simul justus et peccator.
When I became the center of my gospel, I was tongue deep, rudder dead center, worshipping
between one leg out in front of me – expository, annotating, complimentarian masturbating,
tradition praising. Traditionalistically berating traditionalists who failed to exists beneath the
solas - and another leg that simply felt like power against my jawbone.
We were a byproduct of the benefit of the doubt – compliments of the congregation consistently
consenting itself to sit beneath the smallest, syncretistic decisions (rebranded as resurgence, sold
as ecumenicism). Call it rapture. Call it reconciliation. Call it the second coming, call it
consummation. Call it whatever your spiritual gift of communication can call it to quantifiably
convert converts into consumers – call it replication. Call it a calloused conscience that
condescends your vocation. Call it condemnable. Call it a misappropriation of their calling:
calling command into consideration. Call it clearly, exegetically rooted in creation. Call it an
unconscionably reasonable explanation.
Call it covenant and constantly call their commitment into question. Call it community and
constantly second-guess them.
Call it the body.
Call it the body.
Call it the bride and make sure she gives you headship. Call it the first among equals and crown
out the diadem and if you love her slow enough you'll start to swallow your own press so
is still to
the ft. lauderdale five.
it was love at first threat.
her knees went weak for confidence so even though her friends said that she should "call it what
it is,” she simply fell deeper in love and when he’d raise his fists and ask her just who in the hell
she thinks that she is, she’d tell him it was all about Jesus, and
in 1976, she was too terrified to resist, and “authority” had already become a position
synonymous with “God,” so apologies issued from proponents of the covering couldn’t keep the
fear out of her. his tears from the pulpit were a comfort at first but they pooled in shapes like
convenience constantly redistributing its weight back and forth along the planks of a seesaw, and
you can only feign trustworthy for so long before being cut off after someone with a golden ear
hears the script.
it appears as though there is such a thing as a victim, though she could never admit it until the
pastor propositioned its existence (and specifically as it stood in relationship to him).
and all of the sudden the movement is exposed as illusion.
she said that the hardest thing she had to do was admit that she was abused.
you never get it until you do.
“i refused to use words like ‘stockholm’ or ‘syndrome’ or ‘hostage’ but it was a robbery and it
was violent and it was 15 years of my life and i’m still trying to figure out who the thief is and
whether or not he broke down the door or if i left it unlocked and invited him in.”
at first you feel nothing, and then the anger seeps in. let it be righteous. at least something is.
they say that "rage is what happens inside when our soul finally awakens from living a lie" and it
doesn’t help to deny it. there are stages to the scales that slide off of our eyes like serpents
shedding skin and letting the death molt.
“get it off of me.”
the disillusionment manifests in stagnant melancholy and she keeps thinking there’s got to be a
reason as clean as the teaching’s always been.
it was love at first threat.
but even though patty hearst defended her offense as duress affecting intent, it didn’t stand to
deflect the judgement that found her compliant and guilty of theft.
so who’s stealing from who?
i keep filing out confusion from underneath my fingernails like gunshot residue. like a constant
reminder that i held a weapon, too. like i helped pull the trigger and then deferred all of the
blame to you. like complicity written all over me. like biblical masculinity that i crushed my wife
beneath. like she needed me as the assurance of things hoped for but as yet unseen.
was the devil’s deceit so deeply indwelt that when he fell, he didn’t realize he was falling?
will i discover myself in the depths of hell singing songs to the wrong
angel of light?
