Friday, June 2, 2017

Poem: "The Way the Soul Arcs"

Delphiniums courtesy of Pixabay

This poem was first published in living with what remains:

              Judith Deem Dupree

A bee has come
to harvest my delphiniums --
circling them,
leaving a halo only I can see.

The blooms are potted
on the sun-streaked deck --
in clay flared slightly
by the hands that held it to the wheel.
Its shape reminds me
of the way my hands cup, rising,
opening in praise
when Grace is nearly palpable.

Blossoms spill in tangled glory
down the earthen jar,
too much glory to define as *blue*.
They break with logic,
with its need for category --
the prompting
to explain, to clarify, compare...

Like the way the soul arcs around
our shaped theology,
searching for that unseen radius
where Glory spills --
as indefinable, as prescient,
as honeyed as the aura of delphinium.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Maundy World

The Last Supper at Cologne Cathedral (photo in the public domain)

Maundy: Middle English maunde, from Old French mandé, from Latin mandatum; command, order; from the words spoken by Jesus to his disciples after washing their feet at the Last Supper, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another...” (John 13:34).

Today. This day. This moment in Time unlike any other in anguish, in impact, in historical consequence. In power. Hope. Promise. 

We are here, struggling through the metaphorical, and increasingly tangible, high tides of earth-life—clinging to the beauty, the integrity, the absolutes that remain, a constant shimmer above the dark waters. Our lives, our future upon this planet, all that it means to be human is caught in a rip tide. 

We need—oh, how we need—to see, to perceive the One who calmed the raging sea.

We cannot recognize Him within the storm until we see Him sagging from the nails that, finally, held the weight of Him . . . and yet, we cannot fully perceive the purpose and power of the cross until we see Him standing imperially in that small, tossing skiff. Caught in the grip of a violent storm (Luke 16.22-25). Unafraid, majestic. God in the midst of His elements. 

He was, in both disparate moments, in utter control over Life. He established His authority over the elements—the Genesis Moment—simply by raising his hand against the inanimate. No mortal man, even the occasional "miracle-workers" who habited the fringes of spirituality, could control the rudiments of earth. It was here that He identified Himself in full to His disciples, beyond their stumbling cognizance. Here they perceived The One. Here they gained a fear of God, beyond their fear of death.

But . . . He forfeited His authority over His own authority at Gethsemane. Strange statement? Certainly. But we cannot fully decipher the authority of Jesus the man, maimed and murdered, until we calculate Christ the man perched in utter dominion
 . . . upon the edge of obliteration. And obliterating it. 

We are clinging to the mast, to the sides of our small skiff of life, watching the storm metastasize. And He is waiting, ready, not asleep. 

This night He dies again, once again, as He has through all the centuries before us. The One Who raises us, the dead, from the soul-storms that destroy our life. The nails will never hold Him again. Earth is not large enough to define Him. Nor small enough to confine us to a shattered end. 

One day soon we shall meet Him, walking on the waters, His arms opened wide. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Poem: "One Day"

Photo courtesy of Pixabay. In the public domain.

One Day

One day, before the earth grew old
and mostly bald and full of stink,

one day I woke to music, to a chirrup
in the trees that rose and fell
like exhalations of the earth itself―
a gargling of the morning air
in bright polyphony, in crisp staccato.

And I knew the birds were prophesying―
knew I heard the voice of God,
sweeter than the earth itself,
rising like a counterpoint, an arching,
aching tremolo―

heard the wild of Him that we have tamed
come bursting forth in feathers
and arpeggios and yearnings inexpressible,
too large and small for syllables that slip
into our narrow ears;

and so I stood and listened to the world
as He described it, listened to the reveling,

and knew that I was born for this―knew
that doves, that sparrows sing epiphany
at dawn each day, and breathe
the earth’s core in and out, and feather
all that breathes and flies and sings,
and I must sing, must sing, must sing,

and this is my arpeggio, my only syllable.


