ANXIETY

and knowing how i’d shake sometimes, 

he asked if i could help explain his wife’s anxiety, 

saying every time he tried to be her sounding board, 

he – in his lack of understanding – 

became more an object of envy 

while simultaneously reflecting her own disdain for 

the stranger she found herself exchanged for in his chest like a mirror where – 

for some reason – 

the love behind it beat at regular intervals and normal patterns, 

and only skipped when, and i quote, “she’d beat electric fists into me, 

like defibrillating a healthy heart while she was under arrest.” 

 

and she begged him to understand but – and i quote – “i can’t” 

 

and knowing how she’d shake sometimes, 

and try to communicate through stutters when the cogs in her mind jammed 

and caught the wheel of another thought vying for her attention, 

i – oh almighty i – 

became more a silver lining 

combined with a witch available to burn depending upon the outcome, 

like maybe my tongue could breed magic that douses the fires, 

and i quote, “staked between us. 

they are high.” 

 

(and i surmised, “and getting higher.”) 

 

maybe i’ll light the match myself. 

 

i thought of my own wife and wondered if either of them knew 

what they’d gotten themselves into 

when they got into it 

with us. 

 

"the shame compounds upon itself when all that i’ve begun to call ‘god’s platitudes’ don’t help and the shaking has given way to anger i can’t maintain, or a panic I can’t suppress as a fuse (whose length you can probably guess) constantly rubbing up against "strike anywhere matches," otherwise known as people. 

 

flint so nonconsensual in the flame created by the iron i like to think of myself as that they find themselves at a complete loss for how they ever got so tangled up in the tinder i actually am. 

 

the ones in closest and most consistent proximity light the fastest and burn the hottest and as long as i continue to describe them as the spark that is always setting fire to my rope then i can remain the victim. 

 

alternatively, you will never cease to hear my omnipotence positioned in the phrase: 

 

'oh, so it’s my fault, again?'

 

and in this way, i can make certain i am the first and the last, the beginning and the end, 

so omniscient in every conversation that i can feel myself slipping away while i speak,  

insisting that i am in my right mind.  

 

is this making sense so far? 

 

we don’t know who we are in here. 

 

i understand that history only celebrates martyrdom for the ones 

who didn’t make a spectacle of lighting themselves on fire. 

she doesn’t want your sentiments. 

we do not enjoy personifying the void any more than you want to be swallowed up by us  

as black holes absorbing all of the light that you fell in love with when our stars were still exploding. 

 

of course we envy the calm that emanates from the way you are able to choose which candy bar you’d like to purchase at the gas station. 

 

it’s blinding. 

 

of course we’re angry when you ask, “i don’t know, what would you like to share?” 

 

as.  

if.  

we.  

know. 

 

as if we have any idea. 

 

and if i’m already shaking because i can’t make a decision 

between Reese’s Pieces 

and Starburst 

then how am i ever supposed to go fearless into our future 

with every infinite possibility  

lingering with chalkboard nails inside my head? 

 

just pick a candy bar.” 

 

if i could just get it out we might set one another free, 

still – for some reason completely unbeknownst to me – firm in my belief 

that the greatest gifts have been 

beadlets of empathy sweat out as 

pores drained of their blood 

when the time has come to kiss in this garden, 

and whether it is for passion or betrayal or both 

beneath the dichotomy between words separated by and 

“you are not floating alone in this awful void”

seems to retain its standing as the surefire echo of 

transcendence incarnate. 

 

i couldn’t get out a whisper. 

 

the only thing i managed to do was shake,  

but somehow, i think it was enough.  

instead of burning the witch,  

he looked at me as if to say, “i’ve seen that paralysis before." 

 

mouth open as an echo chamber,

i guess that i was just empty enough for him to hear it. 


Violence (Sleeping Giant featuring Levi The Poet)

A goblin told me that God was metaphorical.
Well, metaphorically, when I come to the end of myself
he's got a lot of the same questions as me.
Said he's drowning beneath an ocean of dogma and liturgy
and the waves keep pulling him further out to sea,
while whatever the water uncovered underneath
washes up, exposed on the beach.

Said, "the father, who knows all secrets, reveals them all eventually."

There is truth.
It is stuck inside my head, 
it confuses everything I do.
Once upon a time I knew that it all belonged to you,
but it all got misconstrued
the day my brother up and abandoned us
for his philosophical musings,
well how amusing, 
and why don't you sing over me?