"motion made visible memories arrested in space."
i can still remember the moment when, like a scalpel so sharp he didn't notice it, my best friend
mentioned black specs in the window panes and said he loved what i'd done with the place and
paint splatter. (or like a settlement crack when the pre-cast masonry shrinks and expands, but it
feels like the foundation shifting and when the concrete contracts like that the slab simply sinks
into the sand on which it stands.)
no wonder he's stumbling over the cornerstone with figurative eyes full of floaters and flashes
and fibers projecting jackson pollock paintings dripping and alcoholic and brushing abstracts into
well anyway, the incisions in his vision cobwebbed out like varicose veins and when he finally
realized that my walls were white, afraid was the only word that he found to articulate the way
the blood spread, bruising beneath his faith. like a child scribbling something new into the pages
of her coloring book, it kept refusing to stay inside of the lines, and he kept wondering if love
really shows up to cast it out.
i've seen it in the nudity that the spirit seeks beneath the post-it-notes as fig leaves that I stick to
myself like pithy, adhesive truisms could be my covering. there is something sacred about
standing naked and blurred by the condensation in the mirror – that glass darkly, that fog – the
way that knowledge came with a cost that taught me that certainty is not peace, and trust is more
than belief, and surrender is more than a verbal assent to the idea of surrendering.
in confidence, my mother said that she wonders if there are some things that just will not be
reconciled on this side of death. and i used to have her pegged as an escapist but what else is
there to do but give up when clenched fists and vengeance still don't produced what they've
can you be tender enough with yourself to flesh it out? to let the mess be what it is? we
pummeled the constructs to dust and stared at it like, "well, where do we go from here?" that
earth looks a lot like what we're made of. self-flagellation is what it is regardless of whether you
call it penitent or progressive sanctification. is the word as retributive as we made him?
she heard my plea for mercy before i knew how to speak it. one morning, in her living room, i
tried. the sunlight shone in through windows that lifted the colors of roses she had dried and
hanging upside down in a row against the white on the wall, blood red like a foreshadowing and
i said, "i'm paralyzed. everything that has been so right for so long now just seems so wrong, and
i don't know how to start over, and i don't know how to hope for anything beyond the approval of
men who, somehow, had me convinced that buying their indulgences was the equivalent of
hearing the voice of God.
how do i learn to hear him if they're gone?"
What began in the spirit, I fleshed out in analytics, and mimicked his voice until I wasn't sure I
could actually hear it. The comparisons were subtle pivots compared to more pivotal problems
(but that was the problem, and the comparisons didn't solve them). I missed the trees for the
forest that dominated my vision – shifted pyramidal positions into a schema that fit my religion.
Each schism was a small price to pay for the mission, but I just couldn't convince the critics to
Listen, every decision is infinite. Every compounding incision thickens the cut that started
it. When I started tip-toeing with the lusts of the flesh, I thought it was love, and it became
exactly that. Hand in hand, dancing in the way of the dragon, heart of man still convinced it was
the way of the lamb, and I didn't realize that I had abandoned the path until I finally glanced
down at my own two feet
and had the thought that even wolves can learn to bleat like sheep.
Of course it's all selfish ambition and vain conceit. Of course I want you to raise your hands and
worship me. Of course notoriety became the centerpiece as my pride continues to believe itself to
be the praise of God.
Behind liturgy like a smoke screen we bow down to money and the powers that be and treat one
another like competing teams functioning hierarchically and calling the winnings gospel
(repeat). And Jesus, indeed, seems to read like a sword that cuts through the family (but he still
brings peace to the wealthy though). It's dismissible – I can simply close my eyes to the way that
salvation became so closely tied to domination like the way that
God became a literal Trump card.
So we joined the ranks of a disenfranchised generation. The counselor called it a combination of
coming of age and brainwashing that repeatedly capitulates itself to a posture of self-hate and
blame and spirals inward on its own cliche.
The naïveté is so easy to manipulate: you simply call power "blessing" and excommunicate
whomever stands in the way.
I’ve seen things just stay the same, man.
They’ll find a way in.
One day, men
Will use the Name’s insurance claim to get paid off of entertainment.
Don’t take even one of the layman,
Send a raven,
Now empty your savings,
Keep donating in payments to build this shelter in time of storm.
No one can clap back,
If Noah didn’t open them doors.