© Judith Deem Dupree 2017


Friday, March 10, 2017

Beyond the Cock-Crows

Public domain image courtesy of Pixabay

Up with the roosters this morning. And yes, I can hear one of those feathered alarm clocks―his voice far greater than his body warrants―ratcheting his endless observations through this dark and drowsy neighborhood. Does this remind us of the current political scene?

Ah, human nature has not changed since satan shaped his body and his lie to the contours and contents of a tree. He still slithers up our spine, our trunk, to reach the hidden source of all thought: our cerebrum. The crown of our own Tree of Life―The Eden of our every intent, that  incomprehensible core of us that births the comprehensible . . . over and over each day.

And ah, again: the enemy has entered our garden with new and poisonous seed. Fruit that we have known forever―for we have always tweaked the message to fit the equivocation. But there's something shrewder happening in this Time, this edgy, edgeless season, this strange new world we live in.

We are assaulted, continually, by crushing changes in social contract. The welter of ways of our time-tested "role playing"―the nudge-wink-wink of flawed and fatuous discourse―is almost "quaint" today. Humanity's thoughts, and tongues, are honed to lethal verbal weaponry. And primped with a litany of obfuscations that distort the realities beneath their promises.

"The world is too much with us..." William Wordsworth, commenting poetically (at the dawn of the 19th century) on "the decadent material cynicism of the time." A prophetic insight. The seeds have sprouted, replicated endlessly.

Some mind-shift largely inexplicable―often unperceived, even unpredicated on such a scale―is ripping through communal relatedness, and indeed, rippling across our larger earthlife. It is shattering our histories, our stories, our ancient inter/intra-societal algorithms. Something ingeniously crude is tweaking the long-established, heart-felt empathies into ersatz niceties and/or nasties. It births and preens a strange hybrid of smooth double entendre and a razor-rough hide.

Tensions escalate and boil over. Now, across continents, great uprooting, wars of tortured words becoming bloodbaths. And now, across continents, the homeless, the forsaken tread their via dolorosa on the way to nowhere.

We who watch, hearts in our throats, are left groping consciously for the known that has staked our own perimeters like a pivot point. What does all this mean? What is the why of it? What do we do with such misery? It has torn the very fabric we are wrapped in.

We are all in shreds. It is, yes, too much with us.

The cock has crowed over this broken world. We are all akin to Peter, retreating in fear from the sight of his bloodied Master, denial his only defense.

There is only one Voice louder, fuller than the roosters of this chicken-little world.

In the beginning was the Word . . .

We cannot know anything pure, ultimate, bounteous beyond the Word of that mysterious, ineluctable, unfathomable Primer Mover who reigns beyond the stars―and deigns to harbor in our tiny cranium. We know nothing beyond and aside from His preternatural act of defiant mercy: the birthing of the Son who was born of our blood-line . . . and lived in our skin. It must have chafed. Badly.

But this earth-shaped-One had His Father's genes. He decoded earthlife just as preternaturally. He spoke into the blatant hypocrisies that shaped the theses and postulations, the smiles like scythes, the lies that wreathed Him like a troubled cloud. He knew each forgery of truth, each  vanity . . . and named them.

He is waiting. Forever waiting in the wings of this great, rickety teatro oscuro. He is the author. All the roosters of the world will go hoarse when He edges back onto Stage Earth.

But here―ah, here is a thought I gleaned unexpectedly, just after the next-door rooster gave up. Ordinary, simple, uncannily powerful words. From the front of a birthday card!

"Forever stay open, curious, fearless, transparent, and willing to be and love being exactly who you are." *

This has dropped like ripe seed upon my sterile soul-soil. How pertinent to everything! Words of YES to carry with us, into the gulf of grief around us. To fear not, and deign not to accept the small, the pinched, the shrewd and slanted forever forced upon us. To break through barriers of pretense we sense around us. Fearless and transparent before the great deceit. The deceiver.

Who we are, and choose by the moment to become, and Who we listen to, and choose to rise up and follow―openly, gently, fearlessly―across this great, crumbling stage . . . this is our constant, whatever-the-circumstances YES to life!

