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Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Carnival Is Coming

Be here tomorrow...

"You can't outsmart carnival folk. They're the cleverest folk in the world. Just look at the way they sucker regular folk with their crooked games." Homer Simpson

What I’m Reading: Closer

This isn’t the kind of book that I would ordinarily choose; it’s all mushy, and emotional, and romantic and stuff…  It’s a chick-flick, hallmark channel kind of story.  I read it because my friend, Jennie, wrote it, and I enjoyed reading it-even if it is all girly, sentimental gush.

I quoted the last line of the book, “It was the sweetest sip of wine that any of them would ever taste in their lifetime,” to her and she put her head in her hands and muttered, “oh, God…”

I should say that Jennie is somewhat mortified that I bought and read her book.  She wrote it when she was 23, and says that she’s now much more cynical and realistic about life. She also says that it should be a rule that you shouldn’t be allowed to publish a book until you’re forty. 

The cover is terrible - but, she tells me, the first cover was even worse.  Frustrated, she told the publishing company to give it a plain cover with just the title, “and it came out all Adam’s family…”

Closer (is that a noun or an adjective?), her first novel is about love, family, mental illness, and death-ambitious themes for a first novel.  And it is a fine first novel, nothing to be embarrassed about.  If there are weaknesses and shortcomings in the writing, they only serve to show the potential for even greater things in her subsequent work.

One little detail did have me greatly amused, however.  Early in the novel, several of the characters go out for an overnight camping trip.  Jennie wrote that they “staked claim to their own five cubic feet of homestead” to set up their tent.  I laughed imagining them trying to camp in a tent the size of mini-fridge. 


Biblical Limericks: Thank you, Onan

Oh, Onan, how you do amuse us-
because of you we get to discuss
whether or not it is
a great sin to spill jizz;
thank you for coitus interruptus.

Genesis 38: 9

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Biblical Limericks: Butt Naked

King David was enraged and aghast;
men he sent to Hanun were harassed.
So that people would scoff,
their beards were shaved half off
and the men were sent back home bare assed.

2 Samuel 10: 1- 4

The Night Maple

I took this photograph last night, at about 11:30 p.m. - under a waxing gibbous moon and cloudy skies.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Limerick for Cerinthus

Gnostic Cerinthus went to be bathed.
John the Apostle fled, still unswathed,
shouting, “Let’s flee! The roof,
on the foe of God’s truth,
is likely to fall, and we’ll be scathed!”

Doge Nicene Creed

Biblical Limericks: Allahu Akbar!

On Zion, which is in the north far,
the musical sons of Korah are
singing a psalm of praise,
and they’re chanting the phrase:
Great is the Lord – Allahu Akbar!

Psalm 48: 1 - 2

Monday, April 27, 2015

Master Nansen and King Solomon

It is said that Nansen, the Chinese Buddhist master, saw the monks of the Eastern and Western halls quarreling over a cat; each wanted the cat to remain in their part of the monastery.  Nansen held up the cat and said, “You monks, if any one of you can say a true word of love for this cat, I will spare its life.  If not, I will kill it with a sword.”  No one could answer, so Nansen cut the cat in two.

I think Master Nansen must have studied at the feet of King Solomon.

(Nansen’s story is recorded in the 13th century Chinese text The Gateless Gate, King Solomon’s in 1 Kings 3:16-28.)

DMACC Earth Day Photo Contest Winner

A photo that I submitted to the DMACC (Des Moines Area Community College) Earth Day photo contest has been selected as a winner...

or rather, as having tied for second place in the "Iowa's Backyard Gardens" category.

No word yet on whether Zach and I will each receive the 2nd place prize for that category (a $10 gift certificate to Earl May Garden Center) or if we'll have to split it.

In the Lab

Biblical Limericks: Teaching to War

The psalmist sings praise to Yahweh for
teaching his hands to battle and war,
but I cannot repeat
this prayer, it is not meet
for me, as violence I abhor.

Psalm 144: 1

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Feast with my Enemies

I want to do something a little dangerous this morning.  I want to take a risk with the sermon.  I know that it is dangerous to monkey around with sacred traditions and beloved psalms, and I know that no psalm is as highly treasured as Psalm 23, but this morning I want to be reckless and throw caution to the wind.  I want to try to subvert this psalm, or at least one part of it.  I want to turn it upside down, end over end, so that it can surprise and challenge us again.

Because treasured psalms have a way of becoming safe – fixed in our memories. Mom loved that psalm and Grandma loved that psalm and we don’t think about it. 

