I make no claim to natural ease with
Those connections that others find innate.
This human grace was never granted to me.
I feel myself detached from my fellow man.
And you, you give love so readily,
At the first glance, with many and most takers.
But you supplement that which is natural
With that which seems right in your own eyes.
In thus doing, you have run afoul
Of an edict you have never recognized,
A Law for which you were not afforded the veto.
Yet here, in the court, you find yourself accused.
And though I be not the judge,
I act the hung jury, trying to make sense
Of a Law I do not understand myself–
One sinner hesitant to condemn another.
What could I say to the defendant who asks me
The meaning of the terms by which she is being tried
When I’ve never defined them for my own life?
Are we judged by alternating standards?
I know the tension between assuring her
Of love and of requirements made upon her–
Requirements eternal and real and full
Of truth and love and grace, at first unseen.
How can one be required to give up
Everything that looks right and good
To receive what only looks to be
Empty promises from an unsure guarantor?
Could we trade places, you and I?
Let me be the one required
To forsake all I want and love
For all I reject and need.
Let it be you to whom true love comes easy.
My friend, my friend…
What I would not give for you to know this grace.
What I would not give to take your place.
May you increase in wisdom:
The gift of God to Solomon,
And the first gift I ask for you.
What are life and wealth,
What good fortune or fame,
If a man has not wisdom?
Seek wisdom above all these,
For a discerning heart and mind
Will be required to administer justice.
May you increase in stature:
A strong tower to those around you–
One to whom the helpless will run.
Let your physical strength be a sign
That you have the inward courage necessary
That a man must have to lead–and to be led.
For strength is truly known in weakness;
Your humility before God and the Church
Will show the world your true power.
May you increase in favor with God and man:
I pray that you will be a man among men,
That yours will be a life deserving of praise.
But let this not turn you aside from the path;
Do not create for yourself a calf of gold
Out of man’s approval or others’ desires.
Know what it is the Lord requires of you;
Act justly, my son, and love mercy;
Above all, walk humbly with our God.
May God give you all these and more,
May He make straight your life’s path,
And may you follow wherever He leads.
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52
Surely, your name is Jazz
With your irregular beat
And that musical swing
In your voice and step.
But there are no blues
Or minor chords in you;
Where you’ve put them
No one else will find.
My complementary woe
Is harmony to your melody
As we bring a mosaic music
Into each other’s lives.
I love the view from my window,
And if you’ve known me awhile
You will have heard me say this.
The city lights come alive each night
And the clock’s wheel spins eternal,
Lights flashing beneath starless skies.
But the city makes for a lonesome home:
With all its people and the everlasting noise,
There is little connection here, ‘twixt mankind.
And from this city to the next I call home,
What will change? Language, address, view?
Will those make it worthy of the name?
The eternal transient: forever temporary.
It’s not about putting my life on the line;
This is the sacrifice I make for my people.
And she said to them, “He is not here.”
Just like that, I guess.
A son, a brother, a friend
Who’s no longer with us.
I can’t explain the palpable emptiness.
I’ve heard the good die young,
But I didn’t believe it
Now I wonder if there’s truth in it.
But we all stand on the ledge together:
The brink of eternity
Whose void stares up at us
In somber silence,
Asking us to ponder our places here.
This, this is the last great test of faith–
To where it all comes down.
And my friend, my brother,
And now he’s gone from the world.
But in this death, he yet lives,
For even now, his life’s purpose
Is being accomplished.
Even now my friend is teaching me
To number my days.
A poem for Kenneth King, 1991-2016
You were one of the music-makers:
The men who painted the world in songs
With large brushstrokes and peculiar details–
Who built up cities and tore them down
With words and with the trumpet sound.
You were one of the men with many faces
Who fearlessly took the stage of this world
And grabbed the spotlight with a message
That held the world-audience captivated
By the life of the God-man you celebrated.
You were both a lover and a fighter:
Loving those who few others would,
Fighting for those without a defender.
You were, by all accounts, a righteous man;
Not unwilling to die, not afraid to take a stand.
You were one I was honored to call friend,
With whom I could always laugh and smile,
On whom I knew I could rely at any time.
Although now you are no longer with me,
I know you’re only continuing your journey.
Alone but not lonely seems like something I could do.
It’s not that I think you doubt me in this;
Perhaps I just need to explain it to myself:
From now until forever: not daunting, not easy…
I have my career, you know–that’s something.
I can occupy myself for some time with a purpose,
And if it is not enough, there is always the pipe
And time set aside for solitary rumination.
And there may be friends in my life,
Though I can’t promise myself that;
Those are things I seem to lose along the way:
A lack of effort, I suppose–no reason to keep them.
But I will always have my writing, if nothing else.
Now there is a friend who will stay by my side,
A friend to whom I may confide in all times,
One who is somehow able to return my efforts at love.
I know a friend who will read this and think,
“Doesn’t he know he has me? The others?”
Yes, I know–I know. But you aren’t here.
And I need someone here. Now, and then forever.