Poem- My Child Will Be Driving Soon

Cute baby girl in electric toy car

“Can I do this?”- I ask while running into the maternity ward,

            My child bride delivering, Youth of mine poured out,

The cries, the shouts- the miracle of birth,

            In your hands is the most beautiful person I have beheld,

I did not chose to love, it just happens- a dormant app. opens and runs

            An app. called fatherhood, re-ordering my mainframe,

And still, I wonder,

            Will someday my child will start driving? 

3am wake-ups, 3:30am feedings,

            Quoting the Benedictine Order, this is my office and this is my station,

I feed, I care, I go back to pretend to sleep- This is what I called to,

            They grow, they sleep through the night: the endless season soon resolves,

My wife works and labours more than I, so I keep my exhaustion invisible,

            Strength comes from somewhere,

And still, I wonder,

            Will someday my child start driving?

Hours on the floor, playing blocks and dolls and reading books of 50 word-count,

            Naps with their naps, days of cold coffee, work in the day and play every time else,

Outfits are outgrown faster than they are purchased, toys used and re-used,

            Crawl to Walk to Run to Stride to Shuffle,

School and then after school, carpool and pick-ups and shuttling,

            The play room becomes the caravan, driving and driving and driving,

And still, I wonder,

            Will someday my child start driving?

Soon, they will drive away,

            Soon, they will drive back, pick me up, and take me for a drive.

Soon.

Poem- Waiting for Edmonton’s Dawn

The sun puts off her rising,

            Another 5-minutes, morning’s snooze button,

The gray of the prairies stands still,

            Every shadow gets comfortable,

Not night, not morning: something else. 

The kids in bed, the wife heads to work,

            Waiting for the house to wake up,

The dog is our sentry, guarding against bad vibes,

            Not getting ready for anything, not moving,

Waiting, waiting within the liminality of 6:45am. 

I won’t start something, won’t finish another task,

            2nd cup of joe, another e-mail opened, 

If there was only some cosmic force, infinite and all-knowing,

            That could fill this space, this time of waiting,

Waiting, waiting and perhaps this could be something sacred.

The Grand Visitor, the Juggler on the Radio, The Unmoved Mover,

            The Youth of a Thousand Summers, The Rock of Ages,

The Suffering Servant, the One Who Cleans Up Tombs,

            Please, Come!  Please, fill my

Waiting, waiting within the liminality of 6:45am. 

A Pirate Looks at 50

Older…

            I turned 50.  Or will turn 50.  Or, maybe, today I turned 50.  I’m keeping the date a secret, so let’s just assume I have crossed over from the country of a 40-year-old to the Land of 50. 

            The Land of 50 is an interesting place to live.  You start to collect the names of those who have died in their 50’s.   You start having more and more surgeries.  You no longer have a story for your injuries, like a spry 20-year-old who saved children from a charging bear; no, as a 50-year-old, you sneeze wrong, and you walk funny for 3 weeks.  You lose things like your keen sight, sharp hearing, hair, ability to make a visit last longer than 10pm, and your ability to sit on the ground and get up like wisp.  And you like things you didn’t before and struggle to get through things you used to have heroic patience for. 

            The Land of 50; it’s a magical place, really.

            I spoke with a good friend of mine about turning older.  When she was younger, she never understood why older women allowed spots and wrinkles happen to them.  It’s not like, we both kidded, someone decided that having long, purple veins on your arms as a new fashion statement. 

            As living in the Land of 50, the places of my childhood sound like I’m making stuff up when I talk to young people.  My kids think I’m just trying to make my childhood dramatic by recalling rotary phones, antenna television, and pop without free refills.  No, I’m not making this up: childhood was different.  And as I live in the Land of 50, I cannot immigrate back to my former countries.  My childhood is now a mythical land, like visiting Newford or Rivendell or Gallifrey. 

            Is the Land of a 50 a bad place to live?  No, it’s a good place.  There’s plenty of snacks in the Land of 50.  Lots of books.  Comfortable sweaters.  And very fine hats. 

            The Nation of 20 was a good place to live.  It was mostly urban, smelled of ocean spray and freeway exhaust.  Late nights and invisible mornings, where all shops opened at 1pm.  Food was cheap and sold in volume.  Running, I remember everyone moved so fast and often and burning so many calories and everything was a happy, uphill climbs.

            The Hamlet of 30 was full of prairies and farms and swamps.  Running was more of a time to reflect and burn calories, not just because everyone else was charging.   Wife and family and kids and dogs came to this land.  Naps and walks, with long days of sun.  Everything tasted better; so good, you began to complain about food being too rich; this is the Hamlet of 30. 

