This is for the rainy days.
The heavy days,
Blanketed under a dark silver sky.

This is an image of
Timeless days.
Where both dawn and dusk
Fail to exist,
Because the gray never went away.

This is the light drizzle
Painting your glasses
With tiny cloudy droplets
That blur-out your vision

And makes the next step a mystery,,
As you pray
                  For a chance of sunshine.

Ellyn k Thaiden Mar 2013

Star Wars and Minecraft
Oh darling I wont forget
Soul Eater and fried PO-TA-TOES
My face will not let

My smile go away
And my stomach keeps on to churn
My heart beats fast
With every turn

I hope our nerd days
Never end
I am glad we can
Be soul friends

Harmony Mooney Jun 2014

they took to decorate
teakettle and vintage
manuscripts
they took a soft
wide field of
cucumbers to
fill their mouths
on picnic daisy
days
all of the people
with vibrant locks
of hair
make my skin
and heartaches fuller
why are you eating mouthfuls of dirt?

blythe Apr 2014

Sunrays kissing my bare skin
Heat waves through by body
This would just mean
It's summer already.

No more stressful day,
I can go out and play    
Or just all day be at rest;
Truly, summer days are the best.

crystallaiz Feb 2016

Seasons passed us by
I grew, and so did you
In chorus we made the universe spark
At crossroads you kissed my insecurities away
And somewhere along the way
You gave me your heart
I told you I wasn’t good at reciprocating
But you just smiled and said it’s okay
I loved you so much then, for choosing me

again, it's part of something longer. anyone wants to take a guess which other short poem already posted is linked to this?

man, this was early on in the good old days... where everything was much simpler, less complicated, less tiring
Madisen Kuhn Oct 2014

i dreamt you could love me again,
that you had a big studio apartment in the city
and you bought her lots of gifts,
made her go thrifting with you
to buy strange clothes,
but she knew you loved someone else,
she knew you missed me
and that you would always be mine,
and although i woke up
and not a bit of it was true
(because i know you love her
and that you don’t think about me)
it was still nice to live in a world
where your heart had not
forgotten my name.

Forty Days

A Season of Grief, a Season of Rejoicing

November 9-December 20, 2014

For Barbara Beach Alter 
It is Christmas morning in Saco, Maine, where today Bett, Aaron, Emily, Thomasin and our beloved cousin Marie find ourselves gathered to celebrate our first Christmas without dadima (our name for Barbara Beach Alter).  Brother Tom writes that already in India he and Carol with Jamie, Meha and Cayden (the only of her seven greatgrandchildren Barry never held) have celebrated.  Today Marty and Lincoln join us in Maine.

This gathering of documents—notes, drafts of memorial services, poems, homilies—is my christmas present to each of you.  It is a record, certainly subjective, of grief and rejoicing.

John Copley Alter
1:14 a.m.
Saco, Maine 
November 9

Loved ones,
Barbara Beach Alter died peacefully at 2:55 Sunday morning (today).  Bett and I had the good fortune to be there for the final beating of her good strong heart.  She murmured charcoal.  The nurse who was bathing her afterwards noted how few wrinkles there were, and it is true.
For those of you nearby you may if you want visit Mom in her room at hospice this morning (until noon).  Visit? Darshan? Paying respects?
Bett and I plan to be there around 11:00.
Much love to all. A blessed occasion.
John


November 10

Matthew 5:13-19
Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
"You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

yesterday in the early hours my mother died her saltiness
restored all that had through the months of her old
age and convalescence obscured the lens of her life cleaned
away so that for us now more and more clearly
as we hear about her through the memory and love
of so many people her good works shine forth in
their glory but it is to the days of her
convalescence the days of her dementia I would turn our
minds those of us who spent time with her at
Wingate long-term care facility remember that Barbara Beach Alter became
at times fierce in her commanding us that ‘not one
letter, not one stroke of a letter’ of the commandments
should be altered do you remember that those of you
and us who were given the work and gift of
spending time with Barry in those days in that condition

remember for instance how fussy she became about the sequence
of food on her tray how impatient with us for
our trespasses and violations how adamant that we look forward
for instance and not back at her how she would
say stop holding my hand and saying you love me
you have work to do o she was almost impossible
and certainly incoherent and demented in her obsession with law
and procedure fussy impatient imperious I do not forget being
scolded reamed out put in my place for having somehow
failed to do what the ‘law and the prophets’ demand

Barbara beach alter in the days before hospice in the
nursing home and hospital and even if we are honest
in the final years of her life found herself caught
up in the rigidity of her anxious desire to be
faithful to the laws and commandments of her life and
that made her at times extremely demanding to be with

amen and the epistemological confusion of course the clash between
her reality and ours it was all an ordeal for
her and for those of us who kept her company

and yet and yet through it all and now as
that ordeal for her is no longer paramount as she
dances in heaven all the wrinkles and discomfort of her
life removed and forgiven Barbara Beach Alter kept the faith
living in the midst such that those who cared for
her most intimately the strangers all professed your mother blessed
us


Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.



So, brother and sister, here are my thoughts about the memorial service(s).
Let’s find a time when we three can be present; that’s the most important thing.  My life is currently the least constrained by agenda and schedule.  And then the grandchildren, recognizing that Jamie may not be able to come.  So, our work is to find our when our kids are able to come. Bett and I are exploring that with our three, each of whom has some constraint: Emily, the cost; Thomasin, the piebaking demands, Aaron school.  But we are flexible.

Much love.

John



Walking in my mother’s wake today some trees
a gentle breeze some dogs a little boy
the neighborhood and I took joy from interaction

we are at best a fraction in love’s
calculation after all heaven I realize is not
above or below cannot be taught comes naturally

as death does walking in my mother’s wake
I found new allies learned yet again not
to take myself too seriously to be caught

off guard as a matter of principle and
not to insist that I understand but live
in the midst of forgiveness


in my mother’s wake I am reading these books for
some way to continue to knock on her door Wendell
Berry he can tell me some things and William Blake
he can take me closer and I remember she described
me once as an unused Jewish liberal so I am
reading about protestant liberalism but ham that I am also
reading Carl Hiassen’s Bad Monkey and Quo Vadimus that my
daughter left behind and mythologically Reflections from yale divinity school
no fooling Denise Levertov David Sobel Galway Kinnell’s translation of
Rilke some wake

November 11

Matthew 25:1-13
Jesus said, "Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, 'Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly I tell you, I do not know you.' Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."

this morning in the wee hours my mother died one
of the wise bridesmaids whose lamp to the end was
full she carried always the flask of oil that is
joy that is the love of the kingdom of heaven
and of the bridegroom a flask always replenished by prayer
by devotion by a humble courageous living in the midst

she expected every day the bridegroom to come in other
words and she was also one who would never refuse
to share even the last drop with somebody in need

and at the end it is so clear the door
into the banquet hall was not closed to her as
it is not closed to any one of us foolishness
is to believe otherwise to believe that the bridegroom will
not come today in the early morning in the wee
hours that is when he comes in the midst of
other plans is when he comes even when we are
doing what we assume to be good work when we
are doing what gives us pleasure our duty joy comes
then unsummoned unpredictable random even according to all our best
laid plans my mother loved so many things her pleasure
included dancing late in her life terminally unsteady she invented
what we loved to urge her to do namely the
sitting jig and we grew up with images of her
Isadora Duncan dancing with white scarves in an enchanted forest

Barbara Beach Alter aka Barry aka dadima bari nani aunt
and daughter wife missionary is now I know dancing a
rollicking boisterous jig on the shores of a lake that
is as her grandson once confided to her god in
liquid form spilly Beach of course also dyslexic executive function
compromised she was but one who loved to be always
in the midst surrounded by loved ones some of them
absolute strangers she shared her oil because for her it
came welling up from an inexhaustible source a deep eternal
well of such illumination and laughter such giddy divine chuckles

for her there was to be no exclusion she would
not find the awful idea of being one of the
foolish applicable to anybody but happily she welcomed into her
midst so many it is hard to imagine how many

so there she is now a bridesmaid dancing for joy
in such elegant clothing with such perpetual brightness

amen hallelujah rejoice


sometimes I think she pulled us all out of the
magic hat sometimes I think she knit us all into
one of her theologically impossible sweaters and then with a
wink she passes through the eye of the needle and
is gone and we are left to play in her
honor endless hands of solitaire sometimes I think we are
no more than the hermeneutics of her life the epistemology
artless she was not her heart like one of those
magical meals for her then a doxology praise then praise
she knows salvation

what is a life’s work it is like a landscape
dotted with oases and gardens for the thirsty and the
lost it is like scraping through dry barren ground and
finding there suddenly not only the theology of paradise but
such seeds your hands ache to begin the planting what
is a life’s work what has been shut for too
long opens what has been shut for too long opens

a life’s work renews itself then with death the kernel
of hope that dies in springtime sprouting is what a
life’s work becomes

November 12

John 21:15-17
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.

I know my mother very much enjoyed having breakfast with
god and that the meals of her nursing home drove
her nearly crazy and that when at last she found
hospice o she again could imagine the feast of heaven
at which Jesus breaks bread with us and speaks with
such clarity do you love me more than these I
know it was questions as simple and overwhelming as this
that dominated her final days do you love me love
being  one of the last five words she attempted to
speak do you love me she wrestled in her last
months with epistemology and psychology and theology and all had
to do with whether she could answer unequivocally you know
that I love you and that she could say of
her life that she had broken bread with god we
all remember in her life those moments when there was
a great gladness an innocent acceptance of what lay immediately
in her presence now those months in the nursing home
tormented her in precisely this fashion that it was hard
to accept to be in the midst of such mediocrity
and woe to be innocent and accepting but now praise
god there she is a happy guest at the great
feast and we left behind bereft can acknowledge that she
loved god in her own fashion as best she possibly
could and do you remember being with her there in
hospital or nursing home and she commanding us to move
beyond holding her hand and saying we loved her and
to feed the sheep to do that work which will
make of this earth this here and now an outstation
of heaven Barbara Beach Alter loved god in her own
fashion as best she possibly could we remember that and
that memory is today like a great network a web
of love and inspiration o we would gladly one more
time hold her hand and say I love you but
we know also clearly I think today what the work
is to love our neighbor as ourselves to work for
peace and justice I think of my sister with her
colleagues in WEIGO and how her sisters have understood her
grief  let us break our fast together then glad for
the worldwide web that in these days is reading the
gospel of the life of Barbara Beach Alter praise god


feed
tend
feed
in exchange for his three denials Peter is given three imperative verbs
feed
tend
feed
this is the commission Jesus after breakfast on the shore of the sea of Galilee gives to Peter
twice he says feed
in the commonwealth of Massachusetts 700,000 people are hungry
1 in 6 americans are hungry
living in uncertainty about their daily bread
more than 18,000,000 in Africa
842,000,000 around the world go to bed hungry