As I said, Psalm 23 is highly favored in the Christian and the Jewish traditions.  It has inspired musicians from Johann Sebastian Bach to Duke Ellington.  It has been quoted in movies and in stage plays.  It has been carved into tombstones, and embroidered into samplers. 

We like to imagine the young, ruddy cheeked, shepherd boy, David, the youngest son of Jesse, sitting alone with his harp and his ling on the lush green Bethlehem hillsides surrounded by quietly grazing sheep.  We see him there in his quiet meditation, plucking the strings of his lyre and singing this pastoral psalm of praise to a good and faithful God.  The psalm is filled with images drawn from the life of the shepherd; the psalmist knows that he can trust God just as the sheep can trust the good shepherd.

“Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
In grassy meadows he lets me lie. By tranquil streams he leads me
to restore my spirit. He guides me in paths of saving justice as befits his name.
Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death I should fear no danger, for you are at my side. Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me.”

But now we come to the part of the psalm that I want to upset, the part of the psalm that I’d like to subvert.

You prepare a table for me under the eyes of my enemies…

There is safety here – as in that valley as dark as the shadow of death, so here under the watchful eyes of his enemies – there is no reason to fear.  The psalmist can sit down to a table spread with choice meats and cheeses, plates piled high with vegetables and fruits, warm bread, sweet dessert, and cups overflowing with fine wine.  And there’s nothing his enemies can do about it. 

They cannot hurt him. They cannot attack him.  They cannot swoop down from the hills to abuse him or to take this food from him.  The psalmist is safe.  Secure.  He can enjoy the provisions of God without worry, without anxiety.  And this is a blessing from God.

And I have often heard it taught that this magnificent feast provided by Yahweh is there to shame and to humiliate the psalmist’s enemies.  They can see the table loaded with wonderful victuals. They can smell the savory meats and the fresh baked bread.  They salivate; their mouths fill with drool.  Their stomachs rumble.  But they cannot eat.  They cannot enjoy it.  This feast laid out by God for the psalmist is there to punish them, to drive them mad with desire and envy. 

I’ve heard it taught that this “feast in the presence of my enemies” is a blessing from God for the faithful believer, and a punishment from God for the wicked enemies of God.  We will get our reward. We will be blessed.  We will enjoy the great feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb.  And our enemies will get theirs; they will get what’s coming to them.  Our enemies will look on from their place in hell, tormented by all the wonderful things that they can never enjoy.

But what if this is wrong?  What if we went further with the psalm?  What if we did better? What if the feast prepared for us under the watchful eyes of our enemies isn’t there just as a blessing for us to enjoy, and isn’t there as a torture for our foes – but as a blessing for us all?

What if the psalmist looked up from that magnificent meal prepared by God and saw his hungry enemies, not with delight and glee for their pains, but with compassion and love?  What if the psalmist shared that dinner with his enemies?  What if he invited them to come and sit beside him at the table, and to enjoy God’s blessings with him?

This may be a dangerous and radical idea, but it’s not novel.  It’s not new.  If I am subverting this psalm, I am not the first. Proverbs 25: 21 says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat, if thirsty, something to drink.  The Apostle Paul echoes this proverb in his letter to the church at Rome (Romans 12: 20). 

In his “sermon on the plain” Jesus instructed his followers to “Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you.” (Luke 6:27)

The blessings of God – the feasts laid out for us in the presence of our enemies, are not there merely for us to enjoy, and not as a torment for enemies, but as an opportunity for us to share God’s love, as an opportunity for us to love our enemies.  This is not the warm, fuzzy, easy comfort of the Psalm 23 of saccharine memories.  This is not a sentimental psalm 23.  It is a challenge.  It may be dangerous.  But it is the better way.

You prepare a table for me under the eyes of my enemies – for me to share with them

Background Images for Everyone - 2015 - Week 18

Here it is again, the regular Sunday afternoon feature of this blog: a free background image.  It's yours, for free. And you can use it wherever and however you like.  Use it at home, at work, at school, at church.  Use it on the farm.  Use it in your particle accelerator(assuming, of course, that you have a particle accelerator...)

I only ask that 1) you share it freely and 2) that you tell others that you found it here.

 photo Week 18_zpstxchyhsl.jpg

Biblical Limericks: A Feast before My Enemies

The LORD’s my shepherd; I won’t despair.
He lays me a feast in my foes’ lair,
but is that to shame them,
to debase and condemn,
or will I be expected to share?