            40 Town…lots of swells and ravines, tall towers and grain elevators.  40 Town is places of burned buildings, sure; but it also is the first time, I felt, I was comfortable in my neighbourhood.  I was first comfortable in my home’s citing.  40 Town: a population full of regulars and characters and stories…more than any other time in my life.

            And now the Land of the 50 is where I live.  I love living here: you, in this place, can speak in deeply personal metaphors that no one else gets.  Kind of like a Tom Petty song.

Deciding What You’ll Lose Last

Circa 1715, Captain Edward Teach (1680 – 1718), better known as Blackbeard, a pirate who plundered the coasts of the West Indies, North Carolina and Virginia. His hair is woven with flaming fuses to increase his fearsome appearance. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

         When I was a youth pastor, I wrote a piece (A Pirate Looks at 30) and then for my town’s newspaper (A Pirate Looks at 40).   And now, there’s this piece and I feel, now in my life, I am less of a pirate.  In my twenties and thirties, I swaggered around like a pirate waiting to happen: like I was one shipwreck away from full-blown Baroque piracy in the 21st century.  And in my forties, I was just wondering: if I was to be a pirate, I guess now would be the time.

            No piracy.  No eyepatch.  No beards aflame.  No colour or creepy adjective added to my name.

            I’ve lost the look over my shoulder for a pirate destiny.  Maybe the Land of 50 is marked by loss?  You just start losing things you love?  Perhaps.

            Aging is like moving upstairs in a pyramid.  

            You move into the place when you’re young and at the ground floor.  It’s embarrassing how much space there is, so you beg, steal, or barter to fill it with furniture and art and stuff.  Then, without warning, you have to move up and the space becomes smaller.  You get rid of the broken, the useless, and the meaningless.  Then move up another level and it’s small.  What will you purge now?  It’s really cramped!  More garage sales (or pyramid sales?), more trips to the 2nd hand store.  You start losing things you really, really liked!  But hey, it’s worse than being crushed by stuff in your own home.  Another level, like Mario in Donkey Kong, and you have to say good-bye to more and more.

            How does one remain happy when moving up inside a pyramid?   When there is so much loss?  You have to give up every level?

            What’s the secret to happiness?  Simple: know ahead of time what you plan to keep.  

            Instead of focusing on what you lose every decade, what is it you keep?  What are you going to lose last?   

            For some, it’s beauty: they were blessed with good looks at an early age and, by damned!, they are going to keep it!  And, as we move up the pyramid, you slowly say good-bye.  For others, it’s being in control of everyone and everything around them.  And living in the Land of 50, that slowly starts getting loosed.  For some, it’s winning every argument and always being right.   And that goes away too…

            My religious friends will want to insert the name of their deity (EX. Jesus!) as the thing they will take up with them for every level.  No, that’s cheating.   Your deity(s) will always be with you, no matter what.  And some might even find you after you move out of the pyramid. 

            No, what you take with you upwards must be specific, personal, and at home with you.

            For me, I want to take my wonder with me.  Yes, wonder. 

            My favourite people always carried with them enough wonder to share. 

            When I was an English Major in University, my professor had us read Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”.  He read us his favourite passage ever in American literature from the book, a scene where an old man was handing out milk during a race riot.  “What does that mean?” I asked him.  He shrugged, “I don’t know.  I never did it figure it out.  I just love the image!”  

            I had a boss who was working a summer camp.  We were running to a chapel to start a meeting.  The kids were going nuts inside.  He stopped, pointed to the ground, and said to me, “Cool looking bug.”  He then ran to the meeting.

            I knew of a retiring missionary who was billeted at a dorm room in a conservative Christian college.  He was there for two nights.  He got to know the fellow students and had them teach him how to play Dungeons and Dragons.  He went on campaigns in between speaking gigs.  He confessed, “I learned later they all got in trouble for it because, I guess, someone decided that was evil.  I just…I just was learning so much and having so much fun!  For that week, I felt 19!  It was the kindest honorarium I could have ever received!  I was an Elf Thief!” 

            Wonder.  Wonder gets you into trouble.  Wonder makes friends.  Wonder is an absolute enemy of boredom, pride, providentialism, and being one of those old people who carry lists of previous generations failings.  Wonder opens magical doors.  Wonder gets you into Narnia. 

            Wonder leads you to the Holy. 

            I want to keep my wonder as long as possible.  When this Pirate looks at 80, I want to still see the wonderful, the inexplicable, the daring, the wild, the savage, and, above all, the Holy. 

Learning to Surf Old Age

            I grew up in California, a stone’s throw from Santa Cruz.  Never really surfed.  I knew many who did and, when I moved to LA, many of my friends would base their schedules around an early morning surf.  