Marty and Tom
The thinking about the memorial service is taking this slow and cautious turn, namely that we have three services (at least), one in Sudbury, one in New Haven (allowing Stan and Chuck and others to come) at First Presbyterian (with Blair Moffett we hope), and of course one in India.
The date frame appears to be somewhere between December 17 and 20, unless you have other thoughts.
The actual cremation happens tomorrow.  Lincoln, Bett, Alexis and I will attend, and then of course there is In the Midst on Friday.
Love you more than tongue can tell.
John


the thing with a life well lived is that many
people have partaken the way let’s say a river moves
down through any number of different lives all the time
sedulously seeking the shortest path to the sea to steal
a line from somebody or other meandering a watershed within
which so many of us find a way to live
our own lives nourished and for each of us the
river distinct and different white water the slow fertile meander
the delta and we say to each other this is
the composite river


sometimes I feel like a sleepwalker trying to run a
marathon sometimes I feel like a speedbump in a blizzard

an arrow in a wind tunnel sometimes I feel like

a hazard sign in an old age home sometimes I
feel like a tyrannosaurus rex trying to ride a tricycle

and sometimes those are the good days when identity is
strong like an icicle in a heat wave is strong

I try to read wisdom literature at happy hour scotch
and Solomon can’t go wrong I think and sometimes I

feel like crying

November 13

four days ago we were left alone there with your
body after your breathing ceased and the proud stubborn beating
of your heart and in those four days beloved mother
so much I would love to say to you and
share the antics of the squirrel late leaves on the
neighborhood trees music Orion the network the atlas of love
your life has left behind and all the words we
are the gospel of today and I would sit with
you there then in silence as I sit now four
days later vigilant insomniac aware that the kingdom of heaven
is not more complicated than singing than love than dancing

we are all dancing the dance lord siva teaches and
the squirrels know and that is the response all matter
has to that force that drives the constellations

later on
in your life you perfected the sitting jig do you
remember dancing in your wheel chair the few frail twisted
bones of your body caught up in such a foolish
dance do you remember there at the party your life
each day anticipated

we are all dancing the dance lord
siva the lord of the dance the dance the first
steps of walking are and now for you are sure
footed you skip across the boulders of heaven’s deep clear
shore and stand and it is early morning and you
dive

o into the liquid wonder of god and the
squirrels know the last few leaves on the neighborhood trees
Caden Veer knows

in your life later on when what
had been an exclamation mark twisted into such difficult inquiry
you lived in the frail cage of your bones eager
to fly as four mornings ago you flew as each
day of your long life you knew you could fly

in your life later on we spoke together sang together
charcoal do you remember the deep vowels the hard consonant
across the blessed water summoning each to each each of
us charcoal how your mouth in that final moment shaped
again those syllables and you said also the word like
a fallen leaf you said love and were gone and
we in the vicinity of your vacant flesh were still

charcoal charcoal charcoal shantih shantih shantih amen amen amen hallelujah

and now around the world as it turns the echo
of those words the sound of your passing through and
beyond us


when I wake up to Penelope’s great weaving & unweaving I realize I
am grieving the loss of one I

loved deeply and that my identity itself is a tapestry of sorts constantly
weaving & unweaving my identity itself is

not something permanent not somehow chiseled in stone but is like water and
stone and that wisdom and grief are

like water and stone hand in hand dancing today always in praise of
star and atom weaving and unweaving the

fine carpet on which love is today and always dancing love deeply amen



good grief Barbara Beach Alter is dead all the trees in the neighborhood
at halfmast the squirrels gathering the acorns

of

lament do not be scornful there is some good in hyperbole Orpheus
grieving uncovered the blues love is not

always understated although I know she wanted no fuss she wanted us working
to untie the knot of injustice for

instance she did not want us to shirk our duty in order to
hold her hands & grieve she implored

us in no uncertain terms do you remember  good grief then today amen



what does a protograndfather do beyond doting he would love to tell tales
if all else fails he would love

to play football in the yard and above all else he would enjoy
deploying what few resources he can bring

to bear and yes there can be singing and the ringing of bells
even and yes the telling of tales

if all else fails there is love


happy hour while the kindling of my mother’s bones turns into charcoal is
weird there is nothing in wisdom literature

to help me through this odd stage of the adventure of my mother’s
dying in another culture it would be

different death becomes a beacon for those adrift on the wild waters for
us a cardboard box is shoved through

the furnace door and we are left on the other side of a
plateglass window to make some sense of

things the mind aches with irreverence that love can become like this mechanical


Barbara Beach Alter

There will be (at least) three memorial services to honor the life and love of Barbara Beach Alter.  All are cordially welcome.

On Saturday the 29th of November at 3:00 p.m. at the Memorial Congregational Church, 26 Concord Road, Sudbury Massachusetts.  Barry was a deacon of this church.

On Saturday the 20th of December at 4:00 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 704 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, Connecticut.  Barry was a elder of this church.

And then in the spring in India, where the ashes will be interred.

Peace.  Joy.


Obituary: Barbara Beach Alter

Barbara Beach Alter, born December 17 1920 in Guilford Connecticut to Marguerite Mills Beach and the Reverend David Nelson Beach Jr, died peacefully on November 9, 2014.  Beloved wife of James Payne Alter (pre-deceased) she leaves behind her three children and their spouses, Martha and Lincoln Chen, John and Bett Alter, and Tom and Carol Alter, and her grandchildren, Greg Chen, Alexis Johnson, James Alter, Aaron Alter, Barbara Afshaan Alter, Emily Alter and Thomasin Alter, not to mention her seven great-grand-children.
Barbara (aka Barry) spent her childhood in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Minnesota, as her father served a series of churches.  With her siblings, Judy Nichols, Martha Brickman, Janet Daniels and David Beach, Barry spent a childhood well-known to all who had the good fortune to hear her lively, loving account of summers in Maine, sibling rivalry, music and dancing and laughter, summer camp at Singing Eagle Lodge.
After graduating from Connecticut College in 1942, with a powerful commitment to real peace-making inspired by liberal Protestant theology and the example of Mahatma Gandhi, Barry married James Payne Alter and joined him in a lifetime of service as a Presbyterian missionary to India.  Because of the war the couple spent their first two years in Tennessee, pastoring a church and doing anti-poverty work, where daughter Marty was born.  In 1945 they made the long voyage to India where their two sons were born and where, until early retirement in 1980, they worked faithfully to encourage and support the Church of North India, committed always to civil right and to interfaith dialogue.
Barry was a beloved member of many communities: family, college, the mission field of India, New Haven where Jim and she retired and where she worked as an Interfaith Caregiver, and most recently New Horizons in Marlborough, Massachusetts.  Inspired by a theology of ‘living in the midst’, Barry became good friends with a wide variety of people, sustaining and encouraging them.  Barry is probably best remembered for her kindness and her love of the ordinary, as revealed both in her own experience and in the gospel.
Barry loved other people and she loved the geography of her life—a lake in Maine, the mountains of India--, she loved fashion, she loved travel and is remembered for her unwavering engagement with those around her.  Her delight in conversation, the way she enjoyed meeting strangers, her singing (secular and sacred, Gilbert and Sullivan and Abide with Me, in the car or as a choir member) her good humor, her boundless pride in her grand (and great-grand) children and in the children of others, her playfulness—these are how she is remembered.  "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
For further insight into the life of Barbara Beach Alter please go to In the Midst (http://sites.bu.edu/midst/ a multimedia documentary about James and Barbara as liberal American Presbyterian missionaries.  Memorial services will be held, as follows.
On Saturday the 29th of November at 3:00 p.m. at the Memorial Congregational Church, 26 Concord Road, Sudbury Massachusetts.  Barry was a deacon of this church.
On Saturday the 20th of December at 4:00 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 704 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, Connecticut.  Barry was a elder of this church.
And then in the spring in India, where the ashes will be interred.
The family may be contacted via email (Martha_Chen@hks.harvard.edu, johncopleyalter@gmail.com, taeyebrow@gmail.com) or by mail,
Chen
302 Dean Road, Brookline, Mass, 02445.

Loved ones,
As you know we will hold the first of three memorial services on the 29th of November at 3:00 p.m. at the Memorial Congregational Church in Sudbury.  Please let me know what part you might want to play in that service.  It will, at the elder’s request, rely strongly on the sung rather than the spoken word, music rather than prose or poetry—hymns, bhajans, carols, so we do need musicians; but there will also be time for eulogizing, wisecracking, so let me know.  We are working with Tom O’Brien, pastor.
John


the crematory at st. michael’s in boston is more than a little hop
from the burning ghats of Varanasi it

is a one-stop fastfood fedex death sentence mechanical outrage and leaves you feeling
to be honest like st when the

unctuous undertaker asks if you would like to see the body and you
are shown a cardboard box what theology

explains this conveyor belt what to do then irreverence I suppose express delivery
for god it is a tautology to

say this sucks the crematory at st. michael’s her beloved body burns mechanically


the nature & purpose of friendship in the world after the big bang
is to help us keep our balance

I think we swirl up out of the fecund & hyperactive void and
there you are and I am in

a universe whose laws are simple and two attraction and repulsion squirrel and
tree I said all of this to

my friend and he laughed as friends do his laughter chiming in with
other cosmic chatter so I thought some

more alter the purpose & nature of friendship is to cure your loneliness


gypsies and vagabonds we did for a long time live in one place
until those hills that small river became

familiar to us as my face in the mirror is almost it is
good to know the name of things

to frequent the local businesses to live within some actual weather and in
a watershed that brings your microbes into

balance with your ideology as if it really is original sin to live
abstractly ask any Shinto priest for god’s

sake to give up his shrine he cannot live locally then now here


November 14
Matthew 9:35-38
Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."

this week we honor celebrate and praise the life of
a laborer whose commitment to the harvest began when she
was a girl and when in college she gladly dancing
joined the student christian movement her eyes set on india
long before alter james payne crossed her path o a
fateful encounter for all of us each persuaded deeply that
the call to work for the harvest persuaded by the
good news of the gospel that call and news would
and had already shaped their lives we honor the life
of one for whom ‘the good news of the kingdom’
never ceased to amaze and encourage and guide her sympathy
for the ‘harassed and helpless’ as deeply written as her
love of shoes and fashion knitting greatgrandchildren gilbert and Sullivan
eagerly she allowed herself to be sent out into the
harvest

this week we are gathering the harvest of her
life word by word tear by tear the loaded wagons
of memory creaking down the roads of uttar Pradesh east
holden

memory is both the scythe and the crop tart
apples sugarcane potatoes and spinach mustard fields her husband’s camera
captured this week memories have arrived by the bushel by
milkman’s mule on foot facebook she labored mightily did Barbara
Beach in her own fashion and the yield such memories
of kindness encouragement humor elegance the sound of her voice

memory is the yield to which we yield today and
all this week as for her the calendar and timer
change what we now capture of her life is like
the seeds the farmer saves and you and I who
knew and loved her we are the soil into which
those seeds are planted and our memories of her the
rich compost and the seeds and we know that from
the midst of all that we know of her such
a harvest will come is already coming of which our
love for each other is already proof that the labor
was good the news good the compassion good and that
we have now gathered in the ingredients for such an
abundant and tasty feast such a time of rejoicing together

such nutrition all this week as for her calendar and
agenda change we have been with our tears and hugs
and words our dreams unbidden sudden memories acknowledging how without
her labor our own harvest our own fields would cease


