Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Of Cattails and Mires


I stand here
Surrounded by hard wood
It is probably here to make us focus
For the idea presented here is lofty

I read off a sheet
Given to me as I entered
I give into the monotony
This monotony bred of ages
Worshiping in cold, stony cathedrals
I still lose focus

My mind is wandering in mine own celestial planes
I romp around and go whither I will
I come to a stream and decide to drink
But I stop while stooping
For there is a figure standing among the lilies
A figure garbed with white raiment
This person smiles, head shaking at me
And sends me on my way,
Back the way I’d come

My mind returns
To find my body seated in the car
I’m driving across the bridge downtown
Black water is lit by a tugboat light
I don’t know where I’m going
But I find him just the same

A man, a bum living in a cardboard box
Behind the fish stall on the pier
I get out, walk to him
Drawn by some otherworldly force

Hey old man
Hello, he says
I think we’re supposed to talk
Though I’m not sure why
Yes, he says, I suppose we are
Do you need anything from me old man
No but you do, his words trickle out, you need help
See boy, you are thirsty
And the river is the only drink
Wayward enough to quench that thirst
But how to drink a river old man
With this, a shell of a trinket he hands me
Now move, he points upstream
And I begin to drive

I drive along the darkened streets
Until they are dark no more
I drive until the morning hum blinds my eyes
The car pulls to the side of the road
Free of my control
I move out and find a marsh
My feet move to the edge and in
I flail at the cattails
And my ankles are cradled by mud
I come out at the river
In a burst of light and perplextion

Water past my knees
The figure is there again
Smiling my grandfather’s smile
Eyes twinkling like my first love
Hands calloused and caring like dad’s
He pulls me in and takes the shell
Fingers brushing my palm
Water pours from the shell
It covers my head and face
Running down my neck and throat
It covers me inside and out

As I choke and gasp
A thumb presses at my forehead
Makes a sign and withdraws
I smell something
That pulls memories out.
Old and long forgotten
It penetrates my being
I open my eyes and see the white robes
And through them a whole world
Filled with good and bad
People lost and people found
Past, Present, Future
They mingle and murder
Love and laugh

Through my crystal mire
I can see I must be with them
Love them and guide them
Hold them and console them
I’ll to them now
For the river is long and wide
And it beckons me on




"Of Cattails and Mires" is a piece that I'm particularly proud of. I distinctly remember writing it, too. Quite frankly, I was pissed off one night when I had to be at a church service with my Confirmation class and I started writing things that came into my head on the back of the bulletin. It was a small demonstration of resistance but I kept adding onto it when I got home. 

This one took me a while to finish. I remember that because I started writing it when I was in Confirmation in Minnesota and I didn't finish it until later that summer (2004) when my family was settled in South Dakota. I also remember showing it to my mother late at night when I was done with it. She was so moved by it and, while I felt proud of being able to have that effect, I really didn't know what I should have been feeling about being able to do that.

At any rate, reading it now, I realize how long it has been since I've started trying to articulate what I believe about Baptism and salvation and Christianity. I think my methods have changed some, but I think I'm still going along in a similar trajectory, don't you?