Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pater Noster

father-friend, past galaxies and closer than a cold-fogged breath in December

let us whisper your name with reverent delight

as we slip off our shoes, like men do on the sacred ground where heroes lie entombed

like a child

that gives up mud-pies to nestle in its mother's lap

let your words be law

and your wishes be reality

in me, in my neighbor, in my enemy, even as it is in your throne room.

Extend to us today's sufficiency - that's all. Scour our sin spots with mercy, even as we erase the childish tallies we have kept.

Steer us clear of broad and shining paths where we might wander, glory-blinded and pride-bound, away from you, and steal us out of the towers where the enemy cows us, prisoners in castles of shame and loathing.

We ask because you can. We ask because you loved us. We ask because you asked before us. Sovereign, Strong, Glorious, and Ours - Let it be so according to your promise, your word that stands unbroken longer than the world.


I first knew that my father was special when he told me that were were diamonds on the tips of his saw bade. Diamonds? I was still young enough for material things to hold sacred status, and diamonds topped the list. Rare, precious, the grandest thing I could imagine for luxury, trapping rainbows in their myriad faces, making men covet and women weep (though why they wept I wasn't quite sure yet). And my father, unbelievably to me, kept dozens of them in the garage, glinting in the yellow phosphorescent light and sharper than rows of shark teeth, all studding the blade of his whirring saw. With them he could cut into the hearts of oak and pine like a hot knife through butter.


The principal feature of this city, once you cut through the polished marble overlay of historic places and storied names, is its transience. It's an acknowledged truth that no one (no one who's anyone) comes from here. To make small talk in DC, no one need resort to the weather (however notable) or their health (however poor). We just ask each other where we've come from and what we're doing here, as though we were all acquaintances on the deck of a cruise ship, turning pink in some Caribbean sun.

Many that really grew up here, somewhere between Takoma Park and Reston, and marked by a twinge of tobacco belt drawl, seem at best quaint. At worst, theirs is a largely statistical existence, a gloomy number in a newspaper article dire enough for Jeremiah. Because these are the inhabitants of the poor, black and immigrant wards south of the River, now spreading north and south, city block at a time, like the relentless spread of the Sahara. You could live, work, and even attend church in this city for years without knowing such people shared your oxygen; unless, perchance, you passed them on a dimly lit Anacostia sidestreet and prayed to God to be elsewhere.

For that majority, exposed to the effects of impervious unemployment, high infant mortality, AIDS, and the usual brood of urban ills, little changes.

But for the rest, mostly engaged in saving the world or becoming kings of it, variability is constant. It is said that in fashionable, rich-blooded Georgetown, wedged between Embassy Row and the putrid Potomac, all the houses come up for sale every election cycle. Administrations come and go, Democratic, Republican, but all equally bureaucratic and enth(conf)used. Mayors step up, step in, and step out. Each one pours its new political tonic down the District's throat, then throw her a few sucker punches on the way out of office, to leave her stumbling in a voteless daze amidst all this grandeur of Republic.

The revolving door, the shell game, makes it hard to sustain a communion of anything. Acquaintances are as disposable as fast food wrappers, and just as short-lived. Friendships are difficult to cultivate, and love, platonic or erotic, is a vanishing horizon grasped at with clutching fingers. At Georgetown University, dating was virtually unheard of, replaced by a "hook-up scene" that shocked even us, like a parody of college promiscuity. At least drunk, fewer will remember it that otherwise might have.


"Abide" is a word like a thoughtless child, aware only tangentially of the minutes and seconds that weigh on the rest of us like sandbags.


A filled-to-the-brim word (rich as plum cake with its nuance of meaning), more special than "live" (everyday frock like hope, love, and hate, that so often said, say nothing), less bare than "exist", but dry and archane on the tongue, like a antique key sliding into a rusted lock, long unused. It has a monastic heedlessness for the passage of time of the anticipation of future events. It savors of contentment in this moment, and in the next, each orderly and in its turn. An exile cannot abide, for she hopes too much in a receding future, and the place of her rest is a prison. A haunting spirit (or the mortals most like them) cannot abide, lingering in the bright, brief flame, the lasting ash, of regret, and all things too past for opacity. And the guilty unforgiven, having no peace in himself , is shut out from abiding as from a walled garden.

To abide requires the rhythmic environment of eternity. It requires God (or a child). These abide without effort, by natural outflow, and their joy in abiding is a great, inviting love fest.

"Abide in me."

Be at home in all places and circumstances.

"Let my word abide in you."

Be replete. Find unwithered, incorruptible satisfaction .


Welcome to the new blog.

My Lover spoke and said to me,
"Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one,
and come with me.
See! The winter is past;

the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;

the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;

the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me."

-- The Song of Solomon

I once knew a girl (or did I know someone that knew a girl?), that kept this chapter sealed with Scotch tape until her wedding day, whenever, if ever, that might be. What a sad loss! For next to all the steaming embraces of this book is such inaugural joy. And tonight, the longest night in all the year, I join the wise king's cry of winterpast, the invitation to celebration. For we must believe in Spring long before she proves herself with buds and mild rains, and with the fecundity of the earth. She will not come for us without a little coaxing, without a song.

I have been hidden away in a rock cleft for three years of springs. That is far too long. I shall not miss another.