November 15
Where have you been old lazy bastard

I have been to where the
weird sisters stir their cauldron of theology

mythology cosmology

what tautology did you find there lazy old
bastard

I saw the nurses fold away the dead one’s final clothes the
weird sisters stirred their cauldron of theology

what tautology did you find there lazy old bastard

the weird sisters stir

lazy old bastard you have already said
as much

I saw the dead one’s brittle bones the ghost of touch

you have already said as much old
lazy bastard

then


The moon talks to the depressed artist

you are either complaining that you have lost inspiration or writing sad songs
that try to drag me along you

get the blues staring at your own reflection in the pond where I
am identified by you with change and

loss here is what one handsome lad observed a thing of beauty is
a joy for ever its loveliness increases

it will never pass into nothingness for instance as if such nonsense equals
wisdom life deceases and then there is

a sequel wisdom and grief conspire

it is good to be back in Maine after a long absence although
you know how odd it feels to

know that you my mother will not claim one of the rocking chairs
nor climb the steep oldfashioned stairs your

presence is nevertheless the door through which we pass to reach this place
from the living room we face a

river you once for a long summer day in your canoe explored with
family and friends I thought time withered

and that arriving here without you I might feel somehow lost was wrong


mom here we are in CVS trying to print out the lovely picture
of you Alexis sent us but it

is a PDF and well that’s wicked hard to make work so we
are having to buy what’s called a

memory stick instead so that soon we will have a 4 by 6
of you to put in the Indian

picture frame we bought today at 10000 villages so that we can have
something like a little shrine in your

honor if that’s okay with you and of course none of this works


high tea and happy hour have a lot in common I suppose with
some few differences sobriety and tea cozies

and there is less likely to be a football game on the screen
in the sports bar but both are

wonderful customs to observe as you at various times did both and even
enjoyed watching the patriots or celtics go

at it so that this evening when your daughterinlaw and your son open
a bottle of inexpensive wine from Trader

Joe’s in your honor we do remember how cozily tea and love arrived



November 16

Matthew 25:14-30
Jesus said, "For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' But his master replied, 'You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' "

Barbara beach alter had many talents she could dance and
she could sow and she was as the panjabis like
to say a ‘shade on a hot summer day’ who
is now beyond this world of ashes and pain truly
herself as she so faithfully tried to be in her
long life a ‘faithful slave’ one who made good use
of her talents how she loved to dance we all
know that my family has a favorite video of the
elder doing the sitting jig and in her storage unit
we found a suitcase full of patterns for elegant clothes

she loved to sew and was always "Maavan thandiyan chhavan"
as the panjabis like to say ‘a shade on a
hot summer-day’ a tree beneath which we found shelter gathering
to break good bread and hear together the good news

do you remember my sister she made us peter pan
clothes and for you a girl scout uniform and danced
her way through college in clothes of her own making
who is now garbed as angels are as Orion is
the blue herons peacocks the loons of her beloved Maine

one of the talents she invested wisely was the gift
of family of course wherever she went whoever she met
wherever became because she was in their midst family interrelated
god’s children all of us dwelling in the great watershed
of mercy she did not stay still this divinely addled
vagabond allowed no fences to be built between her and
those she encountered stranger or sibling cousin nephew greatgrandchild noble
laureate Barbara Beach Alter was one who to borrow a
word sauntered through this world sans terre homeless even in
any worldly sense but equally at home anywhere when you
got right down to it I remember fetching her from
the airport and she was there in her wheelchair surrounded
by new friends beaming chattering in hindi if she could
the language which at the very end she spoke by
choice always she was I think a citizen of god’s
diaspora one of those for whom the kingdom of heaven
lay always close at hand tangible in the most ordinary
things people and places Barbara Beach Alter invested as best
she could her talents then and at the end as
her heart for the last time beat I know god
welcomed her to where inside each of us she dwells


my mother and my muse are each amused that I today enjoyed potatoes
and cauliflower in the kitchen and not

only on the table well making food for friends will do that for
you and their amusement to be honest is

more delight that at long last I am aware that the ordinary
& domestic are where the portals of

heaven can be found and not in that other abstract place where thinking
things would outweigh love and affection well

tonight as Dickinson might say we watched the pinions of this moment wave












November 17

Matthew 24:42-47
Jesus said to his disciples, "Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
"Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions."

I can imagine Jesus speaking to my mother and saying,
Barry stay awake she sometimes had that look in her
eye as if a kind of divine insomnia afflicted her

and I know she woke into each new day persuaded
that this would be the day on which something monumental
would happen love for instance and I think she stayed
awake to the end not wanting her house to be
broken into I love by the way the notion of
Jesus as a burglar imagine waking up to his presence

Barbara Beach worked hard if not always successfully to keep
her household in order and heard I think clearly the
voice of Jesus saying to her truly I tell you

and yet for her that voice that being spoken to
that intimate deeply personal conversation did not make her arrogant

she was afflicted particularly towards the end with a kind
of divine insomnia when she slept she slept hard exhausted

I know she woke into each new day persuaded that
love today would find her romantic love heavenly love it
almost did not matter she lived a romantic life eager

and what happened during that new day that day the
lord had made was to her precious beyond words almost

she fell in love with the people she met that
day embracing them eager that the events of the day
be bright and fragrant fraught with possibility alive with good
news she found so much of the ordinary precious beyond
words lived if you will with the sacrament of the
immediate what is right now right here in front of
her that made her for many people almost irresistible their
testimony over this week has been that her presence inspired

encouraged refreshed enlightened embroidered who now if fully alive in
us when for us love is the reality she is
there then one of the stitches a vibrant thread in
the clothing happiness wears and her embrace is evident in
the ordinary moments of our lives when what is immediate
becomes sacramental friendship the patient conversation of trees a child’s
laughter and so it is that eight days after her
heart last beat after she for the last time called
out charcoal we realize Barbara Beach Alter that you are
gone that your canoe has reached that other shore and
that the other shore is mysteriously also deeply within us



Notes from conversation with pastor Tom O’Brien

3:00 p.m. on the 29th; refreshments afterwards.  Do we cater? I thought Soul of India perhaps—high tea.
There will be some charges; he is sending a charge sheet.
Tom O’Brien wants to say a few words.
They can print out a bulletin; could one of you send him the picture from the obituary?
I hope to have the order of service complete by Wednesday, so send me any further thoughts; I’ll circulate a draft.
He expects a good congregational turnout, as is fitting.
Marty, bhajans?


for the eighth-day celebration we made in your honor Barbara beach some chapattis
some daal a vegetable korma of bindi

potatoes and cauliflower south Indian style with coconut milk and an Indian salad
and we remembered how often you would

sit in the kitchen with us and comment comparing our amateur hour attempt
to how you remember your Indian friends

did things or you yourself in your green salad days and we honored
the empty chair of your presence and

drank inexpensive red wine as you know we do and remembered your company



November 18

An Ode to Coffee

we make our morning coffee with beans a good friend roasts and drink
from Karma Coffee cups the shop from

which through her long convalescence we brought my mother iced mocha latte she gulped it down and so on

a cold clear morning in Maine we sip our coffee in honor of
mothers and good friends and the important

ceremonies of the ordinary world and as Emily Dickinson urged we watch the
pinions of the moment as it sails

away across the dark and hallowed water wisdom drinks coffee


Pandora

I have created a Pandora station that juxtaposes J. Cole and Debussy if
that makes any sense clair de lune

and something about niggaz wrapped around a vintage Joan Baez tune and the
early Beatles not to mention Ravi Shankar

and something about the old rugged cross Beastie Boys Beyoncé and Billie Holiday
sharing the stage of my imagination with

bob Dylan bob Marley the piano of Claude Debussy joining hands with Thelonius
Monk and I remember suddenly your withered

arms dancing there in the nursing home our singing together Abide with Me


Memorial Service, 29th November
In the Midst:
All God’s children got wings

"What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?" - Micah 6:8
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.


Welcome.  Pastor, Family
Read a scriptural text:
Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV)
23 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Sing Abide with Me
Swamiji readings:
Return within,
to the place where there is nothing,
and take care that nothing comes in.
Penetrate to the depths of yourself,
to the place where thought no longer exists,
and take care that no thought arises there!
There where nothing exists,
Fullness!
There where nothing is seen,
the Vision of Being!
There where nothing appears any longer,
the sudden appearing of the Self!
Dhyana is this!.[13]
“To come to God is an awakening, awakening to one's self, awakening to Him. There is no coming to God apart from this awakening. There is no ‘God-for-me’ apart from this awakening. God is not an abstraction which my reason could conceive, and so project. The philosopher's God is not God; it is the furthest that human intelligence can project, since it is incapable of reaching beyond the sphere [loka] of abstraction…. God is only found in an awakening.” [1971]
A Journey to Ultimate Understanding, op. cit.
“My wish for you is that the ‘awakening’ which began on that day may lead you more and more deeply to the discovery of this ‘I AM’ in which alone you will meet the Christ, no longer in a memory or in beautiful theological ideas, but in His own mystery, which yourself YOU ARE.”
Letter to a friend (July 7, 1973), in J. Stuart, op. cit., p. 305.
Sing Lord of the Dance
and then this hymn
1. Dear lord and father of mankind
2. Fling out the banner
3. Abide with me; into the woods my master went; galilee bright galilee; once in royal david’s city; o little town of Bethlehem; lord of the dance

Words from community & congregation
Words from children, & spouses (Lincoln)
Words from grandchildren

Another Biblical text:
John 15 King James Version (KJV)
15 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
and this
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

John, I have been thinking.  A few possibilities:

1) Lead all who have gathered in a song/round in both Hebrew and English: "Hinei ma tov” — "Oh, how good and how lovely, for brothers and sisters to dwell together.” It is very simple.  I can sing for you over the phone if you’d like.

2) Lead singing of one of your mom’s favorite songs from my tradition — Oseh Shalom (Grant us peace).

3) Recite kaddish (Aramaic transliterated into Hebrew) and then have all read the English together.

4) Read the poem I read when we gathered around your mom’s body: “Birth is a beginning, death a destination….”

I don’t want to impose my own traditions on the service or your family.  These are all songs, verses your mom and I shared, so I know they were meaningful to her.  I don’t know if they’d be meaningful to others, though.

I can, of course, also play some tracks of your mom singing…or have others sing with her…but I don’t know if that’s appropriate for the service.

I guess, in short, I feel a need to look to you for what you think is best.

A teary morning, here.  Sometimes, it just hits me hard.

