Category Archives: Life

Pain remembered

I read the Psalms daily. Have for 5 years. Generally I would say, given recent thinking about the life of C.S. Lewis, the Psalms are raw and human, as his writings reveal he was.

There is also a new idea gleaned from my favorite author, Oswald Chambers, that of living a “perfectly actual life,” as opposed to an “actually perfect life,” which is another way of saying that life really is raw and human as well.

It is futile to say there is no death, war, disease or pain, when there actually is.

I read a Psalm this morning that screamed the following demand of God, as if throwing a fit.

“Get up, God! Are you going to sleep all day?

Wake up! Don’t you care what happens to us?

Why do you bury your face in the pillow?

Why pretend things are just fine with us?

And here we are – flat on our faces in the dirt, held down with a boot on our necks.

Get up and come to our rescue.

If you love us so much, help us!”

Who dares speak to God this way! No one who grew up with a religion which they inherited.

Unless they fell down and broke themselves since. I remember coming to this attitude.

Even the other night.

But what prompted me to write was reading another Psalm just now. In it was one of those verses I had heard, like a lot of singular verses, which describes something that leads one to believe it means one thing when in context it is speaking of some other thing.

“And I said, Oh, that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away, and be at rest.”

Well everyone knows that’s about heaven.

Or not.

The context is actually pain. When I read the complete thought, I realized I’ve lived it, and felt it deeply.

“My heart is very pained within me, and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.

Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me.

And I said, Oh, that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away, and be at rest.

Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah.”

I used this translation because of its poetic beauty.

“…terrors of death are fallen upon me.”

“…and horror has overwhelmed me.”

I’ve not been near death, but I’ve had emotional pain so powerful that “terrors of death” seemed an appropriate metaphor.

Sometimes I forget that this happened.

I don’t have to remember it.

But I don’t want to forget it.

I’ve often spoken about my corner room in my inner cellar, my emotional refuge.

Imagine needing relief so desperately that your imagination could believe it if suddenly dove’s wings sprouted, and one could escape and “wander far off, and remain in the wilderness.”

And “Selah” generally means, “now stop and think about that.”

I’m sure I keep thinking about this general subject because I wonder sometimes if anyone, especially those hurt by me, or those just embarrassed by what they heard I did, could ever imagine that I too experienced unbearable pain.

And that I sometimes remember it.

I intend to practice being healthy by not forgetting.

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From up here

The rugged air

like a country road

in a farmer’s pickup

kicking up red dust

 

Or in a boat

skimming on the tops

of chops

in the waves

 

The plane

also skipping

bouncing

on airy speed bumps

 

I’ve the sense

that I’m not flying

until I swallow

and the roar deepens

 

Down there

first the black snake

of a river

headless, tailess

 

Then the blanket

of bluish-white covering

and sailing

a cloudy sea

My Talented Ears

While reading a poem

 

on an airplane

 

on the ground

 

 

flight attendant’s

 

hurried instructions

 

rules

 

that really don’t need saying

 

 

and a guy

 

in front of me

 

leaving a business message

 

by phone

 

 

in that abnormal voice

 

we all use

 

when not speaking

 

to any real people

 

except who really is listening

 

 

but that’s the point

 

that I’m listening

 

to my poet

 

not with ears

redemption’s groan

I feel as the tree, the lion, the bird;

I groan for redemption, of this I have heard

in Romans; uniting all creatures in one,

at last to be freed by God’s only Son.

 

The tree waves and bends, but rooted it stays,

The lion sends out roars, not only for prey,

The bird chants its song, no words to declare

what all of us want, to see our God there.

trees and me

I, walking

seeing in trees

a balancing randomness

and symmetrically situated

 
 

They, standing

animating in breeze

a living orderliness

and commensurably exhilarated

 
 

We, living

bowing the knees

a joining devotedness

and perpetually interrelated

scurrying squirrels

I saw a squirrel

scurrying as squirrels do;

This time across a street, just in front of a Chevy.

 
 

I wondered if squirrels

ever did much scurrying

before Chevy’s became their natural predator?

 
 

Only predators, by definition, eat what they kill,

immediately after killing it, or, in some cases

while it is still alive.

 
 

But then what do Chevy’s kill,

but by brute force?

And should they, if not to eat?

 
 

I saw a squirrel

climbing where perhaps a forest used to be,

where now is a towering and randomly-shaped concrete wilderness.

 
 

Unclimbable, this, without the fences,

over which he and his mate scaled,

having determined to rummage through a cleverly-painted dumpster.

 
 

Thinking of foraging on our discarded and forgotten morsels,

not for oaken acorns, the ancient, twisting figures long since hewed

into showy dining tables on hardwood shiny floors,

 
 

Oaken altars where we feast on what we do not kill,

and sometimes we kill, by other predaceous words,

what we do not eat.

 
 

I saw a squirrel

and I thought of how nimbly and quickly

they indeed avoid by their sedulous scurrying.

 

acedia

“In the bleak midwinter,”

This is acedia to me;

 

Though the sky be blue,

it is covered in gray.

 

Earth reduced to two colors, maybe three;

brown, black, white;

sticks, rocks, snow.

 

And the smell of wet leaves

in the scentless cold air,

freezes the nose.