No really, why don't you sing over me?
Didn't you used to sing over me? 

Is my brother gone because he never believed, or if he did is he a son that you'll continue to keep?
And if I see so much of myself in him,
What does that say about your grip on me?

Did you let him go, or did he leave?
Or did he stop seeking salvation with fear and trembling?
Will I see my friends again in eternity?
How deeply can we grieve the spirit before the spirit's work will cease?

Oh, all my family, I'm afraid,
wind-driven and tossed like the waves of the sea.
I'm not faithless, but I'm faltering, 
and I need you to pray for me. 

The kingdom suffers, and I've not run halfway, 
and less than half of my faith remains
but if you can't deny yourself there's still just one place that I'll make my grave. 

I hear the savior say, 
"Thy strength indeed is small.
Child of weakness watch and pray.
Find in me thine all in all.

I have not abandoned your heart,"

I have not abandoned your heart. 

This has been the devil's winter
Frost bitten and frozen in time
As though the days are but a whisper
But shrill enough to constantly
Remind me:

The past is not forgotten
And my wounds are not yet healed
Yet when the sutures set and seal my heart even then the scars cannot be concealed.

You have revealed yourself in weakness
Clothed yourself in poverty
The Emerald City holds so much of my soul, but its needles always find me wanting

My body groans with the rest of creation
And you intercede for me
Chosen before the earth's foundations, so we will stand ground expectantly
And I find my hope in the eager anticipation of what going home will bring

The kingdom suffers, and I've not run halfway, 

and less than half of my faith remains

but if you can't deny yourself there's still just one place that I'll make my grave. 

I have not abandoned your heart.


Braincase (Glowhouse featuring Levi The Poet)

And I don't have all of your answers
I know because I don't have all of mine
But I do know that if we both
Wrote out all of our questions
And somebody took the time
To explain all the mystery away
(Maybe in numerical order,
Calculated, textbook highlights)
They'd be cold and unable to sympathize
With divorce
With how you felt when your dad died
With the way San Francisco quaked
Like your heart break
Like our fault lines
Like the way the cityscape melts away
With the sunrise in the rear view
Like these memories aren't just mine
Like how beautiful and devastating for
Our hearts to fail at the same time

I don't have all of the answers,
But the one that I do is that there would
Be no pursuit of them
Had not someone been pursuing you. 

Don't call it "doctrine", 
Don't say "cliché",
Don't say, "cope".

Call it power,
Say it's confidence,
Say it's irresistible hope

That all of the longings that you're convinced
Are folly
And the groanings that you rationalize
Could collide with the answer that you've been seeking after
After he ignited the pursuit inside. 

And I know that there is no
Refining fire quite like suffering,
Nor suffering as devastatingly beautiful
As when God died. 

Let our wisdom stumble across
The foolishness of that broken rock
Cleft for all of our wanderings,
And resurrect in the tongues of love like

Men as trees walking
And then:
Clarity for the first time. 

Like the grace that saves you
Is the grace that keeps you
Is the grace that gives you life. 

Like "I will not let loose your eyes." 


The Beginning / The Separation

In the beginning, God spoke, and God I hope his voice sounded like thunder (like that's where it got it's name from), like it reverberated inside of the son's eardrums. I wonder: did the father turn to the preincarnate word to ask him about the sound he'd heard? And did he smile and contemplate the earth while the spirit confirmed their plans? 

And God said, "let there be…" and God, did that unparalleled melody sustain into all eternity while the blessed trinity joined in harmony to key in a void and formless land? Is the expanse between earth and sky as deep and wide as the difference between dark and light and did you stare at the stars like I stare at your night, and how bright do they shine from outside of time, and if there is no need for the suns in your kingdom, well did you need them? 

See, I cannot fathom the winds and the waves, let alone the waves the winds made on the day that you say, "it is good," and no depraved gaze preys on your spirit's conversation with the creation you made. I can hardly see it! Even my imagination wanes beneath the death that deteriorates at my faith! But before a fog dimly, behind Eden's gates, man - man - walked hand in hand with his God, face to face. 

Imago Dei. 

"Let us make man in our image." Dust into clay, bestowing dignity to humanity the potter crafted and shaped… and when you breathed life into him, was it a whirlwind? 