Psalm 23: 5

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Biblical Limericks: Samson Unhinged

Samson, as a hero, seems unhinged-
on violence and cruelty he binged,
setting foxes on fire
in his rage and his ire;
on the Philistines he’d be revenged!

Judges 15: 1 - 5

Lights and Reflections in the Cabinet

Photographing a mirrored cabinet full of glassware using a flash and my homemade, DIY filter.

Friday, April 24, 2015

White Lilacs in the Rain

Another one today using my homemade, DIY filter.

Environmental Science / Creation Story Survey - Results

A few weeks ago I shared a brief, 6 question survey that I created as part of my Environmental Science Lab class.  I received 70 (usable) responses and from that I was able to complete the final project and presentation for my class.

The results are below:

Crab Apple Blossoms in the Rain

My neighbor's crab apple tree blossoms in the rain - I used my homemade DIY filter.

Biblical Limericks: Women Taken in War

You’ve captured a woman you’d like to wed,
you’ve clipped her nails, and you’ve shaved her head;
give her a new outfit,
let her in mourning sit -
then you can finally take her to bed.

Deuteronomy 21: 10 – 13

(and the follow up

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Biblical Limericks: King Today, Gone Tomorrow

A long illness, down in the marrow,
an illness of pain and great sorrow
baffles the physician
with his healing mission;
a king today’s a corpse tomorrow.

Ben Sira 10: 10

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Biblical Limericks: Zounds!

Jesus, in Luke’s parable of the pounds,
makes a statement that really astounds:
“As for my enemies,
slay them here before me!”
“Yikes!” I say, “Gadzooks, and even zounds!”

Luke 19:27

A Counting Song

Remember, remember,
let’s count and remember.

We’ve ONE sun in the sky
although there are more;
ONE moon is night’s eye
as we sleep on the floor.

TWO is the strangest prime
the rest are just odd;
and THREE is sublime-
it’s the fav’rite of God.

Remember, remember, 
let’s count and remember.

FIVE books, pillars, and wounds
in three religions;
to EIGHT we’re attuned
for breath, our oxygen.

THIRTEEN is unlucky,
though we don’t know why;
written as X X I.

Remember, remember, 
let’s count and remember.

We don’t like THIRTY-FOUR-
there’s nothing to say;
Ole FIFTY-FIVE’s score
was composed by Tom Waits.

EIGHTY-NINE comes before
ninety, but so what?
has made the final cut.

Remember, remember,
let’s count and remember.

The Old Testament / Hebrew Bible as Bob Dylan Song Titles

Yesterday at the blog Faith and Theology, Kim Fabricius posted a list of the books of the New Testament in Bob Dylan song titles. I enjoyed that so much that I decided to take up and list the books of the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible (along with the Deuterocanonical books).  

Genesis – Gates of Eden

Exodus – Farewell

Leviticus – Thunder on the Mountain

Numbers – 2 x 2

Deuteronomy -   Whatcha Gonna Do?

Joshua – With God on Our Side

Judges – Rollin’ and Tumblin’

Ruth – I Pity the Poor Immigrant

1 Samuel – Early Roman Kings

2 Samuel – Trouble

1 Kings – Changing of the Guards

2 Kings – When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky

1 Chronicles – Desolation Row

2 Chronicles – Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight

Ezra – Bring it on Home

Nehemiah – Walls of Red Wing

Tobit -  Wedding Song

Judith – One Man’s Loss

Esther – Covenant Woman

1 Maccabees – Paths of Victory

2 Maccabees – Pay in Blood

Job – When I Got Troubles

Psalms  - Lay Down Your Weary Tune

Proverbs – A Satisfied Mind

Ecclesiastes – Life Is Hard

Song of Songs – I Wanna Be Your Lover

Ben Sirah (Ecclesiasticus) – Odds and Ends

Isaiah – All Along the Watchtower

Jeremiah – Tears of Rage

Lamentations – Everything is Broken

Baruch – 900 Miles From My Home

Ezekiel – Talkin’ Hava Negilah Blues

Daniel – Had a Dream about You, Baby

Hosea – Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar

Joel – Day of the Locusts

Amos – North Country Blues

Obadiah  – I’d Hate To Be You on that Dreadful Day

Jonah – Nothing Was Delivered

Micah – Quit Your Lowdown Ways

Nahum - Hell Time, Man (Band of the Hand)

Habakkuk – Seven Curses

Zephaniah – Worried Blues

Haggai – Too Much of Nothing

Zechariah – Series of Dreams

Malachi – Do Right to Me, Baby (Do unto Others)

Monday, April 20, 2015

The 4:20 Bible

Adah bore Jabal; he was the ancestor of those who live in tents and have livestock. So Moses took his wife and his sons, put them on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt; and Moses carried the staff of God in his hand. And He shall do with the bull just as is done with the bull of sin offering; he shall do the same with this. The priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven.

