Avarice and Usury and Precaution

When the accumulation of wealth
 is no longer of high social importance, 
there will be great changes in the code of morals. 

We shall be able to rid ourselves
 of many of the pseudo-moral principles
 which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, 
by which we have exalted
 some of the most distasteful of human qualities
 into the position of the highest virtues. 

We shall be able to afford
 to dare to assess the money-motive
 at its true value. 

The love of money as a possession — 
as distinguished from the love of money
 as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — 
will be recognized for what it is, 
a somewhat disgusting morbidity, 
one of those semi-criminal, 
semi-pathological propensities 
which one hands over with a shudder
 to the specialists in mental disease.

 But beware! 
The time for all this is not yet. 
For at least another hundred years
 we must pretend to ourselves
 and to everyone
 that fair is foul
 and foul is fair; 
for foul is useful and fair is not. 

Avarice and usury and precaution
 must be our gods for a little longer still. 

For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.

John Maynard Keynes (1931)

The Radical Priest on Luke 16:19-31

when I think of the afterlife
the question I have is:
“Will it be much different than now?”
(In other words: on earth as it is heaven (really?))

Consider this as
we read this parable of the
one percenter.

Does his world view change
with fires of Hades
lapping him?

To start, he still treats
those in power 
with respect.
(Father Abraham)

And as usual,
 the conversation
of the powerful turns to 
how the 99ers can do their will.
(Send Lazarus to cool my tongue)

Next, there we hear
of a chasm.

Except the tables are turned.

The earthly who 
amassed and stockpiled
the gains of the economy
and separated themselves
from the rest of society
now live in a gated community
that eternally faces an abyss.
(A physical and spiritual one)

And the last aspect of
this parable is the benefit
of those who have
power and influence:
inside information.

He pleads with
Father Abraham
to let his family know
to tell them 
his story 
of Breaking Bad
by sending Lazarus.

And Abraham 
tells him,
“They just need to listen
to Moses and the Prophets.
They told the truth."

And the Patriarch concludes:
"Anyway, remember 
where you came from!
Do you really think 
Lazarus would be able to
ring your door bell?"

The Powwow at the End of the World


I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall   
after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam   
and topples it. 

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall 
after the floodwaters burst each successive dam   
downriver from the Grand Coulee. 

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall 
after the floodwaters find their way to the mouth of the Columbia River 
as it enters the Pacific and causes all of it to rise. 

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall 
after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed 
by that salmon waiting in the Pacific. 

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall   
after that salmon swims upstream, through the mouth of the Columbia   
and then past the flooded cities, broken dams and abandoned reactors   
of Hanford. 

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall   
after that salmon swims through the mouth of the Spokane River   
as it meets the Columbia, then upstream, until it arrives   
in the shallows of a secret bay on the reservation where I wait alone.   

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall 
after that salmon leaps into the night air above the water, throws   
a lightning bolt at the brush near my feet, and starts the fire   
which will lead all of the lost Indians home. 

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall   
after we Indians have gathered around the fire with that salmon   
who has three stories it must tell before sunrise: 
one story will teach us how to pray; 
another story will make us laugh for hours;   
the third story will give us reason to dance. 

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall 
when I am dancing with my tribe 
during the powwow at the end of the world.


A Sham Argument

Someone will say: "You have faith, I have works." (Vs 18)

This unidentified person
has wasted so much time
for Christians.

Debating whether 
the gift of
eternal life rests on 
or both.

God grants 
all who believe
in the saving power
of the Cross
and Resurrection 
eternal life.

Jesus gives
to all
who are
born from above,
born again,
slain in the Lamb
another gift.

The gift of the Holy Spirit.

And that gift 
in a transformed life
will be evidence of  
those who
  will receive the 
reward of
eternal life. 

The sola fide
give the impression
 that works 
are a 
checklist to go to heaven.

Instead, it is
(in the third person of the Trinity)
your weaknesses 
so you 
can do His will
on earth. 

The works alone assembly
(a much smaller crowd)
work on their projects
as if they were going submit
their resume 
to the Almighty.

All this talk
of work
and deeds
is making me tired.

Thank you for
Your yoke is light.

Walk with me
the rest of 
my days
as I do Your will.
Today on earth
and for eternity
in Paradise. Amen.

“The Vacation”

Wendell Berry

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.


That’s what Easter’s all about, Charlie Brown.

Believing in the resurrection 
does not just mean 
assenting to a dogma 
and noting a historical fact. 

It means participating 
in God’s
creative act.

If it were merely 
a historical circumstance, 
we should simply say: 
‘Oh really?’, 
register the fact, 
and go on living 
as we did before.

