Poetry in Response to the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1-13)

img_0756

Jesus,
You heard what was said,
John the B,
Is now dead,
I got so much,
I need to say,
Is God listening?
You know how to pray,
Teach me the words,
Y’all used to lay,
Up on God’s heart,
Not the cheesy clichés,
Simple words from the start,
God’s name is holy,
A coming kingdom,
Was Herod’s bitter pill,
Ain’t no euphemisms,
A verbal exorcism,
Of strung together empty words,
Doing God’s will,
Don’t look like nothing I’ve seen:
On Earth,
Is that what I read?
“Pray for my daily bread?”
Surely you do not mean,
While my bread is mine,
Vengeance is thine?
My enemies get off clean?
This prayer,
Is more than it seems.

–Richard Bryant

Poetry from the Common House Cat

 

maxresdefaultHey,
I’m in heat,
You know what that means,
At this crucial time,
I’m so really sweet,
Not the narcissistic witch,
You claim to have found,
In a toxic waste ditch,
I’m prepared to be,
Exceptionally nice,
I might let you,
Rub my head,
More than twice,
While I gurgle,
About that time,
I ate beans and mice,
If I’m on my heat,
I prefer to flop and meow,
My useless gestures of love,
Lost on humans who squeeze,
Hopes of roaming the hardwood,
My dreams of killing dogs with fleas,
A self contained life of smells,
Amid nine lives I’ve accrued,
Too many jingling bells,
I am your cat and I hate you.

–Your Cat

Things We Ignore, Forget, and Take Advantage Of

ice-cubes

1. Paper-From drying our hands, wiping our bottoms, to signing receipts for financial transactions and reading the occasional book; paper still matters. We see and use so much paper. Granted we’re recycling more than ever, yet from the crackers you’re buying to the carton containing the beer you’re hauling on the boat, paper is everywhere. Without paper, we’d be in a mess. Our history is written on paper and a present (no matter how bland) is held together by paper.

2. Ice-Where would we be without the electricity and subsequent technology to freeze water into ice? I’m not talking about air conditioning or electricity per se. The ability to freeze water is a miracle. The fish we catch, the groceries we buy, and the health we crave would be nothing without the ability to cool our food and bodies with ice. Our lives would return to those of our ancestors; the day to day struggles of subsistence living. Dehydration would take our lives, hunger would stalk our homes, and “going to the bad” would no longer be a euphemism easily fixed by spending money. Ice is the frozen line between civilization and anarchy.

3. Humanity-We know what it means to be human. It means so much more than we ever imagined on our best days.  We are not mysteries hiding behind masks, resting angry faces, forced smiles, or improbably large sun glasses. The human genome has been sequenced and can be contained in 800 average length dictionaries (3.2 billion letters for one person). Four letters, AGCT, arranged in just such a way to make you, you. Sixty years ago, no one knew what a genome was! In June of 2000, the mapping of the genome was completed by a team of international scientists. We know what makes a person unique. The government spent 3 billion dollars to finish the first human genome project. Now, companies are offering individuals the chance to map their own genome for just 1000 dollars. We can know who we are on a level never possible in human history and possibly save countless lives. Will we take the chance to get to know ourselves and heal the broken essence of human consciousness, something not as easy to quantify as DNA?

How Methodists Prepare for the Rapture

2569b15f9f963f9129e93c525aff15a2

How Methodists Prepare for the Rapture

1. Under the auspices of the Church Council, form a Committee for Rapture Awareness and Preparation (CRAP Committee).

2. Set a responsible budget for rapture preparation, rapture awareness, post-rapture Methodism.  Where in Heaven will the next Annual Conference be held?

3. Offer “tribulation only Methodists” directions to local Baptist churches.

4. Plan for a Rapture Covered Dish Meal to Welcome Jesus to Church.  No Bacon in the Baked Beans Please!

5. Appoint a United Methodist Women’s subcommittee to study the need to provide kosher food to honor Jesus’ Jewish culinary traditions.  Kosher pickles will do in a pinch.  No pigs feet!

6. Ask the United Methodist Women to make extra ice tea as parting gift for those going to Hell.

7. Make sure the yard is mowed before Jesus arrives.  I’m sure the grass in heaven is perfect.

8. Clean the toilets and vacuum the sanctuary prior to arrival of Heavenly host.

9. Will Jesus need to use the bathroom? (Ask the pastor)

10. Should we all wear name-tags or do you think Jesus will know us right off the bat?

11. Does anyone know what kind of car he drives or will he just pop in? (refer to hospitality committee)

12.  Does Jesus speak English?  Who speaks Jesus’ language?  Does anyone around here speak his Aramaic-talk?

And All the Pretty Pokemon Go Chickens

03242016-169

And all the pretty chickens
Ran down the exit ramps,
To keep the Pokemon children,
From trying to drown,
Too far away,
From the people swilling champagne,
In generic solo cups to see,
To make obvious comments,
“How utterly insane they seem?”
The greatest minds of our generation,
Glued to protected screens,
in search of reality,
which will never be.
As one chicken said,
captured virtual turtles,
are the algorithms of the dead.

–Richard Bryant

Coups, Lenin, and Russian Grammar

SOKSKAL-21

I was studying Russian in central Moscow.  The only student in my class, the teacher was as stern as a Russian professor could be.  I was in my early 30’s and she’d already reduced me to tears.  I feared her.  She knew no mercy, especially when it came to verb tenses.  Somehow, she had the unique ability to insult both my intelligence, manhood, and most everything about me as a way to motivate any desire I had to read Tolstoy or buy food in a grocery store. Does anyone remember the story of the Soviet hockey players who defected because the coaches were so mean?  I used to think she had been one of their trainers.