            I didn’t surf.  I tried to surf once in Hawaii with my family, but figured the sport required too much maintenance. 

            Instead, I would be the youth pastor who would take the kids to the beach.  In one church, we took the kids every week.  I would cheerlead the kids surfing and would go out to swim in the ocean.

            Going to the beach is like getting seats in a great, big amphitheater facing not a group of actors; no, the show was the ocean and the surf.  Everyone would sit in their own seats, facing the main attraction: seemingly endless water swelling, cresting, crashing, rolling back, and repeating. 

            We would, like a good audience, stare at the ocean for hours.  I’d watch out for the kids in our youth group to make sure they wouldn’t get lost or in trouble, have lunch, and chat with folks all while staring at the surf. 

            There are (3) strategies for swimming in the surf:

1) When the wave comes, bury your head in the water and go deep underwater.  Let the ocean’s darkness swallow you whole.  When the wave passes, get air.  However, another will come.

2) Do everything possible to tread water above the wave before it breaks.  Your hair will be dry and it will look like you are successfully controlling the whole ocean.  This works only if you swim up the wave before it breaks; if it breaks, you’re a mess and will be tossed around.

3) Ride the wave.  Let it take you where the wave wants to go.  Surf.  Use your strength to work with the surf.  Harmony.

            In the Land of 50, what if aging is something one works with and enjoys the harmony of?  

            I can hide from age, certainly.  My mother, while she was still living, when asked about her age, she answered, “I’m turning (insert the decade she was closest to, rounding downward).”  If took her 12 years to go from her fifties to her sixties.  

            We can do all the work to be in control of our age.   I mean, it is good to be healthy, certainly.  Be as strong as you can be, be as well as we all want.  But when does health become one in which we seek to master aging, master time, and master our appearance?   This, perhaps, isn’t health but something else: swimming upwards to keep our head above water and facing, someday, the waves breaking? 

            Or we surf.  What does the end of hearing, the end of youth, the end of sight teach us about community, nature, life, the hereafter, our faith, and our wonder? 

            And now, for many of you know, this is the time I turn to Mr. Berry.  Honestly, I do read other writers.  Yes, yes I do: but in talking about finding the Holy in the harmony and all of this buried in growing old, it would be weird not to quote Wendell Berry.

            Perhaps our age is a way to find the Holy, the transcendent, and the meaningful.   First, we must find God in the aging: the Land of 50.  We don’t have to put God there but find the Holy like in so many other things. 

            I quote from “A Continuous Harmony”, “I begin, then, with the assumption that perhaps the great disaster of human history is one that happened to or within religion: that is, the conceptual division between the holy and the world, the excepting of the Creator from the creation.”[1]

            The answer, in this book, is for the creation (Me, you) to work in harmony with the Creator.  This not only allows to see the Holy in things like aging, but it is good for us; it’s healthy.  

            Like this quote:

            The dream, then, is for the Land of 50 to become one rejuvenation, one of restoration.  But if my body is getting old, what then gets renewed? 

            For starters, wonder. 


[1] Berry, Wendell.  “A Continuous Harmony”.   Pg. 4, Berkeley: Counterpoint, 1970.  

Poem- The Gleam Car

On a rainy, impossible night in Edmonton: you might see the Gleam Car.

Get talkin’ about the Gleam Car, there’s certain rules of science you gotta accept.  Here’s a few-

1) Can’t be everywhere and all at once at the same time, you gotta pick a lane.

2) It’s not Schrödinger’s Cat, but Schrödinger’s World: we’re both alive and dead.

3) You, with the right harmonics, walk through a specific wall- until you can’t.

4) Everyone has everything they need to be happy, except we’re all born with God shaped holes in our hearts.

It’s science, baby. 

And The Gleam Car both breaks and fulfills all these four laws.  Laws are to be broken, first thing you learn in your university’s science class.

So, the Gleam Car glides across the skyline.  Turning around clouds.  Zapping through space and time, being a flying saucer and a time machine.

It’s a quantum thing.

The Gleam Car cannot be touched, the unholy gets burned the moment they walk up to it or try to peek inside of its trunk or wipe the headlamp or smell in the interior. 

And, Law 5)- We’re all unholy.

How does one ride the Gleam Car past particle death and to a new dimension?

Simple.  You gotta know you’re unholy.  Say it loud and pretend to be proud, knowin’ you ain’t proud of you bein’ a desecration. 

Then, on that rainy night, you see that Gleam Car come.  It’s got the body of an ’85 Camry with the soul of Santa Muerte.  It will come alongside you.  To die is to live, to lose is to get- keep that in mind (not a law, but more of a guideline). 

