Monday, September 29, 2008

hard times come again no more

I got to sing and play Saturday night at the same fundraiser I mentioned in my last post. My friend Terry is director of a program called Housing for New Hope, which was one of the recipients of the money raised. He is an amazing harmonica player and asked another church friend, Donna, and me to sit in with him for a couple of songs, one of which was Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More.” The song was written before the Civil War and remains powerful and poignant.

Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor.
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears,
Oh, hard times, come again no more.

While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay,
There are frail forms fainting at the door.
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say,
Oh, hard times, come again no more.

'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered on around my cabin door.
Oh, hard times, come again no more.

There's a pale sorrowed maiden who toils her life away
With a worn heart, whose better days are o'er.
Though her voice it would be merry, 'tis sighin' all the day,
Oh, hard times, come again no more.

'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered all around my cabin door.
Oh, hard times, come again no more.

'Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave
'Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
'Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
Oh, hard times, come again no more.

'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered all around my cabin door.
Oh, hard times, come again no more.
I’ts not Terry, Donna, and I, but here is a group of folks doing their version.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

choosing to be christian

They had already sung two songs before he stepped out from the ensemble from the Durham Rescue Mission to sing a solo. The small group was made up of men who were clients of the mission rather than staff. They were dressed alike in white shirts and brown ties; most of them set their Bibles down on the front pew of Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church as they climbed the steps to the platform to sing for the fundraiser that would help their mission. As the man moved to the front, a peaceful expression fell across his face and he began to sing, soulfully:

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary
pure and holy, tried and true
with thanksgiving I’ll be a living
sanctuary for you
Sanctuary: a sacred place, a refuge from danger or hardship, a safe place.

The six men, who were acquainted with grief and hardship and failure and shame, sang and prayed to be grateful harbors of hope for those around them, pure and holy, tried and true. Their words took me back to where my day had begun, standing for a Communion service in a small gazebo on Duke’s East Campus as a part of the North Carolina Pride Festival. Our church has hosted the service for the last couple of years in cooperation with a couple other congregations in the area; it helps to kick off the festivities of the day, which include some speakers, some music, and a parade through our neighborhood.

Three of us had guitars and began playing and singing about fifteen minutes before the service was to begin. We had done a couple of songs when we began to sing
we shall overcome
we shall overcome
we shall overcome someday
deep in my heart I do believe
we shall overcome someday
The song was a musical magnet, galvanizing the group that had gathered and pulling more people inside the small stone structure as we all sang together
we’ll walk hand in hand . . .
we shall walk in peace . . .
God will see us through . . .
Someday. We shared Communion together, sang about the blessed tie that binds our hearts in Christian love, and then prepared to be a part of the parade. Our church was one of seven or eight that had groups walking or riding in the parade down Broad Street and then back up Ninth, which also meant riding past the group on the corner with the signs that said, “God Hates Fags,” and “Turn or Burn,” among other things.

The people I rode with in the parade didn’t choose to be gay or lesbian anymore than I chose to be straight. They did however, choose to follow Jesus, even when many of those who call themselves Christian have excluded, berated, and even hated them. They have chosen to be true to their God and to themselves even as they continue to be told by those claiming to speak for God that they are damned. As I stood in the circle around the Table, Ginger read from Romans 8:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Neither life nor death nor placards nor insults nor homelessness nor orientation nor anything else that might come our way. God’s love doesn’t let go of any one of us. Ever. Therefore, as one who didn’t choose to be white or male or straight, my choice was made clear by what I saw and heard today. I can choose to be a judge, who divides the world into those of us with a corner on the truth and everyone else; or I can choose to be a sanctuary, grateful, tried, and true, who greets the world with open arms.

Deep in my heart I do believe the choice is that simple and that stark.

In the parable of the Great Banquet, the king sent his servants out to compel anyone they could find to come to dinner, and to keep doing so until the room was filled. The church spent most of the years since Jesus told that story allowing institutional power and prejudice to build barriers to the banquet rather than feeding everyone. If we want the church to emerge as something other than what it has been for much of its history, then we need to begin by opening our doors and our eyes and our hearts to welcome all of humankind, with all the ways we are the same and all the ways we are different, in Jesus’ name. We will change our world when we choose to overcome our institutions and become sanctuaries, when we choose gratitude over judgment.

