Apple Picking and the Subsequent Use of Apples

Tomorrow I start eating apples.
Someone please hand me my teeth.
I measured many afternoons
by the bucket I filled and still,
I look at each apple with
a friendly reminiscence. Some,
I call by name. I croon
and whisper to them, admire
their patina and waxy red hue.
I relive their capture, fondly
caressing the details. Others,
relegated to the back rows,
I ignore, embarrassed that I
brought them to harvest.
I take pains to document
each one in lively writing,
highlighting the flaws
and ghostly virtues;
then, with scrupulous hands,
upon the shelf I replace them
with tedious consideration
of charisma and emphasis.

There is something pleasing
about the resistance of plucking,
a supple bough snapping back
on release, and of the subsequent
weight in the palm, a pleasure
Newton never appreciated,
though to be fair, the richest
and ripest of my collection,
compelled by gravity, often fell
into my hands, all shiny
and ready for consumption.
Like any good researcher,
I dropped them in the bucket
and examined the physics,
attempting to discern the conditions
that allowed for such fortune,
whereby I might duplicate
the product indefinitely.
This has yielded poor results
and even poorer intake
of perfectly edible food.

I have noticed that many
of my first fruits have been
visited by entropy, their gloss
and firm texture replaced
by soft, dull aging lines.
I should probably check
for worms. The newest
additions, on the other hand,
still appetize, though not everyone
likes apples as much as I,
nor is the flavor universally
consistent with the sheen.
I am helplessly reminded
of funeral caskets, which look
so elegant on the outside.
Still the issue remains:
apples achieve so little
in looking good. What charm
they have invites one on
to purpose, the fulfillment
of their raison d’ĂȘtre.
They were never meant
to indicate one’s aplomb
at picking fruit.

I grasp yesterday’s yield
in my hand, turn it over,
toss it a few times between
my hands and assess the dulcet
pop of fruit on flesh before
replacing it. It’s silly to waste
good apples this way. I’ll eat one


Looking for a Fixture

Edison and Tesla lit bulbs
all over the world.
Whenever a soft click
issues from the corner
and suddenly God
is commanding creation,
they, like so many others,
resonate back into being.
I am told that in Hebrew,
“Let there be light,”
is an anagram for
Tomas Edison (for they
do not understand the being
of h in such words).
It requires little effort
to obtain a light bulb
and yet the purchase alone
secures nothing. For years,
I have been sitting in darkness
waiting for combustion.
I am currently amassing
the world’s largest collection
of unused bulbs, second
only to Tesla himself.
What a lemming philosophy
to expect them to ignite
and illuminate hitherto
unsuspected recesses in
the rooms I frequent!
And yet I hold them up
one at a time in my
avid fingers, testing
their filament and admiring
their sleek, rounded figures,
desperately appreciative of
a light only I see.


The Purpose of a Blog??

So I have three blogs . . . and two of them are largely unused. I still occasionally update "Different Fingers" because it's focus is poetry and I still occasionally write poetry. But I got to thinking . . . why am I doing this? What's the purpose of these blogs? And I realized this is my contribution to the ministry. Writing is what I do best, and I need to be doing it all the time, AND I need to be sharing it with the church. So here's what I'm going to do. "Different Fingers" will remain a poetry centered blog. Most of my poems these days have to do with Scriptural insight and/or observations about church, which is to say they're religious, or at least pertain to religion. And I like that and intend to keep it that way. "Practically Thinking" (which is intentionally NOT "Practical Thinking") was meant to be a more serious contemplation of Scripture and church issues, and I've decided to return to that by making it a devotional series. This is one of those things I talk about doing that may end up not happening, but I need to try. Need. That's what I'm about, and if I'm not using my writing for the good of the church, then I'm wasting that talent. My initial thought was to make it a daily devotional, a 365 devotional written over the span of a year. But I know myself. As much as I would like to commit to that, it would probably not last. Laziness, business, and forgetfulness would keep from doing it regularly. So I'm going to shoot for AT LEAST once a week, though I'd like to do it more often than that if I can. I'm also intending to make this available to both churches of which I have been a part (Grace Fellowship Church and Woodville Grace Brethren) so that my  contributions are not simply cyber contemplations, but practical uses of my gifts. As for "A Modest Proposal" . . . I haven't quite decided yet. I've realized quickly that it was a fun idea to which I am not truly committed. Even the piece on evolution, a concept which intrigues me, didn't hold my attention long. Perhaps it will simply sit unused. Or maybe I'll post writings there that lack a religious flavor. Maybe eventually, irony will return to me, and I'll find myself full of ideas for that site. Until then, I think I may just ignore it. My hope, however, is that "Different Fingers" and "Practically Thinking" will not be that way, but will be reservoirs of thought and insight from which others will glean practical and applicable truths.