I guess you can have that, but…
Sow seed, proceed, Osteen
Both seen shelters before;
Ain’t that where the tax at?
A Garrett Morgan is more than just a metaphor
Of a black and a uniform to go to war with,
And a random fact that the black invented the gas mask.
I’ll bet that color matters to a bank account getting fatter
When it’s re(a)d to the black on the cash app
A hypocritical separation of church and the state
Look! His pastor’s posing with opposing politicians on Facebook
And I heard it’s getting worse,
Gotta put a curse in the verse,
They’ll get passed that
When they realize his worships working perfect to back that A$CAP
the dark night of the soul.
Growing up, the river and the mountain were a fountain of life for us. We knew how to play in
the water and how to rest in the shade and navigated the currents and recognized the way that the
face of the mountain smiled just like our fathers, and the song of the river sounded just like our
mothers', and the sunsets in the valley glowed just like our worldview, and the lightening had not
yet torn that world in two.
When I saw one of the sparrows fall I knew that when she hit the soil the earth would break like
our heart-quake until it could not be called that at all.
Of course the world is grey.
Of course the mountain is no longer a mountain and the rivers have turned to snakes.
I will never forget the way that her father writhed in the dirt the day that he wept over the grave
he made for his daughter after begging you to let her stay.
So where is the lullaby that our doctrine sang? Where is the house on the rock when even the
rock couldn't withstand the rain? What does it mean, you who uses spit to clean the eyes of blind
men suddenly guilty for all that they have claimed to see?
It's not that I don't believe. It's just that sometimes faith feels more like cataracts than clarity.
Go gentle on me.
In obscurity and silence and absurdity and violence the quiet reminded me that the surest sign I
don't understand is to be sure that I do. I knew more before I knew more. He said, "Just outside
the room, I watched her die for forty-five minutes while they tried to revive my child and when
she finally pulled through I thought of death and resurrection and how much I hated you."
I love you for it. You've been gone so long I've been raging at the night in all its emptiness, all its
nothingness, all its silent, darkened sky. I've been searching for the sadist who keeps taking his
sweet time to let us see, or let us leave, or let us move on with our lives. Now that you've finally
shown yourself again, I've got my fists raised high for the bliss it is to finally have a christ to
crucify (and then to kiss). You let me lose my mind and I loved you for letting me hate you, and I
barely recognize the lines the rivers make on the mountain face or the color of your eyes.
I thought that they were black and white. I thought I knew the creeks. I thought that they were
black and white. Keep forgiving.
Let god be wild. (Let me be free.)
as far as the east is from the (navel to the) west.
I can't remember when you became a hypothetical. I still talk to the sky and the black backs of
my eyelids, but it's been some time since your son transitioned from person to proposition.
I keep conjuring his name up over my wife at night, like a seance. The ghost still calms her
nerves, so I keep praying while I wonder what I'll say when I run out of hat tricks and smoke
bombs. I keep disappearing behind the distractions. We both know how well I procrastinate, so
the night that I finally began to fear whether or not I'd lost my faith... I thought it was too late.
I wrote down the confession like a hook for a song: "When I stopped believing in God, I blamed
it on him, and thought, 'well, if this is what you want...'"
Heavenly Father, when the fathers tried to exorcise the demons from my father they simply
spoke back and begged for their medication, and I finally believed in the gift of tongues. I heard
him speak out in one legion of them while the comfortable line between oppression and
possession collapsed as disconcerting as your scribbles in the sand to a man who is still
cutting his teeth on forgiveness, unable to let go of the stones making their way through the
backs of his hands for all of the stubbornness in his grip and the way that even his fists fold back
in upon themselves.
I can't touch my toes to the mirage. If the ground is a foundation it is one evasive facade. I got
lost and the only way that I could talk to God was through profanity and absolutely nothing and
maybe that's what he was going for all along.