Cathy


Don and Andy
Plans as they are at this moment.
On Saturday the 29th of November at 3:00 p.m. at the Memorial Congregational Church, 26 Concord Road, Sudbury Massachusetts. Followed by a gathering at Marty’s, 302 Dean Road.
Tom flies in on the 16th of December, leaves on the 17th.  We will gather at 302 again the evening of the 16th.
On Saturday the 20th of December at 4:00 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 704 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, Connecticut.  Followed by a dinner for family at a local Indian restaurant.
Cheers.
John



November 19

there is the gospel of the ordinary of course morning coffee fried eggs
a slice of anadama toast to launch

another day on the saco river in frigid maine seagulls circling wetlands life
in this watershed and there is always

Mozart to listen to  and early light on the shriveled grass these are
the legs we have to stand on

in other words to dance with perambulate slide into trousers and my ordinary
paunch of course under today’s thick sweater

husband and wife at the breakfast table a domestic interior today’s sweet music


November 20

Jesus said to the twelve apostles, "See, I am sending
you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so
be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of
them, for they will hand you over to councils and
flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged
before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony
to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak or
what you are to say; for what you are to
say will be given to you at that time; for
it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of
your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to
death, and a father his child, and children will rise
against parents and have them put to death; and you
will be hated by all because of my name. But
the one who endures to the end will be saved."

The gospel does not pretend.  We pretend on its behalf.

We try to pretend that love is innocuous and amicable.

We lag behind pretending that somehow our indolence is god’s
will.  Yesterday I drove the car of indulgence through the
world and I knocked on the door of temptation and
there you were.  You are always there, friend and lover.

Love is not indulgent.  It speaks proudly and well today
and tomorrow and will surprise you suddenly leaving you blue.

One day the door shuts.  You have misbehaved.  The angels
laugh.  You are not invited to the table.  You eat
scraps with the fraudulent and ill-advised, half-heartedly discussing theology and
the law while at the party the band of salvation
plays.  You are shoved to one side and not allowed
to play and all of your bills are overdue.  You
are the stranger people refuse to meet.  Meanwhile the band
of salvation plays and the blessed go on vacation and
loud music crowds into your consciousness.  Yes, you are blue.

This is not what you planned.  You are contraband but
also unimportant.  Overdue, but unimportant.  The door is shut but
what is beyond it what it conceals hardly matters anymore.

Knock on the door.  Yes you are blue.  You are
the star of a minor movie about a minor miscreant
the runt of the litter.  This is not what you
planned.  Overdue, but unimportant.  The door is shut.  You are
no exception.


November 21

Matthew 25:31-40
Jesus said, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' "

it is right and good and a joyful thing when
the gospel is unequivocal that the judgment is about justice
and mercy that there is a sharp sword that cuts

jesus identifies himself unequivocally with the hungry the thirsty the
stranger the naked those imprisoned and not unequivocally not with
the righteous for whom the identification of the mighty and
the least is always scandalous truly I tell you just
as you did it to one of the least of
these who are members of my family you did it
to me  it is right and good and a joyful
thing that Jesus asserts unequivocally that his family includes the
stranger the sick those in prison the soteriology of this
gospel is social it has to do with the watershed

Jesus radically and unequivocally identifies himself with his family and
makes radically unequivocally clear that his family is made up
of the hungry the thirsty the stranger the naked those
imprisoned and not only those who live in safety well-clothed
familiar ensconced in happy hour and good food no these
the well-fed comfortably lubricated pillars of society the aunts and
uncles even he may well excluded at the end from
the party from the great dance the feast of heaven

surely this is for you and me as we consider
for instance the life of Barbara Beach and James Payne
a challenge it is the challenge of the social gospel

the party the great dance the feast of heaven may
not be for us we may not be blessed Barbara
Beach in her last months wrestled with this issue I
believe struggling with the overwhelming fact that those who cared
for her were of the family of god and that
she was somehow the unworthy recipient of their care this
disparity and injustice deeply disturbed her fed her divinely addled
dementia even she who wanted nothing more than to dance
with the angels knew in however crazy a fashion that
unless the orderlies who changed her diaper were fully included
she would not be allowed or able to dance and
that drove her crazy she wanted all god’s children to
be invited to the party to the great dance to
the feast of heaven surely this is for you and
me as we consider for instance the life of Barbara
Beach and James Payne a challenge it is our challenge


we sit in the living
room en route my mother forgiving us
there is nothing fussy about

death look the falling leaves
shout do not grieve look at our
happy hour how in the

theological twinkling of an eye
we defy for a wonderful moment gravity
depravity doubt anxiety depression those

heavy words so close up
the heavy text and lift a lighter
cup an ordinary enlightenment we

are weaving together then falling
leaves and hear through the living room
window the call beyond gloom

and despair there is room
for gloom and happiness


that time of night
in the winter when
the curtain falls fast
and window becomes mirror

the river disappears beyond
where not long ago
the sun set as
if there is somewhere

intact a world the
sublime comes inward in
other words and here
we are arrived and

in the harbor now
are the great sailing
ships on which now
cargoes of dream arrive

I look out what
is visible in the
looking glass is shadowy
hallucinated the living room

happy hour we call
it in defiance of
all that is gathering
around


we have a casual feast
of pizza and beer watching
whatever television offers
up

or the Internet which includes
an article about the survival of
the book on PBS
the pizza is

homemade the beer
what is called
craft
and what television is offering up

is news
we learn about gridlock in
Washington
this is how we spend an ordinary

evening
one of the million and more
who are doing something like this
eating some pizza homemade or

not
and drinking beer
and even if halfheartedly trying
to observe

what appears to happen


Bob Dylan
Ella and Louis
Dizzie gillespie
Some hymns
Some bhajans
Abide with me
Once in royal david’s city
And then there is of course gilbert &
Sullivan
And all the silly songs Bill Grogan’s goat
I’ll build a bungalow
And all the choirs and singing groups she belonged to
Dear lord and father of mankind
Fling out the banner
Raba ki howe sana hamesha
Hark the herald
And of course the dance songs
The sitting jig
Into the woods my waster went
Is some of the soundtrack of my mother’s long life



November 22

John 16:7-15
Jesus said, "I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."

my mother took to heart what Jesus had to say
the truth she listened carefully and with open ears and
mind and understood that the metaphor of departure and arrival
had to do with the essential nature and rhythm of
the world that righteousness and judgment have to do with
are essential to the pilgrimage of our lives for her
sin was to live as if there is always some
other time and place a strategy of deferral she knew
in her heart and mind that it is enough to
listen because as the gospel declares jesus had always ‘many
things to say to you’  she believed deeply that the
spirit of truth comes is coming is knocking on this
moment’s door she was of the belief that now and
here is when and where the ‘things that are to
come’ happen she lives in daily momentary anticipation of a
great the great declaration which is that you and I
are offered the inestimable gift of salvation and should accept
that gift with an equally inestimable joy to use the
words of CS Lewis whose feast day this is we
should be surprised by joy my mother took that command
to heart and mind and understood deeply that the metaphor
of departure and arrival speaks truth she lived that way
always on the road in pursuit of what that day
the lord’s day would bring she was not overly concerned
about sin except in the largest and most elemental sense

I do think my mother believed deeply in gifts even
as she fretted at times over her ability to provide

she lived on the road a true saunterer and pilgrim

not concerned overly about sin not finding fault in others

and left us all each with her life to ponder

to think about she offered us a way to think

now that’s a challenging statement as she always insisted on
her own dyslexia and executive function deficiencies and god knows
had them but and this is what is worth considering
in the midst of such handicapping circumstances she nevertheless believed

she believed deeply in gifts even as she fretted at
times over her ability to provided she lives on the
road a true saunterer and pilgrim not concerned overly about
sin not finding fault in others and left us all
with her life to ponder to think about she offered
us a way to think



November 23

Dancer

whoever the muse or goddess of dance may be
siva
Apollo and zeus and for whatever reason
(don’t forget Isadora Duncan) when you those years ago
out of your mother’s womb came
dancing
I know your uncle signed on your dance card

Mother

your uncle never saw
the finished version of the la leche jig
performed but has always marveled at
how gracefully
you joined the great sisterhood of mothers
quilting

as if a dancer joining a sacred dance

(at least the la leche jig)

Daughter

it is a quilt the angels weave
using your hands and those of
mother & daughter
through the great tapestry of time

how life as a woman is like
a river
leaping on eager bright ankles down
into the fertile watershed

amen

Laughter

which of course overstates everything

the trick to dancing is to
collaborate with gravity

how well you laugh

delight comes dancing out of
your throat & heart and is a benign
contagion

all of it dance and motherhood &
laughter
lightly landed

Swimmer

your uncle would ask you one day soon
to plunge into the lake where your grandmother
swam
her whole life long and join
with your glad strong graceful body
the loons
and her memorial canoe

dive deep

this cool water heals
amen

Elocutionist

your greatgrandmother on your grandmother’s side
exceled in elocution
your grandmother of course dyslexic and burdened
with doubt
stammered a little
and now you teach others how to have words
dance out of the throat how to make of sentences
a quilt

Comfort

on these winter nights it is good to pull close
the comforter and to let the day with its verbose
demands subside into that silence in which close comforting we
hear the voice of sabbath rest weaned by death comforted
by love

Avuncular

for forty-three years
you have graced my life
dancing at my wedding
joining me on the frozen lake do you
remember
reminding me always that life can be
lyrical
competent
articulate
hilarious

avuncular is an adequate and joyful state
selah amen hallelujah

Mystical

you know better than I do that dancing takes place
always in two spaces inside and out and likewise in
time the sufi mystics spin in order to confuse and
amuse and you your hands in the gestures natraja knew

you know

--for Alexis Chen Johnson and her grandmother


death’s calendar is hard to follow
a swallow swoops out
of the dilapidated barn
small children shout for joy in
the garden
a kitten plays with a ball of yarn

somewhere somebody is fretting about original sin
asking for pardon

an old woman darns her socks beside a minor fire

small children shout for joy in the garden
there is
desire
there is always the need for pardon
for what
wisdom can offer
beside a minor fire
in the joyful
garden
beyond the shut gate
beyond the scoffing bystanders
desire
buoyant
pardoning
elated


