Monday, May 31, 2004

Reflections in the Rear View of Life

Last night (or was it this morning?) I took a trip to a tragedy in world history (it's the Jeremiah in me, I have a thing for mourning...and laughter). Anyway, I spent the wee hours of this Memorial Day in Rwanda where the genocide of 800,000 Rwandans took place at the hands of their neighbors, and in some cases their friends who killed to save themselves. I read of a pastor who received a letter from his congregates seeking asylum, nuns who shut their doors to those seeking asylum, women who took their children on killing sprees and of my own nation, who scribbled memos debating the language to be used in the press ("Don't call it genocide or we'll have to do something. Call it civil war)

Is this not what I do, even now, pondering the grief of the world instead of dealing with the pain of things far nearer, in my country, my city, my neigborhood, sometimes down the hall, or on the other side of my bed? Is not this our way, to pass by Samaria, and forget also the utter ends of the earth, suspending ourselves in a fake world where mud doesn't slide, volcanoes don't erupt, and machetes do not split the skulls of little boys? Do we not also quibble over the language of our false realities? (Don't call it sin or we'll have to DO something...Call it a misunderstanding, a break in the chain of command)

It just blows my mind to consider all the bloodshed this century in post-colonial countries, many times because somebody got off a boat and decided who was different, who was better. Sounds so familiar...and scary.

Anyway, I wrote a poem 'bout it, and it goes like this...


The radio sputtered with
the names of those
who would die tomorrow

Did you scream, dragging your
daughters as the screwdrivers
ripped through your skin?

i would have
i hope
rather than pick up my own
exchanging your life for mine

but wait
i did that anyway
sitting here, picking
chicken from my teeth
while you were plucked
from your bed

rent and torn
died and born

the cloth wooed you
to a bloody love
the cross stuck fast
giving no refuge
while my chief
chose the best words
with which to strangle you

I wonder if your children,
who stare back at me
with soul hungry,
orphaned eyes
wonder where the hands
of a mighty God were
when they came,
you apart

The answers skip past me
splashing against fazes
and whispers
which make me think
God's hands were held fast
by the fingers
of fearful men, covering
their own ears

and restrained by women like me,
covering their eyes
lest they be made to ponder
more than the
price of chicken.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

The Underside

There are times like tonight, today, this weekend, when I am faced with the underbelly of myself, my faith, my relationships. Times when I am so grateful for God's grace in the face of my pride, my jealousy, my greed and myfear. Times when my rationalizations refuse to rescue me, mocking instead at the edges of my mind, leaving me alone to face the roar of truths I refuse to face.

It was this side, raw and bleeding, cursing and crazy, that Jesus kissed with his life, redeemed with his blood. It quivers still, this bloated ugliness with jagged stitches and crisscrossed scars. I have another skin, a mask of new flesh, smooth like a mango, that I stretch over the other. A smoothness that eases the anxiety of others when I pass and causes them to pull out the chair for me at gilded tables full of Pharisees and other confused people. I sit, glad to have a place to ease my feet of wandering.

Or so I think.

The chair is made of thumbtacks and the oatmeal runny with deceit. My mask melts in the heat of their inspection revealing the truth of my imperfection, my weakness, my desire. I wait, knowing that soon my place will be taken from the table, my chair overturned . . .

Instead, I hear the snap of cords as they pull filmy distractions tight over the bellies of their own lies. "Sit," they tell me, spooning yeast into tasteless dough. "Sit, and tell us a story."