“We shall overcome -- someday,” the song says, calling us to commit to a resilient and fragile hope that says God’s love is worth our lives:

we’ll walk hand in hand . . .
we shall walk in peace . . .
God will see us through . . .

Someday. Deep in my heart I keep believing.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

little boats

I spent Saturday with a group from church on a “LifeCraft Retreat,” where we built little boats as metaphors of our life journeys. We all started with the same pieces of wood and a roomful of materials and possibilities and each emerged with small crafts that both showed parts of our stories and set sail in the small pool on the porch of the Stone House. As we went around the room telling what brought us to the retreat, we all talked about transitions, searching, grief.

It’s not easy to find your place in this world, even in these days of GPS.

Years ago, a song lodged in my heart that Noel Brazil wrote and Mary Black recorded. It came back to me this morning as I looked at the pictures from the retreat.


Better keep your distance from this whale
Better keep your boat from going astray
Find yourself a partner and treat them well
Try to give them shelter night and day
'Cause here in this blue light
Far away from the fireside
Things can get twisted and crazy and crowded
You can't even feel right

So you dream of Columbus
Ever time the panic starts
You dream of Columbus
With your maps and your beautiful charts
You dream of Columbus
With an ache in your travelling heart

See how the cormorant swoops and dives
Must be some thrill to go that deep
Down to the basement of this life
Down to where the mermaid gently sleeps
Not like here in this blue light
Far away from the fireside
Where things can get twisted and haunted and crowded
You can't even feel alright

And as tide must ebb and flow
I am dragged down under
And I wait the livelong day
For an end to my hunger

So I dream of Columbus
Every time that the panic starts
I dream of Columbus
With my maps and my beautiful charts
I dream of Columbus
And there's peace in a traveling heart
I dream of Columbus

I’m sailing away . . .


Monday, September 22, 2008

poem for fall

Thanks, Christine, for the poetry party.


these are my favorite days
when the summer heat begins
to fade into fall’s crisp palette
of expectancy and comfort

I want to match the colors
with aromas savory and sweet
layers of flavor and hope that
sustain as the nights grow long

and winter hangs on the horizon
barren branches and grey mornings
the chill that goes bone-deep
as the world falls asleep

on my best days I see the trees
each one a burning bush
leaves letting go with flare (and flair!)
letting go and falling to earth

I turn the lights on earlier
and stir the same reds and oranges
in the pan relishing the sound of the
sizzle of squash and peppers

these are my favorite days
when the cold and dark call
to remember however I fall
love will catch me


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

love and lesser things

I was looking out Towanda’s Window the other day and saw this:

Justice is what love looks like in public – Cornel West
The phrase has stuck with me because I’ve kept thinking about what love looks like in public, and what form love takes as it gets lived out in our various relationships.

Church, for instance.

Tuesday night we had our “expanded” church council meeting, which happens a couple of times a year and includes not only the chairs but also everyone on the various boards and committees. I’ve been asked to be a deacon for the coming year, so I was also asked to attend the meeting. I arrived late because I work evenings. By the time I got there, the various groups were finishing up their individual times and were gathering back together to report. We have the same committees as most churches: trustees (building and grounds), finance, Christian education, Christian service (outreach), deacons, and a couple of others I can’t remember right now. We also deal with many of the same issues as most churches: how to meet the budget, how to take care of the buildings, how to care for our membership, how to reach others. As I listened to the reports, comments, and questions, I thought, “This is what love looks like in public.”

Marcus Goodyear is kind enough to send me books to read and review every so often. I got two last week: The Emerging Church: A Model for Change and a Map for Renewal and The Becoming of G-d: What the Trinitarian nature of God has to do with Church and a deep Spirituality for the Twenty First Century (also a book about the emerging church). I’ve not yet had a chance to begin reading either one, but the two titles adding to what is a shelf or two now of books calling the church to change gave me pause as I saw them on the table when I got home from the meeting. For some of those calling the church into this new century, the kind of meeting we shared Tuesday night is an easy target. The world is dying and we’re sitting around talking about what color to paint the hallways. Jesus didn’t call his disciples to bog down in those kind of details. Committee meetings become, then, the incarnation of complacency and spiritual shortsightedness. Rise up, ye men and women of God; be done with lesser things.

