Seeing Around the Bend

Seeing Around the Bend

November 8, 2016

It’s election day as I write.  Last night, Holly showed me the News Tribune article on the theft of Mary Plaster’s puppet version of Prince. And then this morning, I listened to a conversation from On Being between Krista Tippett and Michael Longley in Belfast Ireland.  One of the things that Longley shared in the conversation was a description of art being similar to the pituitary gland.  It is this seemingly insignificant thing, but when removed, life and growth ceases.  So, on this election day, when so much focus is being put to the prose of the world, I offer a poem:

Seeing Around the Bend

Her hands lay paper
wet with glue,
layer after layer
until a visage forms.
Musical royalty returned.
A visitor to All Soul’s Night
with the rest of the ancestors.
Yet he is lost once again,
taken by unknown hands,
not those who had so lovingly
re-called him into being.
The creator’s hands now raise up a simple request
for a prodigal puppet:
Please return – no questions asked.

I, too, have known double loss.
Yesterday, I had a job
with the aim of relieving pain.
To uncurl toes from rigid stasis.
On exiting the clinic,
I found an empty bike rack.
My blue cable clipped cleanly,
the sheer brazenness making me breathless.
I had lost a bike four months ago.
With a friend’s aid, I found another.
Different color.  Black and silver, not red.
Different fiber.  Aluminum, not carbon.
Same trusted companion for the road.

I am now left with just a poem
rattling in my chest
and Michael Longley whispering in my ear.
A poet who wrote through “The Troubles” in Ireland,
of the need to hug the knees
of the killer of your child.
Ice cream and flowers (21 varieties)
marking the path back to life.
“What’s the use of a poem?” he whispers.
“No use…but of great value.”

As I walked home yesterday,
with bike helmet on
and severed lock in my pocket,
I was left with just words.
Signs on my path.
Augustine’s confessions of disordered love:
sin is not that we love things.
It is that we don’t have
our loves in order.

This list appears in my mind:
Love God.
Love neighbor.
Love bicycles.

And who is my neighbor?
In this election season,
the lawyer’s question lingers
on an e-mail exchange
between me on my liberal island
and Robert on his conservative one.

“The world has turned away from God,”
he writes.
And on my bike-less walk home,
I agree.

The path forward, whether by wheel or foot,
is finding the Thou.
Recognizing that to be human
is to be both “I” and “We.”
The journey of life
is rigged like that.
We do not walk alone.
Turning back to God
means turning to each other.

Of course, this poem is of no use
so I offer its value
to a broken world
from a broken soul.
It is, after all, the cracks
that let the light shine through.
The rays of art connecting us
through paper maiché
and purple rain.

The November sun rises
as I look at my own hands,
exhale, and lift my eyes once again.
Good morning, neighbor.
I am glad to see you.