This is the mending of the broken mind, the healing of our broken heart. A steady and sturdy Gift of hope for our broken world. 


*(© Legacy Art Studio, Sunrise Greetings)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Seeing Sideways

Originally posted on the Ruminate Blog on 1 February 2017: "Seeing Sideways"

It was raining again when I walked out of church—a slow spritz that would invoke a guffaw in the saturated NorthEast. But in California it was, Oh yay, rain! I smiled, raised my umbrella, and headed across the street.

And I saw him standing there. Facing the church, holding a ragged cardboard "help" sign. My first thought: Panhandling, of course. He knows how to 'guilt' people! Get them coming out of church, stoked with a good sermon on 'doing unto others.'  But he was directly between me and the parking lot, and to evade him would have looked obvious. Yeah, evasive. We know it well.

So I walked directly up to him. I was almost surprised to look into the face of someone as alert and "normal" as other folks zigging past us. Not one of the usual street people. His eyes were intensely blue, clear, observant—the word benevolent occurred to me. Strangely, because he was seeking our benevolence. Here he was, slightly shivering, damp and uncovered, and he might have been handing out bonbons or tracts, for the look on his face. 

Not a tinge of down and out.

"Hi, my name's Jerry.* I'm an ex-Marine, on disability, and the checks quit coming. I'm trying to get through the legalese and straighten it out. I'm supposed to have more surgery." His declaration was quiet, well-modulated. He stopped and lifted the cuff of his knee-length khakis. His leg was distorted, and a thatch of scarring ran from ankle to mid-thigh, where it disappeared under cover. He looked straight at me. "Afghanistan. I survived. Got patched up, discharged. And lost my home, lost my address, pension, medical . . . lost it all." It was matter-of-fact, direct. "I need a bus pass to go get help. A monthly pass—so I can go back and forth and deal with all the government paper work and stuff."  He explained it all carefully, his reason for asking.

"Where are you staying?" He obviously wasn't rumpled and unbathed, unshaved.

He gestured behind him. "Oh, there's a shelter a few blocks down. No computers, nothing but a free bed. Me and 250 other guys." He smiled ruefully. And then he grinned. That surprised me—the way he shrugged off the hardship of his predicament.

"God knows where I am. The bus will take me where I need to go." He said it quietly, carefully. He was watching me closely.

And I knew: He was a believer. Jerry came to us, to believers—not complaining, but directly presenting his need. Directly focused on what we could do to get him through. Our brother.

We talked a bit more about that—the Connection. I dug in my wallet and handed him a small wad. My husband came by, assessed the basics and added another bill. A sister scurried over, carrying a jacket, and helped him into it, adding a bright purple "girlie" umbrella and a quick hug. We all laughed at "purple." With a suddenness that amazed me, we were a small, brief family—HIS people standing there, damp and undampened by weather or "whethers." It was a meeting of Minds, of mindsets that were timeless, that were set in Place, in focus, over 2000 years earlier.

This man wasn't a beggar wheedling. He was our brother, setting himself before us, whole and broken, trusting in our broken wholeness. Jerry was our unfamiliar friend who needed a daily ride to the right place for the right reasons.

Because God knows where he needs to go.

Our adult class this morning focused on indifference: What it has done to the world we live in, to the people we live with—nearby or distant. The Jerry's of our world have been defeated by indifference. By bureaucracies that regularly ignore/avoid too many "Jerry's." By nations preoccupied with real or supposed exigencies, and cities that have grown apathetic about the "dregs of humanity" that litter their sidewalks and make everyone uncomfortable simply by being. And we, by our preoccupation with the nitty-gritties of our own lives, and yes, by our own care-less-ness. I have often been guilty.

The Good Samaritan comes to mind here. His inner eyes weren't focused on his own pending situation—the why's and wherefore's of his journey, the occupation and preoccupations of purpose. The man, a pariah himself, had "sideways vision" too.

He checked the ditches, walking by.

