Tag Archives: hope

On A Southern Snow Day

25 Feb

we observe a Carolina housecat’s stitched together steps,
     open the back door to a bounty of bleached
          yarn in the yard now treadled by her feet.
     Herds of long necked dinosaur clouds,
icicles on the eves, and gray paws
     quick to pick and batten January string
          are a woven hope—a single surety of Spring.

Housepainter’s Exhibit

29 Oct

These green towers are soon to be pyres,
their sparks and embers falling from the sky.

But for now, ripe acorns are unsteady hail
and one ricochets the roof to my paint pail.

Brush in abeyance, I extract the now white
nut, settle it on a windowsill to dry

then, on lunch, coat another dozen or so,
leave the pointy pearls in a row

set on two dry leaves and a wicker table.
Perhaps the customer will notice and be able

to receive this, the smallest of small signs.
Perhaps she still believes in acorn rhymes.

Affliction and The Writing Life

28 Mar

“Being a writer is an affliction” a friend of mine recently posted to his blog.  I couldn’t agree more.  I write because I must.  It’s a necessity.  This is who I am.  It is a state of being, as my friend suggested.  Ultimately, I did not choose to be a writer.  Rather, the work and wonder of being a writer was placed on me by forces outside myself.  Sometimes I try to ignore it or go so far as to deny my calling.  As well, I take legitimate rest from it.  But always it is calling me back with stubborn persistence.  It is a weight or pressure as formative as glaciers. 

I commented to my friend’s blog that his post reminded me of the 1997 movie Affliction.  Nick Nolte played generational alcoholic Wade Whitehouse in this painfully riveting depiction of addiction.  The film (in which James Coburn won best supporting actor for his role as Wade’s whiskey guzzling father) causes the viewer to feel like an alcoholic, always off balance, never quite able to establish the foundational, the real, the essential way to proceed.  Sometimes when I write I feel like Wade Whitehouse.

Affliction is an apt term for the writing process.  The stumbles, the falters and false starts, the painful humbling that must occur for writing to be anything close to good, are discomfiting.  A friend once called a poem I wrote “dismissive”.  And yet I was compelled to continue with revisions. 

The addict who has come to the end of all hope knows she cannot save herself.  She will either despair unto death or be resurrected to new life.  If she is raised, it will come from outside herself and that too will be an affliction with all its attendant sufferings and humblings. 

Affliction is the way of the writer.  But it is not an empty or self-destructive affliction.  If I merely look within for hope and inspiration I am defeated before I begin.  But if I look beyond myself, listening, investigating, quietly considering the friction caused by outside forces on my person, I become more of who I am.  If my work fails, who am I to demand its success?  If it succeeds, who am I to demand its precedence. 

If I think I know my craft, I do not yet know as I ought.  And thus I am tempted to despair.  I suffer “corrosive self-doubt” (James Lee Burke), but I write because I must, this is who I am.  If you wish for your writing to give you substance, it is no better than addiction.  But if at the center of your substance is a writer, you do well to embrace your affliction.

Calling Hours

13 Oct

He had told me where to buy the car
then helped rivet sheet metal to places
Vermont winters had eaten the ‘73 Pontiac’s

floorboard.  It took two days in November,
our fingers so cold it hurt to get them warm.
All winter the car got me to the store

where we worked unloading trucks,
pricing, stocking, sweeping, mopping,
crushing cardboard boxes in the baler.
 
Tonight, in line at the calling hours
for my father, he meets my wife and children,
says he always knew I’d turn out good.
    
I can’t get over these faces, these people
I haven’t seen in thirty years or more.
They’ve adorned themselves with love

for dad and all the good he ever did.
They tell me stories of dad helping them
or his words they have not wanted to forget

and I am drawn to his reflection in them.  
The rust of death has marred our souls;
tonight there is help to patch the holes.

Timber by Caleb Eells

1 Jun

It was the first day of Spring break, a Saturday.  My brother, my sister, and I were outside doing spring cleaning.  We went inside, tired, and grumpy. We were hungry and wanted lunch.  But when we went inside, we found something quite unexpected. My mom was sitting on the kitchen floor, and was crying hard.  The vacuum we had heard minutes before, wailing like a siren, now sat silently next to her looking mournful. That’s when my dad came in the room with the phone in his hand, and told us Grandpa (on my Dad’s side) had been in an accident, and had died.  I learned later that Grandpa had been out logging (cutting down trees) at another person’s house.  He had been cutting a tree that had entangled itself with another tree, so when the tree he was cutting fell, the top of the other tree came with it, and had hit him in his right temple, just below his helmet.  The person he had been working with said that the blow knocked him down, and then he curled up and didn’t move.  My Dad believes he had died right then. Gone.  In the blink of an eye.

