outside my side door
next to the stoop
is one last red
leaf on an upper branch
the others have gone
i thank her
for the bright reminder
not all is lost
but stays vibrant
a little longer
‘the morning after’
the morning after, bleary eyed
and tasting bitter, pondering the dream
that seemed so real there it was
in the kitchen. the brick. glass shards
like spilled salt. the christmas cactus
broken in the sink. a cool breeze
carrying the smell of rain. hand-sewn curtains
hung up on jagged edges. thick, old
and crumbling, pulled from under a tarp
in a backyard or a construction site
or dug up in the dark, an unsuspecting patio now
a mangled, muddy checkerboard.
reddish, a little chalky. good heft. imagine
the arc it might make in the rain. the library,
the QFC, Kay’s corner bar, the Papa John’s
and hardware store all made of the same.
brick on brick. now here in the kitchen.
blankly staring back. in the middle of the fever
dream were many muted voices. desperate cries for
help not quite discernible. as if in a locked room
or in the middle of a river or just under the rush
of a passing semi. a dream within a dream.
and now the brick. and the sounds outside
I couldn’t sleep last night (again). I was thinking about what it will be like for so many families and friends over the holidays, the awkward negotiating, what to say/not say. How to come together when there’s so much to divide us.
And so I made a thing in the middle of the night. It’s called Deplora-bowl Conversations..
It’s not politically charged or even all that original, and it has kind of a dumb name, but I offer it here because I couldn’t not.
Download it, share it, adapt it, use it.
We need to start talking to each other again. Here’s one way we might start.
“love the ambiguity of the holy”
love the ambiguity of the holy
trickster in the seams
of the world. making all things shudder
at her passing, wondering just when his padded foot
will fall. howl and run off to make us see
what they’d been on about: the moon is quartered
and hung just so. lapping up the waters!
don’t flinch. don’t map the dark
bruises. bask in the light reflected.
memorize the feel of it, invisible
on your skin.
Loving Voldemort and Donald Trump
I’ve been reading recently (read: obsessed with) the Harry Potter books. Remember those? I somehow missed them in their heyday, and as grad school is a pretty intense slog-through-the-real, I needed an alternate reality to inhabit now and again. Call it escapism, call it dissociation; I call it Pottermore.
Anyway, as part of my obsession, I’ve found my way to a podcast called Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Run by Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, two humanist theologians out of Harvard, they treat each chapter of each book in the septet (octet? is that new one canonical?) as if it were a sacred text; that is, they read closely, look for thematic threads and questions, and cultivate spiritual practices around the text. There have been episodes on hope, white privilege, friendship and rebellion, for example. You should totally check it out; I need someone to geek out with.
At the end of their first season, unpacking the the final chapter, the theme for the episode was love. They waxed on about Harry, Ron and Hermione’s love for one another and Harry’s mother’s love being a “protective force” against evil. All well and good. But when they engaged the moment (SPOILER ALERT) that Harry and Voldemort finally come face to face, the hosts offered a take on Voldemort that I quibbled (Quirrel’d?) with.
Quoting from the text, they talked as if Voldemort is unable to love; that he is so deeply evil that he can’t love, he can only control through fear.
I was a bit startled. The sure casting of Voldemort’s inability to love struck me as, well, unloving. And so I began to wonder: it may be that now, in his current, twisted form, he is unable to love, but was that always true? What if Voldemort’s lust for power and control doesn’t originate there; what if it comes out of something much deeper: shame.
And even deeper than that, what if Voldemort’s core shame, his ur-shame, that leads to scheming and power-grabbing, following of Dark Magic and ruling by fear and violence actually comes out of a place of desiring love?
What if, at his core, Voldemort desperately longs to love and to be loved?
If you can’t abide another slog into politics, feel free to simply ponder the previous thought experiment. But here’s the connection: I can’t help but wonder about Voldemort’s true “driving nature” without jumping to Trump (and not in an ironic, meme-creating sort of way). I really do wonder: as base and vile as the things Trump does and says, as violent and fear-mongering and un-Christian as he is, as much as I don’t want him to be elected to office, I have to wonder: what’s with this guy?
The narcissistic rage Trump routinely and unapologetically displays is no secret (some have even ventured to offer a potential diagnosis); but what’s hidden under all that? I have to believe–or at least entertain the thought–that he’s longing, desperately, for the one thing he can’t seem to give or get: real love and human connection.
And wedded to that drive, I think, must lurk shame. Shame at himself, his family, the life he’s led and, perhaps, the life he wanted but could never attain as recently pointed out by real-life Dumbledore Garrison Keillor. How do I know this? I don’t know, per se, but I have a sense from my own story of what it might be like to be this guy, just a little. I know the shame and sadness that lurks in my dark corners, and how my desperate longing for love and connection comes out: addiction, anger, spite. Maybe not to Trumpian levels, but Trump wasn’t always the way he is now: he’s grown into it, cultivated it, because it’s what he knew. It’s where he felt safest. It somehow kept him alive.
So I know a little of what it might be to be Donald Trump, as I’m willing to bet, we all do, if we look deep enough. And so as I wonder I find I have an small sliver of empathy I can look at when all feels lost.
But even more: as someone who’s trying to make sense of Jesus, I feel more than just curious. I actually feel compelled to follow this line of inquiry. If I’m meant to practice resurrection, I’m asked o to open my mind, loathe as I might be, to consider The Donald a child of God, too. To be absolutely clear: this doesn’t excuse his actions or choices; those are his and his alone and he should be held accountable. As much as I am called to consider Donald Trump in love, I am also considered to call upon justice. They are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they are tightly bound. So I will resist and decry the violence he has done and the fear he mongers. But I can’t ignore that the “way he is” doesn’t come out of a vacuum; it comes out of a certain context, just like I do, bearing both darkness and light.
Because the alternative is Donald Trump just becomes another Voldemort: a cartoon villain I can root for, or even help, to be destroyed. He’s not real, he’s not worth being curious about. He stops being a human being, whose thriving requires giving and receiving love, and becomes just a phony reality TV host with bad hair, a twisted wizard living a half-life in someone else’s body.
I might have sat for hours
Watching black bird swoop
And drop his prize, opening
The sealed shell on the stones.
Swoop and drop. Swoop and drop.
It is one small sound
of hope. Click.
‘To all the women skinning’
To all the women skinning
the world not as in to make a glove
for a fist stripped down turned inside out
but hanging the faces we all have hidden
on display the blood be damned
because blood is no stranger
Praise for you are no second men
bones split out of a breathing body
your own selves only
nothing other determinedly weaving
fierce words out of the water your bodies
are made of all our bodies are
Made up in the secret soothing dark
of the hearth made to leave
and come calling into the light
a poem of beginning becoming
being and you there to sing
the song taken out of you and back again
Because someone once desire You,
I know that we, too, may desire You.
Even if we renounce all depths:
when gold lies deep in the mountains
and no one’s there to dig for it,
one day the river brings it to the surface,
reaching in stillness into the stones,
into their fullness.
Even when we don’t desire:
-RM Rilke, #16, Prayers of a Young Poet