We're tired of floating. Tired of constantly examining motive. Tired of ascribing it. Tired of
acting like we know. It's exhausting – what if we don't? Tired of the circle. Tired of equating
confirmation with affirmation.
Applause is a poor god.
It's dark inside of my stomach, bent, shoving my head out the lower half of my back and
collapsing beneath the weight of what it all looks from here. I heard the fear, heard the fear,
heard the fear, know what fear and trembling looks like – we're working it out. Isn't that a part of
It's no joke.
Sometimes the bride slips out the back but sometimes the spirit flees.
Sometimes it's dissension and sometimes it's prophecy.
Sometimes it's good, old fashioned adultery, but if conquest is franchised as love for long
enough, then the latter becomes the trigger for your panic attack. I don't know how to get the
childlikeness back, and if salvation is contingent on a faith like that – where are the waterfalls?
Where's the boy down to backflip into the river? Maybe the current shifted, maybe the color's
and I recognize it because
For every conclusion posited as a question, resurrection haunts like a shadow I can't escape,
looming in what I could have sworn was warmth melting ice before whatever it became. I was a
son – I was a son – you told me that once, but it's amazing how petrified portions of the heart
start to see fingers like claws and water like poison and grace like the opposite flowing
indifferent through your lukewarm bloodstream, cooling and clotting and cutting branches from
Am I losing you? Have you lost me?
Is there such a thing?
Heavenly Father, I have no interest in selling doves for the market.
Flip the tables.
Braid the rope.
Taper the whip.
Let me speak.
Are we salesmen or sons? Are our positions contingent on commissions and brand loyalty?
I mistook kingdom for empire.
Salvation for rapture.
Grace for escape.
Mission for capture.
I mistook mercy for license.
Family for uniform.
Gift for owed.
Cross for sword.
Heavenly Father, it's all a shot across the bow and I'm aware that it's not fair to throw the whole
body out but can we scuff up the navel? Cut eyes with thrones umbilical as control as though we
forced ourselves from the womb?
Keep pushing me down. Keep forgiving.
New life is death and they call it that for a reason. The birth canal is filthy and beautiful. You'll
get out. I've never had more faith in that than now.
I know you don't recognize your reflection.
I know you'd have hated who you've become and I know you hate who you were so there's no
use in being anywhere other than present.
I know it's torture.
I know that you make it through.
I know that you don't believe it. I know that you don't have to.
I will. We will.
I know that
there are cancer and death and indifference acting out on the stage,
and playwrights monetizing god from the machine.
I know I made a crane of my own, I'm sorry.
I poured the concrete and deemed it determined from eternity past
as if that were
justification enough for
how harsh my love had become.
(There is a word for those who call evil good. For what it's worth, I've got a verse for that.)
I don’t know what to do with the inconsistencies beyond an apology,
cruciform certitude is easily abused,
and there’s no better shape for us to use as a scepter.
But a specter of truth – like a phantom limb – still itches in my memories
like a flash in a photo booth that leaves light afloat in its wake.
I don't know what to say.
"I don't know what to say."
"I've got nothing to say and no direction to give," and my friends said,
"that's perfect - tell it exactly how it is."
I don't know what to say.
But I still hear echoes that can only exist in empty places,
and whether they are hearts or tombs,
if the ghost that I all but gave up to his grave can leave it behind,
well, I am shaped exactly like the vacancy signs
advertising spaces that still need residence.
I thought that God could only exist in sonnets and villanelles,
but you should see their freeform.
I hope that my Jesus is bigger than all of my heresy, but before you agree,
I hope that yours is, too.
Maybe you and I could talk before we write one another off?
Maybe we could both be quiet.
Maybe we could decrease or maybe we could rally our likeminded and fight it.
Maybe we could broadcast our dissent.
Maybe it will hurt.
Maybe it will heal.
Maybe it with mar but
Maybe it will mend.
