbed once more
The steep road southward, and heard faint the sound
Of swords, of horses, the disastrous war,
And crossed the dark defile at last, and found
At Roncevaux upon the darkeining plain
The dead against the dead and on the silent ground
The silent slain -

You will, of course, recall that Roland blew his war horn three times to summon back the army of Charlemange to defend the rearguard forces from an attack by an overwhelming enemy force.  The effort to sound the horn caused a rupture in Roland's temple and he died.  Roland and the others - to a man - were dead before Charlemange could reach them.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Beyond the Valley of Dry Bones

Imagine with me, see it in your mind, behind your eyes.

The field is stretched out below us, a wide and open plane between two mountains. We soar over the field in the early morning as the sun is burning orange and red in the east. Swooping low we see, gathered at either side of the valley, two opposing armies gathered for war. They are shouting at each other, screaming their taunts and cursing their foes. They roar like fierce and hungry lions in anticipation of the battle.

Suddenly a trumpet blast echoes across the field and the armies charge like rushing waves toward each other. The sound they make is that of an earthquake or thunder. It’s only seconds, but it feels like years before they collide in the center of the field with the sound of a hundred hammers on a hundred anvils, sword upon shield. The crash is catastrophic. Blood flies and horses shriek in terror.

We continue circling overhead, watching as the battle is fought below us. The forces ebb and flow like tidal waves, surging first this way and now that, back and forth until, finally, one army presses their advantage and the ranks of their enemies collapse beneath them. They turn and attempt to flee the battlefield but they are cut down as they run. In a few short hours this battle has been fought and thousands lie dead and dying under the sun. Already the stench of death hangs in the air. We are joined in our circling by vultures and ravens and crows, waiting for a feast of carrion.

Imagine it. See it in your mind, behind your eyes.

A few days pass and the corpses remain in the field, swollen and bloated by the expanding gasses trapped within them. Scavengers have been at work, pulling the flesh and muscle from the dead. The crows and ravens and vultures are joined by jackals and wolves, and hyenas. They snap and snarl at each other as they pick at the bones. Here one drags his meal away from others who would take it from him.

Imagine it.

Now weeks have passed, with days of sun and wind and rain. The flesh is gone

Months pass, now years. This field of the dead is silent. Nothing moves. Nothing breathes. All that remains are the scattered bones, desiccated by the sun blasting heat of the sun.

Imagine it. See it in your mind.

This was – and is - the sort of thing celebrated by victorious kings. They laugh when they see the bodies of their enemies scattered across the field of battle, and they celebrate. King Sennacherib of Assyria, for example wrote this after a battle with his enemies:

I cut them down and defeated them. I cut their throats, and I cut off their precious lives like a string. Like the many waters of a storm, I made their gullets and entrails run down upon the wide earth. My prancing steeds harnessed for my riding plunged into the streams of their blood as (into) a river. The wheels of my war chariot, which brings the wicked and evil low, were spattered with blood and filth. With the bodies of their warriors I filled the plane like grass.
-from the Annals of Sennacherib

Victorious kings look out over the field of bones and bodies and they laughed, but the defeated can neither weep nor mourn for they are no more.

What does it matter, a dream of love
Or a dream of lies
we’re all going to be the same place when we die
Your spirit don’t leave knowing
your face or your name
and the wind through your bones
Is all that remains
And we’re all going to be
just dirt in the ground.
-“Dirt in the Ground” -Tom Waits

It doesn’t sound like scripture. But then again, maybe it does. Consider the words of Qoheleth, the Teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes:

So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no man knows whether love or hate awaits him. All share a common destiny – the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.

This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all.”
-Ecclesiastes 9: 1 – 2a, 3a

Now imagine again, the prophet Ezekiel is crushed by the heavy hand of God upon him, and then lifted up through the air in a visionary experience and carried out to that battlefield between the mountains – that valley that is more than just the valley of the shadow of death. He’s taken into that valley of death itself.

