Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Dead Cicada Season

Cicada against black background. Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Dead Cicada Season
by Suzanne DeWitt Hall

It’s dead cicada season
the time when winged corpses
litter the ground
still enfleshed
as if ready
to fly and serve
the function for which they were created
to sing in the twilight
battling darkness
to buzz and hum
with life
a calling
that summer has ended
and winter approaches
when growth and hope
are buried
for spring.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Make Church Great Again

Tattered white tennis shoe with soul coming off on red-clay dirt.

Make Church Great Again
by Suzanne DeWitt Hall

A voice we heard
at church, a month ago
reported scandal:
the pastor only had time
for the poor
the black
the gay.
A white woman
with white hair
spoke her white truth
with indignation
and sorrow.
The church she knew had changed;
its glorious past
no longer a shining present.
She wanted back
her club of privilege
that place where respect was properly assigned.

Her voice became a chorus
men spitting their rage
telling decades-old stories
of heroic contribution
of fallen places of honor.
The crowd screamed their demand;
the head of the offending pastor
a return to the attention they deserved.
Clamoring to make church great again
white again
straight again
theirs again.

I heard a different voice
last night
while working in the church kitchen
finalizing a meal we would serve for free
to struggling families
to the homeless
to the lonely
to the addicted.

My wife and I began this feeding
our queer audacity recognizing
that hunger comes in many forms
including the congregation’s need to serve.
But few participate.
The souls who come to be fed
are fuel for their rage.
They weren’t there when the voice spoke last night.

“What size do you wear?” he said.
A young black man;
our guest, Leland,
from the assisted living facility across the street.
“What size do you wear?”

He spoke to a ginger-haired guy
who sleeps beneath the stars .
and has no address
no phone
no way for possible employers to reach him.
who said he hates when it rains
because of his shoes
walked into tatters
the souls nearly disconnected.

“What size do you wear?”
Leland asked,
and hearing the answer
took off his shoes
gleaming white and stylish
and gave them to him
then walked barefoot
across the street
to get an older pair for himself.

The young man left later
belly full of home-cooked food
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in hand
shining new shoes on his feet
to walk miles in the dark
so he could sleep behind Walmart.

This is what church looks like.
Not the screaming white faces
demanding their due
because queer women
and black men
and a gay pastor
make them yearn for the days
when they didn’t feel uncomfortable.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Scandal of Messy Abundance

Picture of twin branches of a paw paw tree, with hand-shaped leaves against a blue sky. Photo by Lynn Greyling (publicdomainpictures.net)

The Scandal of Messy Abundance
by Suzanne DeWitt Hall

Our cemetery guide explained
that the shining white obelisks
dwindling into the sky
signify our journey toward God.
When doing it right
we disappear at the very tip
when stone ends
and God begins.

He drove on,
slowing our bus disguised as a trolley
to show us
a fruit-heavy paw paw tree
then stopping so we could glean.

A friend from our war-torn church
named Phil
led the way, and I followed.

Phil planted a garden
in our church yard
beneath a spire
which signifies our journey toward God.

It's messy, that garden
with zinnias and bursting tomatoes
dying cucumber vines
and sprawling overgrown greens
which may be weeds
or sweet potatoes
or the most gorgeous fall blooms
waiting to surprise us
if we resist the urge
to tame the tumult.

The murmurers inside don't like it
overgrown and frowzy
too full of life and chaos
too free with invitation
for people who are not them
to come
to pluck
to be filled.

Phil led the way
toward the paw paw steeple
which signifies a tree's journey toward God.
I followed, bending to step beneath
low branches
fruit scattered on the ground
in messy abundance
some overripe and rotting
some eaten by those who were not invited
     those who dared forage on sacred ground
     dared stare up at edifices of stone
     dared taste the sweetness growing there
without permission.

We gathered the fruit which
had not yet grown soft and brown
had not been ravaged
by the hungry teeth of rodents
of vermin
of other.

We gathered until our hands were full
and then boarded the trolley
which wasn't.

We handed the fruit
to whoever wanted a taste
of what grows so close to death
the sweetness side by side
with sorrow
our journey toward God not up
into the sky
but in the fecund earth
and the faces of the people
reaching to taste.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Literature Which Isn't

Photos of flowing white mushrooms at night, with multiple fluttering mushrooms amid trees, by mage by Игорь Левченко from https://pixabay.com

I've decided to start a new spiritual practice, of writing a poem each work day on any topic which demands attention. They may not be uber polished and glossy, but they will exist as a kind of journal.

Here's the first.

Literature Which Isn't

At night we listen to meditations
designed to lull us into forgetting
to drift us somewhere else;
a hummingbird garden
a tree house by an ocean
a secret bookstore.

The voices are soothing
softly instructing our breath
taking control of our thoughts
directing us
toward sleep.

An editor would say
where is the action?
Why is there no conflict?
Tell us more about the main character!

In this night space
There is only detail:
the repetitive green of leaves
the shimmer of water
the breathing in to a count of four.

My beloved's night mind battles
the troubles of the world
and so we listen
to literature which isn't.
Effective, despite
so she is free
to rest.

All it takes
for my breathing to grow rhythmic
and my mind to drift into gray
is to curl into the warmth
of her back.
knowing she is awake
watching over me.