New Souls

I would so love to be one of those people who go through something hard and bounce back super-quick.  One of those people who is super positive all the time, sees the bright side, enjoys the good weather, all that crap.  I am not one of those people, I take things seriously.  Hurts hurt me for a long time.  There is much poetry and journaling involved in getting over something.  I go through a spectrum of emotions, each with its own pain and redemption and side effects.  No matter how much I wish I could do things differently, that is how I cope with life, and I’ve never figured out a way to do it differently.

Lately I don’t have much to say about the world, which is probably why there hasn’t been much blogging of late.  I’m really hoping this is a phase, because I’m pretty sure that a poet without anything to say about the world is going to be out of a job before long.  That being the case for the moment, I thought I would post one of my coping poems for today and hope for better things by the end of the week.  This is a lovely little number entitled “New Souls.”

To the place of new souls

I will direct my prayers

To the place where you’re waiting

For a body that will work

Perhaps you are right to delay

To wait for one that’s good enough

I already know

That your soul is bright and beautiful

Because I have known you a short time

And I have dreamed of you

When the moon casts light on my sleeping

I have prayed for you

Before I knew of your existence

Hear me, new soul

And don’t let my words fall

Hear me, new soul

And don’t let your soul be lost

Don’t leave now

Because these cells could not hold you

Wait for me

Wait for something better

I love you with an intensity

No one will ever describe

And I will mourn for you forever

If you never walk by my side

To the place of new souls

I will direct my prayers

My Lord said that he has you

And so I will not despair

Any Way I Like

So this is a new poem, never been seen before (except by my cute husband).  This was inspired by a pet peeve of mine.  I tend to really resent it when pastors/books/people in general start telling me how I shouldn’t pray.  I don’t like that.  So I wrote this poem in response, and I think it turned out pretty silly and fun considering it was based on an irritation.  Like a pearl, but funnier.

I will pray any way I like.

I will pray for stuff I want

I will pray for grandpa’s and aunts

I will pray that 27 million slaves will be set free

I will pray for politicians with integrity

I will pray over hangnails and cancer

I will pray for cats and dogs and hamsters

I will pray for bad boyfriends to leave

I will pray afterward when I’m lonely

I will pray my joy, sorrow, and apathy

I will pray with rhyme and poetry

I will pray rotes lists from memory

I will pray the rosary

I will pray the prayers of saints

I will pray for babies with metaphysical angst

I’ll pray for things no one is ready for

I’ll pray when I can’t stand life anymore

I will pray for the end of hunger and poverty

I will pray for the end of prostitution and pornography

I will pray for judges who are merciful

I will pray for solutions that are beautiful

I will pray for the kids on our street

I will pray for people I’ll never meet

I will pray for kids that have no hope

I will pray for kids who struggle with homework.

I will pray for comfortable jails and short sentences

I will pray for bullies and menaces

I will pray over the split lip of a three-year-old

I will pray for crime to leave my neighborhood

I will pray for God to fix how cranky I am

I will pray for no more fireworks at 2am

I will pray the words of ancient traditions

I will pray for efficiency and organization

I will pray for success and riches

I’ll pray for relief when my left eye twitches

I will pray for efforts and causes

I will pray for charities and churches

I will pray when the leaves are tender and green

I will pray when God feels distant and mean

I will pray rants and diatribes

I will pray silly deals and bribes

I will pray for things that aren’t quite right

I will pray with all my breath and might

I will pray for everything I know and touch

I will pray since I can’t ever pray too much

I will pray because God has everything that I’ll ever get

I will pray trusting that God will not give me bad gifts

I will pray with confidence because God knows I’m made out of dirt anyway

I will pray because I don’t know what to do a lot of the time

I will pray because I want someone to listen to me

I will pray because God is my greatest friend

So I will pray any way I like.

The Math Works

Last Saturday night I had the great pleasure of performing one of my spoken word pieces for Minnesota Without Poverty”s ( statewide gathering.  There were two musicians and two other poets who performed, and it was an honor to be in such a talented group of people.  Much love to Julia Dinsmore for all her encouragement and for contending to get me on the program for this event.  It was a great night, and there were many requests for a copies of the poem and possibly other opportunities to perform.

I am delighted to report that I sent copies of the poem out to The Saint Paul Area Council of Churches (, The Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless (, Jobs Now Coalition (, and Senator John Marty.  So I thought I’d post the text of the poem for my internet friends too.  You’re welcome to use it too if you like, just please credit me and let me know where it’s being used.  Here it is!

The math works

$6.15 an hour for eight hours a day

$49.20 a day for five days a week

Since I can’t get overtime

$246 a week

Before taxes

Which shakes out to $870 a month

$600 for my apartment

$80 a month for bus fare

Which leaves about $50 a week for groceries

For me and my kid.

The math works.

Except my kid goes to school

$4.25 for pencils

$5.60 for a notebook

$10.75 for a calculator

$29.83 for new used clothes

$23.65 for a backpack

And it’s $75 before we’re done

But I can do this

So I walk to work in the month of September

It’s four miles, it takes over an hour

But it’s okay, because the math works.