Now walk with the prophet through this desolate and lonely place. He is pushed and prodded, forced to walk up and down among the bones. He sees how many of them there are. And he sees that they are so very dry. He stumbles now, and looses his footing. He falls forward as the bones underfoot roll and scatter. An empty socketed skull lolls to rest just in front of him. Its eyeless gaze stares at him in silence.

For seven years he’d had only one message – Doom, death and destruction! Doom, death, and destruction! And while he understood that message better than those who heard him (or those who wouldn’t hear him…) I think the reality of that message became clear for him in this experience. He was compelled to walk among the scattered bones of those he said would die. And I don’t want to imagine what that might have felt like for the prophet.

And then a voice from somewhere, nowhere, everywhere speaks to him. “Son of Man, can these dry bones live?”

The prophet searches the field but sees nothing but the scattered dry bones and he answers, “You know, Lord. You know.”

Now this isn’t much of an answer. This is not the confident affirmation of faith that we might have expected. We might have expected the prophet to speak boldly, without pause and without doubt, “Yes, of course, God! With you all things are possible!” Instead, Ezekiel’s diplomatic non-answer betrays something of the prophet’s mind.

He sees the bones. He understands what they mean. This valley of bones is the people of Israel and they are dead. They are cut down and destroyed. They are bereft of life. They breathe no more. There is no hope.

“Son of man, can these dry bones live?”

Along a river of flesh
Can these dry bones live?
Ask king or a beggar
and the answer they’ll give
is we’re all going to be
yea, yeah
we’re all going to be
just dirt in the ground.
“Dirt in the Ground” – Tom Waits

“Son of man, can these dry bones live?”

The prophet sighs “You know, Lord. You know.”

The voice tells him to prophecy over the bones, to speak the word of the Lord. And Ezekiel follows these instructions. He speaks the word of Yahweh over the bones and then he hears a noise – a rattling noise as the bones begin to move. They shake and stir and then begin flying together, reconnecting each one to the proper body, bone upon bone and joint upon socket.

Then the muscles and sinews begin to form, knitting themselves over the bones. And finally flesh appears and covers the bodies. The decomposition of these corpses is reversing itself. But as astounding and amazing as this is, they are still lifeless bodies. They are still corpses. Can these dry bones live?

The voice speaks to the prophet again, instructing him now to prophecy to the wind – to the breath –interchangeable words in the Hebrew language. And again, Ezekiel does as he is instructed. He speaks to the four winds, the north and south and east and west wind which act as God’s messengers, and the wind begin to blow across the plane. The breath of God begins to blow across the plane.

Remembering that story of creation from the book of Genesis, the Man was formed in a dry and desolate place, sculpted from the dry red clay of the ground. But there was no life in the Man until God breathed the breath of life into his nostrils.

Those dead and desiccated bones now stood as the living, breathing army of God – an army of life. “This is what I’m going to do,” the Lord tells Ezekiel. “I’m going to bring you up out of your graves.” He promises the restoration of his people. But in giving this vivid visionary experience to the prophet, the Lord is showing something of his greater, larger plan.

It is, as he told the prophet, the promise of restoration. Like the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel described the return of the people of Israel from their captivity in Babylon. But this valley of dry bones resurrection is the beginning of new idea.

In the Old Testament world, dead was dead. There wasn’t much of a concept of an afterlife, as we know it. There wasn’t a concept of a reward in heaven or punishment in hell. A good life was its own reward and dead was dead. But Ezekiel is given a small glimpse of something more.

It’s curious that this vivid picture of a resurrection isn’t quoted in the New Testament where resurrection becomes a central idea, but there is a slight echo of Ezekiel’s experience in the valley of dry bones. Matthew’s gospel tells us that at the moment Jesus died on that cross outside the city of Jerusalem, there was a shaking and a rattling and the graves of many righteous men were opened, and that these dead men were seen walking through the city. They were resurrected in Jesus’ death.

We are currently in the season of Lent, a time when Christians the world over prepare themselves for the coming events of Holy Week and for Resurrection Sunday. As we move with Jesus towards the city of Jerusalem and towards the crucifixion and the resurrection, I suggest that we carry this question with us.

