Sunday, March 15, 2009

Too Many Saturdays

Such an opaque late winter bluster could not have provided a worse day to say farewell. As I walk up to that white church house in the heart of town I could not help but feel that the tables were turned. Despite being appropriately dressed for a funeral I am still distinct from the others converging this day, a middle class Anglo-Celtic raised in the country among urban African Americans. I'm the minority here, actually a passing novelty in itself.

In the shadow of downtown skyscrapers strolling amidst houses of working families, how unavoidably the mid-morning chill brings out the city's soul at its nastiest. The young man had been shot fleeing from police.

Soon I'm greeted by a cacophony of voices and warmth of many bodies inside. Taking a folding chair toward the rear, the pews already stuffed to capacity, I quickly surmise from the program that I've stepped into a different world where the church ushers are actually union labor. At one point a petite, pretty gal sits next to me with her young son. Without a word or making eye contact she keeps him close and vigilantly guards his antsy little feet from swinging into my legs. Also seated nearby is a fellow who appears to contain World War Three until he hastily gets up and seeks refuge outside. All around the dark sea of faces are looking at nothing or no one in particular.

Anyone speaking into a mic up front prefaces with "Praise the Lorrrrd" and waits for a likewise response which always seems anemic from such a bustling crowd. After the ministers and song leaders are gathered the formal bereavement begins with some words and condolences from sister congregations throughout the country. As a musician I tend to notice arrangements but I could not have been less prepared for the divine squeeze brought on by the brooding jazzy turns in Shield About Me. It was church. They only do three songs, no more were needed. Most sing, a few are on their feet in surrendered worship, many seem catatonic and I simply cannot move a muscle. Be Still My Soul.

The senior pastor had invited me. He nears the pulpit during a rousing chorus and then preaches flaming arrows of grace, he told me, on a mission to reach the kid's family. During the response I nearly break as the ministers reach out their hand to invite those who will to the altar.

A few weeks later I ran into the shepherd again. Those wondering sheep had since come into the flock.

On the drive home, now free from trying to find a place I've never been, I can now mentally ponder the mess on my car from a birds' nest that had blown out of a tree overnight. At first it's the inconvenience of having to clean some strange egg yolk off the paint and glass in unfavorable weather. At last, a budding life robbed of its potential.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

whiskey kiss


and water

fist to sternum

shakedown stare

subtle feline grace

her silky sweet musk

none match the aura

swirling about

the room as we mingle

never a glance

denied acknowledgment

don't you even

dare give us away

souls so much alike

incestuous tinge?

dying to connect

living safely apart

ethereal words

never spoken

wasted chances or

mounting tension?

we lose track

who's the fool

and who's fooling

two wills cannot

both be boss

just remember

when the shoe falls

that first stinging sip

once ingredients mix

a strange elixir

is totally


Sunday, March 1, 2009

with all due respect

Saw a news report about a church in some other town. They are glad to meet at the high school gym. Pastor's office is a coffee shop with wifi. Nothing new, except, well, all the tithes go to meeting needs of people in the community. No overhead. No building. No staff salaries. All volunteer and donations. I got the feeling they intend to keep it this way, so, no capital campaign or property fund, just applying as much of themselves as they can to living out their worship by serving.

There was a single mom just overwhelmed because this group had provided some kind of health supplies that she couldn't afford for her kid, who could now live a much more normal life.

Oh, and this was in the "secular" media, mind you.

One question. Why in blazes is this going on *in some other town* and not everywhere?