One snowy afternoon, the conversation shifted from grammar to Leninist revolutionary theory.  I don’t quite remember how we made the jump.  I believe it had to do with priorities in translating, that is “what did I need to look for first when approaching a new text.”  She asked, “Do you know what Comrade Lenin said were the most important things to do when starting a revolution?”  I had missed that day of Leninist orthodoxy with the late Dr. David Mackenzie at UNC-Greensboro.  We talked more Tito.

She asked me again.  “Do you know what Comrade Lenin said were the most important things to do when starting a revolution, a coups d’état?”  Nyet, I said.  “You find the most important people and then you kill them first.”  Those were her exact words.  Then she said, “You find the most important verbs and you kill them first. Then the rest of the sentence will come to you.”  Grammar is revolution.

You know what, she was right.  Learning Russian was like over throwing the bourgeois English speaking dictatorship in my mind.  Revolutions involve total commitment or they will die.

As Turkey decides which language it will speak, let’s hope everyone stays safe and committed to words of peace.

 

I Dread the Prayer Hashtags

272318-Pray-For-Nice-14-Juillet-2016 images (1) images (1) imagesimages (2) download

I dread the prayer hashtags.  You know the ones.  Here’s some irony for you.  I’d be willing to bet that before the driver of the truck barreled into the crowd in Nice last night, he prayed.  It may have been a short prayer.  He could have been praying the entire time he drove over the bodies and killed eighty plus innocent people.  My point is this, I’m reasonably certain, at some point, he prayed for himself and the action was taking.

In the wake of the tragedy, we are inevitably reminded and asked to “Pray of Nice”.  There is so much prayer and even greater religious misunderstanding.  Is it any wonder people of good will, be they Christian, Muslim, or Jewish are confused about prayer?  The reminder to pray for somewhere or something has become a weary burden for many in the secular world.  Most people pray or reflect when confronted with the overwhelming reality of death.   They ask a simple question, “What will we recall in silence next?”  For Christians, we wonder if God is listening to our words.   There’s something more, though often ignored, is this:  prayer can be a weapon.  If not approached properly, prayer isn’t just a way to respond to tragedy but also means of justifying mass murder.  Some of my Christian colleagues talk about events and people being “bathed in prayer”.  The irony of last night (and today) is that Nice was bathed in two traditions of prayer, Islamic and Christian.

Is prayer the problem?  And by that question, I don’t mean the action, I mean the word itself.  Yes, as some have argued, Christians need to talk less and do more.  It’s easy to pray and never follow up on our prayers.  However, as the attack in Nice reminds us, once we’re asked to “pray” for an idea or place, no matter how vivid the news is made on television or the internet, we fall into a mode of powerless reflection.  What do we do then?  When we pray, we should use the words of the Psalms, the Book of Lamentations, and talk about Nice, Dallas, and give voice to those who have lost their lives.  Our thoughts should come out of our heads and hearts and onto our lips.

I do not believe that praying (in the wake of tragedy), they way we’ve been doing it, is getting us anywhere and doing much good.  Looking at colorful memes and changing on profile pictures may make us feel better or convince us we’re praying by scrolling our feed.  But that’s not prayer.  Prayers need to be unlocked from our heads and shared among each other.  Maybe we shouldn’t even call them prayers, perhaps they’re really conversations.  Some of the conversations need to be with those of other faith communities.  Our faith conversations need to be so indescribable, linguistically uncontainable; they cannot be held to 140 characters or less.  I should be able to say “God is Great” and my sisters and brothers should feel no threat in saying, “the Lord is our shepherd”.  Our conversation is to speak each other’s God talk in a way that leads to loving not killing.  That is the Jesus way of living, loving, and praying.

 

The Sister’s Tale-A Canterbury Re-Mix (Luke 10:38-42)

English School Chaucer M

Prologue
The Ballad of Martha
The Canterbury Re-Mix of Luke 10:38-42

This house is fully a mess,
And unseen by those unblessed,
My home girl, sits and waits,
While Jesus the Lord pontificates,
Ale and rum gather and come,
Like Chaucer’s ink, in mighty sums,
French cheese and wee Scottish Chickens,
Delivered by Nazarenes in my Judean kitchen,
Plates scattered and sent without help,
Iambic parables told as disciples belch,
Jesus Lord, help me please, tell that girl,
To grab a rag and begin to swirl,
Round that spot, there on the floor,
A fine place to do some chores,
Jesus, you’re the big MC,
She will listen to your religious themed pleas,
It will not happen this day, so you say?
She’s chosen the better way.
Jesus, we’ve got unfinished business,
Like cleaning that will go well until Christmas,
My sister Mary has made me word sick,
I’ve grown seriously allergic,
to this poet’s scheming tricks,
I think I need to see the Doctor name Luke,
Certain I am, of my forthcoming puke.

–Richard Bryant

White Trash Jesus, Martha, and Mary

MY NAME IS EARL -- "Made a Lady Think I Was God" Episode 206 -- Pictured:(l-r) Roseanne Barr as Millie Banks, Jason Lee as Earl-- NBC Photo: Karen Neal
Martha and White Trash Jesus

“White trash Jesus”,
Yells Martha from the back of the trailer,
“Tell that no good, two-timing, short skirt wearing,
Sister of mine,
To help me pass out the PBR and chips,
What does she think it takes?
This stuff called discipleship,
To sit there and flutter; her over done eyes at you,
While Peter pretends not to stare,
At her tattooed boobs?
White Trash Jesus,
Tell Mary to get off her ass,
And help my worn out knees,
‘Cause I still got to go out,
And cut the back grass.”

–Richard Bryant