psalm 80: the strangled vine

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how long will
this people be wrathful,
this nation that feasts
on the tears of its own trauma
so that it might strike out
again and again
against enemies real and imagined?

this nation repeatedly plucked
from its vine until
it cleared and filled the land,
planting its weapons deep
lifting up higher and higher walls,
spreading dread like an iron dome,
hermetically sealed from
all it ever was
or ever dreamed of being?

can you look beyond
this airtight prison of your own making,
beyond your illusion of shelter,
are you even able to see
the carnage your own fear
has unleashed?

look even further
and you will see
that once glorious vine
now withered and strangling
in the dust,
yet patiently waiting
as the uprooted inevitably do,
to be returned to
its source.


psalm 79: pour out your love

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can you pour out your love
upon the ones you do not know,
the ones who mutter their strange
and fearful prayers, who
refuse to call upon god
by your comfortable, familiar names?

can you tear open your robe and
let your compassion bleed out,
swaddling and comforting
those you have been taught to fear
with an indignation that burns
like a devouring fire?

are you ready to mourn
the dead of another family
whose blood is your blood,
the one who looks like a stranger
but is in truth,
your own flesh and kin?

throw open the doors,
and if the holy temple is to be defiled
let it be defiled
with unconditional love and grace,
profaned with the unbearably gorgeous
symphony of kaddishes
known and unknown.


psalm 78: the jealous kind

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i’ll tell you what i know
but i must warn you up front
it’s not exactly suitable
for children.

i’ve met this one you call god, the
seductive voice in the wilderness
that blows your mind with wonders,
feeding your every craving
with the promise of
glorious redemption.

it’s all fine of course until
your inevitable misstep, you know i’m
a merciful god but do you realize just
how many times i’ve forgiven
your inequity, how often i’ve
restrained my wrath, how close
i’ve come to unleashing this
pent-up fury upon you?

oh, i know this voice all too
well, the one that whispers i’m so
sorry but you knew i was
the jealous kind when
you signed on the line but
it’s ok now don’t cry, yes
you’ve taken your punishment
but now i’m taking you back
my one and only
love.


psalm 77: leaky pipes

cobblestone-puddle
i know all about the deeds
they ascribe to you:
the way you split open the void
and drove chaos back into
deep darkness,
how you split the heavens wide open
to make room for the light.

and i’ve heard the stories:
how you convulsed the raging
waters, how you opened up the
narrowest of places, how you
uncovered a path
through which we might
be reborn anew.

i think of it all tonight
as i lie awake listening to
the incessant drip,
drip of the leaky pipes
and when i close my eyes
i see the waters
slowly rising
once more.

as i dream of chaos
spreading through the streets,
i can only pray
that when i wake,
the wind will have
already begun to
stir the waters
ever
so
gently.


psalm 76: your dark and vengeful ways

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did you know there are
those who simply live to tell
and retell of your pitiless anger,
did you ever stop to realize
just how many people sing gloriously
of your dark and vengeful ways?

how exactly do you want
to be remembered?
do you really want to be known as
the one who gleefully
vanquishes the enemy,
who lays nations to waste and
all but numbs the earth
with fright?

or would you rather i sing praises
to the moment i emerged blinking
in the light,
awestruck by the boundless power
that breathes right through me
then drifts impossibly on
into the hush of a
starless night?


psalm 75: well worn hymns

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i know you are near
but too often
i feel your presence as
a kind of sad capriciousness,
listening to us sing
our well-worn hymns
as you dangle the
sweet dream of justice
before us.

then again, perhaps i’m
only projecting my
hopes and fears onto you -
that behind this
terrifyingly random facade
there lies a world founded
on pillars of equity that
will never be shaken,
try though we might.

so if i send my songs of praise
to a place beyond even you
i’m sure you’ll understand.
and when my voice gives out
i won’t falter -
i’ll simply close my eyes,
raise my cup,
and revive myself with the
sweet taste of liberation
without end.


psalm 74: monsters unvanquished

Sea-monster_Terme_di_Nettuno_Ostia_Antica_2006-09-08
there are times when
i think the very beginning
must have been a labor of love,
every element rapturously built
upon the last, yet somehow
far beyond the sum of its parts,
a world created and re-created
in exquisite equilibrium.

and there are times
when the universe seems
forever straining at the seams,
primordial waters leaking
through the cracks,
and you’re valiantly battling on,
still trying your best to
drive back the forces of chaos.

so tell me, when i look
deep into your darkness,
what will i find?
will i be greeted by
the stillness of the night
that must surely follow day, or
the mad raging of sea monsters
as yet unvanquished?


psalm 73: the path of true empathy

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it’s a unique kind of condition,
i suffer from it myself
from time to time.

it’s not that easy to detect,
the first symptom: a kind of quiet,
creeping elation, followed by
the sensation of invulnerability,
a fearlessness that somehow lifts you
above the petty travails
of common humanity.

there’s no pain, no fear,
not even of death itself.
only the illusion that your heart
is healthy and whole, when in reality
all those arteries and veins
are collapsing inward, slowly
blocking the connection to
your very source.

please don’t let the numbness overtake me,
show me how to feel, no better yet,
help me discover the path of true empathy:
strengthen me with the knowledge
that this pain is irrevocably
inseparable from the pain
of all that lives.


psalm 72: transformation

flowers-sidewalk-crack
let the lowly rise up,
let them crash and collide like
tectonic plates, let them burst forth
leaving soaring mountains
in their wake.

let the oppressed, buried deep
within the earth smolder and
shape like pressurized carbon
gliding inevitably upwards
only to emerge like diamonds
in the morning sun.

let the justice that trickled first
from shallow creeks now
roar through the valley and saturate
the dry parched earth, let it flow
relentlessly throughout the land
where life once grew
and will grow again.

let those who cry out in pain
feel your presence growing within
their broken souls like green
stems shooting through cracked pavement,
let them live to see new life spreading
through abandoned streets and
neighborhoods and cities and nations.

let the promise of your transformation beckon
still that we might finally take the first
tentative step into this new day, yes
let it be so.


psalm 71: no sanctuary

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don’t let me seek refuge in you
when i come running, please
resist all temptation, don’t
grant me sanctuary in your fortress,
magnificent though it may be.

when i hear that voice whispering
in my ear again, hissing and
humming through my bones like
an insistent night wind,
just disregard the inevitable pleas
for rescue: no sheltering rock
will be required.

yes, i know it’s your nature but
just wait and you’ll see:
my song of praise to you
will be so much sweeter
this way.


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