Those who know me also know I’m not a particular fan of meetings and I came away inspired by our time together last evening, not because of the particulars of any committee report as much as how we treated one another: we looked like love in public. If we cannot prove faithful to do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with God when we are discussing the regular on goings of our congregation, how can we expect to emerge as anything close to who Jesus calls us to be when it comes to the grander gestures?

Almost twenty years into my marriage, I continue to be reminded that love shows up best in small things. As much as a bunch of peach roses can bring a smile to Ginger’s face, the daily remembrances of making her coffee or cleaning up here and there (OK, so maybe it’s not everyday) are my best way of living out my love. The small statements of solidarity are what build trust and let her know I’m with her, period.

In the day to day of church life we have the same kind of chance to tighten the bonds and incarnate God’s love to one another. I saw it last night in our meeting where listening held a greater value than speaking, affirmation was more important that being adversarial, and kindness was the theme. To live out our love in public is to realize if we can be faithful in these lesser things, then we will emerge as true followers of Jesus. Let us not be done with them; let us infuse them with hope and grace and meaning.

Man -- the gospel according to committee meetings. Who knew?


Monday, September 15, 2008


Jorge is one of the people I work with who inspires me.

He is a dishwasher who does a great job, but that’s not what gets me. Jorge works at both the restaurant at Duke and the Durham restaurant where I work. From Monday to Friday, he works from 7 am to 3 pm at Duke. On Tuesday through Saturday, he works at the Durham restaurant from 4 pm to close. On Sunday he works there from 8 to 4. He is not a person who has the luxury of deciding whether or not to be a workaholic. He works because he needs the money and he has family to support in Mexico. He works every chance he gets. And he works hard. His work ethic is exemplary. But even that is not what gets me.

I am moved by his attitude toward his life and his work. He always has a smile and a good word. I’ve never seen him lose his temper. Yesterday, I saw him at shift change and one of the other chefs said, “Jorge, are you happy today?”

“Not today,” he answered, which surprised us. “Not very happy.”

“What’s wrong?” the chef asked.

“Nothing,” he said. “Only poquito happy.”

“Happito?” I said.

Jorge laughed. “Si,” he said, “happito.” And he went back to washing dishes.

When I got to Duke this morning, he was already settled in by the dishwasher. working through the pile of pots and pans that surrounded him.

“Buenos dias, Jorge,” I said. “Happito today?”

“No,” he answered. “Today very happy.” And he smiled.

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content,” Paul wrote to the Philippians. I think of that verse as I see Jorge, the Mexican incarnation of those words, live out his life in front of me. I’m sure there are things about his life he wishes were different. I don’t know much more about him than what I see day to day. Yet, what I see calls me to remember that I, too, am called to be content, to be happito in all things.

I’m grateful for his reminder.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

yard work

I mow the grass not out of conquest,
but obligation -- even simple necessity:
if I don’t, our little dog disappears in
the growing greenery that passes for
a lawn. I’m not much of a turf builder.
And so I pull-start the machine and
begin traversing the yard, cutting
patterns as Ella runs ahead, buoyantly
announcing impending doom to the
weeds and daffodils. We both get tired
about halfway through the job; she lays
down on the porch and I keep to my
appointed rounds. She joins me again as
I push the now silent mower back into
its small shed; we turn to walk to the house,
and I see one diligent and determined daffodil
who has managed, magically, to avoid being
cut down by my actions. Her small yellow head
waves as we pass, not taunting as one might
expect, but swaying as if to say the blades
don’t get the last word. Such news is worthy of
a cookie and a nap for both me and the pooch.


Friday, September 12, 2008

the whole plate

Some parts of my job come easily for me – the cooking part, for instance. Some parts have a steeper learning curve – figuring out food costs, for one. In order to be profitable, what it costs to buy all the food needs to cost less than a third of what we sell it for, which is hard to do. There are different kinds of formulas to help chefs do the math. I don’t really come to work to do math, but I’m learning.