Maybe I don't have every answer I thought I did but, God,
Damn them, I still have You.
keep forgiving. when all is not what you thought it was. when the lynch mob pulls back the
curtain on all that is ferocious and majestical,
well we are each of us small men to varying degrees, projecting the great and powerful oz with
booming voices so much louder than we are confident.
keep forgiving. when you hate what you loved. i don’t want to be a pendulum swinging from one
ivory tower to another. not everyone is competition. i pray for you on the days that i pray for my
enemies (the same days that i pray for myself). life tends to beat the binaries out of you.
it’s healthy when you and I become we, but we’ve got to
if you write for everybody, you write for no one. so i write for my friends. i’ve
watched all of them grope for understanding like a pipe dream. heard everything they’ve said
through eyes watering, wondering if God really hates them as much as they think he does in the
deafening, inarticulable silence. their lips are all sealed the same not because they have nothing
to say but because none of them know how to say it and neither do i. maybe you can relate.
keep forgiving. that goes for yourself as much as anyone.
keep forgiving. when pledged allegiances poison the body, and civil war breaks out between
limbs and you tuck your children into bed at night remembering the way you treated their
mother as somehow less than, though you are the offspring of yours without the power to
multiply and you would not be here without her, and neither would they. perspective,
perspective. and the last shall be first and she deserves every trophy for being your trophy for so
keep forgiving me. this goes both ways, with fingers for pistols firing indictments and blame at
celebrities as machines i made, the bullets - sometimes - stand to temporarily tame the
bitterness, but it’s still self-medicated anger, and the gun shot residue only fans the flames. i’ve
heard you say that fostering the festering pain is a match struck in the forest, and the faintest
whisper: enough of a gust to set it ablaze.
keep forgiving. did it set your skin on fire as a boy trying to reconcile how a father could hurt
you like that? i used the past like funeral pyre thinking i could burn it away (and tie you to the
stake while i’m at it). i wanted to be the broken link in the chain, but when i set the torch to
timber, it was i who found myself burning from the inside out, and i see how hell is as here and
now as anywhere else.
keep forgiving. have pity. is there a drop of water for my tongue? i used scissors to fork it and
spoke blood, spoke blood and tinctured the saliva to serve on a sponge. called it
compassion. called it death by love. well, no wonder we’re so hellbent on hanging someone.
keep forgiving. when the disconnect seems to beat the poetry out of you, and the joy isn’t quite
there but you can’t quite remember where or why it went, and the lenses protecting your vision
continue to cloud and spread reflecting eyes as opaque as the dimly lit mirror they’re doubling up
on just for the hell of it – well it was never just for the hell of it, but who really believes that in
the midst of the dispersion, or setting a broken bone? the bloodletting felt like murder, but you
had to get the poison out of me.
keep forgiving. when we come brandishing swords for the ears of those who spoke to what they
should have given over to silence. when i steal the right to vengeance. when i think that i am
justified in my anger like holding onto it is doing something other than picking at wounds that i
don’t have the scope to see as a cell block - solitarily confined with the pus at neck level.
keep forgiving. when the memories of what was threaten to shut your heart down, and the
laughter you can still hear from the mouths of friends who are no longer around make you wish
that you could change the channel. if you write for everybody, you write for no one, so this will
be for you.
keep forgiving as forgiven. as every pointer finger bent backwards and broken like the moment
all of my indictments return to me, and the bullets ricochet straight back in on my gunsights…
well this is a small lens from which to view the world.
keep forgiving as forgiven. we don’t always get to wear the white hat. pardon is not always
preceded by repentance. in fact, i think it’s exactly the opposite. if it were not for love, i would
have never come back.
keep forgiving. you can’t unsee what you’ve seen, but the world is colorful, ferocious and
majestic without small men or straw men or me to blow smoke and mirrors from our machinery.
the toggle switch is reductionistic. let the pin go. decrease.
hate is a prison.
keep forgiving me.
i’ve told my stories, but they’re yours.
you may never get your apology. on the day you do, it may not mean a thing.