"In the beginning, God spoke, and the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth." and the details are speculation, but I picture your creation of man as glory that that heavenly host sung about. His chest rises and falls beneath this cosmic anticipation waitin' to see him open his eyes for the first time… his eyes open and close and if there was an expectation, it was exceeded in pupils finally dilated to find: GOD. Holding out his hand in a posture that hasn't changed just like his plan hasn't changed since day one. And I like to think that they danced to the glory of his name, three in one as the breath in man's lungs. Perfect. 

And God put him to work and, work (ha! and if only work were the work of the fall)... A cultivator in the vein of his creator, tended to the garden, invited to enjoy it all, save. one. thing. [and that is freedom: unparalleled pleasure sustained within boundaries] Just do not go near that tree. Its fruit is divisive, its knowledge unseen, but not something that you need. What you need? What you need is a helper, and here a twist of irony: that man is no good without his eve. Sleep deeply; deep sleeping, he fashioned what adam never found among the beasts, and, awoke from his peace: an apologetic for poetry: the first words spoken were spoken words: "At last, bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh." One woman, one man, naked and unashamed to consummate the one plan that god had for his people, we call that "equal." 

In the beginning was the word, and the word was with god, and the word watched Satan fall from heaven like lightening, and I'll bet that it was beautiful, that angel of light-ening up the sky like he could shine as bright as the son. "Did God really say?" and he still begins everything that he does by questioning the authority of the word of the one who did not succumb to his schemes… but the same cannot be said for Eve (the mother of the living, and of the dead offspring who labor beneath the curse that drips from good and evil's leaves…) "You will not die, and God knows that it's true, but god doesn't want truth to be made known to you." And as it delighted her eyes, she took of the fruit and her husband stood by almost as if to assume that the fault wouldn't fall to the man in the room if he used his bride to hide his cowardice before he took a bite, too. Evening, come king's wind, calling, "where are you?" 

And I wonder what their friend felt like? Like his heart had been broken in two? Like from the overflow of his soul he crafted these people that were known, but sought to dethrone their lover's rule. "Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat of that forbidden fruit?" And the enemy still distorts "obedience" for "constriction", as oppose to opportunity to worship you. Well I guess he lives up to his name: serpent, constricting, fame-thief slithering fangs sucking blood from my veins, while life and death hang in the balance, and we suffer beneath the weight of satan, sin, death, flesh and it's effects as justly sentenced to us on that day. 

What of man? And God said, "let there be enmity..." and God, did that devastating melody leave any hope for me while the brokenhearted trinity joined in harmony to agree to go forth with your plans? Is the expanse between earth and sky as deep and wide as the separation between you and I? And do you long for my heart like I long for your eyes to shine bright and fill the universal void that's in mine and if you do still long to call sons to your kingdom, well will you free them? 

See, I can cannot fathom the hight nor the depth, let alone the scope or breadth of your love on the day that you wept and sent humanity from your presence, watching as they went, and continue to walk away as though we owe no debt. I can see it. 

Look, in the beginning God spoke, so is there no hope left? Do we all lay down and die the way we made our beds? In the beginning, God spoke, and is there no hope left? 

Devil, you will bruise his heal, but he will crush your head.


Tetelestai

When your betrayer kissed your cheek, did he slip his serpents tongue between his “Greetings, Rabbi,", 
and did you feel it forked and flickering against your skin? 
I guess it’s vulgar, but I wouldn’t put it past him. 

My tongue is shaped the same. 

I know without a doubt that I do not understand the weight in my pockets, 
change clashing with change and did you know that thirty pieces of silver
was the penalty paid by the owner of an ox that gored a slave to death? 
(And I know, I know: “I’d have sold you for less.”) 
I guess... 

More than likely, I’d have tried to monopolize, like: 
you mean you didn’t negotiate the rate and ask for a higher price? 
Counting my own pennies like how high can I stack this copper
and what’s the value of my ROI when I decide to commodify Christ? 

Like moralistic, therapeutic deism was exactly what you were going for
when you told us to make disciples of all nations, 
and baptize them in the name of celebrity bank statements, 
and motivate replication in the same dualistic vein as
The Way aka self-actualization... 

Like we didn’t commit cosmic treason so much as made a mistake, and
our bodies aren’t groaning along with the rest of creation, and
our hearts aren’t broken, what good is reconciliation
to an adulteress who doesn’t see
her need to consummate with
God? 

Let alone that God would want or long after her. 

Misplaced worshippers, 
praise is inherent to the way we were made, 
but our hearts are easily led astray. 
Our hearts are idol factories. 
I was reminded of it this morning, 
when I woke up intimately aware of my desire for God
to bless this silver piece that I’m writing
about elevating Jesus so that whoever sees it
might elevate
me. 