My Grandma, Aunt, Uncle, and Cousins live in Vermont.  My Grandpa used to live there too.  Now he lives in heaven.  And, yes, I’m positive that my Grandpa is in heaven right now.  So anyway, the same day we got the phone call, we hurried to get to the airport and we flew to Vermont, taking one stop to switch planes in Washington D.C.  We arrived in VT around 12:30 and met my Uncle Cam and my cousin, Paul, there.  We drove back to their house without much conversation, and got there at about 1:00.  In the morning, we met their cute German Shepherd puppy, Maya.  Their cat, Daisy, didn’t like the new puppy, and stayed clear of it.  On April 15th, a Tuesday, it snowed about four inches.  My sister and I were happy about the new snow, while our cousins moaned about the fresh snow and how they wanted it to be spring.  My brother couldn’t have cared less about it.  Looking back, I too wish it hadn’t snowed considering the circumstances.  I think Grandma just needed it to be Spring.

The day after the snow, we had the calling hours (a time when people come and give their condolences to the relatives of the deceased person and to see the deceased person in the casket).  When we saw his body in the casket, my Aunt cried a lot.  The lump in my throat , which was as big as a watermelon, didn’t go down till I left the room.  The calling hours lasted about seven hours, but I left with my sister and younger cousin after about three hours.  A kind lady volunteered to take us home.  I noticed that people get a lot nicer when one of your family members die.  I guess it is just courtesy.  Or maybe it’s sympathy. Or maybe even empathy.

The memorial service was the next day, and the weather was sunny.  My Uncle, my Dad, my Mom, and my Aunt all went up and talked.  My Uncle did a wonderful speech, and my Dad read some poems.  One he had written, and one Grandpa had written.  My Aunt and my Mom read some poem-like-writings.  We sang some of Grandpa’s favorite songs, and two different pastors got up and talked.  The memorial service was really marvelous.

We finally left on April 20th,  Easter Sunday.  The flights went well, and we arrived home in time for dinner.  My Dad went up there again last week for the burial because the ground had been too muddy in April.  I’m glad my dad was able to go up again.  He was able to help with the work at Grandma’s house, and he was also there to comfort her. We will be going up to VT again in the Summer.  I will not be seeing my Grandpa ever again in VT, or even on Earth.  But I will see him later, in heaven.

by Caleb, age 12

Hydrant

18 Jan

He’s stuck—a burdock in the sock of his apartment
on the third floor—so he shuffles
to the kitchen window, watches a backhoe
fold knolls of asphalt and earth.

Men and trucks are lined up at the curb
with pipes to fix a break. A rush of lake
consuming glory pours from the corner
hydrant darkening the summer street.

There! and there! glad kids appear
to splash their skin and hair and stamp
their feet. He makes space to recall the days
he filled his run home lungs with air

then drops his gaze to the pink pill organizer
and inhaler sitting by a glass of water. He thinks,
those men down there are working hard
and reaches for the dishes in the kitchen sink.

Let A Rose

25 Nov

buttons and rose

Let a rose be all things beautiful and true; let the rain be you.
Let a button be forbearance; let your blouse
be faded blue. 
Let a shoelace be repentance;
let me stop and tie my shoe.
Let a rose be all things beautiful and true.

Let a rose be all things beautiful and true; let a sigh be you.
Let a button be forgiveness; let your fingers
push it through. 
Let a shoelace be a promise;
let me double knot my shoe.
Let a rose be all things beautiful and true.

Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand by Henry Alford

8 Aug

Henry Alford

On the ABOUT page of my blog, I explain that my blog title If You Long For Home…is meant (in part) to reflect my eternal perspective.  This hymn by English hymn writer Henry Alford (1810-1871) is a fine description in poetic form of my eternal hope and desire.

Alford was also a scholar who studied Homer, English Poetry, and the Greek New Testament.

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Ten thousand times ten thousand in sparkling raiment bright,
The armies of the ransomed saints throng up the steeps of light;
‘Tis finished, all is finished, their fight o’er death and sin;
Fling open wide the golden gates and let the victors in.

What rush of alleluias fills all the earth and sky!
What ringing of a thousand harps bespeaks the triumph nigh!
O day, for which creation and all its tribes were made;
O joy, for all its former woes a thousand-fold repaid!

O then what raptured greetings on Canaan’s happy shore;
What knitting severed friendships up, where partings are no more!
Then eyes with joy shall sparkle, that brimmed with tears of late;
Orphans no longer fatherless, nor widows desolate.

Bring near Thy great salvation, Thou Lamb for sinners slain;
Fill up the roll of Thine elect, then take Thy power and reign;
Appear, Desire of nations, Thine exiles long for home;
Show in the heaven Thy promised sign; Thou Prince and Savior, come.