But if it is a creative act of God’s, then – 
if we really know and understand 
what it is about – 
we shall be born again to a new life. 
A faith like this is the beginning of freedom

Resurrection is not a consoling opium, 
soothing us
with the promise of a better world 
in the hereafter. 

It is the energy 
for a rebirth 
of this life. 

The hope doesn’t point to another world. 
It is focused on the redemption of this one.  

Jurgen Moltmann (Jesus Christ for Today’s World)

The Cast of Christmas Reassembles For Easter

Take the wise men to the Emperor's palace.
Wash their hands in water.  
Get them to say something about truth.

Does anyone know any good Jewish jokes?
The one about a carpenter
who thought he was a King?
The one about the Savior 
who couldn't save himself?

The shepherds should stand with the chorus.
They have a big production number -
'Barabbas, We Love You Baby'.

Mary? She can move to the front.
We have a special section reserved
for family and close friends.
Tell her that we had to cut the manger up.
We needed the wood for something else.

The star I'm afraid I can't use.
There are no stars in this show.
The sky turns black with sorrow.
The earth shakes with terror.

Hold on to the frankincense.
We'll need that for the garden scene.

Angels? He could do with some angels.
Avenging angels.
Merciful angels.
He could really do with some angels.

Baby Jesus.
Step this way please.
My! How you've grown! 

**Steve Turner

A blessing for one who holds power

May the gift of leadership awaken in you as a vocation,
Keep you mindful of the providence that calls you to serve.

As high over the mountains the eagle spreads its wings,
May your perspective be larger than the view from the foothills.

When the way is flat and dull in times of grey endurance,
May your imagination continue to evoke horizons.

When thirst burns in times of drought,
May you be blessed to find the wells.

May you have the wisdom to read time clearly
And to know when the seed of change will flourish.

In your heart may there be sanctuary
for the stillness where clarity is born.

May your work be infused with passion and creativity
And have the wisdom to balance compassion and challenge.

May your soul find the graciousness
To rise above the fester of small mediocrities.

May your power never become a shell
wherein your heart would silently atrophy.

May you welcome your own vulnerability
as the ground where healing and truth join.

May the integrity of soul be your first ideal,
the source that will guide and bless your work.

John O'Donohue,  Benedictus, a Book of Blessings.


Batter my heart (Holy Sonnet 14)

Batter my heart, three-person'd God; for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

**John Donne


Grimalkin by Thomas Lynch

One of these days she will lie there and be dead.
I’ll take her out back in a garbage bag
and bury her among my sons’ canaries,
the ill-fated turtles, a pair of angelfish:
the tragic and mannerly household pests
that had the better sense to take their leaves
before their welcomes and my patience had worn thin.
For twelve long years I’ve suffered this damned cat
while Mike, my darling middle son, himself
twelve years this coming May, has grown into
the tender if quick-tempered manchild
his breeding blessed and cursed him to become.
And only his affection keeps this cat alive
though more than once I’ve threatened violence -
the brick and burlap in the river recompense
for mounds of furballs littering the house,
choking the vacuum cleaner, or what’s worse:
shit in the closets, piss in the planters, mice
that winter indoors safely as she sleeps
curled about a table leg, vigilant
as any knickknack in a partial coma.
But Mike, of course, is blind to all of it -
the gray angora breed of arrogance,
the sluttish roar, the way she disappears for days
sex-desperate once or twice a year,
urgently ripping her way out the screen door
to have her way with anything that moves
while Mike sits up with tuna fish and worry,
crying into the darkness, “Here kitty kitty,”
mindless of her whorish treacheries
or of her crimes against upholsteries -
the sofas, love seats, wingbacks, easy chairs
she’s puked and mauled into dilapidation.
I have this reoccurring dream of driving her
deep into the desert east of town
and dumping her out there with a few days’ feed
and water. In the dream, she’s always found
by kindly tribespeople who eat her kind
on certain holy days as a form of penance.
God knows, I don’t know what he sees in her.
Sometimes he holds her like a child in his arms
rubbing her underside until she sounds
like one of those battery powered vibrators
folks claim to use for the ache in their shoulders.
And under Mike’s protection she will fix her
indolent green-eyed gaze on me as if
to say: Whaddaya gonna do about it, Slick,
the child loves me and you love the child.
Truth told, I really ought to have her fixed
in the old way with an airtight alibi,
a bag of Redi-mix and no eyewitnesses.
But one of these days she will lie there and be dead.
And choking back loud hallelujahs, I’ll pretend
a brief bereavement for my Michael’s sake,
letting him think as he has often said
“Deep down inside you really love her don’t you Dad?”
I’ll even hold some cheerful obsequies
careful to observe God’s never-failing care
for even these, the least of His creatures,
making some mention of a cat-heaven where
cat-ashes to ashes, cat-dust to dust
and the Lord gives and the Lord has taken away.
Thus claiming my innocence to the end,
I’ll turn Mike homeward from that wicked little grave
and if he asks, we’ll get another one because
all boys need practice in the arts of love
and all boys’ aging fathers in the arts of rage.