“Son of man, can these dry bones live?”

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Shadown on the Moon

A Shadow on the Moon

A shadow on the moon
like a sickness, like a palsy,
and she is sweating through the night
with fever drenched dreams
that haunt and tear the skies.

Ancient stars, once silver gods,
now hide, now fail, now fall,
burned out husks of what they were.

And there are men in the streets
howling and inarticulate men,
muttering and cursing the moon
as they rip flesh from bone.

The stranger arrived like an infection,
a festering dark soul, a minister of decay
a priest of perverse rituals,
pronouncing a blessing over
his unruly children.

The song uses sounds from the Freesound Project:
Reverb kick
Atmos C2
Atmos C1
Nasty Mono Poly
Audio 1- 01 -35
Gas Bottle
Fretless LeadSynth C1
Fretless LeadSynth C2
Fretless LeadSynth C3
Fretless LeadSynth C4
Fretless LeadSynth C5
Fretless LeadSynth C6

War Ends Nothing

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bone Upon Bone and Joint Upon Socket

Bone Upon Bone and Joint Upon Socket
23" x 11" Acrylic paint, ink on paper

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stealing a Page from Gustav Klimt

This is a painting for my wife who likes the paintings of Gustav Klimt.
Acrylic on Wallpaper

Lamentations (Light in the Trees)

Monday, March 21, 2011

In the Kitchen

In the Kitchen

Acrylic, chalk, collage on paper

I Don’t Think We Can Hear the Prophet Properly

I don’t think we can hear the prophet properly
that voice crying out in the wild place,
not while his best poetry
has been reduced to framed art prints
on clearance at the bible book store.

Maybe if we went deep into those deserts
where the sun burns the face
and demons torture the night,
maybe there we could hear the voice,
     “prepare, prepare, prepare,
      a way for the glory of God.”

Our fast food flesh is too fat
to remember that all flesh is grass,
and our self-indulgent youth obsession
vainly denies the fading flower.

Perhaps we’ve heard it too often
because we don’t know what it means
to speak comfort to her.
We want only to soar with eagles.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

War is Hell!

The announcement that U.S. armed forces have fired 110 cruise missiles at targets inside Libya leaves me frustrated.

Why should I bother to say that I am opposed to war? Why bother writing another essay? Why call my representative in congress? Why vote? Why bother?

Those who will be persuaded that war is a perverse evil (no matter its good intentions or its noble disguise) have been persuaded and don’t need me to remind them. And those that won’t be persuaded will continue to beat the drums of war.

And yet I find myself banging away at the keyboard again – as if to pound out my frustration on the helpless QWERTY at my fingertips.

William Tecumseh Sherman, an early advocate of total war – a war in which there is little to no differentiation between combatant and civilian – in addressing the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy of 1879 said:

I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here. Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!

War is Hell! No matter your politics. No matter your religion. We can all agree that war is Hell! and nothing less.There is no beauty. There is no glory. There is no honor. And The Prince of Peace will have nothing to do with our wars. War is Hell! And as such is forever outside the kingdom of God.

Those who fight know nothing of that kingdom.

Those who will hear such a statement will believe. And those that won’t will continue beating the drums and firing the missiles.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The River

I'm working on a project for my wife. 

She likes Bruce Springsteen and she likes (for reasons not quite clear to me) for me to sing.
This is the instrumental part of the Boss' song The River that I'm working on for her.

The River (instrumental) by thatjeffcarter was here

At some point in the relatively near future, I hope to record the vocal track for her.  We'll see how well that goes...

I recorded the three guitar parts in the kitchen. The rest was assembled and recorded with Audacity and Ableton Live,and includes a number of sounds from the Freesound Project (yeah!)
Cracklebox – crunch then ping down
Cracklebox – evaporating bleep
Cracklebox – gritty bleeps
Cracklebox – high bloop
Cracklebox – odd doppler
Cracklebox – rhythmic squawks
Cracklebox – scream then sweep down
Cracklebox – sweep down
The Real Virus 01 – Distolania – E2
The Real Virus 01 – Distolania – E1

Behemoth! Behemoth!

