Poetry for Superbowl Sunday

Evening Practice  (excerpt)—  D. Nurkse
… I ran out
to savor the dregs of dusk
playing with my friends
in the road that led to the highway.
The ball flew up toward day
and landed in night. …

Superbowl Sunday (excerpts)  —  G Doktor
… screaming in joy, not pain
Believing in a team
That can take us all the way
To this season’s big game

… Losing our own contest is final
Unthinkable
Just for today we take a break
Watch others rush-grunt-sweat

Carried to this impossible place
By someone else’s
Strong bodies, large hearts
Transported to a transcendence

Different than our own
Though we too risk everything
Put it all on the line
Hold nothing back

… we don’t say out loud
To fail the final goal
Isn’t an option
Though it could happen

We show up, day by day,
Try over and over
Lay plans to win against all odds
Though truthfully we know it’s enough
To play at all

Wide Receiver — Mark Halliday
In the huddle you said “Go long—get open”
and at the snap I took off along the right sideline
and then cut across left in a long arc
and I’m sure I was open at several points—
glancing back I saw you pump-fake more than once
but you must not have been satisfied with what you saw downfield
and then I got bumped off course and my hands touched the turf
but I regained my balance and dashed back to the right
I think or maybe first left and then right
and I definitely got open but the throw never came—
maybe you thought I couldn’t hang on to a ball flung so far
or maybe you actually can’t throw so far
but in any case I feel quite open now,
the defenders don’t seem too interested in me
I sense only open air all around me
though the air is getting darker and it would appear
by now we’re well into the fourth quarter
and I strongly doubt we can afford to settle for
dinky little first downs if the score is what I think it is
so come on, star boy, fling a Hail Mary
with a dream-coached combination of muscle and faith
and I will gauge the arc and I will not be stupidly frantic
and I will time my jump and—I’m just going to say
in the cool gloaming of this weirdly long game
it is not impossible that I will make the catch.

Beautiful Game (excerpt) — Sharon Wilkie-Jones
… Of the game that called for disciples
And chose Saints to preach its gospels
And sinners to bear witness to its
Open heart and closed hand
This football life
Tumbling through the looking glass at the end
Of the rainbow
Moving into hearts with the effortless
Ease of night slipping into day
Its atmosphere alive with the thudding pulse
The rising pant of expectation
Stepping out of textbooks and history books
Into a kaleidoscope of noise and celebration
Where leather caseys parcelled in mud
And sweat and blood and philosophy and pain
Can still grace a sky whilst beneath sit the faithful
And the fortunate
As hope waits with its pockets stuffed
With bitten nails
This football life
A game to break your heart …
And then
… To fall in love
Again
And again
And again…

 

Meditations on walking toward freedom from bondage

What does it mean to walk for freedom? What freedoms do we have and which ones are being dismantled? How will we stand for freedom and resist oppression and injustice? And sometimes, when it is beyond our control, where do we experience the love and grace that holds us accountable, but also sets us free?
Tonight  (excerpts) — Agha Shahid Ali
… I beg for haven: Prisons, let open your gates—

A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight.

… And I … only am escaped to tell thee—

God sobs in my arms. Call me Ishmael tonight.

Maggid(excerpts) Marge Piercy
The courage to let go of the door, the handle.

The courage to shed the familiar walls …

We honor those who let go of every-
thing but freedom, who ran, who revolted, who fought,
who became other by saving themselves.

Freedom Walk:
From Slavery to Something Else

Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it. — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Life is a gift to be received with gratitude and a task to be pursued with courage. — Presbyterian Church USA, Confession of 1967

When author Madeleine L’Engle was asked, ‘Do you believe in God without any doubts?’ she replied, ‘I believe in God with all my doubts. — Bruce Epperly, Christian Century 1-26-10

I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death. — Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela.

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers. — M. Scott Peck

We make the road by walking. — Paulo Freire

If you can’t fly then run,
if you can’t run then walk,
if you can’t walk then crawl,
but whatever you do
you have to keep moving forward.
― Martin Luther King Jr

This year is also the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.