Love Is Not All

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain; 
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink 
And rise and sink and rise and sink again; 

Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath, 
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone; 
Yet many a man is making friends with death 
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone. 

It well may be that in a difficult hour, 
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release, 
Or nagged by want past resolution's power, 
I might be driven to sell your love for peace, 

Or trade the memory of this night for food. 
It well may be. I do not think I would. 

Edna St. Vincent Millay

First Shot

Michael Leviton

When I was four years old, 
my mother took me for my first shot. 

We waited in a line 
of sobbing children, 
asking their mothers, 
“Will it hurt? Will it hurt?” 
The mothers all said, 
“No, it won’t hurt.”

I asked my mother, “Will it hurt?”
She said, “It’ll hurt a little 
but it won’t last very long.”

When it came time for my shot, 
I didn’t cry. 

The nurse told my mother,
she’d never given a shot to a child 
who wasn’t crying, 
that I was the bravest child 
she’d ever seen. 

My mother said it wasn’t about bravery, 
that the other children weren’t 
crying out of fear, 
but out of sorrow 
at the betrayal of their mothers.


Marked by Ashes

Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .
This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
     halfway back to committees and memos,
     halfway back to calls and appointments,
     halfway on to next Sunday,
     halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
     half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
   but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
     we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
       of failed hope and broken promises,
       of forgotten children and frightened women,
     we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
     we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.

We are able to ponder our ashness with
   some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
   anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
   You Easter parade of newness.
   Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
     Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
     Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
   Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
     mercy and justice and peace and generosity.

We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.

Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933)
Taken from his Prayers for a Privileged People (Nashville: Abingdon, 2008), pp. 27-28.

Desert Prayer

Jan Richardson- Painted Prayerbook.com

I am not asking you
to take this wilderness from me,
to remove this place of starkness
where I come to know
the wildness within me,
where I learn to call the names
of the ravenous beasts
that pace inside me,
to finger the brambles
that snake through my veins,
to taste the thirst
that tugs at my tongue.

But send me
tough angels,
sweet wine,
strong bread:
just enough.

American Christmas Card 2004

I met a man in Nigeria years ago,
an Ibo,
who said he had three hundred relatives
he knew by name.

His wife had just had a baby.
They were going to take it 
on foot
to be welcomed and marveled at
by as many of those relatives
as they could find,
even though
there was a war going on.
Wouldn’t you love to have been
such a famous baby?

I wish I could wave a magic wand
this Christmas,
and give every desperately lonesome
and hungry and lost American
man, woman, or child
the love and comfort and support
of an extended family.

Just two people and a babe in the manger,
given a heartless Government, 
is no survival scheme.

Kurt Vonnegut 

Editing Job

Carl Dennis

I'd cut the prologue, where God agrees 
To let his opponent, Satan, 
Torment our hero merely to prove 
What omniscience must know already: 
That Job's devotion isn't dependent 
On his prosperity. And how foolish of God 
If he supposes that Satan, once proven wrong, 
Will agree to forego his spite against creation 
For even a minute.

I'd keep the part where Job disdains 
His friends' assumption that somehow 
He must be to blame for his suffering, 
And the part where he makes a moving appeal 
To God for an explanation. 
I'd drop God's irrelevant, angry tirade 
About might and majesty versus weakness.

The issue is justice. Is our hero 
Impertinent for expecting his god 
To practice justice as well as preach it, 
For assuming the definition of justice 
That holds on earth holds as well above? 
Abraham isn't reproved in Genesis 
For asking, when God decides to burn Sodom, 
If it's fair to lump the good with the wicked.

Let Job be allowed to complain 
About his treatment as long as he wants to, 
For months, for decades,
And in this way secure his place forever 
In the hearts of all who believe 
That suffering shouldn't be silent, 
That grievances ought to be aired completely, 
Whether heard or not.

As for the end, if it's meant to suggest 
That patience will be rewarded, I'd cut it too. 
Or else I suggest at least adding a passage 
Where God, after replenishing Job's possessions, 
Comes to the tent where the man sits grieving 
To ask his pardon. How foolish of majesty 
To have assumed that Job's new family, 
New wife and children and servants, 
Would be an ample substitute for the old.