You place your hand on the driver’s door.  Scream, “I am the unholy!”  Then let the door open for you (it’s not an automated thing, more of an ancient magic that existed before the world was formed out of playdough).   The door open, you get in- let the car fly, soar to the other world. 

Yeah, it’s tense.  Riding in the Gleam Car is always intense.   

Poem- I Did Not Take This Picture

https://www.facebook.com/alexandrabochkarevaphotography

No, I did not take this picture.  I was not there,

         Did not stand behind the lens and press the black oval to click,

         Did not stop all of reality, freezing it in place, muttering, “This, this, this!”  Telling children to not move, command leaves not to flitter, suspend traffic, to entrance a dog, to glue all of the sunlight onto every surface perfectly,

         Did not mastermind the portrait hung upside-down in my brain onto the frame only to be hung upside-down inside a camera,

         Did not take the picture, no, no. 

Instead, I’m in the picture- can you see me? 

My soul tries to speak but there are no words, no labels, no -ism.

Instead, I hitch-hike along the ancient highway, searching for nothing as I scroll everything,

And then, there it is, I see this picture that someone else took.

It’s there, it speaks, it announces complete with a trumpet noise,

         Don’t know what it means, more know how it feels. 

It speaks, it guffaws, it blazes- this picture masterminded by another brain. 

I then share it with the world, hoping for the same explosion beneath skin and bone,

I post, I cut, I paste.

I won’t explain: no, no.   That would be cheating, lest robbing you of your own explosions.

Instead, I simply say: “I did not take this picture.” 

Great Reads for 2022! 3 Books for You!

            2022, in my reading adventures, became the best kind of book exploration. 

About half through the year, I admitted to my kids that I was going through a

“Reader’s Block”: a strange malady where you can’t finish any book you’ve

Started.

            I was doing fine with my writing and creativity, just I couldn’t enjoy other writers and their works. 

            This happened to me once before: right after university as a graduated with a BA in English, I couldn’t finish a book.  It happens; it’s a real thing. 

            My kids started getting into an author I enjoyed previously: Brandon Sanderson.   So, to cure my reading desert I read the books they were getting into. Half of my year as been spent in the Cosmere Universe (a Sanderson thing) and we were sharing books. 

            This is what books are for, amongst many things, is to be shared, to be read as a community. 

            As a result I only have three books this year, the non-Sanderson, non-Cosmere books.  But don’t worry: they’re quite good.  Often is the case, I don’t include anything churchy or theological or something that you have to read ONLY if you are an Anglican priest. 

            Enjoy!  These are my top three books for 2022! 

  1. “The Body Keeps the Score” by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk.        

            This was a book I had to read as a chaplain to the homeless but it’s a thorough study in affective mental health.   Soon, the ideas of this book covers all sorts of trauma we see in our day-to-day interactions. 

            The book goes through the affects trauma have on the body, the brain, the emotions, and memory.  It then explores ways mental illness (not all) stems from trauma. 

            This is outside of my normal wheelhouse-Science Fiction-but this has had a big impact on my work with our friends who live on the street.  It also encouraged to have the lens of “trauma informed care” which is more than just a fad, a thing.

            There’s a line popping around on-line: “In the 21st Century, trauma is the setting for the Gospel.”  I like this idea, especially because Christ chose trauma to bring us freedom from trauma…there’s more I could go with this as a chaplain. 

            A good read!  

  • “The Memory Librarian and Other Stories of Dirty Computer” by Janelle Monae.

            Yes, you have read that correct: pop star Janell Monae has written a science fiction novel.  Furthermore, it’s excellent.

            When a celebrity has an idea for a novel, either they will write it by themselves, and you can tell their talents is not in story telling (IE. William Shatner “Tech War”); or they hire ghost writers to where most of the novel is a question mark, “How much has been written by the celebrity?”

            There are some exceptions (Tom Baker, Sophie Aldred, Ethan Hawke, Nick Cave), but Janelle did something quite genius: she collaborated with some up and coming writers, leaning into their writing styles while guiding the overall vision.  Plus, she wrote an album based on all of the short stories in this book. 

            The setting is a future where memories are watched, stored, and erased by the government.  This, along with exploring identity and self-concepts, breaks down into some really strong stories. 

  • “Collected Poems” by EE Cummings. 

            I have been writing more and more poems in 2022.  And I love it.  No one else does, not really which is a signpost that you truly found something you love. 