One of the most helpful conversations on the topic for me recently was with James, one of the other chefs who has culinary school training and thinks creatively about most everything that happens in the kitchen. I was telling him about trying to cost out the menu at Duke and he said he thought the best way to lower food costs was to begin to figure out how much food – by weight – was going on each plate. Besides controlling costs, he said, you also give people a responsibly portioned meal.

I had never thought of it that way. I tended to look item to item: if salmon costs $6.50 a pound and I cut eight ounce servings, then I’m putting $3.25 on each plate. James challenged me to think more holistically. I’ll stick with the salmon for my example. On my menu at Duke we serve a pan seared salmon filet with a roasted corn risotto cake, grilled asparagus, and a lemon thyme beurre blanc. I began to do some figuring. If I serve

a 6 ounce portion of salmon
a 4 ounce risotto cake
4-5 ounces of asparagus and
2 ounces of beurre blanc
I’m putting a pound of food in front of my customer, which is plenty of food and not bad for $14. I have to admit I still struggle a bit when I cut the salmon or weigh out the risotto, so the cakes are consistent; they both look small. When they come together on the plate, however, they look like a good meal. So far, no one has complained about going away hungry. Yet, even as I’ve seen the truth in James’ logic play out in my kitchen, I struggle with coming to terms with the big picture. It’s far too easy to get caught up in a more fragmented view of both my menu and my life.

Another James, who goes by Jimmy and writes a blog and raises bees, stopped by this morning to bring me some of his Front Porch Blend honey. He has kept me supplied since we moved to Durham, so I was glad to see him. He also kept me distracted for the last hungry and horrible hour before I went for my colonoscopy (everything’s good). I’m grateful for both things. I’m also grateful to be developing a friendship with someone who doesn’t share the same political perspective. I like knowing that developing friendships run deeper than political views (there’s that big picture again), and I just like Jimmy. He is a kind and thoughtful person.

Our conversation did turn to the presidential campaign and one of his comments has stuck with me through the day. In the context of talking about the two choices for vice president he said, “Well the goal is to win the White House.” I can hear the reality in Jimmy’s statement and it makes me sad. If the goal of either side is simply to win, then neither one is looking at the whole plate. If the goal of either side could be reached the first Tuesday in November, then we need leaders with bigger goals and broader vision.

When I hear another new friend here, Terry, talk about what he does, he says he’s working to prevent and end homelessness in Durham. I love his choice of words. He’s not working with the homeless, or waging war on homelessness, he’s working to bring an end to the things in our society that keep people on the street. And he’s doing it, along with a growing group of people – many of them formerly homeless – who can see the whole plate Terry seeks to serve. Their big picture is a masterpiece.

I had another couple of paragraphs that turned into more of a sermon than I wanted from this post, so I cut them out. My point here is not to preach as much as to say I’m beginning to understand, whether I’m in the kitchen or not, I have to remind myself to look at the whole plate almost everyday. The big picture is not my default view. I need help to see more than my little piece of the meal. We all do. I also need to be reminded to look again and again at how I think about my life – my time, my relationships, my vocation – so that I have a sense of calling that is more than mere accomplishment.

Another blogging buddy, Towanda, offered this quote today, which spoke to me:
The only dream worth having ... is to dream that you will live while you're alive and die only when you're dead ... To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or to complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.

- Arundhati Roy
From her book, The Algebra of Infinite Justice
Now that’s a plate full.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

storm troopers

Corpus Christi, Texas
is bracing for a hurricane;
I am fasting, preparing
for my colonoscopy;
both I and my birthplace
are being evacuated.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

fall music sampler

I got wrapped up in my mind tonight and found myself to tangled to write, so I untangled myself by browsing through some of the music my nephews have shared with me. Here are some folks doing great stuff.

Brett Dennen opens "Ain't No Reason" by singing:

There aint no reason things are this way
Its how they always been and it tends to stay
I can't explain why we live this way, we do it everyday
and it gets better from there.