The things that compel us, distract us, attract us, and fret us—these effectively bind our larger thoughts, blind our wider vision, dim our compassion, our rightful determination. The barriers to our benevolence. We do not clearly see the peripheral "other." Not really. Only smelly, messy, chronic, dysfunctional other. We measure lives by what they have become, and seldom wonder how they got "there," how their lives unraveled, how the right people crossing the street at the right moment (one infinitesimal example) might have changed the outcome.

We overlook the poverty that hovers over the Appalachia's, the dead-end tenements in too many cities, the hovels adjoining crop-fields, the wretched encampments that metastasize beneath freeway overpasses and spill onto our urban avenues.

And the why's and wherefore's escape us. The endless poverties spin on and out―all for 
the want of a horseshoe nail.**

For want of a nail the shoe was lost. 
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

"For want of a battle the Kingdom was lost?" Yes! Yes, it was, is that. His Kingdom lost.
Indifference is the missing nail. We fail to see sideways, and then perceive attentively, the deteriorating state of humanity—the poverty, home-grown and world-wide. Here, it has become simply a familiar backdrop to daily life. Across the barrier of seas, the tide of refugees rises and never wanes. It begins to engulf everything.

When humanity is ready, ultimately, to fight the right battle, to face the inner myopias, to call out—cry out to see through a glass less darkly, to wage peace against the war within and with-out . . . HE will raise us up from the dust of our ploys and pretensions, from the honest griefs and struggles that engulf us. His Kingdom will take shape before us, finally, our eyes clear-seeing.

This is my ultimate "take-away" from a brief encounter with Jerry, a solid-wounded man standing  in a drizzle on the curb across from where I worship. Where I head every Sunday to celebrate and petition the GodMan who sees everything—sideways and inside out. 


The One Who rescues because He lay flayed and splayed in the dirt, finally, before the nails—helpless and spat upon. The Rescuer whom we abandoned at the cross. Who comes to us over and over to heal both our abandonment and abandoning, to awaken us, His hurting and hurtful world. To save us from this long indifference.

HE knows where and who we are, each of us. He will take us where we need to go.

                                                            *          *          *

*Name changed for the sake of privacy.
**This ancient proverb, in various forms, has been quoted and repeated for varying uses over the centuries, particularly in Early English writing. Benjamin Franklin also made note of it.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Poem: Road out of Aleppo

Photo of Aleppo courtesy of Asia News

Road out of Aleppo

Watching the evening news

He trudges along in broken step, pale
face frozen in a blank stare,
and all the long, long river of moving
bodies pass him by. Even the frail move
faster, framing him against their blur
of anguish, like a film that runs slow
motion, etching one small centerpiece
against the screen of the unwilling eye.

Upon his backas if coupled there,
ribs fused to ribsrides an ancient man,
more skeletal than fleshed, skull
rocking gently, rhythmically, arms
crooked absurdly over the hard-set
slope of shoulders, hands snatching at
the brittle air. Thin-stick shanks dangle
loosely over the young man’s arms,
bob against the plunge and stagger
of his legslike metronomes that pace
the broken angle of each step.

Still they come, he comeslike a crab
caught in an unremitting tide
this strange, two-headed creature
all its own, with its four unseeing eyes,
its single haunted soul. An awful
metamorphosis, a horror that we cannot
look upon, nor speak of, nor forget.

And still they come, inseparable,
inexorable, the dying and the young―
a ghost that rides the shoulders of the world.

© 2017 Judith Deem Dupree 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Christmas Poem

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

There is a star above us,

merely one of a million-million glories
that absorb our awed perception.
But it flowers on our soul’s horizon
like a new-made moon, or the
primal  dawn of Truth—a singularity 
we may abandon all to follow.

We may camp here, shivering at the
edge of our heart’s own minor galaxy—
huddled suddenly against a star-strewn
hillside, lambs curled silently around
our feet. We will be shepherded;

we will hear the unvoiced universe
burst open and regather, singing
out—a counterpoint, a psalming.
A compline. Oh, an ecstasy of angels!