I want to share her final words with you charcoal
I love you because they contain however elliptically her gospel

charcoal of course in her life not really what remains
of her bones when the oxygen is gone but rather
a lifelong word used in summoning from across the hallowed
lake the fragile precarious craft that will bring her home

the fragile precarious craft that love whose masterwork is the
universe needs in order to cross the treacherous waters between
you and me

charcoal

a final word the final breathing
the going home


Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus said, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

it is easy to imagine chuck forman giving something to
drink to the thirsty and visiting the sick and imprisoned

his family and the family of god are the same
family he knew that as he did the deeds of
his day he did the deeds also of god for
him when he reaches heaven the angels will be familiar

in other words whenever I visited chuck or met him
on the street or heard from or of him I
did not meet a man caught up in self-righteousness trying
to make some elaborate argument with or about god no
he eagerly listened for the answering voice of god and
knew in his heart as his beloved wife knew music
that each day on this earth we are visited by
those who while not perhaps angels are certainly god’s children

his good friend stan Leavy says of chuck that chuck
is anima naturaliter Christiana a man with whom talking of
faith is natural and easy I love to imagine their
conversation here on this earth in this new haven and
also the conversation they will have in heaven with those
who like them are of nature by nature christian there
is in that imagining such comfort and assurance such delight

chuck wore his faith comfortably without pretention as his beloved
wife wore music and shared it as you share with
those you love and with strangers the glass of cool
refreshing water it is hard to think of new haven
without chuck forman for sure and yet well beyond all
of our earthly havens and homes there is of course
heaven that watershed where those who are by nature christians
gather a place of delight assurance and comfort and we
know from imagining chuck there that whenever on this earth
we give comfort whenever we give assurance whenever we take
delight we are ourselves there where faith is natural and
easy as conversation was always with chuck here in our
new haven so we pause for a moment to reflect

without chuck the world is certainly lessened we feel loss
and sorrow and words do not easily come and yet
the gospel reminds us that the kingdom of heaven where
chuck is now happily conversing with all those he loved
and we love is also within us and that if
we listen carefully we will hear again his voice amen
November 24


Rain on a tin roof

is the timpani of my childhood, the jazz drumming, the music of nostalgia and homesickness.  I lay under that peculiar comforter (and source of dread) for the nights of my birth and regularly, annually, for a month or six weeks at a time, whether at home, my mother (who is now dead) singing lullabies or in the dormitories of my school, counting the intervals between lightning flash and the rumble of thunder.  The timpani of my childhood drowned out of course the sniffling of homesick wretches like me.



November 25


Rabb ki howe sanna
Rabb ki howe sanna hamesha
Rab ki howe sanna


1. Rabb ki howe madah sarai,
Uske naam ki sanna


2. Rabb ke ghar mai howe sitaish,
Uski humdoo sanna


3. Jai ke zoor se phunko narshinge,
Barbat been baja


4. Saare milker tali bajao,
Gaao rabb ki sanna May God be Praised
May God be Praised Always
May God be Praised


1.May God be
Praise be His Name


2. In God’s House, may there be ??
Praise Be to Him


3. Play outloud the ??
Play trumpets and flutes


4. Everyone clap our hands together
Sing God’s Praises



A Memo from Memorial

The program is ready to be printed, thanks to the hard work of Ann Boland, secretary.  It looks good, flows well.
Yes to coffee pot and serving dishes.
One round, four six foot rectangular, four eight foot rectangular, tables in the hall.
Yes to a piano both in sanctuary and hall.
1:00 to 6:00 available time, flexible at the beginning, not at the end.  We’ll arrive before 1:00 probably.
We provide flowers.
There will be wireless mikes.
I’m off to Soul of India.

Hooray for us and our side.



November 27

Thanksgiving is for the ordinary—
a stick of butter we don’t have—
neighborhood trees shrugging off snow—

it is like the song
I am listening to by cannonball adderley
for instance—gratitude for what

is right under your nose
and of course for those in their
rocking chairs somewhere we call

heaven and for all the
poets whose songs we know by heart
or could—heaven is ordinary—

it is not an exception—
it is you and I making chowder
and talking about your mother’s

love of tapioca pudding—praise
for ordinary things--


After a storm, the grandmothers shaking out the down comforters of heaven perhaps, the trees again submit their claim to be inhabitants of the watershed, gracefully adapting to their new outfits.  We watch the sunrise up the river.  A moment of pink, and then that sharp clarity of light that is winter.  An Emily Dickinson poem cuts through.

There's a certain Slant of light, (320)

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –
None may teach it – Any –
'Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –
When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

We look forward to that afternoon.  It is Thanksgiving.  We are here in our refuge on the banks of the Saco River.  The music we hear is lighter, jeepers creepers covered by Benny Carter—the sitting jig is what my mother who is now dead would do, were she with us.  She is, she isn’t: that ambivalence, what Dickinson refers to as heavenly hurt.


It is hard to read the Dickinson as a teacher.  I do want to teach ‘it’, I do, and over the years have tried mightily.  Today as we eat chowder together, in lieu of turkey and cranberry sauce, stuffing, we are aware, although not addressing it directly, of that ‘imperial affliction’; there are shadows, a kind of spiritual chiaroscuro.  But as they day passes the landscape itself listens less carefully; melts, the trees shrugging off the heavy ermine robes of the winter storm.  Now, it is mid-afternoon.  There, in the distance, death.


After life a story

Kathryn did not know what else to do.  She felt sad.  Her grandmother was dead.  Kathryn did not really know what that meant.  So she did the only thing she knew how to do when she felt sad or very happy.  She walked down to the ocean.

The ocean soothed and amused and delighted her.  She had often walked on the beach with her grandmother, gathering shells, watching the seabirds and the porpoises who swam close by when her grandmother whistled.  She looked carefully for the sea turtle babies.


Memoir, as one of the 13 books, or 13 memoirs

1.
I am writing a memoir of the final months of my mother’s life.  On may 12 she fell, fracturing her femur (I believe); endured surgery, rehabilitation and five months of nursing home care (more on that later), and at the end ten blessed days in hospice.  This memoir could well be an account of hospice, or of the final thirty moments of my mother’s earthly life (we pray daily that this distinction, this bipolarity, between heaven and earth be removed).  Labor, peace.

2.
During her final months my mother often referred to the pornographic ledger, of which of course in this world of ours there are many possible examples.  What was she thinking about?  I think she found the intimacy of having men—strange men, many immigrant—change her, handle her catheter, clean her up, disturbing.  For her the experience of the nursing home may have resembled in some fashion a violation, and not entirely with her as the victim.  She was also, as we all are, often preoccupied by sexual matters.  She died a longtime widow.

3.
My mother died on the sabbath, in the early morning, at 2:55 a.m. eastern time to be exact.  She loved the sabbath, and may well have waited for the day to come, the lord’s day, the day of rest, when god says, this is good, as he leans at his leisure (her leisure), loafing, surrounded by the good people of heaven, and all the saints on earth.  On a sabbath morning, in the hallowed dark, the birdfeeder outside her window still, she labored to catch each breath, her heart stubbornly beating.  Rest.

4.
Let us consider together then this whole matter of death. We sat with her in her final room as her body, step by step, domain by domain, shut down.  Her breathing we watched go from labored, tortured even, to slow to shallow to nothing, to stillness.  And her pulse, so evident in her scrawny threadbare throat, it also slowed down, it fluttered, and was gone.  There were two convulsions.  I cannot say when her imagination ceased, when she thought her final thought.  She spoke a  few words: charcoal—love—I…you.  And died.

5.
Let’s not talk too much or too long about the political situation.  One of my mother’s last words may well have been reconciliation and she worked tirelessly, even in her nursing home bed and wheelchair and often in a demented fashion, for justice and believed overwhelmingly in peace.  Politics mattered.  Her college years were yeasty with protest and a direct challenge to the status quo, in her membership in the fellowship of reconciliation and in the Student Christian Movement.  A theology of engagement, of transformation, of feeding and healing and compassion then.

6.
Lakes and mountain streams mattered more to my mother than the ocean, although when it all comes down there is no obvious way to make such a point.  She enjoyed water in the form of a lake or a mountain stream, without forgetting that each stream is ‘sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea’, or something like that.  I imagine her canoe turning beyond the farthest point in the lake and down the stream until it becomes a river a delta and is gone at last back into the ocean, amen.

7.
One of her grandchildren, a granddaughter who resembles her grandmother if pictures from her youth can be trusted, is coming to visit her parents for thanksgiving and then for a month.  Grandmother and granddaughter knew each other well.  They shared a small cabin at Birch Knoll for many summers, playing cards together (double solitaire), talking, laughing.   She taught her granddaughter to knit, and they shared together a love for the lake, for its soothing clear water, its loons, the boulders, the birch trees.  When her grandmother died the granddaughter, grieving, flew home.

8.
My mother did not always endorse my wife’s cooking, especially when it came to Indian food.  Now this is not only mother-in-law/daughter-in-law conflict about the feeding of son/husband and children/grandchildren, although it is surely that also.  It is also about Indian food.  Both women spent time in India, learning to cook.  My mother spent thirty-five years, my wife three.  My wife is a cook, my mother, well, not so much, so that my wife in three years learned as much or more than my mother in thirty-five.  Says husband/son carefully. 

November 28

tick tick tack tack -- her typewriter - her heart -- winter sunlight -- tick tick tack tack -- dad asleep in the bedroom -- those white-walled, functional bedrooms, north indian missionary -- tick tick tack tack -- we play cricket around the fountain -- bamboo, rock, tree, grass -- hard, hard ball -- bedrooms with only just the necessary curtains and bedspreads -- tick tick tack tack -- letters home - letters from home -- her long new england fingers searching for meaning on the keys - you hit the ball over the compound wall - we take the ladder and climb over to collect it -- next to the mad telephone wala -- tick tick tack tack - dad dreams of mahsheer and mom's legs -- the sun shfits -- now you bowl to me, and the speed of the ball teaches me so much of life and challenge and defeat and victory -- tick tick tack tack - now it stops, and we know it is tea- time - dad will rise, silently, and prepare for his lonely -- no, not lonely - solitary -- evening walk - and you clean bowl me, but i do not mind -- i have faced an over from you -- mom calls out -- rajpur winter -- cinnamon rolls and tea -- tick tick tack tack -- the metronome of memory --  

--Tom Alter


November 29

when your loved one dies
peacefully in her bed your thoughts about
death are not those of

somebody whose loved one dies
violently at the hands of the police
for instance—death comes differently

disguised—although when you think
about it death and birth and love
are at once common and

extraordinary—I consider the library
of death—the many genres—classic and
modern—and all the languages—

always we translate the best
we can—the gospel in all its
versions—and when we gather

together to remember we are
all one family


Charcoal… I love you

In the final moments of her physical life Barbara Beach Alter spoke, or tried to speak, spoke with the final summoning of strength and purpose, these few words, as part of the final conversation of her life:  charcoal she said, the final embers of each syllable, the vowels and

syllables she had listened to all her life, on her thin dry lips.

Do you know the story?

When she was an infant her parents brought her to a lake in Maine, a beloved lake, and to a place, Birch Knoll, that became over the long years of her life and the lives of many of us in this room, hallowed.

Now, Birch Knoll in those earlier days was a camp you could only reach by boat in a time long before smart phones and even telephones, before even the party line some of us remember, so that to get there somehow you had to communicate with those at the camp, those with the boat, and let them know you had arrived (o how eagerly! there, across the beloved water, were childhood and grandparents and blueberry muffins, rocking chairs, all the paraphernalia of paradise),

so you would, one of you, the one with the loudest strongest voice would, call out charcoal

and wait for the cargo of syllables, the vowels—deep, open—and the hard consonant, to reach those gathered on the screened porch, coffee in hand, cards in hand, apron on even,

and you would wait for the response and it would come charcoal the two syllables heavily laden with loons and moonlight,

something like that.

