37:48

 

 

run the race

The questions fly through my mind as I race,
feet that pound and heart that pounds –
Why do I see the face of God more in the runners,
panting and swaying and
feet pounding –
than in the people in the pews?
As I reach the first summit and I hear the bells and
the obnoxious clapping plastic hands
the thoughts come again.
run run run don’t stop these people won’t let you stop
running

With their bells and hands, they want me to keep going.
And they can’t do it for me.
But they can tell me to do it for myself.
The first mile approaches and there is a woman
on her front lawn,
water hose in hand,
arching the spray across the road
Some glorious rainbow of promise that the miles to come will be worthwhile.
And like the sailor and his animals I feel some burst of
energy –
I’ve found another
vow to trust as the spray kisses my already-damp
brow.
The first mile is over after the Boy Scouts
thrust cool water toward my lips,
like they knew my parched soul would come running by at any moment.
if this was how we greeted them at the gates of our temples
maybe i would find more reasons to stay and keep drinking

Theology and physiology bumping up against one another in my brain
as the first two miles end and
I let myself slow.
When I walk I do it guiltily,
like I’m betraying the treadmill that trained me up.
So I only walk until my body starts to appreciate it.
Through the patchy-sun subdivision is when I start to beg the road to wane
because surely I was supposed to be finished by now.
The people with the highlighter-orange shirts
and the clapping plastic
and the bicycle bells –
they are at every turn, pointing us in the way to go
and telling us there isn’t much more
Even when there is much more, their stretched truth is a catalyst,
reigniting the match I lit that morning at 5:30.
maybe if we wore highlighter-orange when we walked around in the world
it would be easier to see who we are –
they’ll know we are christians by our highlighter-orange,
our highlighter-orange –
like a never-ending vacation bible school staff

Then, like it always does,
the end comes out of nowhere.
And of course it’s a hill the whole way there,
because it wouldn’t be a symbolically satisfying poem without one.
The hill is where Paul starts shouting in my brain –
Paul, whose words are so often shouted at me as reasons
why I am less,
why I can’t be in charge,
why I must hush –
now intoning the truth I rarely let myself hear from him that I must run this race with endurance.
Because that’s what we all do, in the end –
we sprint uphill and we keep going back even when we are almost fully
disillusioned
Because for every which way we pull the holy words,
there is still God saying
run the race run the race run the race
and try to let people be there for you while you do it
and endure

And so crossing the finish line is a swell of tears and
shouts of love from people unknown who cheered the whole way there.
And my questions
why is this race more like church
than any church i’ve been to in five years

stagger their way into my mind and heart.
And I write
and I wonder
and I sign up for another race to taste more of that same
holiness.

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Heliotherapy

This.  You should read this first.

_______________________

It was a crawling, creeping darkness,
gathered up in miniscule blue bottles,
stoppered with stifled feelings of
not enough
not known
not right.
Bottles hidden in the crevices of a
soul held captive.
And under the weights of
inadequacy, there was a bleeding heart,
alive and beating
as if nothing else in the world mattered.
A deception of life.
But stones do not have a pulse
and that meant nothing made sense.
Without learning to swim,
the whirlpool was a trap,
and spinning
spinning
spinning,
we discovered that it didn’t have a bottom.
Our insides defy the laws of
logic,
those truths we’ve been fed:
that the ground always stops gravity
and
whatever pushes us can be pushed back.
But our eyesight never failed us –
even when we wished it would –
and the distant light
was always visible.
It mocked but
it healed,
promising a hope we couldn’t accept
but had always clung to.
Sinking
into the
not worthy
not blessed
not wanted –
that light remained.

And then there was a day.
We smashed the blue bottles
and stared at the shards.
Perhaps.
Because feeling something
is better than being a stone.
We wish, now,
that we could’ve seen one another then.
That day when we wondered.
When the wondering terrified us
and thrilled us
more than anything else had in a while.
Maybe if we could’ve wondered together,
the ones who were brave
and the ones who were too afraid
could’ve held on to each other.
Because pain and shame
are very similar.
Both create marks.
Visibility doesn’t matter.
The darkness has a special light of it’s own:
perverting the definition of bravery.
Perhaps.
But also,
perhaps the bravery could go both ways.
Sinking
into the
be better
be stronger
let someone else fight this –
a truer light remained.

Because then there was a day.
The first day when waking was
not a burden,
when
hey, how are you?
could be answered with
fine, you?
and the smile wasn’t a lie.
They say the sun is expanding
and will one day consume this
dying earth.
Light becoming fire,
eating away at the dried-out darkness.
It is like that.
And when the flames engulf one home,
they engulf them all.
It is like that,
too.

The stones in us
are in us all.
As the spinning
spinning
spinning
goes on
on
on,
it only becomes clearer
that first we are cursed
but second we are cursed together.
Even the worst that could happen
enveloped that one blessing.
Not alone
not forgotten
not passed by.
And maybe there isn’t an escape.
Maybe there is only running –
from the black fog,
to the flaming sun.

I don’t know about you,
but don’t mind the sprint.
It is the closest I’ve been
to freedom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shall I shudder or shy away from that which I have made? Or am I not the One who told the dark how dark to be, that My great light might shine more gloriously in comparison? I hold all this together. Alone.
Tallahassee, by Abraham the Poor

The Park

She had always been a runner.
In her dirty bare feet,
before she knew what it felt like to step on briars,
she ran through the park to the slide.
The thing was too high to be safe,
but not high enough to keep her off.
They told her she was always afraid.
Even from the time she could crawl.
But she was never afraid enough,
not of that slide.
She should’ve fallen off a hundred times –
she knew that.
When she was at the top,
she would let herself imagine for a moment:
to jump, to slip, from that impossible height
and her stomach would disappear,
a million miniscule needles would prickle up her arms,
shivers up her spine and tingling behind her eyes.
She wouldn’t admit it,
but she liked that feeling.
Being afraid of everything was hard work.
Sometimes, letting the fear become her was easier.
She never jumped, though.
She considered it, but she never did.
Considering and doing are two infinitely different things.
Everyone considers everything,
and that makes them normal.
You only become a problem when you do it.
That is when someone has to pay attention.
So she only slid down.
She would pretend she was breaking some divinely instituted rule –
sliding down the death trap of a slide,
in the ancient park with the ancient merry-go-round
(the one amusement that she was afraid of
but that is another poem altogether).
It was her one freedom from herself.

Years later, she was still a runner.
Running from the danger
even as she hurled herself into it.
And when someone was there to catch her in either direction,
she would love the person.
It was her nature,
to become the crash she was destined for,
and to love the one caught in the middle.
But she was different, somehow.
She didn’t take off her socks in the grass anymore
(at least not when anyone was watching).
She knew the briars were there
and only let certain people see them scrape up her feet.
So she wasn’t sure:
sure if the people who got caught wanted to see her bloody feet,
if they wanted to run with her,
or if they only meant to catch the frenzied girl
in her own speed trap.
Most had proven themselves only as police.
It is why she pretended the rules had meant something.

And years later, she sits atop the rickety slide
contemplating the uneasiness of man-made structures.
Children shouldn’t be allowed to play on broken things.
And yet she perches there,
daring the metal to twist beneath her,
throw her off into something more tangible than conjecture.
When she contemplates jumping,
she thinks about flying
and it is all too perfect to trust.
So she slides instead,
because it is what she has always done.
And when she reaches the ground she keeps running,
because someone might stop her yet,
and she hates that,
and it is all she can think about.