“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think . . .” ~Eph 3:20

Through the culvert under the highway,
we follow the creek to a slow bend
under a canopy of leaning birch trees.
On the shore, we leave our shoes
and stand at the pebbly edge
of the crisp pool observing
a colony of water striders skating
across the surface tension like
mutant figure skaters, like tiny,
spindle-legged Jesuses,
safe above an opaque ocean.
Held in place by inscrutable forces,
their tiny weight-dispersing feet float
them at angles. They pivot and dart,
pleasingly ignorant of drowning. We are all
well-pleased. Who can fathom
the grave-like cocoon that explodes
into flight; the buried seed thrusting
toward harvest; the lonely descent
of leaves in autumn? None can appreciate
the inertia of such elegant capitulation,
the significance of such a beautiful,
needful death.



“In my best behavior, I am really just like him.” ~Sufjan Stevens

I have it in me
to be the worst; what
separates me from
the rapist or serial killer?
From the thief or gambler
or drunk? We are similar
shapes different only in size
and place. I think this in
the dim light of the stage
during Sunday worship,
while others sing around
me, as they add their breath
to mine, as we all breathe
together with all who came
before – such a stifling
unison. I am enough,
lacking such a choir, lacking
all men, to require the cross.
I have felt beneath
my pulse, the pulse of
that hammer; I have gripped
the rough wooden handle and
cold nails; I have heard
the report of iron on iron;
I have looked on his
beaten body with unconcern
and watched the last breaths
from his heaving chest pass.
Here, now, a cross hangs
alone on the wall, a token of
our remembrance, much
too clean and smooth and
small. Not an instrument
of punishment – it’s true
function – but a Spartan
ornament simply rehearsing
a faded story, pale
and fragile and timorous.


Tet (staff): part 9 in The Red Letters

What ought to comfort shivers bones. Against
such love, I rail and writhe about, a child
in understanding, throwing off incensed
the gentle hands that seek to smooth my wild

and prodigal way. Your soft rebukes incite
in me a vicious silence, haughty pride
surfacing to defend my alleged right.
The length and depth of the grace from which I hide
outstrides my resolute and damning spite.
Your discipline welcomes what ought to be denied.

In light of this, my definitions ravel.
I need such discipline, such love; all else
indulges. You alone can sound the gavel,
sentence me, and save me from myself.


Het (fence): part 8 in The Red Letters

Het is often misimagined.
It invites concepts of enclosure,
and wild west, hand hewn
beam and post wood,
splintered and weathered.

Something to do with
cowboys. Splintered
and weathered are, at least,
accurate measures – I
imagine it roughly gouged,

disfigured and grotesque,
suitable only
for martyrs and thieves –
but its bounds
are not so dimensional.

It doesn’t mark territory. It
stakes no mundane claims, nor
prevents our fierce,
determined wanderlust.
The Pharisees saw it this way:

surrounding, keeping in,
hedging and fortifying.
For them, it codified
spiritual condition
into absolutes.

Certain strictures
became their indicators, and,
in the place of God,
they made exclusions
and determinations

based on what pasture
you were grazing in.
But Het is really at
center. It draws,
not contains. Not selects,

simplifies. For where
that beam and post
cross, there, written
into those scars,
are only two questions:

What direction are you facing?
Are you moving?


Zayin (sword): part 7 of The Red Letters

Two edged and twice sharp,
this enterprise of piercing,
dividing is unstilled, unchecked,
and often unsought,
but invades the softened
parts where piercing hurts
most, a siege of the ground
we humanly marked holy,
roped off narrowly, and built
Jericho-like walls around.
We occupy spaces between
controversies and settle
into unstirred, creek-bed
sediment, resisting a flow
toward glory because of
the familiarity, the static
comfort and staid satisfaction,
we would otherwise
leave behind. Piercing
is division, in the right hands
skillfully separating the stagnant
from living flesh until
we are cleft painfully
into resemblance of you.
You show no mercy
in pruning fruitless parts,
invested solely in us and not
what we have made ourselves.
Toward this end, you cut
away excess, even where we
see necessity, until we are
beautifully soft and naked,
as Eustace stripped of all
his scales. You haunt
the distinction of
joints and marrow, filling
the void between our structures
and the underlying life,
roaring subtly in
indistinguishable whispers
out of the one and
into the other.