Denison Witmer's
title track, "Carry the Weight," nods at the old Beatles song and then very simply states
Carry the weight of your neighbor
Carry the weight of a stranger
I'm not afraid to say I don't know what to do

JJ Alberhasky
is full of good things, once you learn how to pronounce his name. The chorus to "Isabel" says:
Isabel it’s not so sad
He numbered every hair upon your head
Isabel don’t be afraid
He heard every word you ever prayed
The rest of the lyric fills those words with the poignant paradox of grace in these days.

OK, these last two are old friends who found me among the tunes tonight. First is Son Volt singing "Windfall."
May the wind take your troubles away
May the wind take your troubles away
Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel,
May the wind take your troubles away

Finally tonight, Randy Newman has a new record on which he records a song he wrote for Bonnie Raitt, "Feels Like Home to Me." I love her version, and there's something moving about this crusty old guy singing this love song:
Something in your eyes makes me want to lose myself
Makes me want to lose myself in your arms . . .

Here's to the melodies that carry us.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

recipe for living

The beginning of the school year has meant a move for me. I’m back at Duke, as the chef for a restaurant my boss contracts to run on the Duke campus. We are open Monday to Thursday nights, and then I still work Sunday nights at the restaurant where I worked this summer. I like being able to be a part of both places. The Duke restaurant was a new venture last year and I came on board in January. By the end of the school year, we began to get a pretty good idea of what we needed to do to really make it work. The restaurant is the nicest place on campus for students (or anyone else) to eat dinner. As Ginger says, “We never had a place on campus with salmon and sirloin and linen tablecloths and beer and wine.” And they can use their meal plan points to boot.

Last year, I worked from two until about ten, Sunday through Thursday. This year, my Sunday nights run until eleven because the other restaurant is open later, and, because my chef wants me to be a part of what happens at lunch in the same room at Duke (primarily a faculty restaurant), my days begin at eleven, rather than two, but still aren’t over until after nine o’clock. When I factor in the time I spend at home dealing with work email or refining recipes or doing other administrative tasks, I’m up to close to sixty hours a week.

I love to cook. I love what I’m getting to do at Duke. I get to come up with the menu, design how the dishes should taste and look, go out into the dining room and get to know some of the students who eat with us regularly, and hone my skills as a chef. When I’m at work, I’m not conscious of time. I get lost in the making and serving of the meals. I’m doing what I most love to do.

And I know doing it sixty hours a week is no way to live. Something’s got to give.

On our trip to Texas, I had time to read. One of the books I picked up was Much Depends on Dinner: The Extraordinary History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos of an Ordinary Meal by Margaret Visser. Though the book was published in 1986, it was new to me. Visser begins with the idea of a simple meal – corn on the cob with butter and salt, roast chicken with rice, salad dressed in lemon juice and olive oil, and ice cream – and then, as a self-described “anthropologist of everyday life,” tells more than you could ever imagine about each of the ingredients in the meal. She spends fifty-five pages on corn alone. Here’s part of what she has to say:

Corn, beans, and squash are as constantly wedded in Indian cooking today as they were in the past. . . And always they added ash: burnt hickory or the ash of some other wood, ot the roasted and crushed shells of mussels they had eaten, or (as in modern Ecuador) they burnt shells of land snails. All this was sheer tradition: corn, beans, and squash with a pinch of ash in every pot. Only very recently have scientists fully grasped the wisdom of the Indians’ behavior. Corn, we now know, is about 10 percent protein, but is deficient in the amino acids lycene and tryptophan, which people must get from food. In addition, although corn contains the vitamin niacin, almost all of it occurs in a “bound” form called niacytin, which makes it biologically unavailable to human beings. Corn, in other words, cannot feed people adequately if it is not supplemented by other foods, and beans and squash are excellent complements to corn. The holy threesome, in fact, enabled corn to be consumed as a staple. Wherever the rule has been broken, and corn eaten without the correct supplements, the consequences have been disastrous: outbreaks of pellagra and kwashiorkor, the agonizing diseases of nutrition deficiency. (32) (emphasis added)
Let me pull out the highlighted part, so you can see it as clearly, I hope, as it jumped out at me.
Corn, in other words, cannot feed people adequately if it is not supplemented by other foods, and beans and squash are excellent complements to corn. The holy threesome, in fact, enabled corn to be consumed as a staple. Wherever the rule has been broken, and corn eaten without the correct supplements, the consequences have been disastrous.
One of the central quotes we used at the retreat on vocation was Buechner’s definition of vocation: the place where your greatest joy and the world’s deepest need intersect. As best I can read my spiritual GPS, I’m pretty close to that intersection. I would like to be feeding folks who needed the food more than I am, (I’m working on that) and I have a strong sense of calling and peace about doing what I’m doing where I’m doing it. Coming from a family of fairly intentional workaholics and having spent a lot of time and energy trying to learn a different way to look at life and work other than burning out for Jesus, I struggle to heed the traffic signal in my vocational intersection that tells me to stop and rest, or to go do something else that feeds me, such as spend time with Ginger or write or read or head for the gym.