Except that my kid gets the flu

I should have gotten her that shot

But I didn’t get home from work until late

And I was so tired

$95 for the doctor visit

So they could tell me it’s a virus

And there’s nothing they can do

I can’t miss work

So I pay my neighbor $10 a day

To check in on my kid once or twice

That’s our whole grocery budget

So I buy ten cans of chicken noodle soup

On sale for a dollar a piece

To last a week

Chicken soup is good for a sick girl anyway, right?

And that’s good, because I need the math to work.

Except that they cut my hours

Down to 35 hours a week

That’s $30 a week off my check

I swallow my panic

If I’m very careful

I cut the grocery budget by $20

And only take the bus home from work

But it’s getting colder

My coat is torn

My shoes are wearing out

There’s no way to replace them

But the math doesn’t care about that

It just works.

In December there’s Christmas

I walk the aisles of shiny toys my kid would love

I check one price tag

$34.95 for a toy?

An employee sees me touching it

“Can I help you, ma’am?”

Just looking, I say, just looking

I can’t buy anything

Because I can only work the math so hard.

In January they raise my rent

$650 a month now

I carry the notice to the office

It rattles in my shaking hand

Because I haven’t eaten enough

Because I’m exhausted

I’ve worked seven hours

And walked eight miles

And it’s 10 degrees outside

And I’m chilled down to my marrow

I try to be polite

I tell that lady with the nice hairdo and the brand new clothes

That I can’t pay an extra $50 a month

I can’t pay any extra a month

She gives me look

A look that sees my torn coat, my worn-out shoes

My shaking hands

She shrugs

there’s nothing she can do

Everything’s expensive these days.

Now I am not a crazy person

And I’m not taking any drugs

But I scream and yell at that woman

I know, I know things are expensive

But I don’t get paid any more because things are expensive

And do you understand that I can’t live if the math doesn’t work?

Math is cruel

It comes up short without any apology

I will spend my life working it

But I want better for my kid

For her, I need people to work

People to push my employer to pay me a fair wage

A living wage

People to pitch in for school supplies

People to lobby for cheaper doctor visits

People to invest in my kid, while I’m at work

So she can spend her life making the world work

Instead of just the math.

Life is a Storm

This life is a storm
with it’s huge crashes of light
It’s nourishing rain
it’s pressing winds
the scurrying leaves
the utter, consuming blackness

And the moment I say, “It’s dark!”
the lightning brings to stark reality
the unmistakable outline of the world
And surely with a light as powerful
as profound and moving as that
It could never be dark again
Yet this thought is not yet complete
when obscurity falls like a thick blanket
and muffles the very fiber of light

The rain that feeds the world
pelts my face without mercy
the winds that press and worry
sweep the landscape clean
like a mother with her trusted broom

And in the face of black and white
the how are you doing’s
it’s impossible to express
the everything of nothingness
the sheer joy and crushing despair
that I eat together, day after day
so to the questions I will reply
This life is a storm
How can I say more?

My Psalm

You are God, you are all mighty
You are the creator of everything
You hold the world in the palm of your hand
The winds and waves bend to your command
At your word mountains rise
At your gesture the earth splits to form great valleys and canyons
All the wisdom and knowledge in all the universe and beyond is within you.

What possible harm can the voice of my work do to you?
What gain will you render by my silence?
Have I so offended you, my Lord?
Have you abandoned the friendship we have had since my childhood?
At that time you chose to take me under your wing
To protect and preserve me
To comfort and console me.
Have you changed your mind?

My savior Christ
You declared that we might do even greater things on earth than you did
Yet the sick die under my hands
The doubtful leave my ministry unsatisfied
The lost feel nothing when I call for your presence
The discouraged slay themselves in despair
How will I continue to have faith in your word?

I cry out to you, my Lord
Give me the mind of a child that I might inherit your kingdom
Teach me how to trust in the face of disappointment
Give me faith that defies understanding
Trust that will not brook the thought of betrayal
Oh Lord, heal me for my bones are in agony
Relieve me of my cynicism
The thoughts that cut through my tender heart
Destroy the obstacle to my love for you
Make me like a child
unconcerned with legitimacy or respect
Make me your daughter
flesh of your flesh and bone of your bone
That I might be willing to work for you alone.

My great Father, my desire is for you
For you have shown me great favor
You have loved me with an everlasting love
You have defended me against the schemes of the enemy
The minions that would have me dead long ago
Who would have murdered me with despair and foolishness
You have quieted them, Lord, for my sake
You have rebuked the princes of hell that I might not be harmed
You have sacrificed your life’s blood
That we might be companions in eternity.

Those minions are still hungry for me
The enemy has no lack of slaves.
If you do not step forward, they will devour me
I have no defense against them
Only your power can stand against them
Only your voice can silence them
Only your name will dispel them
Do not be far from me or I will die
Doubt and despair will consume me before your eyes.

I cry out to you for mercy, my loving father.
Show me your purposes for my life and I will follow them.
I will cling to the edges of the abyss with all my strength
All my fingers will break before I let go
For I believe that I am still your favored child
and that you will rescue me from darkness.