Vav (nail): part 6 of The Red Letters

Vav is sharp.
It has a way
of pointing out
and pidgeon-holing.

Vav moves
in a linear way
and pushes off
obstructions: wood-grain,
fabric, flesh. It bites

and illuminates;
the face grasps
a momentum,
tallies messengers,
recounts the mission,

and resurgence
dims a little,
like lights falling
in a church.

Vav contrives a welcome
force, bears a grunt.

It is a wheel churning
in deeper, pouring a hole
as reaction thrusts
away the ping
and connection
makes a breach,

headlighting the way
home, through the dusk
of veins and tissues.

He (window): part 5 of The Red Letters

I call it perspective.
Everything is clearer
through this glass
refined by fire.
Like looking through
stained-glass, the world
is colored at every turn,
and I see,
as with other eyes,
the way illuminated
before me.
My blindness cures
my perception, for
if I could see,
this lens would blur
the vivid hues,
the lines of contrast
between black and white,
the clarity.

Dalet (door): part 4 of The Red Letters

The door is open and the lantern lit;
the light that issues out is soft,
alive and licking about my ankles

like mist off early morning.
Like home, the smell of bread
settles into me and rises.

Etched deep in the cedar doorjamb
the inscription “Come” in red beckons
inward, homeward, so sweetly

the word is solid, piercing the ear
if I turn to the left or the right,
and the voice so familiar I hear

its silence. From that word emerge lines
of text that uncoil in clips and phrases,
great breaths distinct and measured,

connected only in their succession.
The words, I can tell, are meant
for me, and as they score the wood

they cut into me, too, leaving
beautiful scars. As I enter,
the sense of arrival churns

excitement, and breathes for me
a breath I had forgotten.

Gimel (bridge): part 3 of The Red Letters

Gimel spans
the man-made
ditch cutting
across our path.
Its stone
looks sturdy,
safely leading
across this gorge
of flesh and bones,
where no smooth
word, no soft
cheek, no victorious
strength, kind eye
or honored promise
can. Some inch
out, toe by toe,
slowly accepting
its support. A few
blindly run,
their clopping
echoing up the chasm.
Inevitably, halfway,
they all stop to peer
over the edge
and panic at
the great distance.
For some time,
they refuse to move
but eventually
they continue and
reach the other side,
where they join
the throng saying,
“Oh you of little
faith. Why
did you doubt?”

Bet (house): part 2 of The Red Letters

Within these walls are many rooms,
more than can be lived in.
Some have never been seen,
some cannot be, lacking a door.

Others have been abandoned.
In one room, the artifacts of work
are lined along the wall, all that
is needed to dig, trim, plant, clean.

Beyond that is the dining room
where a great feast is always
ready, an abundance of bread
and meat and the purest milk.

In the center of one room
a great fireplace burns,
providing heat to the whole house
and, in the middle of the house,

a natural spring, the often-sought
fountain of life, bleeds
its nutrients into aqueducts
that reach each arm of the house.

From the fountain’s coolness
a garden grows brilliantly green
with fruit for every season and,
in an open and circular area,

a mustard tree under which
many birds nest in shade.

Aleph (bull): part 1 of The Red Letters

Aleph is quick to pull a load;
it spears a wound, gouges, gores,
leaves a gash across the skin.

Aleph can plow a hard row,
its legs churn, its shoulders roar,
its hooves pound out a rhythm.

It heaves and pitches, muscles taut
like knotted rope. In its blood
redemption courses, and its bones

are all unbroken. Its nerves are hot
with pain. It’s not afraid of mud.
It could tow away a large stone,

a slab across an empty tomb,
and on the third day, newly bloom.


A Thousand Times Sparticus

Verse 1:
Your linen sheets are stiff and clean
and silence fills the cancer wing.
The chemo's left your frail and weak,
but don't give up tonight.

The IV drips as music plays,
and there aren't any words to say,
but we will speak another day.
Just don't give up tonight

Verse 2:
The woman in the other bed
falls asleep goodnight unsaid,
but we will stay awake instead
and not give up tonight.

The nurses bring your medicine
as prescribed by your LPN.
Though we don't know how this will end,
we won't give up tonight.

Your hospital gown isn't
quite the same as your Sunday dress,
but I swear you have never
looked more beautiful than now.

Chorus 1:
I would bear that pain a thousand times
I would bear that pain a thousand times
I would bear that pain a thousand times
To save you now.

Chorus 2:
If the roman soldiers called your name,
I would gladly give myself to them
to fill your stead and take the pain
to save you now.
I would bear that pain a thousand times
to save you one time crucified.
I would offer myself life for life
to save you now.