The Kohathites must not go in to look on the holy things even for a moment; otherwise they will die. But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron-smelter, out of Egypt, to become a people of his very own possession, as you are now.

Those twelve stones, which they had taken out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal

He said to her, “Stand at the entrance of the tent, and if anybody comes and asks you, ‘Is anyone here?’ say, ‘No.’Amminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon.

As she was about to die, the women attending her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer or give heed. Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea; they ate and drank and were happy

He carried him and brought him to his mother; the child sat on her lap until noon, and he died.  The sons of Shimon: Amnon, Rinnah, Ben-hanan, and Tilon. The sons of Ishi: Zoheth and Ben-zoheth. The lampstands and their lamps of pure gold to burn before the inner sanctuary, as prescribed;
Jerusalem has had mighty kings who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid. Rally to us wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet. Our God will fight for us.”

And now, my son, let me explain to you that I left ten talents of silver in trust with Gabael son of Gabrias, at Rages in Media. They saw that their army had been put to flight, and that the Jews were burning the camp, for the smoke that was seen showed what had happened. So this money was intended by the sender for the sacrifice to Hercules, but by the decision of its carriers it was applied to the construction of triremes.

Between morning and evening they are destroyed;
they perish forever without any regarding it.
My child, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.

Watch for the opportune time, and beware of evil,
and do not be ashamed to be yourself.

Disaster overtakes disaster,
the whole land is laid waste.
Suddenly my tents are destroyed,
my curtains in a moment.

Lord’s anointed, the breath of our life,
was taken in their pits—
the one of whom we said, “Under his shadow
we shall live among the nations.”
I have taken off the robe of peace
and put on sackcloth for my supplication;
I will cry to the Everlasting all my days.

The tree that you saw, which grew great and strong, so that its top reached to heaven and was visible to the end of the whole earth,Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”  And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.

“Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem. For we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, for the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power.

I wish I were present with you now and could change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. That is not the way you learned Christ! To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Erastus remained in Corinth; Trophimus I left ill in Miletus.

Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters are liars; for those who do not lovea brother or sisterwhom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.

Five Deaths (Blackout Poetry)

This is an experiment in blackout poetry - using a sharpie marker to obscure words on pages torn from a book.


Five Deaths – Black Out Poetry

Water, water,
or outer space-
Does any evidence exist

of the improbable,

A small passage through

Water, water-
ice, and frost,
and rain.

A thousand years
hundreds of millions
eyes, tongues, mouths,

and death.

The universe is
a house, a sword,
a human body,
a castle-


The universe
is a clock,
200,000 nuclear explosions every second.

The mysterious:
The priest:

a stranger.

Different blood
all the days of
blood and healing;

infection, contamination
flushed through the drains.

Toxic poisons
deadly odors
typhoid, dysentery, cholera,

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Background Images for Everyone - 2015 - Week 17

Here is this week's free background image.  It's yours if you want, and you can use it wherever and however you like.  I only ask that you share it freely with others and that you tell them that you found it here.

 photo Week 17_zpsbvyptem5.jpg

Peace Be With You

Two years ago I wrote a short little, three verse hymn entitled "Peace Be With You" based on John 20: 19 - 22.  This afternoon I recorded myself playing/singing it. It is what it is. And you're welcome to it, if you like it.

A stray bit of noise that I recorded during this project became a part of the finished product:

Extraneous noise

Redbud before the Storm

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Biblical Limericks: Zelophehad’s Daughters

Biblical law was left incomplete
till Zelophehad’s daughters could meet
with Moses to request
that their father’s bequest
be delivered to them tout de suite.

Numbers 27: 1 - 11

Dr. Tarrec Saw One Third

My friend, Dr. Tarrec, is a strange old man. Just how old he is, I don’t know. From the things he’s said it sounds like he is, or that he thinks that he is, several hundred years old.  He sends me things-letters and books, sometimes scraps of his writing scribbled on the back of receipts.  He sent me the following, recorded on a microcassette tape.  It took me a while to find the appropriate equipment to play it, but I have finally been able to transcribe it.

I saw one third of the earth, the pawn shops, dance halls, and disco-dives, one third of the cheap night clubs and anarchist reading rooms swallowed up in that conflagration.  We sat perched in the alleyway and watched the ravens and the crows.