Prayer — Martin Luther

Eternal God,
you call us to ventures
of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that your hand is leading us
and your love supporting us,
in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Reflections on taking action, many members of one body at work in the world

Action and Non-Action
Chuang Tzu,
t
ranslated by Thomas James Merton
The non-action of the wise man is not inaction.
It is not studied. It is not shaken by anything.
The sage is quiet because he is not moved,
Not because he wills to be quiet.
Still water is like glass.
You can look in it and see the bristles on your chin.
It is a perfect level;
A carpenter could use it.
If water is so clear, so level,
How much more the spirit of man?
The heart of the wise man is tranquil.
It is the mirror of heaven and earth
The glass of everything.
Emptiness, stillness, tranquillity, tastelessness,
Silence, non-action: this is the level of heaven and earth.
This is perfect Tao. Wise men find here
Their resting place.
Resting, they are empty.
From emptiness comes the unconditioned.
From this, the conditioned, the individual things.
So from the sage’s emptiness, stillness arises:
From stillness, action. From action, attainment.
From their stillness comes their non-action, which is also action
And is, therefore, their attainment.
For stillness is joy. Joy is free from care
Fruitful in long years.
Joy does all things without concern:
For emptiness, stillness, tranquillity, tastelessness,
Silence, and non-action
Are the root of all things.

Small Actions, Mighty Outcomes

Sometimes even to live is an act of courage. — Seneca

We cannot wish that human beings were not subject to the forces of nature, including the mortality… we cannot wish for the seas to dry up, that the waves grow still, that the tectonic plates cease to exist, that nature ceases to be beyond our abilities to predict and control… But the terms of that nature include such catastrophe and suffering, which leaves us with sorrow as not a problem to be solved but a fact. And it leaves us with compassion as the work we will never finish. — Rebecca Solnit, Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world. — Fred Rogers

Never confuse movement with action. — Ernest Hemingway

The future depends on what you do today. — Mahatma Gandhi

You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do. — C.G. Jung

We don’t always feel God’s presence, just as we don’t feel the sun on a rainy day. But the presence never grows dim, and the confidence that it is there and will shine again keeps us hopeful. — Evan Drake Howard

Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave–that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm. And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful. It allows us to be generous, which is another way of saying exactly the same thing. — Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Bon Dieu! may I some day do something truly great. amen. — e.e. cummings

Be great in little things. — Francis Xavier

I am not a champion of lost causes, but of causes not yet won. — Norman Thomas


Rabbi Ben Ezra (excerpts)
Robert Browning
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

… Fool! All that is, at all,

Lasts ever, past recall;
Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure:
What entered into thee,
That was, is, and shall be:
Time’s wheel runs back or stops: Potter and clay endure.

… So, take and use Thy work:

Amend what flaws may lurk,
What strain o’ the stuff, what warpings past the aim!
My times be in Thy hand!
Perfect the cup as planned!
Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same!

Meditation on Strangers & Bread: Road and Table with the Unknown

Whom Aren’t You Noticing?
Who or what has the capacity to break you open?

More Blues and the Abstract Truth (excerpt)
— C. D. Wright
… Well. Then. You say Grandmother
let me just ask you this:
How does a body rise up again and rinse
her mouth from the tap. And how
does a body put in a plum tree
or lie again on top of another body
or string a trellis. Or go on drying
the flatware. Fix rainbow trout. Grout the tile.
Buy a bag of onions. Beat an egg stiff.
Yes … And how does a body break
bread with the word when the word
has broken. Again. And. Again.
With the wine. And the loaf.
And the excellent glass
of the body. And she says,
Even. If. The. Sky. Is. Falling.
My. Peace. Rose. Is. In. Bloom.

And if strangers come to supper they shall be served with more according as they have need. — Robert Grossteste

It’s good to remember that in crises, natural crises, human beings forget for awhile their ignorances, their biases, their prejudices. For a little while, neighbors help neighbors and strangers help strangers. — Maya Angelou

There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet. — William Butler Yeats
We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken. — Fyodor Dostoevsky

Even in the inevitable moments when all seems hopeless, men know that without hope they cannot really live, and in agonizing desperation they cry for the bread of hope. — Martin Luther King, Jr

There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.  ― Mahatma Gandhi

I was raised in a group home for 14 years, so I was a beneficiary of philanthropy. I didn’t have a family. The nameless, faceless strangers were my family. They gave me an education, put food on the table and clothes on my back. I am who I am because of that formative experience. Now I am paying it forward. — Darell Hammond

Great perils have this beauty, that they bring to light the fraternity of strangers. — Victor Hugo

Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people – your family, friends and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way. — Barbara Bush

bread (excerpt)
—  Kamau Brathwaite
… life itself.
the dream of the soil itself
flesh of the god you break.
peace to your lips.
strife of the multitudes
who howl all day for its saviour
who need its crumbs …
to keep their groans alive
and this loaf here.
life now halted.
more and more water add-
itive. the dream less clear.
the soil more distant
its prayer of table.
bless of lips.
more hard to reach
… the hands that should have
broken open its victory
… searching searching …