Charcoal.

Barbara Beach Alter, it is good and a right and joyful thing to imagine that for you across hallowed water the canoe of eternal bliss has come.

Charcoal.

But (and those of you who spent time with Barry during her last tumultuous months know of what I speak] there is in the word charcoal also, at least for me, a wondrous echo of these words from the prophet Isaiah

Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
Mom during her final months was often to say the least imperious, in two languages even.  She would regularly for instance bark something like this command
Stop holding my hand and saying you love me…look forward…there is work to do…

What was Barbara Beach Alter’s work?  I love you
The other final words.

And so, on this day when we remember, she would have me say to each of us,
on this day before Advent,
look forward… there is work to do…step forward and say Here am I; send me

Amen… hallelujah…shalom…khuda afiz


The blessing of the small
birds on the branches of this winter—
the blessing we recall of

even the slightest splinter of
a mother’s love—the blessing
of love that is like

the way the morning sun
dresses the river—the spike of sharp
light—wonder—the blessing of

today that is like the
music of a harp whose strings are
love—that theology of presence

the blessing of being far
away even—how in this narrative the
tenses are confused a little—

that theology of presence—abiding
as if god whittles us


Memorial Day

Today is the first of
several occasions when we will formally declare
our love of Barbara Beach

Alter—she would know carefully
each of us of course—not a
teacher exactly she nevertheless declared

faithfully that today is the
day the lord made—carefully then—lovingly
the theology of today is

written—for her no shoving
of wisdom literature into a shopping bag
then—no lovingly she folded each of

us into her arms—her
brag that god’s love is wide and
long and does not waver

amen—that she sought to
understand


when your loved one dies
peacefully in her bed your thoughts about
death are not those of

somebody whose loved one dies
violently at the hands of the police
for instance—death comes differently

disguised—although when you think
about it death and birth and love
are at once common and

extraordinary—I consider the library
of death—the many genres—classic and
modern—and all the languages—

always we translate the best
we can—the gospel in all its
versions—and when we gather

together to remember we are
all one family


The blessing of the small
birds on the branches of this winter—
the blessing we recall of

even the slightest splinter of
a mother’s love—the blessing
of love that is like

the way the morning sun
dresses the river—the spike of sharp
light—wonder—the blessing of

today that is like the
music of a harp whose strings are
love—that theology of presence

the blessing of being far
away even—how in this narrative the
tenses are confused a little—

that theology of presence—abiding
as if god whittles us


December 1

today is something like a
ron Padgett poem—it is also something
like an icecube melting on

a wood stove—and something
like Cannonball Adderley doing autumn leaves—take
your pick or none of

the above—I of course
don’t play the alto saxophone nor have
I split my cord of

word—and the baggy insouciance
of ron Padgett is not exactly my
thing—but each rings a

bell on this advent day—
and the new season dawns—cyber Monday
also rings its bell—let

the shopping continue—I make
my mother’s gift



December 2

in honor of something for breakfast today we make chapattis and curried eggs and
listen to the raga of grief a departure is planned and we talk about
how vagabond we have been in our life nobody pouts we are almost good

in the neighborhood Christmas lights it is advent after all although the merchants claim
each day with a new pseudonym for unbridled greed who can blame them the lame and the halt the marginalized and unhappy the theology of the profit margin
has no need for the widow and orphan amen

December 3

on an icy day early in advent I drive our youngest daughter to the
portland jetport after a detour to scratch bakery in south portland for bagels and
good coffee there is the theology of food always to consider after all she
carries no contraband and makes it through security quickly her text message reassures us

shield her from all danger today her father perhaps halfheartedly prays thinking also of
her grandmother’s passage through what the Buddhists call the bardo we are all travelers

and the passport we carry deep within is love


proclaim the truth and do
not be silent through fear


December 4

when I awake in the
morning light there are theories aplenty to
undo—the ghost of django—

a river to know again—
the chapter on pain—and enough animal
energy—although I am slightly

maladjusted the rising sun is
not so bright that the wisdom literature
on my desk surely resembles

an episode of Charlie brown—
morning light trembles on the bare branches
down towards the river—blanched

bare the bare branches of
my heart—morning love trembles—the echo
of django’s moonglow on the

theologian’s nightstand—is this then
grief’s open book


I obey my happy hour’s command.  Whitman

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest.
John Muir

Blair, Mary, Maria, Marty—

I attach a mockup (very preliminary) of the service.  It is the service we used on the 29th of December, with some cuts, and is intended only to prompt conversation amongst us.  The service worked very well, in the context of the Memorial Congregational Church and Boston.  First Presbyterian is another matter, being much more surely mom’s home church; and the presence of New Haven friends and family will at once enrich and change the nature of the service.

Maria, can the musical director/organist of First Pres. join us; if so, could she/he look at the service as far as the music goes?

Blair and Mary, let me know what you would like to do, beyond what this service suggests.  Kevin and Afshaan are family; she is mom’s granddaughter (Tom’s daughter).

Marty, I have taken out Cathy Corman and left an opening there for New Haven voices.

Again, all of this is tentative and preliminary.  It stems to some extent with mom’s expressed wishes—the hymns, the prominence of music; and is the bones of what was a moving commemoration.  

Peace.

John


O my lack of wisdom
you and I have grown up together
peeking through the hedge at

the grownups pretending to know
more than we could or should and
now today here we are

slouched in the recliner drink
in hand tv remote at the ready
pretending to grieve not knowing

what else to do with
this third party this grief who has
muscled his way in and

now asks you and me
to grow up to know the truth
to sit up straight and

face the music drink cold
water embrace reality



December 6

Homilies

Barbara Beach Alter loved the Gospels and she loved the lectionary; it was for her, as it had been for her father, something like a rosary.  To come back to the familiar text, knowing that around the world others were also there, on the banks, gave her comfort, and seeing how each time the text is new, is renewed, alive in the moment of hearing and reading.

John Copley Alter
Saco Maine
2014



December 8

Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
"See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,'"
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

I remember like it was yesterday or tomorrow my mother
reading Wind in the Willows to us and now I
am sixty-seven and my mother is dead and today’s gospel
is something like that text how is there a beginning

there is in those early texts we hear with our
mother’s voice her breathing life into the words something prophetic

the voice of one crying out in the wilderness although
for us then snuggled down perhaps under the covers or
on the sofa listening for us that moment of text
voice apprehension even that discovery of character and plot the
power of diction and syntax the music mythology and meaning
belongs to the complicated creation for us of home and
shelter the wilderness apparently for the moment confined to its
place in the narrative none of which of course we
knew then our life at that moment still fragrant with
childhood we did not know that for the woman who
read to us the gospel of toadie and mole wilderness
existed was real as we now in our sixties and
seventies know wilderness exists reading today’s gospel is like that

I imagine my mother reading these words prepare the way
of the lord make his paths straight for the first
time for herself having listened to them spoken from the
pulpit by her father often enough and for the first
time perhaps also in urdu in that far-off land that
wilderness even to which she and her young daughter had
come with her husband also as missionaries although for that
matter not really proclaiming a baptism of repentance but rather
settling down in the midst with a copy of Wind
in the Willows I imagine her as a girl of
eleven or a young woman in college eagerly with paul
Tillich and the romance of the student christian movement for
context reading today’s gospel and now today somehow in heaven
reading as I will Insha’Allah one day read to grand-children
perhaps the story of water rat and mole and hear
in my voice breathing life into syllable and sentence and
see in their eager drowsy fragrant faces again my own
face and hers as she listened once to her mother
reading Dickens and as she now in paradise also listens

there as the spiritual tells us on the other shore

I think of Wind in the Willows as I read
today’s gospel and of how the river for instance is
for me now a river on which real people and
their cargo of narrative anxieties live as well as that
less polluted watershed in which water rat and mole existed

and today deep into this first Advent in the world
without mother and father I realize that the words of
the gospel are four dimensional in that same fashion at
once immediate and transcendental transparent overflowing with meaning the words
of john the baptizer saturated with meaning as if I
can look through them however dimly and see there foreshadowed
the conversation of heaven in which all of the terms
are revalued powerful worthy the thong of his sandals transformed

to read the gospel today is to be baptized with
the holy spirit as in that earlier time we were
baptized by the power of love reading to us for
the first time words alive with imagination and sincerity powerful
transformative words gently at last closing the book and kissing
us goodnight and we slept in the hallowed dark dreaming



December 10, 2014

O

O my wealth!—am I
prodigal—familiar with swine—one who has
squandered good fortune?—you are

sometimes the loose change in
my pocket—sometimes this gilded credit card—
but always my familiar—my

close friend—my shadow—alter
ego even—will you and

I snuggle together in the
nursing home—reliant on strangers—as my
mother did?—you and I

are parabolic in that fashion—
yes?


December 11

Maria,
Happy advent—what a great season!  I look forward to sharing the service with you.  Have you revised it?  There are two speakers, in addition to immediate family: Stan Leavy, 99, a lifelong friend of my parents, and Sharon Jones, daughter of one of mom’s very dearest friends.  Blair will lead in the singing of Lord of the Dance.  This is a bittersweet time indeed.
John


December 12

A few days ago Barbara Beach Alter turned ninety-four.  It
is advent.  Forty days ago we were allowed to sit
with her in the hospice room where she died.  It
is advent.  Let us sit together and be still and

remember and allow understanding to come to us in the
manger of the most ordinary.  Barbara Beach Alter attempted a
theology of the commonplace and ordinary after all, to live
somehow in the midst, to forgive.  Ninety-four, a solid innings

they would say in cricket.  Slowly the world spins.  It
is advent.  Sit still.


Matthew 19:27-29
Peter replied to Jesus, "Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?" Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life.

My parents in some fashion joined Peter when they headed out together for Tennessee and India as ‘missionaries’, their mission to live ‘in the midst’ of strangers, of those far away, although for my father India to which they eventually traveled had been for his childhood, home, and I imagine they did, each in his or her own way, talk with Jesus, asking look we have left everything and followed you.

Did they ask what then will we have?  They ended their lives, my parents did, without much of any worldly value, but did they die thinking that they would inherit eternal life?

I wonder.  My mother left her mother and she did leave whatever were familiar fields—New England, a lake in Maine, the life of a young woman in the 1940s in America—for the unknown, the future bright in her eyes and on her face, inspired by theologians and by the Student Christian Movement and by her parents, although I do not know how they really thought about her going to far away.

Tennessee and India, and a new marriage, a child, children, language, culture…they bore the burden of novelty differently, of course, my father returning to the India he had known as a child and where his parents still were at work; he returned in some sense to the familiar, while for my mother it was truly the unknown: the tastes, smells, colors, textures, words.