Behemoth! Behemoth!
Acrylic, ink, and collage on paper

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Valley of Bones

Acrylic, ink, collage

Ask For A Sign

“Ask for a sign,” says the prophet of God,
“ask for a sign and the Lord shall provide.”
And here’s where I stumble.

I am not a man of great faith,
doubt and despair follow me like shadows in October,
so (one would think) I should welcome a sign,
a guarantee of the promise,
a demonstration of God’s good faith.

“Ask for a sign,” says the prophet of God,
“ask for anything, for the impossible,
for tombs to be opened or the sun to turn back,
ask for a sign and God will show.”

But I cannot. Even this is beyond my reach.
Lord, lead me to the rock that is higher.

(Isaiah 7: 10 – 12 / Psalm 61: 2)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is there no Balm in Gilead?

Unstable Path

You can download the Unstable Path here.
Unstable Path uses the following sounds from the Freesound Project
Fool Synth 03
Fool Synth 13
The Real Virus 01 – E5
Popcorn pop 16x slower

Prince Vlad III Dracula of the House of Basarab

Sworn to the Order of the Dragon
like his father before – to defend the faith
and to hold back the encroaching crescent moon
the dark prince, ruler of Wallachia
and the lands beyond the forest,
is merciless and cruel.

He feasts in a forest of his own making
a thousand upright pales
casting long shadows in the setting sun
and atop those wooden stakes
hanging corpses – food for ravens and crows.

The stakes go in through the navel
or through the buttocks of each victim,
their screams cease when the poles
erupt in blood from their opened throats.

This devil son of the dragon is amused
and more – he hacks off limbs and ears,
he decapitates, he emasculates, and he laughs,
impaling pregnant mothers through their wombs
so they might die with their yet unborn
and skinning men alive to display them outside their flesh.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Now That You've Found Me

“Are you...?” she stopped, gasped and poked one finger between her pink painted lips. Her cheeks flushed with blood and nervous embarrassment. “Are you really…?”

He didn’t move at all except to narrow his eyelids ever so slightly. “Yes,” he whispered, “I am exactly what you’ve been looking for.”

She gasped and stretched out her arms to embrace him, but he pushed her back with his strong solid arms. “I am exactly what you’ve been looking for, but now that you’ve found me I think you will be … disappointed.” He let the word hang in the space between them.

“I don’t understand.” Her eyebrows arched in worried confusion.

The vampire leaned over her now and said, “I don’t sparkle.” His teeth sank deep into the flesh of her neck, piercing her veins. She was dead in moments.

Now Hear the Word of the Lord

The left hand of heaven
     crushing, collapsing, abusing
fell from the sky like a weight upon me,
the right hand of heaven -
     folding, caressing, blessing
lifted me up from the ground,
and carried me away.

Setting down once more
into the dirt and the dust,
this son of Adam’s clay
touched ground in a silent valley
darker than the mere shadow of death,
a valley of bones, picked clean
by crimson capped vultures,
bleached and desiccated.

He pushed and I walked
among the bones, up and down.
So many bones littered along the valley;
empty socketed skulls rolled
silent eyeless stares followed as I passed.

“Son of dirt, child of dust,” came his voice,
“what can you expect?
Can these bones live?

Any hope that might have lived
sank into the gloom and gloam
of day’s dread end.
The bones were completely dry.

What could I say? How could I respond
except with sighs,
     except with sighs…
“You know Lord. You…”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ezekiel the Madman

Though I wrote some time ago about my developing interest in the traditional liturgical calendar of the Church, I’m not yet following it. Instead we have, at our church, developed a preaching calendar for this year that focuses on the prophets, major and minor.

This has been an interesting and motivating challenge, at least for me. I love the prophets – most of them. My favorite parts of the bible are among the prophets (but so is the one book that I really cannot stand…) There is so to learn from the prophets.