I saw one third of the trees destroyed. There is no more waiting.  The monoculture is established. Apple, cherry, orange, and lemon, all gone; Ginkgo, willow, pine, and cypress-they are no more.

I saw one third of the sea turned to blood: femoral arterial bleeding from the wound of the world, from the hollow center of the earth. 

I saw one third of sea monsters of the deep dying inside the dark, silenced before they could roar, snuffed out before they could speak. What ancient language would have rolled upon their tongues? What mysteries?

I saw one third of the ships upon the sea sunk and flushed away, spiraling down into the dark abyss.

I saw one third of the rivers and the streams contaminated with wormwood poison, with Chernobyl absinthe, filling underground aquifers.  I saw angels in the corner, helpless, and children in their beds.  I saw comets in the sky and strange lights upon the earth.  It took time for my eyes to readjust to the darkness.

I saw one third of the sunlight darkened.  I saw my daughter in the street, but she could not see me.

I saw one third of the stars and moon light fail.  This is why the killer hides in shadows, standing there, waiting as children pass.  He smokes a cigarette and throws the butt aside. It fizzles in the mud.

I saw one third of the day without light. We venture out for the sake of the children, but we find nothing.  They are missing.  Our light is gone.

I saw one third of the night fleeting, gone. Where are the missing case files?  It’s getting late, and there will never be another night like this, so full of desperate dreams, and rope, and wire.

I saw one third of mankind killed in the sixth trumpet war.  The devil appears in person, like a shadow stretching in shifting light. There are 1,000 days remaining. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

If Abraham Were like some of Today’s Christians

Abraham stepped forward and said, “Will you really not destroy the city?  It is filled with wicked and evil men, with gays and lesbians and abortionists and secularists who teach our children evolution.  Send a hurricane or an earthquake to punish them for their many sins.”

And Yahweh replied, “I could not think of doing such a thing, putting to death the upright along with the guilty.  Is not the judge of the whole world to act justly?

Abraham spoke up and aid, “It will not be presumptuous of me to speak this way to you, but you must punish sin.  Destroy the city, my Lord.”

And Yahweh replied, “What if there are five upright men and women within the city?  Should I destroy them with the city?”

“Yes,” said Abraham.  “You must destroy the city.”

“But if there are ten?”

“Even if there were ten,” said Abraham, “you must punish the city for its sin.”

“ But suppose there are twenty?  Should I still destroy the city?”

“I trust my Lord will not be angry with me,” said Abraham through clenched teeth, “but you must, even then, destroy it.”

Once more Yahweh spoke to him, “What if there are fifty good and upright believers in the city? Is that not enough to save it?”

Abraham sighed and said, “Even you could not find fifty upright men in that wicked place.  Destroy the city as proof that you are a righteous God that will not be mocked...”

Another Controlled Burn

My Environmental Science class took a field trip this afternoon to the Neil Smith Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City, Iowa.  While we were there we watched a little bit of a controlled burn.  A regular burning is part of good prairie maintenance.   I've been able to photograph these controlled burns a couple of times.

Biblical Limericks: Soggy Bread

“Cast your bread,” Ecclesiastes said,
“upon the water.” Yeah, go ahead
for you’ll recover it,
but I’ve got to admit
that I’m not sure I want soggy bread.

Ecclesiastes 11: 1

DMACC Expressions 2015

The local community college - Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), where I am currently enrolled, publishes an annual literary journal of student writings and artwork.   This years volume includes a poem of mine - "At Devils Tower with the Boys"

... There's one slight problem: they misspelled my name as "Jeffery."

I suppose that one day, when I'm, like, super famous and whatever, these will be highly prized collectors' items... or not.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Dangerous Expression of Christianity in America

You may have already seen some of the brouhaha on the internets over a homework assignment given by a Wisconsin teacher to her 10th grade US and World History class.  The students were challenged to write a typical five paragraph essay (a “hamburger essay”) imagining themselves to be a Muslim living in the US. The three body paragraphs of the essay were to describe the challenges that they might face and the struggles of their daily life. 

The outrage being expressed by some is as expected as it is lamentable. 

“I would go in, dressed all tattered and torn and turn in a charred piece of paper and say "I'm sorry but my assignment blew up before I could finish it."

