Over the years I have written dozens and dozens of little ditties, on birthdays and anniversaries, for friends and relatives to honor them and/or poke fun at them. Writing for my grandchildren has been a way for me to communicate the delight I have in both them and poetry.
A BREAKFAST POEM FOR LUKE
My grandmother really likes toe jam on toast.
Of all of the jams she likes toe jam the most.
Oh there's raspberry, stawberry, blueberry too,
But she likes the stuff that I stuff in my shoe.
So I scrape it and save it and when there's a lot
Mummy and I cook it up in a pot.
We throw in some sugar and give it a stir.
Then we pour it in jars and we send it to her.
She tells me that when she is terribly lonely for me.
She gets out her toe jam and has toast and tea.
The one thing my grandmother really does savour -
Is Luke’s Yummy Toe Jam - her favorite flavor.
Several years ago a friend and I went out several nights a week with food, warm clothes and toiletries to minister to the about then 100 homeless people in our city. We knew many of them by name, knew some of their stories and what the factors were that led them to life on the street. It was a hearbreaking experience with just enough hope and humanity to make it bearable. So much despair. So much pain.
From there I went on to cook in a shelter for men. It was quite an adventure and I had many delightful and hilarious experiences there. ( I share about this in more detail on the cooking page of the blog.) I tried to write a sitcom about that experience when I quit working there, but I didn’t enjoy the process. If you know someone who writes screenplays I have a great pitch.
One of the take-aways I found from working there was that the line dividing the well-heeled and the down-at-the -heels is not as clear as some might think. Those groups have more in common than either would admit. The clients at the shelter were more aware of their brokenness and more likeable in their humility and transparency.
This poem came out of my observations during those years.
Hide and Seek
He is hiding from the addict
and He's crying, "Try to find me,"
And He's hiding from the hooker
looking for another john.
He is hiding in the city
where the streets run red with shame.
He is hiding in the garbage
with the fetus with no name.
He's hiding in the squalor
of the squat where children weep.
He's hiding in the lullaby
they shoot to get to sleep.
He's hiding in the cocaine,
He's hiding in the crack,
and his blood is crying softly,
"Try to find me."
He’s hiding in the
Better Homes and Gardens magazine,
in the neat and shiny places
where the chaos isn't seen.
In the halls of power and wealth
where, “We're doing just fine thanks,”
He is hiding, He is hiding
He is hiding in their ranks.
And the substitutes can't cut it -
they are counterfeits and lies
for the love that constant cries
"Try to find me."
But his ear is finely tuned
for just one cry, “ I'm lost.”
and He will find you, He will find you
no matter what the cost.
Luke 15: 4&5
Although born into a home where faith was scorned, I found myself believing in God from childhood onwards. To my unjaded eyes the wonder and order of the natural world not just spoke but had stamped on every surface, Created by God. How could anyone think otherwise? Indeed.
As a teen and young adult I had several transcendant moments, and though I had no idea what they meant, they did cause me to reject a materialist worldview. Something was out there. Possibly someone. Although I wasn’t spending any time trying to solve the mystery, I did think it important enough that I would not have married someone who didn’t agree.
And when everything is running smoothly and life is easy – why rock the boat? But darker days come don’t they ? Days when you just don’t get it. Why me? What have I done to deserve this? How long?
While it certainly doesn’t feel good, those are perhaps the most fruitful times in our lives – if – and it’s a big if, we don’t look for ways to kill the pain. Pain is a good thing. It’s a message to our souls that something is amiss. There are so many ways to kill the pain. I’ve tried many. But if you want to grow, want life, the healthiest thing to do is embrace the pain. Let it do its work. It’s worth it.
Believing is Seeing
No one told me he had died
so when God called,
I told him all my secrets.
He told me some of his.
I hid every word
like a child at the beach
stashing shells and rocks
in a sturdy cardboard box,
to store the ocean’s roar
for landlocked days.
Time passed, light lapsed.
Pleasure played me,
gravity grabbed me.
The simple awe of knowing him
got shoved on a shelf
at the back of the closet,
got lost in the dust -
just a sock under the bed.
Cataracts formed on my spirit
eclipsing the ambient light.
Not strobe - nor neon,
neither particle nor wave
pierced that night.
All were dulled,
palled by the shroud
that clouded my soul.
The road is hard in the dark.
A ray of hope from home today,
a poignant parcel sent my way.
The scribbled note had this to say,
"I found them in a closet and
I couldn’t throw them out.”
An ocean of recollection
washed out of the box,
a high tide of light
that had been ebbing out
Longside a stretched out lumpy sock,
lay conches, whelks, the tumbled rocks!
Majesty and mystery,
essence of the mighty sea,
clung to them like limpets.
From the sock, still intact,
a silent starfish blazed with fact,
the blinding truth that I had lacked.
Light finds its source in Him.
I have kept a journal, where I can safely express the deep longings and raw struggles of my heart for decades. It is Lois 1.0 where I pour out my soul to God. Unedited. He can handle it.
But writing poetry is different. For me, at least, that is a process of elimination, purification and distillation. Each word must serve the vision. No freeloaders allowed. This process is both painstaking and painful as it often involves some serious soul searching.
This poem was born of a difficult experience that exposed some not very lovely parts of my character. How often it’s those soul crushing events that reveal our true motivations and idols. I’m overwhelmingly grateful that God sees, cares and knows how to deal with my sometimes stubborn heart.
Yes, Lord, is protocol.
My howling, "No!' shatters the stratosphere.
Shock waves reverberate.
You are not moved.
Lord presumes sovereign.
I assume benevolent,
kindly, like Santa,
a lamb not a lion.
Now you come at me with pruning shears,
like a gardener bent on bonsai,
now a surgeon with a scalpel,
now a soldier with a sword.
But that first yes was substance,
and every howling no rings hollow.
Your various blades work to one sure purpose:
carving out a space for love in the jungle of my heart.
After, lo, these many decades, I can honestly say He has yet to make an unnecessary cut.