And we’ve come now to the book of Ezekiel.

Saint and Doctor of the Chruch Jerome called the book “a labyrinth of the mysteries of God.” And the rabbis forbad anyone under the age of thirty from approaching it. Its allegories are obscure and some of the book approaches, if not crosses the line into pornography. Ezekiel himself seems almost schizophrenic.

He veers from frenzied actions like a furious pantomime of the siege of Jerusalem to prolonged periods of catatonic silence and immobility. He subjects himself to degradation and defilement. He cuts himself. He starves himself. He talks about mysterious visions and mystic journeys outside of his body. He shouts vulgarities that no dignified and respectable man of God would utter.

And it’s no wonder that he seems schizophrenic. This kind of physical and mental torture seems designed (by God?) to cause a psychic break. And break Ezekiel does. In becoming the prophet of God, Ezekiel becomes everything but himself.

He speaks as the voice of God.
He acts as the enemy of the people
He takes the sin and punishment of the people of Israel on himself.

He becomes a visible sign to the people of all that that they could not or would not say.

In chapter 3 Ezekiel is lifted up in the Spirit for a visionary encounter with the majesty of heaven. He sees the glory of Yahweh and hears the sound of an earthquake. And he says, “I went in bitterness and in the heat of my spirit, [but] the hand of Yahweh was strong upon me.” (3:14)

Is he a madman, driven by religious fervor? In some sense, yes.
And because of that, I feel a certain amount of pity for Ezekiel the man, cut off as he was from his homeland , from his intended career as a priest in the temple, from his own wife, and from his community.  He was alone with his ravings and with his God. Ezekiel suffered for his faith.

So my pity is mixed with admiration and respect and esteem and gratitude.

I Went in Bitterness

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Acrylic on paper

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday starts us thinking toward that gruesome hill,
though it seems we’ve only just seen the messiah child
birthed into the relative warmth of that cattle stall.
Grey soot graffiti drawn on our flesh temples
means that we, like him, are marked for death.

Ash Wednesday starts us moving along that road
though heavy snow still blankets the frozen ground,
we have forty days to travel up to that city – Jerusalem,
it’s always up to Jerusalem – and there to die.
Lifted up that all will see, lifted up to draw us all home.

Owl II

Then the Lord will turn against the north and punish Assyria. He will destroy Nineveh. It will be dry like a desert.

Wild animals will live there. The owls and crows will sit on the stone pillars that are left standing. Their calls will be heard through the windows. 
Zephaniah 2:13-14

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011


Ezekiel from jeff carter on Vimeo.

A short piece of music - based on the opening chapter of Ezekiel.
It uses one of the sounds that i've uploaded to the freesound project.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Then They Will Know

Schizo’zekiel flops upon the ground in catatonic silence
or he howls with animal fury
that the end – the end
the end has come upon us all.
The throbbing veins in his shaved and scarred temple
look ready to burst with blood,
blood, oh God! so much blood!
The city’s on fire, the city’s trampled under foot
the city’s full of blood.

Schizo’zekiel, that sorry son of man,
cannot weep the loss of his eye’s delight.
He cannot eat the mourner’s bread.
His tears have all been spent
on the death of that great city.
Oh, Lord God!
He’s a sign to us all, yes a symbol
of all that we cannot say.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I Was an Olympian Once

Acrylic on canvas
with collage

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Newspaper Penguin

Newspaper Penguin

Acrylic on newsprint

(this picture has been removed.  I just didn't like it anymore.)

The Red Bad of Discourage

I wrote this a couple of years ago.  I might have been feeling just a tad snarky at the time...

The Red Bad of Discourage

Is it a badge of honor for you
to go on as you do
about the merits of the past?
We used to…
      and we would…

Exhale on that medal,
polish it with your sleeve,
tell me how disgraceful
this generation – my generation -
has become. Tell me
how wonderful you were.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
reviews: 2
ratings: 3 (avg rating 4.33)

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