“first off, my kids or grandkids wouldn't be learning about mulims, my assignment would of been IM AN AMERICAN, IM CHRISTIAN, THROW THEM OUT OF MY COUNTRY, gang rapers, murders, child molsters and this what you want to teach our children, shame on you, and this sh** they are teaching our kids now a days has got to stop, your the teacher, teach them our american ways, learning about culuture is one thing not about muslims, teach them the truth then”

“Most innappropriate! This has no place in a public school. [The teacher] needs to be suspended pending counseling on appropriate behavior and teaching methods.”

Pair this story with the recent outrage and fury unleashed by those in response to President Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast:

So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities -- the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

People responded with the same kind of vitriolic comments that we’ve come to expect: they denounced him as a Muslim, as anti-American, and on and on and on…

It seems to me that this combination of 1)an unwillingness to consider the point of view of “the other” as well as 2)an inability (or more accurately – a refusal) to think critically about our own history, our own failures – makes for a very ugly and a potentially very dangerous expression of Christianity in America.  

Record! and Psalm 137

I have decided that, as I share a lot of my own poetry here on my blog, I will also begin sharing some of the poems that I like to read and that influence me as I write.

The poem “Record!” (sometimes translated as “Write Down!” –in Arabic “Sajil!”) by the Palestinian poet  Mahmoud Darwish (1941 – 2008) is powerful and evocative.

I am an Arab
And my identity card is number fifty thousand
I have eight children
And the ninth is coming after a summer
Will you be angry?

I am an Arab
Employed with fellow workers at a quarry
I have eight children
I get them bread
Garments and books
from the rocks
I do not supplicate charity at your doors
Nor do I belittle myself at the footsteps of your chamber
So will you be angry?

I am an Arab
I have a name without a title
Patient in a country
Where people are enraged
My roots
Were entrenched before the birth of time
And before the opening of the eras
Before the pines, and the olive trees
And before the grass grew

My father descends from the family of the plow
Not from a privileged class
And my grandfather was a farmer
Neither well-bred, nor well-born!
Teaches me the pride of the sun
Before teaching me how to read
And my house is like a watchman’s hut
Made of branches and cane
Are you satisfied with my status?
I have a name without a title!

I am an Arab
You have stolen the orchards of my ancestors
And the land which I cultivated
Along with my children
And you left nothing for us
Except for these rocks
So will the State take them
As it has been said?!

Record on the top of the first page:
I do not hate people
Nor do I encroach
But if I become hungry
The usurper’s flesh will be my food
Of my hunger
And my anger!

I cannot read this poem without thinking of a similar poem enshrined in the Hebrew / Christian Scriptures:

By the rivers of Babylon—
    there we sat down and there we wept
    when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
    we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
    asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
    “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How could we sing the Lord’s song
    in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
    let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
    above my highest joy.
Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
    the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down!
    Down to its foundations!”
O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
    Happy shall they be who pay you back
    what you have done to us!
Happy shall they be who take your little ones
    and dash them against the rock!

Anyone (Christian or Jewish) who defends psalm 137 as an honest and appropriate description of the legitimate grief and anger felt by the Jewish exile living in Babylon, but rejects and denies those emotions the Palestinian people today are either ignorantly inconsistent or willfully hypocritical. 

Lizard Fight

While in Orlando, Florida last month (spring break) we saw a pair of Broadhead Skinks fighting and  biting.  They clawed at each other and lashed with their tails.  It's likely that they were fighting for a mate-males have orange heads during the mating season in the spring and male skinks are known to engage in nasty battles for access to females.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Biblical Limericks: The Intelligent Man and the Fool

The intelligent man knows that the trick’s
obtaining wisdom as the clock ticks,
but the fool takes delight
in persisting to write
a set of godawful limericks.

Proverbs 10:23

A fool takes pleasure in doing wrong,
the intelligent in cultivating wisdom.
(New Jerusalem Bible)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Damn Ye for Villains, and from Whence Do Ye Come?

Chloroform Kate, round the Barbary Coast,
is running away from her dead father’s ghost;
she takes up a sword and fires a pistol
while reading the prayers in her worn Cath’lic missal.

Guided by reason was old Ethan Allen;
I knew him when he drank milk by the gallon.
He laughed at my jokes and danced to my song,
but I haven’t seen him in ever so long.

Damn ye for villains and from whence do ye come?
We’ll dance to the song played on bagpipe and drum.

Daniel Boone, wearing a frayed coonskin cap,
would lay himself down to take a brief nap,
in a coffin of wood and we could only surmise
that he was testing it, measuring for size.

Damn ye for villains and from whence do ye come?
We’ll dance to the song played on bagpipe and drum.

Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
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