I don’t expect they were much occupied with what then will we have.  They ended their lives without much; in my mother’s case, papers and books and pictures and of course a wide network of people in whose midst she had spent her life.  She left her mother and father and whatever were familiar fields—New England, a lake in Maine (O how often her memories went to that lake, and on what eager feet she returned when she could, at home in New England as my father never was), and neither much occupied I think with what then will we have.

A Modest Proposal

That we write together a memoir of our life as a family from June 18 1991 to something like the present, in five chunks/chapters/blocks

West Virginia
Lake placid
Mauritania
Senegal
The united states

We would each take a chunk/chapter/block and write a third-person narrative of the family during that time, which would take all five of us into as full an account as it can.

I am happy to do West Virginia.

The thought is that we each have our chuck/chapter/block written, in rough draft but share-able, by our wedding anniversary, namely June 22 2015, at which point, probably with a good bottle of scotch and perhaps in Ireland, we would read the memoir to each other and together.

This idea came out of conversation this morning—Bett, Emily and John.


Dear bett

I have committed us to some social life.  Tomorrow Jeff; for breakfast, around 9:00, and then possibly in the later afternoon in portland; he has a lunch date of sorts…and sounds eager for company.

Andy Brickman: the 17th in Brookline, lunch on the 20th, and then a visit from Andy and Nancy here sometime between 20th and 24th.

Hooray for us.

John



December 13

December 12, 2014

Peace
That we ask for each of you in this advent season
Peace
That we ask for each of you in this troubled world

Peace between strangers
Peace within our hearts and homes
Peace

Without brutal interrogations
Without hand guns
Without the violent extraction of fossil fuel

Peace
In our midst
The peace of poetry and song
Of good food grown by farmers who love
The earth

Peace
For the watershed where
Each of us
Hawk and oyster and all
God’s mammals
dwell

The peace
That knows that no wisdom or power will endure
That does not
Embrace the manger
The homeless
unemployed
Those who wake up on the outskirts of
Our earthly city

The peace
That praises the most insignificant and ordinary

Peace
In this advent season
Peace
In the memory of Barbara Beach Alter
Whose love for so many of us endures
In the midst

And for all those
Familiar and unknown
Whose pilgrimage has also ended

Amen


Bett Aaron Emily Thomasin and John will gather in Saco Maine to celebrate Christmas along with cousin Marie.  There will be an empty chair.


It is good & a
right and joyful thing to string popcorn
and discuss a Christmas carol—

is there a spiritual dimension
to the story of Scrooge for instance—
with old friends and a

niece—husband and wife—in
a rented home on the banks of
the saco river—nothing abstruse—

during the advent season—we
know the parts to play—also of
course a forlorn melancholy note

to play—we do not
glance away from grief—through the window
we love to watch great flocks of

geese—scrooge and his goose—
amen



December 14

avuncular piety—the narrative we
weave—how you are at once little
girl and then what time

whittles—you and your uncle
a rhyme scheme—your visit a bangle
on time’s wrist—avuncular piety—

you ease his anxiety a
little—we remember games we played—feasts—
your visit a yeast in

the dough of this advent
season—all the days and seasons we
have spent together—weaving the

narrative—the theology of simple
things—the dimple in a laughing cheek—
o how urgently we seek

to speak words of consolation—
salvation’s simple truth

--for Barbara Afshaan and her aunt Bett

my brother do not fret your inability to fly around the world at
love’s behest this morning we sat in

the saco maine train station with your lovely daughter a new England winter
day and knew that love’s splinters make

good kindling nothing in this case mistaken my brother do not fret listen
as your brother does to and i

love her on a hard day’s night ice on the river glistens like
tears I hear god’s typewriter hard at

work composing for all of us today’s ghazal we sat
together joyfully grieving

--for Tom Alter


Marty, what a labor of love it is.  It is good to know that so much has survived the culling, that is of interest and worth to all of us.  Tom, your thoughts will be of great use.  Bett and I have thought also of the Presbyterians archives; Conn College; as possible destinations, although my thought at this moment is that we keep this ‘within the family’ somehow.  We might also talk with Cathy Corman; get her thoughts.  Bett and I are happy to do whatever we can, including in January.  Much love.
John


we watched together this winter day with its posse of trees and the
river its watershed theology we walked out

into its gallery and found the paintings about grief had been infused into
sunrise and sunset and the dunes at

ferry beach do you remember how we sat together then beneficent spiders spinning
again a thing of course is not

what we say about a thing today we allowed ourselves to be taught
such simple truths life is not more

than a door through which coming and going such an amazing crowd amen


some days when I’m not sure where I am east or west north
or south and yet must sally forth

north or south west or east it is the heart only beating that
guides me that heart we heard first

perhaps beating in that place where so much thirst and hunger love despair
first perhaps offered to share with us

a seat beside them on that crazy bus close your eyes do you
not hear as if long overdue that

heart beating amongst the deodar we sat together on that crazy bus amen

--for the members of the class of 1965, Woodstock School, India



December 15

After Annunciation
Madeleine L’Engle
(One of my favorite poems for Advent!)
This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
there’d have been no room for the child.

the soundtrack of my life is all over the place it ain’t ‘sposed
to be like that for instance dona

nobis pacem for instance and even perhaps a little Madonna for good measure
my mother treasured on the mission field

jazz in her hymn book Duke Ellington did not yield to John Greenleaf
Whittier briefly she loved music dying to

the blues as transmuted through the trumpet of Louis Armstrong for instance song
birds thronging to the feeder outside her

hospice window there is no heresy the angelic choir singing dona nobis pacem


I wonder if for the angels music

is one of the basic portals between their realm let’s say we call
it heaven and this sometimes s
y realm

we call reality this place where we are so often overwhelmed by fear
and greed and let’s face it mere

apathy  I would love to steer the boat of my attention in that
direction away from this flattened unhappy place

closer to where the portal of music brings us face to face even
with those we grieve for the echo

of the soundtrack of heaven hearts aglow



December 16

when I come downstairs I find my wife listening to a youtube about
crocheting and my daughter actually crocheting and

I want to shout from the rooftops domesticity is not contraband how each
of us reaches for the sun in

our own way that the only original sin is envy perhaps the oyster
resenting the bald eagle the cloister envious

of the quadrille we are made inherently various in other words oddly
assorted body and soul and all the

wonderful subatomic dancing the theology of the commonplace up and down love’s universal staircase


December 16, 2012
Last night Barbara Beach Alter feel and was wedged between toilet bowl and shower stall
Advent—
in two days my mother turns ninety-two—
the ego’s brittle exoskeleton—
the ego’s bright babble—

qui creavit celum—
who created the heavens—

in your mercy O lord
bless and keep her—
in sempiterna speculum—
forever and ever—

today gathers the congregation of trees
for compline—
gathers her twisted bones—
gathers the last embers of the setting sun—

may there be tonight
in eternum & ultra
a fire blazing in our hearts
to warm her weary bones—

det nobis sua gaudia—

in the midst of her weary bones
my mother’s heart sings…


insomnia—an easy word—
lying awake between the punctuation—
a dependent clause—
none of the rituals of Morpheus work—

compline and homily and
the Lord’s Prayer—
on all the burners what has simmered
wants to burn—

I head downstairs & hear
faintly syllables from my childhood—
charcoal—
that once across the sacred waters of

a lake in Maine summoned
grandparents—now the cry for help
from my mother who has in our narrow
unfamiliar

guest bathroom fallen and lies
helpless--a geriatric newborn—
bare-bottomed twisted—and to me
falls the task of righting

this capsized & fragile canoe—
life is good--hallelujah


dance, you motha-fuka, dance! Rejoice in this life, this moment, now—rejoice and
be useful and forgive.  God is asking

you to dance, and you, instead, duck your head down into the thicket
of sleep, and nap your time away,

confined to the ordinary by sloth, by a lack of amour proper.  For
me, a huge tropical depression assaulting my

convention center.  I wake up.  Rejoice!  Amen!



December 17

French toast because it was a favorite of yours I tried to make
this morning which may have been a

mistake o we had eggs enough and cinnamon but the bread was not
quite adequate and the Crisco we bought

for the occasion I could not find I thought butter would do did
it is grief forbidden I made on

your birthday something like French toast the day dawned wet and cold your
daughter-in-law and I watched today open the

door and ask is this theology class I didn’t know what to say



December 17

Happy birthday Barbara Beach Alter.  Attached please find the order of service; it is very similar to the one of November 29th.  Maria and Bill, many thanks. If you have a stated role please confirm with me: Kevin and Afshaan, your music (did you do Into the Woods?; if not, Maria, can your organist play that for us?); Marty, your words and the bhajan (Maria, is there a piano in the sanctuary?); grandchildren, let me know who is going to speak.  I have confirmed with Stan and Sharon.

Life is good.

John

Maria (and Bill), Bett and I were just remarking on the many memorable/memorial times we have spent at First Presbyterian.  No better place to commemorate the life of Barbara Beach Alter.  Thanks again, both for this service and for all the years during which First Presbyterian nourished, sustained and encouraged our parents.  We will go ahead with what I have thought was the time, namely 4:00 (and I apologize for any confusion I may have created), as this is the time we have announced to the family and friends who are gathering.
Peace.
John



“Somehow, not only for Christmas”
John Greenleaf Whittier
Born today (Dec. 17 ) in 1807.
Somehow, not only for Christmas,
But all the long year through,
The joy that you give to others,
Is the joy that comes back to you.
And the more you spend in blessing,
The poor and lonely and sad,
The more of your heart’s possessing,
Returns to you glad.
Luke 1:26-38: the fourth Sunday of Advent
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.