Visser’s brief history of corn caught me because, even though corn was the crop that spread around the world once the Europeans learned of it from the Native Americans, it isn’t enough all on its own. In her history I found metaphor: work, even work I see as my spiritual vocation, doesn’t have the spiritual nutrition to sustain me all by itself. My life has to have its share of beans and squash if I am to be the human being I was created to be.

Human being, as someone else noted long ago, not human doing.

The days ahead, for me, are ones of discernment, working to figure out how to balance the recipe of my life so I am nurtured and sustained and I nurture and sustain those who matter most to me. Part of the task for me will be drawing some boundaries around my job and sticking to them, which doesn’t come easily for me (see earlier comment about workaholics). Part of it will be making sure how I actually spend my time matches with what I say matters most to me. Ginger deserves more than the dregs of my day; so do I. I’m not in a crisis, but I am aware that the recipe of my life isn’t quite right. And a good cook knows if something doesn’t taste right you change the recipe.


Friday, September 05, 2008

what sam has to say

I’ve always been a big fan of words.

I love their sounds, their meanings, the many ways they can be put together. I am pulled by poetry because it is words at their best, standing in fresh light, speaking deep truths, unlocking hearts. After the last couple of nights of convention speeches, I’m prepared to say politics is the opposite of poetry when it comes to how words are used, turning them from gifts into weapons, cheapening them by repeated use and misuse, throwing them around like hand grenades. It’s enough to make me less fond of words.

So tonight I pulled out a CD of a singer-songwriter we met on our Texas sojourn, Sam Baker, who is a nurturer of words. This is a man who knows how to tell a story in a way that pulls people in rather than causes them to choose sides. What strikes me about Sam’s songs is how his faithfulness to the description – to the story – without feeling the need to explain too much or somehow say, “Here’s the point,” lets the words say so much more than if he had chosen to be more directive.

The song that pulled me tonight is called, “Waves,” because I know some folks close to me who are living out the story Sam tells. I will resist the temptation to tell too much myself and let the song speak for itself.


so many years so many hardships
so many laughs so many tears
so many things to remember
cause they had fifty years

and now the kids have got their own kids
and their own kids have grown
she told him not to worry
said he’d be fine when she was gone

he walks down to the ocean
bends to touch the water
kneels to pray
he writes her name in the sand
waves wash it away

there are sea gulls circling shrimp boats
that turn inside the bay
there’s an emptiness inside
that never goes away

he walks down to the ocean
bends to touch the water
kneels to pray
he writes her name in the sand
waves wash it away

That’s what words can do. Amen.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

home room

(with apologies to middle schoolers)

I’m sitting between Gustav and Hanna
in the homeroom of life, wondering how
to make sense of everything coming through
the loudspeaker, the stream of non sequiturs
that passes for news and the endless storm
of chatter that follows, each of us choosing
sides without bothering much to choose our
words. Life looks and sounds a great deal like
a middle school cafeteria. Shouldn’t speaking
our minds beg us to use our minds before we
speak? Instead, our lunch table politics build
allegiances based on fear or desperation or,
for the lucky ones, popularity, none of which
does much for real conversation: “Hello – and
I really mean that.” We worry about hurricanes,
but the small winds of breath that carry our
words are more destructive. We wear labels
like bunkers around our hearts and look only
at those who look and act like us. We learned
our vocabulary and jumped through all the
right hoops, but face it: we’re seventh graders.