Preceding time and space, God spoke, and in that thunderous tone, 
purposed to forfeit his rightful throne and cloak himself in flesh and bone and enter into humanity. 
(And we called it vanity.) No, we called it profanity, slandering, blaspheming
“all hail to the king” and still, I see my name in his handwriting, 
kite flying, flailing but still tied to the string that rejoices over me with singing. 

Quiet me, repeat. 

And in the quiet conversations before the beginning, 
I wonder if you laughed together, 
about what was to come, 
or what came, 
or however time works where it doesn’t. 

Not making light of or minimizing my blame
but the kind of laughter that helps us cope with the pain, 
like a farewell between friends
when they know that when they see one another again, 
it will have hurt, but they both know there’s no other way. 
And in that Perfect Community’s case there’s no character change, 
but the both/and of God’s wrath and grace cut crimson across Christ’s face
as the Father forsakes the son who suffers in our place. 

And I don’t have a son of my own yet, but I know what it’s like to be forsaken by a father. 
But I still see selflessness in that selfishness and
if sinful, lowercase s “saviors" think that they know how to give good gifts to their kids, 
then how much more a perfect king become sin that I might become his righteousness? 
When you predetermined in pre-incarnate existence to persist in pursuing the people you envisaged
as the profane remnant made pure through crucifixion, 
as the blood-stained hands redeemed through your submission, 
did you shudder at the anxiety? 

Did you bleed my Type B through your sweat at Gethsemane? 
Greater love knows none than to lay down one’s life for his friends
(who were once his enemies). 

Condemnation flows through our bloodlines
and it’s true that all of us have been consigned
to disobedience, yet through Christ the most high
will have mercy on all of us. 

God have mercy on all of us. 

I gathered thorns and rust and money for bludgeoning, 
unleashed all of my fury whipping, ripping ribs from their core
and washed my hands clean. 

I gathered fame and pleasure and glass strapped to leather, 
availed myself to the Baals and whittled them into nails, 
and washed my hands clean. 

I gathered dice and clothing and splinters and fear, 
clenched my fists for the blow, 
and washed my hands clean. 

As if Pilot and I aren’t really stained red. 

It has been said
that “behind Calvary lies the throne of heaven." 
When you carried the grave to Golgatha, was the crown eclipsed by the cross? 

While you were suffocating, 
did you think back to time that predated time, 
drowning to the sound of mockery on both sides? 

That’s my voice. 

"Today you will be with me in Paradise." 

That’s your voice. 

While they cast your clothing for lots, 
did you recognize their intimate design, 
giving your life up to the sound of pride screaming crucify? 

That’s my voice. 

“Tetelestai." 

That’s your voice. 

And when they mocked and called you a liar, 
did they see the truth in your submission
when you withheld power and committed your spirit to the father’s vision? 
When the centurion was gifted with conviction
following your dying plea that the father wouldn’t convict him
- that the father would forgive him, 
that the punishment that the perfect law demanded would be rescinded
on your behalf - 
did you wash our hands clean? 

At the cross of Christ I see: 
compassion. Mercy. 

And Jesus is more than a selling point for a piece
of self-serving silver penance on personal piety when
at his cross we see: 
compassion. Mercy. 

And we can’t keep flogging ourselves for staining filthy rags. 
He
isn’t sold on either. 

When they retrieved your broken body and buried you beneath
time and sin and space and folly and guards set to ward off thieves, 
did the thief come in to gloat and glory in your defeat and did he
slip his serpent’s tongue between his lips to kiss your feet and did he slither at your side
for all three days boasting in his cunning? 

And did he ever see it coming? 

When they retrieved your broken body and buried you beneath
wrath and love and hate and cup pleased to crush the low-born king, 
did the thief come in to curse the quarry that quaked and
God, when death lost it’s sting
did you crush his serpent’s tongue between his lips using
the skin scarred into your feet and
swallow the grave in victory? 

You swallowed the grave in victory.


Joy Seekers

I’ve been trying to paint a picture of what it must have been like
to see you standing there… 
show up to the grave… 
angel… 
okay. 

But I get these thoughts when I start wrestling with your humanity. 
Was it like the dreams that we have when a loved one is back
- a loved one long since passed. 
But there he is, 
sitting on a couch or something. 

Like the equivalent of you eating a fish. 
A. 
Fish. 
Boiled. 