Tomorrow’s lectionary text is from the gospel of Luke and
is the account of the angel gabriel’s visit to a
‘virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph’ namely
Mary who would become the mother of Jesus I can
imagine Barbara Beach Alter tomorrow reading these words she loved
in her earthly life the story of Mary and she
loved even in the loopiest of her final days the
discourse between angels and human beings and so it is
forty days later you and I find ourselves in this
beloved church remembering Barry whose final words were these the
words of her last breath charcoal and I love you
for these forty days those words have echoed as if
as the frail boat of her spirit turns out into
open water she is calling back to us charcoal…I
love you  now the story of charcoal is an important tale

when Barry was a child and her best friend Mary
Lunt and she would happily fish in the hallowed waters
of Lake Lucerne in Maine Barry’s family inhabited in the
summer months a rustic camp on a cove to which
no road ran you reached that camp by boat you
drove to a place across from the camp and the
loudest of you called out charcoal the two deep vowels
and the hard consonant somehow equivalent to the voice of
Gabriel but much less perplexing and the word was a
blessing to hear its echo across the water your heart
opened the fears and anxieties of the year vanished you
felt you had found favor this camp also of course
provided a honeymoon destination Barry loved telling of how she
rowed her new husband the first to arrive took the
boat over to camp to her home her sacred place

when he was young our son Aaron said to his
grandmother of the lake this is god in liquid form

it is good forty days later to hear the echo
of those words again charcoal  and I love you if
as the angel promised there is eternity in the gospel
it is surely in some fashion like this how our
love for each other reigns in our hearts as memory
and more than memory as if somehow love is written
into the fabric of the universe in spite of all
the news to the contrary the massacre of school children
in Peshawar the crazed greedy squabbling of congress apathy and
distraction in spite of all that for Barry and for
us there is an overshadowing power what Gabriel promises as
the ‘coming upon us’ of the Holy Spirit for Barry
that overshadowing that being ‘come upon’ happened in the most
ordinary of ways when you knocked on her door for
instance there in New Horizons and heard her voice call
out in welcome charcoal for Barry the inherent holiness of
everyday of the people she met that day in that
moment was evidence enough of the Holy Spirit she made
no ostentatious claim otherwise believing that the people in whose
midst she found herself even there in the nursing home
were somehow her relatives capable somehow of conceiving even in
their old age I know in her loopiness she did
for a run of days think of herself as ‘big
with child’ and at the end of her time gave
birth to a child who because I could not see
him she happily named ‘the holy spirit’ she refused to
become in other words barren even in that miserable place

for Barry ‘nothing will be impossible with God’ were words
she took most surely to heart with Mary she would
declare herself ‘the servant of the Lord’ that obedience marked
the compass of her life her true orientation even when
the ego and the body twisted her otherwise she still
insisted ‘let it be with me according to your word’

then the angel departed from her now today forty days
later we know that Barbara Beach Alter has moved happily
onto the dance floor of heaven amen hallelujah


An Agenda for Friday, December 19

Bett, Emily and John drive down in the morning from Saco; spend the day; overnight; and in the morning join the New Haven convoy.

Bett and John at the storage unit in Marlboro
Bett, John and Emily visit Aunt Janet Daniels; late morning is apparently the best time; Judy Daniels will have prepped the folks at
• Janet Daniels
• The Gardens Suite G13
• 80 Deaconess Rd.
• Concord, MA  01742
• (978) 369-5151
Marty and John come to a common understanding of the archival materials

Happy Birthday, Barbara Beach….

December 18

John 1:6-8,19-28
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah." And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No." Then they said to him, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,'" as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal." This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

when you now read the gospel and it uses the
phrase ‘sent from God’ what do you now understand that
to mean do you for instance now drink tea with
that man named John yes it would be good to
now talk epistemology with you Barbara beach alter if that
is still your name it would be good to meet
john in your company and drink tea with honey I
suppose and even more urgently tell me about god and
his sending does that happen more in accordance with astrophysics
than greek mythology are there academic disciplines in heaven i
might ask when you now read the gospel and it
uses the phrase ‘sent from God’ what does that now
mean to you and when the writer of the gospel
of john speaks of ‘a witness to testify to the
light’ enlighten me I know what our astrophysics say about
light a little its speed how it is somehow the
threshold of reality how do you now your mind washed
clean of all dyslexia and executive dysfunction how would you
have us read John’s testimony I would happily talk epistemology
with you and narrative intent are there no priests and
levites in heaven for instance no need for denial and
confession and I hear I do on this dreary winter
day I hear your voice somehow saying something about the
messiah I do not fully understand but listen to the
beatles across the universe and know deep in my heart
which is where perhaps somehow heaven exists after all I
know that question and answer are the only epistemological pistons

have you met Elijah I imagine such a company and
each of you happily spinning the coin I am not
I am no longer perturbed by prophecy by prepositions by
time and space have you met all the prophets then

billy holiday  I am reading the gospel for the third
Sunday of advent do those markers mean anything to you

in heaven tell me about identity I imagine you released
from the catastrophes of self from the endless interrogation the
demand for an answer I imagine you happily aware of
what it means to be your self even as I
know that for some of us you were at least
a little already an answer or at least an indication

what do you say about yourself in heaven I imagine
you and your father and your husband chuckling together about
the intertextual agility of John the Baptist your father who
often referred to himself as ‘the voice of one crying
out in the wilderness’ I would also happily talk with
you do you have a smart phone now talk with
you about authority I would love to hear you speak
with authority and the chuckle I imagine there would be
on the heavenly porch in the rocking chairs the agents
of authority of the status quo how foolish they must
sound yes I would love to sit with all of
you and talk about epistemology and self does John speak
for all of you and now that we are talking
I do realize how sacramental for all of us each
of us those waters were that lake those boulders speckled
egg and bathing rock is your knowledge now of salvation
something like that is salvation somehow that simple something to
plunge into and I realize also that as we watched
you die in that peaceful sanctuary hospice somebody came after
you and now I hear you whispering something about untying
the thong of a sandal and something about worthiness o
it is good to read the gospel with you in
this fashion to hear you quietly insist on the sacrament
of the ordinary of the least the commonplace you say
bend down to wash the feet of the ordinary the
least the commonplace o it is good to read with
you the gospel on this dreary winter day almost forty
days after we watched you take your final mortal breath

the pulse in your throat for the last time beating

the ember of your final words dying out charcoal I
love you today reading the gospel I hear your voice

it is more than an echo charcoal it is a
call from the other shore a summons across living waters

for you in heaven there is no dyslexia the gospel
as clear as the bhajan of your mother’s voice amen

hallelujah charcoal




I would be an agent for the kingdom of heaven
Amen.  I would be one who

Knows that the kingdom of heaven is overdue.  I
Would cry from the rooftops.  The

Kingdom of heaven is nearly here, is nearby, is
Near. An agent of wisdom,

Somebody who hungers and thirsts for righteousness.  I
Would cry from the rooftops.  The

Kingdom of heaven is your destiny.




Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:
for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called
the children of God. – Matthew 5 5:6-9

envisioning the future means that we are going through an ordeal of sorts
right now working our way through the

courts of power through a maze of theory and speculation this morning do
you remember the domain of birds outside

our window and on a clear night here beside the river the sidereal
lullaby not that our choices are ethereal

I like the word sidereal and what it implies you and I envisioning
the future in an expanding universe we

need a mission statement that weaves together clearly our two lives then agreed


planning holiday menus with my wife and daughter in our temporary kitchen on
the shores of the Saco River in

Maine it dawns on me that creation is a feast and that original
sin   it does exist   is to refuse

that simple and ordinary commonplace invitation   rigid caught up in our foolish pride
we lose sight of how generous love

can be   outside our windows this morning an unexpected gathering of birds   morning
doves  chickadees  a cardinal  a plump squirrel

there is no mourning then   there is the evening light of another day


it is not hard to dedicate this day to Barbara Beach Alter   after
all laughter was one of her attributes

and beauty another  and with those two in mind it is hard not
to imagine that the small birds this

morning who fought in their gentle fashion for a place in the world
do not admire the reductionist serpents who

hiss   Barbara beach alter swirled a day the way at happy hour we
swirl the ice in our drinks   she

loved the blues as well   and weaving beneath our feet an ample carpet


December 20

my dear brother -- for you to read -- 'in the rajpur winter afternoon, in the holy, muted sunlight, she will always be typing -- the gravel her carpet, her thoughts her wings, and dad asleep in the simple bedroom her pillar -- mom, we love you -- "


Charcoal
I love you
were the final words Barbara Beach Alter
in this flesh
uttered
some forty days ago

barely uttered
uttered with the uttermost of her
strength
with her final breath

charcoal
I love you
so quietly
the tattered end of her lifelong conversation
with each of us
gathered here today

charcoal
I love you
and the echo of those words
if we still our minds for a moment come
to us
as if from a farther shore

charcoal
the two deep vowels
ahhhh  ohhhh
and the hard consonant
if you were to utter the word at the top of your lungs
let’s say
charcoal
it would echo across let’s say a lake in Maine
a lake
hallowed to Barry and to many of us in this room and
if we were there
let’s say in the rustic camp on the cove across that lake
beyond the loons and the islands
we would hear that word
the vowels
the hard consonant
and know
unmistakably that we were being summoned to bring across
the hallowed waters
a boat of some kind
to bring home if only for a summer
those who had traveled from far away
from distant places
to bring home let’s say from the mission field
the girl again
who once in these same waters swam and fished and
frolicked

charcoal

a summons then
a calling across deep water

Barbara Beach Alter
there
in your flesh for the last time forty days
ago
did you hear from the far shore a summons
as today if we still our minds and hearts for a moment
we will hear you call

charcoal
I love you

be still my heart


today we let the ropes holding your small boat back go you are
nearer now than the farthest star we

think we stand on a shore taking our leave of you today and
may not understand that you are even

as we take leave entering in your small silent ship the troubled harbor
of our hearts there is more to

say of course I could sing the blues for your jubilee for instance
dance go into a trance plan in

advance spin on the head of the needle god uses to weave today

Chelsea Rae Dec 2016

Some days there is an ache
That ripples through my soul like an echo in an empty cave.
Where it started, I'll never know
But it seems endless on my empty days.

Ilion gray Nov 2014

I wonder if I have ever touched god,

When I was a boy
I had a favorite tree
For years
I climbed it everyday
For hours
I’d lie in its sturdy awkward branches,
It reminded
Me of my fathers hands
Knuckles broken
Calcified
Like war-ravaged stone bridges,
And although
I never saw an angel,

He never
let the devils cross.

Born May 9

she's a corrosive story
Hidden within a mirror
Never to be heard again

As I gulp down my favorite cheap vodka
I wondered  with amazement at my ignorance
And the vicious adage that crippled me
love is blind

You were a ruthless callous soul
and still
remnants of your cold heart still linger in my thoughts
loving you was devastating

Skip Ramsey Nov 2014

Seems all my quiet days,
End not so much quiet.

Emily Dunigan Feb 2016

i am 18 years old
that means I have over
6,570 days i can reflect on

i can tell you about the day i ran into a mailbox on my bike
in my 8th year
and almost broke my bones
or
i can tell you about the days
in my 16th and 17th year
that my heart my broken

if you want to know about the day i first made a paper airplane
in my 4th year
or
the day when i first rode on a plane
in my 6th year

each and everyday i learn
a new lesson,
a new trick,
and become who i am suppose to be
no days i reflect on are one of the same

i am my days

i am the hours i spend in my bed
and i am the minutes i spend singing and dancing in my room

i am my day trips to the lake
and i am also my week long trips cross-country

i am 18 years old
with thousands of days to go
i am my days behind
and i am my days ahead.

Melody W Nov 2012

After the last mourning calls
of the speckled lark have faded,
will you still take my doubtful hand
and lead me through these silent fields?

And if these fields be saturated
with the blood of our youth
and the tomorrows we have lost,
will I still recognize the longing in your voice?

Crisscrossing bridges leading to nowhere
cast lonely shadows on this terrain;
the chains morphed into my refuge
shall beckon to you softly once more.

©MW
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