Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Man Born Blind Sent to See

By Lynn Domina

He recalled his mother’s frustration
explaining transparency. You see
through it, she’d said, but he could discover
no pattern—wind though not smoke,
oil but not its lamp, not milk but water,
some demons only.

So here in the pool at Siloam, he stooped
to water cooling his feet, his ankles. He could see
water, its ripples, its eddies, and he could see
objects shining inside the water, stones,
clumps of mud, tawny weeds.
He could see his face,
frightening as magic, floating
inches below the surface. When he bent
to touch his beard, his finger
sank right through.

His hand leapt back into air
where he could see lines
at his knuckles, thin scratches, blue veins
curving to his wrist; yet still he saw
his hand’s image where his hand
was not. This would be his joy

he understood, always seeing
more than was there.

Lynn Domina is an access student in ESR's M.Div. program. She lives in the western Catskill region of New York, where she teaches English at the State University of New York at Delhi. She is the author of two collections of poetry, Corporal Works and Framed in Silence, and the editor of a collection of essays, Poets on the Psalms. Her recent poetry appears in The Southern Review,The New England ReviewChristianity & Literature, and many other periodicals.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sun in the Mountains

By M. Lee Collins

Sun in the mountains,
but the peaks grow cold.
Beneath, the mist tells a story
of the origins of hidden footpaths,
traveled by weary seekers of
enlightenment—all this
for a glimpse—gnarled trees,
valley in shadow.

M. Lee Collins is a graduating senior in the spirituality program at ESR. She has studied under poets as diverse as James Reiss and Lucien Stryk. She received her M.A. in English/Poetry from Miami University in 1995, and has won several academic awards for her work. Since then she has gone on to publish poems in several literary magazines, and published her first book in 2001. Since that time she has worked hard on developing her own unique voice, and will plan on publishing, after ten years of enormous productivity after graduation from ESR, which, she says, “has had profound impact on my writing.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Litany of Thanksgiving for the Word Savory

By Lynn Domina 

For parmesan, for ricotta, for soft mozzarella
            flavored with basil, layered between thick-sliced tomatoes;
for beefsteaks and early girls and ponderosa pinks, for cherry and plum;
for Canadian bacon and Irish bacon, for Irish stew,
chunks of tender lamb, potato, simmering carrot, iridescent celery,
for pearl onions.

For pearl barley thickening soup, for rye, cracked wheat,
            chunks of crusty bread dipped into penitential broth,
for warm biscuits glistening with butter, for butter
            slipping around an ear of sweet corn.
For corn chowder and corn pudding and cornbread, for blue corn tortillas.
For every meal I’ve still to taste.

For chicken roasting through Sunday afternoons, its skin golden,
            crisp, for its drippings. For gravy
            ladled onto chestnut stuffing.
            For sauerbraten, schnitzel, herb-roasted pork.
For beer-battered fish, fresh lake perch, for clam sauce,
            linguini, fettuccini, for stuffed shells, seafood ravioli.
For those locusts and scarabs and weevils I hope never to eat.

For ratatouille, gazpacho, coq au vin,
            for every international flavor, palak paneer,
            vindaloo, tikka masala; for every word
            stuffed as full as samosas, sweet as rasmalai
            held in my mouth, sweetly dissolving.

For the word sweet whose Greek root suggests rejoicing,
            whose Latin ancestor urges us to phrase our advice pleasantly;
for the word savory, which might have entered my language
via many routes. And so I rejoice
in this pleasant advice: savor uncertainty, hold doubt
upon your tongue, a smooth wafer that calls you to wonder
whether it offers the blessing of mint or of honey
or of something altogether new.

Lynn Domina is an access student in ESR's M.Div. program. She lives in the western Catskill region of New York, where she teaches English at the State University of New York at Delhi. She is the author of two collections of poetry, Corporal Works and Framed in Silence, and the editor of a collection of essays, Poets on the Psalms. Her recent poetry appears in The Southern Review, The New England Review, Christianity & Literature, and many other periodicals.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Two Things Have I Heard

By Josh Seligman

My toes, legs, knees were shaking. Although I was standing on warm, solid rock, barefoot, I felt the wind could have lifted my feet and poured me over the edge. Below, the bright blue river was foaming and hungry. Dustin had spotted this cliff when we were still in our kayak. “It’s probably 15, 20 feet high,” he said. “We can definitely do this one. “You mean we’re going to jump?” I asked. “I don’t know, man.” We rested our kayak against three walls of rock, and a few others from our group arrived. After some encouragement, I agreed to jump. I took off my t-shirt, gave my glasses to Becky, the director of the retreat, and shakily followed Dustin up the cliff, heaving myself up a wiry rope.

At the top, I hunched over. The combination of being afraid of falling and not seeing clearly kept me bent. In the distance, red tables and towers of stone stood crooked over the Arizonan desert. Later that day, when I paddled with Becky, I would note how these rock formations have been here thousands of years, shaped by the wind. “So it’s kind of like God is still in the process of making them,” Becky said, “and we don’t see the finished product yet.” The finished product now, though, was my landing safely in the water. I knew the river would catch me—if I could fall without bashing my head on the rocks on the way down. “So do we go head first?” I asked Dustin.

“No, you’ll want to pencil it.” Dustin held out two fingers pushed together pointing down. We counted from three, and jumped together. I remember yelling, partly because I needed to get fear out, but mostly because it seemed fitting to do that in this situation. Like a pencil, I thought. My feet smacked blue and I slipped into the shadows of the Colorado River, the waters surging around me, first cold and then warm. I felt like Jonah must have felt just before being hurled out of the great fish. I pushed my arms down and surfaced, and we made some kind of sound like laughter, and the wind was strong against our wet faces.