            To learn to write outside of the stanza and pentameter, I’ve been spying at other poets and suddenly found this one.  Funny, surprising, sad, contemplative: Cummings tends to break things as he writes.  Even his introduction to the book is on-fire, bending and breaking metaphors to the audience of “real humans”. 

            If you want to take break from regular reading, try this collection. 

            Hey, Merry Christmas!  Happy New Year!  And all of that! 

Poem- I’m Falling and Don’t Try to Talk Me Out of It

Remember that movie,

         The one where they strap computer goggles on some guy where everything is upside-down, where the sky it at his feet and the ground overheard. He learns, he compensates for the weeks he lives behind these goggles, reaching down for up, stepping up for a crouch. They take them off after a few months. He screams, ”I’m falling!  I’m falling!” The gaggle of scientists comfort, support, show evidence about the right order of the universe.  He doesn’t believe them: the compensation is his reality.

         His inner ear, his brain, his eyes, and his electro-magnetism all tell him he is falling, he is soaring to the sky.

         And they sit, helpless and hopeless, as he writhes around, disbelieving the laws of gravity.  Drinking coffee, eating doughnuts. 

        

When will his brain catch up to the data?  Will it ever?  Or does one resolve that the sky is down and the ground is up…for him? 

         One, in a later scene, asks, “Have you adjusted to reality?”

         The man screams, “I’m falling and don’t try to talk me out if it!”

I think the film is a comedy. 

Poem- D Minor (6) is My Mood

An average adult knows about 20,000 to 35,000 words. 

And yet, and yet it’s not enough.  Faust cries,

Why is what I need to know I cannot know and what I know is of no use to me!?!

There’s a reality, a status update that does not have a word, a label, a term, a coded box.

Instead, it’s D Minor (6).

Some days, it’s a D Minor (6) day.  On a steel guitar, sometimes on a broken piano.  The words can’t reach, like an itch on a lower shoulder blade or the corner behind the refrigerator.   Logical cause/effect can’t reach, the stick broke.  Only a chord, a bar played in the right progression can hit, can land on the mood. 

Some days, it’s a D Minor (6) day. 

You can’t find it on a page or in some song book.  You’ve got to play, play, play: play in box that’s the scale.  And then, by happy accident, you land on the note.  It’s there, your day.  Your mood.

Through bending between the notes, like Miles Davis, you find the mood that cannot have a word; it has a note, instead.

It’s a D Minor (6).   

Khruangbin plays Stubbs September 161, 2021 Austin, Texas

Poem – My One and Only Wish

Gin of the Lamp, here is my one and only wish:

That I could go back in time, days of youth, to explain-ever so thoroughly-that whatever I was waiting for (a phone call, a job offer, a date, a sunrise, my burger w/ fries, the church service to end, the car ride, the book to arrive in the mail, the dentist to finish, the camp to come, the man to leave, a ride from the airport, the gate to open, the degree to completed, the move to happen) would happen, would come, would arrive-and that I, with all of this time on my hand waiting for the important thing to be a thing, could enjoy all of the trivial pursuits without frittering away the time, waiting. 

I would tell my then self, “Self, you have two weeks until that call comes.  Go on a hike.  Learn Spanish.  Read Tom Stoppard.  Build a plastic bridge.  Visit a stranger.  Fly an impossible kite.  And whatever you do, don’t waste your time waiting.” 

Oh Gin, may I go back through the wormhole of time and ask, beg myself to fill every moment with the stupid, the side-tracking, the random, the beloved, and the distraction.  May I go back, please, to feed my Monkey Brain twigs?  To enjoy and not burn a single calorie waiting for anything?  

This would be my one wish.  Let whatever happens happen.   Make the call and do not waste my breadth waiting for the reply, for it shall come. 

Oh Gin, this is my wish. 

Poem- Snow is God’s Message to Canada

The sky-     electric blue, the blue that snaps and glints with sharp edges, the sky drying

out the snow, the blue of a child’s eyes, misted only by scant clouds, blue

brighter than the sun.

The snow fell,

Pure white, pure water,

Covering hoses and pop bottles and potholes and street scars,

New,

White against white beside white on top of white,

Snow having a candescent discussion with the sky,

New.

Snow is God’s note to Canada, to the land.

Snow reminds that God’s hand is about everything being made new.

New Earth, New Heaven, New People, New Edmonton.

New Friendships- just a fancy way of saying people forgiven.

New city- the dirty streets made gold like they once were.

New hearts- the broken, the stained, the cracked now full of bright white.

New faith- the purificator wrung out of all cynicism. 

Snow does this, snow teaches. 

Snow is the new life covering the dead leaves and skeletons of trees and the filthy bones of the city.

Snow is new, falling and falling and falling.

Making new, the note from God.