Second Sunday of Lent

The moon is more beautiful on a cloudy night
just as the sun is more beautiful in a rainstorm,
a sudden insight in the midst of confusion,
one right note in a sea of dissonant chords.

Yours is a starker beauty
when it lines and shines beyond a hundred clouds
or through a hundred thousand raindrops
hanging in the air like pearls
thrown down from heaven in a passion,
an ecstasy of light.


This is day 12 of LABIA MUNDA, a series of forty poems during the forty days of Lent. 

First Saturday of Lent

Grow up, little mangrove tree,
not down, though it is in your nature
to spread roots far and deep:

Grow up, for you are planted
in a seedbed that is rich,
but one day I will transplant you
down from your mountaintop
in the salt-water and the mire
and hard earth by the sea.

Grow up, for your branches
though they are weak and slender
must multiply in leaves
to give shelter to the weary,
and to bear many burdens
too heavy for them now.

Grow up, little mangrove tree,
for it is your desire
to be crushed
and your roots to go dry
so that the cactus might flower,
the aloe vera, the Japanese maple.

Very well—even the prophet
and the priest
forage in a land they know not.
Remember—my Spirit
drove them into the desert
and you, too, out from the sea.

Grow up, precious mangrove tree:
in time you will thirst
for these plentiful waters:
in time again you will spread your roots
into their depths
and thirst no more.


This is day 11 of Labia Munda, a series of forty poems during the forty days of Lent. 

First Friday of Lent

I look at my sin like a middle schooler looks
at the drama of his life
with a somber and apocalyptic certainty,
his heart rent, life spent at a stray word,
world crushed under the weight
of one girl’s rejection, one failing grade,
one mistake (pick any one).

And the Father looks down at me
a little bemused at my gravity
as any father rightfully would be.

“Look at me,” he urges.

I trudge before him
eyes downcast
because I do not want to look,
but his are bright eyes, warm-with-delight eyes:
delight at the sight of his son.

He laughs with a father’s disconcerting disconcern.
“That’s what you’re so worked up over?”
“I thought you would be mad.”
“Son, I’m just happy you told me.”

His embrace is my home and he grants me permission to stay there
and to gaze into the brilliant depths.
His peace is like wine or a fire that burns in me
but does not consume.

How often I wish I could bring every one
of my brothers and sisters back to him,
one by one to those eyes
which would brim with tears
to see again his daughters, his sons
who so long had spurned his affection:
to see them take their rest
in the home that had always been theirs
though they, like I, had forgotten!

How often I wish my heart would burst open
with light that it could not contain
spilling out through every seam and crack in it
so full would it be of the father’s candescent love!
a light to pierce the clouds and bathe and warm them!
how often I wish
they would
remember.

How often my little light flickers dimly
like the red lamp winking
in the tabernacle of my heart.

How often I forget whose son I am
and in whose arms my home is.

How often I must return
to look into those eyes
and yet again
begin.


This is day 10 of Labia Munda, a series of forty poems during the forty days of Lent. 

 

Seven Servites

My whole life I have gone away
into the hills to pray,
as when I was a boy
and went and sat beneath a trinity of trees
on a mount overlooking my home-town,
by night or by day it did not matter
in the shade of these
three grandmothers,
alone except for the wind,
the deer, little bugs in the tree-bark,
once or twice a wild hare,
always the teeming thousands in the grass,
and unknowable things deep down beyond the wooded hillcrest,
and the trees themselves
with their knowing whispering rustlings to themselves,
“we’ve seen the likes of him before” no doubt,
respectable in their way, comforting even
in their certain superiority, their detached affection, their
hair-ruffling branches and their always-leaf-falling
even in seasons when no leaves should fall.

I was at peace there:
I was at home with my self there,
and perhaps
I heard the voice of God there,
but only if He condescended to whisper.

And I would have stayed there
if not for another mount of communion
and another Trinity
who made the earth and all that it contains,
even grandmother-trees and wild hares and
all the more unknowable
deep down things.


This is day 8 of Labia Munda, a series of forty poems during the forty days of Lent. 

First Sunday of Lent

If our heart is the Father’s home
then I am heartily sorry that in my heart
the bed is left unmade
and the toothbrush is lying out on the counter
which is stained with the losses
of unknowable liquids
from uncountable cups
and the mirror is spotted and streaked,
the desk is a catastrophe of papers,
the chair squeaks,
the carpet goes stubbornly unvacuumed,
there are 5 messages on the answering machine
and the fridge is empty
except for margarine.

Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man
and why, why do you long to live in me?

Your heart is my home.

And I have let it fall
into such disarray.

My son, be not ashamed.

You deserve much better
than my persistent neglect.

Have you not chosen me?

Yes, Lord, every day—

And have I not chosen you?


This is day 5 of Labia Munda, a series of forty poems during the forty days of Lent. 

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

“Lord, open my lips,” I sing, “open my lips,
that my mouth may proclaim your praise,”
my breviary wind-whipped, rain-soaked
and my prayer the prey of the gales.
I sing psalms from the narrow place:
He answers from wide spaces
in the hush between gust-bursts,
in the patterns he paints on the face of the waters
and the cats’-chase down in the fields.

“Con chiên cua Chúa,” they sing: “Lamb of God,
who take away the sins of the world,”
one voice which calls from one end of the earth to the other,
southeast Asia to southeast Portland
and my brother’s heart to mine,
because I hear the smile in his voice
as he says in Vietnamese to the Only Begotten One
“I am not worthy,”
and I whisper with him: “non sum dignus”
in the face of such a golden rapture.

“Pray for us,” we sing, “mother of God,
pray for us, that we may be made worthy,”
a few voices badly out of tune,
a few hearts wounded by love in the deep-dark:
but she can hear the smile in our voices
and we can see her smiling back at us
in that precious luminescence
of heart in tune with heart
in tune with Heart.


This is day 4 of Labia Munda, a series of forty poems during the forty days of Lent. 

 

Friday after Ash Wednesday

And the silence is full of pages
and joints creaking
and intermittent vibrations
and swallowing and
all the little noises bodies make
though they usually go unnoticed.

and the chapel is full of light
though it is half past 10:00
and all the world is sleeping
and all the lights are dimmed.

and the air is richer somehow
as I notice when I fall on my knees
and then bend to the ground
with my hood up over my head
and pray “come Holy Spirit” until I run out of praying
because when I sit up and breathe
something rushes into my lungs that is
sweeter than air
which is thin.

and love is thicker somehow
as we tabernacles gape to receive Him
and my brothers
who I see every blessed day:
Christ to me! Christ beside me,
Christ before me, Christ’s hand upon me
in the fire-glint of an other-Pentecost.

and time steals away into eternity
as a holy hour stretches into two
and two and a half
before anyone realizes it’s
gone.


This is day 3 of Labia Munda, a series of forty poems during the forty days of Lent.