This memory came to me when I first began worshiping in silence at ESR. Only now, the river I was looking down into was darkness and silence. When I began entering the silence, I would try to listen for God’s voice. But often my thoughts would distract me, and I would wonder what God’s voice sounded like. I recently read a story which has helped me learn about God’s voice. It’s when the prophet Elijah stood in the Lord’s presence.

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains part and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11-13, NIV)

Once during unprogrammed worship, I thought I heard the Lord. A paraphrase of Psalm 62:11-12 swirled in my mind: “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: That you, O Lord, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.” Is this God? I wondered. Should I stand and speak this? I reasoned that among the three others in the room, probably none of them needed to hear it. After my inner wrestling, someone left, and so did the prompting. I felt a little like Jonah might have felt when he was first swallowed by the great fish.

I’m not sure why, during those first experiences of worship at ESR, I didn’t think so much about the other time I cliff jumped. It was the summer after kayaking down the Colorado River. I was in Kansas celebrating the wedding of two of my friends, and for the bachelor party, about 11 of us drove to Two Buttes, Colorado, where apparently we were going to jump off a certain cliff.

“There's different ledges,” said Erik, the brother of the bride, as he drove a carful of us between corn fields into the sunset. “You can jump it from 30 feet, 40 feet, or even 60 feet. But we'll only jump from 40 feet.” Someone asked about the possibility of rocks.“An underground current connects the lagoon to the sea,” Erik said, “so there isn't a bottom." When we arrived at the campsite, it was night. The campground was sheltered on three sides by tall trees, and at the end was a lagoon. There, shadowed by cliffs, the water shimmered beneath a large moon.

One by one, the guys swam to the other side, where they climbed onto the bank, ascended the cliff, and jumped into the darkness. I couldn’t see them; I could only hear feet scraping dirt, followed by a stretch of silence, and then a splash. Afterwards they gave a yelp of some kind to let us know they made it. Along with a few others, I didn’t jump the cliff that night. (I did the next morning, though.) One guy’s ankle was sprained, making it risky. Another said, “There’s no way I’m jumping off that.” Friend spoke my mind.

When we returned to the campground, we built a fire and dried. We ate s’mores and imitated the bullfrogs croaking around us. Someone mentioned the grime that collects on his toilet. When the flames died down, Erik invited us to climb one of the Two Buttes nearby. "I think I'm gonna kick it back here,” a friend told me. “Are you going?"

"I think I am."

"All right! I was just seeing what you would say."

We all drove a few miles away and parked beside an open field of shrubs and rocks. In the moonlight, we could see the silhouettes of the two pyramids of stone and sand. We hiked like rabbits, ascending the butte in a zig-zag. Flashlights helped us avoid the cacti. Some of the boulders were so big we had to clamber onto them. When we reached the top, there was plenty of room for us on the stones. At first, we hopped around, finding our places. Some guys shouted. The land stretched before us like the ocean, like a thousand railways vanishing into points. We could barely see our cars parked below, beside the wiry road. Beyond them, red lights from steel towers pulsed. Up there, the wind was almost as strong as jumping into water. I stood straight with my arms held out to my sides. If I had tiptoed, the wind would have pushed me back. Then, for a few moments, in silence we sat and stood, facing the moon and the wind.

Josh Seligman is a student at Earlham School of Religion.  He is from San Diego, California, and lives in Richmond, Indiana.  

Friday, December 2, 2011

The War On Terror

By Erin Hougland

communication stations in the
frame of this Nation, and its nations,
chaotically flows into ears and brains
and drains us down the tubes of fear-
bending our minds into times
that are crushing the lines
of justice.

the use of this fearing
is leering into our hearts,
is peering into our souls
and is sneering as we go
quivering into our closed rooms
where we sweep up confusion with brooms
made of definitions and rules-
creating a truth that binds us into a fuss,
until we surrender
and drool out the sad remnants of faith.

handing over and over again, our lives
into those hands that thrive
on our misery, it is their only epitome,
and drive us
off the cliffs into an abyss of list-less-ness...
the depths of submission
because we gave them our permission.

and it Reigns and it rains
down on us
trying to wash the stains away
we forget-
but we stay, and we pray
that they, may have
the solution to the problem.
and we are surprised to find
they don't.

we scream and we cry,
"these solutions are pollutions!"
and they ignore
because they are bored
with our cries,
so they glare
and continue to stare
at our problems that weren't even there
from the start.
but they tell us that they care
and our downfall is,
we believe them.

running and flailing around
we drown
with out any knowledge of how to swim
because we gave it away.

little did we know how grim
when we signed our names
on those lines that sought only to frame
us inside prison walls.

and nothing is gained
from this game parade
of blame and shame.

it's not them that will save you.
it's nothing you couldn't already do;
it's here and it's now.

so throw the radio to the wall
and watch it crumble and fall,
its fallible, don't worry that's not radical,
its real.

pick up the false broom,
crack the handle against the door of your tomb.

run out
into the fields of your old soul,
roll around and unfold your mold
in the memory of what you were from birth:
a miracle.

Erin is finishing up her first year in ESR's M.Div program, with an emphasis in writing. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband where she works as the volunteer coordinator for the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic and is an active member of the Episcopal church. Erin believes creativity and imagination in art and writing anchor people in the realities of being in the world.