I mean I know your friends were fisherman and everything. 
I wonder if they would have fallen under the disapproving gaze of my grandfather, 
sitting back in his chair, staring down his nose, frowning at “sailor’s mouth?” 

Like you walk in the door (or through the door, or whatever), 
and they go, “what the hell?” 
And you say, “oh don’t worry about that.” 
And they go, “oh my God!” 
And you say, “yes.” 
And they go, “holy sh—“ 
“Shh, I am hungry, please give me my fish.” 

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for your mom to see you alive. 
Her boy. 
Her God. 
(And you want to talk about hypostatic union…) 

Or the places that you chose to show up to, 
like the road to Emmaus, 
where you interrupted Cleopas (and maybe his wife?) 
and they’re just incredulous to the idea
that you seem to have no idea
what is going on. 

I guess I’m in good company? 
You love to prove us wrong. 

It’s interesting to me that the angel asks the women who prepared spices for your body
why they were seeking the living among the dead. 
Seems to me that they’re not the only ones excavating empty holes to fill their own. 

We are all joy seekers, 
and you make yourself known in the breaking of bread - 
pointing back to your death. 
And my heart burns inside of my chest
when you speak. 

What does it even mean that you gave up your last breath
and now you’re standing
in a room
in flesh? 

Did your potentially foul-mouthed fishermen friends think that they were insane? 
Was that okay? 

Why do you seek the living among the dead? 
The son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, 
and on the third day, rise again. 

Joy seekers, 
have you found what you’ve been looking for? 
Blood-bought joy faced the torture of what it took to pay the
bride-price, 
and if the killing of the author of life
couldn’t extinguish his light

then nothing will. 

Joy seekers, 

have you found what you’ve been looking for? 
Did you find it in peace? 
Did you find it in war? 
All men seek happiness without exception. 
Whatever means they employ (or avoid), 
they all tend to this end: joy. 

Seeker, 
if Pascal was right, and the will never takes even the smallest step forward
without that motive in sight - 

did his principle apply to you? 

And what would have been the difference between the two
of us

if Satan had offered me the world for a head nod? 
That’s it. 
Just a little bend at the waist (ever so slightly) 

to forfeit suffering and inherit a kingdom? 

Would I have seen those kingdoms as mud pies? 
Would I have chosen the slums? 

Joy seekers, 
I confess that true happiness now remains to man a mark and empty trace
that I seek after from things absent for help I do not presently obtain
(in vain), but… 

Joy seekers, 
I confess that God came after me, 
and when I wake to find that I have fallen asleep for the last time I believe that
Christ’s sacrifice for me satisfied the fury that should have been breathed out
on a creature far too easily pleased with ambition and sex and drink, 
stacked up against the unblushing promises of a holiday at sea. 

Joy seekers, 
if you hear his voice today, 
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion. 
Let them break. 

No, let them be made whole. 
No, let it all be one in the same. 

In joy, our Seeker endured the cross, 
despising the shame, 
and he showed us the marks where he absorbed the pain
maimed in the same hands that leave nothing outside of their reign. 

Let it be explicit: that the image of the invisible God

accomplished exactly what he envisioned - 
a rescue mission, a resurrection mission, 
a redeeming Ademic insurrection mission. 
a hand outstretched in one direction mission, 
a sacrificial, irresistible affection mission. 

Joy-seekers, 
the cross is cosmic. 
The earth groans while it waits… 
You and I will see it. 
A new Eden. 
One day. 

Not yet. Our bodies still remain
subject to weakness, aging and death, but
we eagerly anticipate, 
Already. Born anew to a living hope through
the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 

Joy seekers, 
still your power grabs, 
still your searching. 

The king is in your midst, 
a mighty one who will save; 
he will rejoice over with gladness; 
he will quiet you by his love; 
he will exult over you with loud singing. 

Joy seekers, 

We’ve been sought after. 
Completely undeserving and yet in eternity past, the
Author of life’s story wrote Life’s death-to-life into his climactic chapter
and invited a wife into his storyline to stand by his side. And I’ll never grasp the
vastness of the fact that the lamb of God was slaughtered on my behalf, 
but his resurrection is all I have. 

His resurrection is all we have. 
His resurrection is all we need. 

Jesus, if you’re not alive, 
call us pitied, 
call it off, 
call it empty. 

But if the tomb is empty, 
call us family, 
call us finished, 
say that our seeking can cease. 

Joy seekers, 
you have found him. 
You have been found by him. 
You are free.