I Cry

Tupac Shakur

Sometimes when I'm alone
I Cry, 
Cause I am on my own.
The tears I cry are bitter and warm.
They flow with life but take no form
I Cry because my heart is torn.
I find it difficult to carry on. 
If I had an ear to confide in, 
I would cry among my treasured friend, 
but who do you know that stops that long, 
to help another carry on.
The world moves fast and it would rather pass by.
Then to stop and see what makes one cry, 
so painful and sad. 
And sometimes...
I Cry 
and no one cares about why. 

A Plankless Job

With this plank
I only see drones
not doves.

With this plank
I only see darkness
instead of light.

With this plank
I only see 
what I want to see.

And now
You want
to remove it.

Just so I can
see things 
the way You do.

Introduction to Poetry

Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light 
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to water ski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.


End of the Line

followed the rules,
did what I was told
and what do You do?

in the rule book
is this
behavior forgiven?

Even more,
in the rule book
is this
behavior celebrated?

And even though
You insist
this is what 
Love does
to those who return
to Graceland
(in spite of the rule book)
there is
no way
I will 
enter this house.

That Business is Our Life

“We fear the publican’s acceptance 
because we know precisely what it means. 

It means that we will never be free 
until we are dead 
to the whole business 
of justifying ourselves. 

But since that business is our life,  
that means not until we are dead.”

--Robert Farrar Capon


To a Child Dancing in the Wind W.B. Yeats


DANCE there upon the shore;  
What need have you to care  
For wind or water’s roar?  
And tumble out your hair  
That the salt drops have wet;         
Being young you have not known  
The fool’s triumph, nor yet  
Love lost as soon as won,  
Nor the best labourer dead  
And all the sheaves to bind.  
What need have you to dread  
The monstrous crying of wind?  

Has no one said those daring  
Kind eyes should be more learn’d?  
Or warned you how despairing  
The moths are when they are burned,  
I could have warned you, but you are young,  
So we speak a different tongue.  
O you will take whatever’s offered  
And dream that all the world’s a friend,  
Suffer as your mother suffered,  
Be as broken in the end.  
But I am old and you are young,  
And I speak a barbarous tongue.

A Drinking Song

WINE comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh. 

William Butler Yeats

Forty Years Later

(After the fall)

It is my prayer,
 it is my longing,
 that we may pass
 from this life together--
a longing which shall never perish from the earth, 
but shall have place in the heart of every wife that loves, 
until the end of time; and it shall be called by my name.

But if one of us must go first,
 it is my prayer that it shall be I;
 for he is strong, I am weak,
 I am not so necessary to him
 as he is to me --
life without him would not be life; 
how could I endure it? 

This prayer is also immortal, 
and will not cease from being offered up 
while my race continues. 
I am the first wife; 
and in the last wife 
I shall be repeated.

Mark Twain

To Jesus on Easter By Vassar Miller

You see the universe, as I see daylight,
opening to your heart
like fingers of a little child uncurling.

It lies to you no more than wood to blade,
nor will you tell me lies.
Only fools or cowards lie. And you are neither.

Not that I comprehend You, who are simpler
than all our words about you,
and deeper. They drop around you like dead leaves.

Yet I can trust you. You resembling me—
two eyes, two hands, two feet,
fives senses and no more—will cup my being,

spilling toward nothingness, within your palm.
And when the last bridge breaks,
I shall walk on the bright span of your breath.

Was that You?

Was that you,
that gentle wind in the trees that sway,
the wind that cools the shadows
on a steamy summer day?
Was that your breath, a soothing message from you
that moves the grains of wheat.

The devil has breath too,
and when it comes it breaks
the tall trees in two,
it rips and rages, destroying the old,
makes nothing new.
Father, thank you for your breath
that relieves us from the summer heat.

From A Year of Prayers by Jack Bartlett

The Prodigal Clippings

Can angels experience regret?
I’m thinking specifically of the
fallen ones, the ones herded up
and driven over the edge of the
clouds because of their mutiny?

Do you think one or two or three
of them might’ve enjoyed it for
a season, because c’mon it is fun
for a while, but then missed the
comfort of foursquare and pearl?

I bet they were welcomed home
with feasting and singing but I
believe there was also a price of
return: the prodigal clippings.

But, you say, what about grace?
Well, I say, ask them, they know,
for they are the angels of mercy.

John Blase

Putting it All Together

Many in our culture
regard youth as good
and old age as bad.
But is this true?

In the sage, youth and age are married.
Wisdom and folly each been lived fully.
Innocence and experience now support one another.
Action and rest follow each other easily.
Life and death have become inseparable.

The sage has experienced all opposites
and lets them come and go
without clinging or fretting.
Therefore the sage can talk without lecturing,
act without worrying about results,
and live in contentment with all events.

The first part of our life
was spent separating things into categories:
good and bad,
like and dislike,
me and you,
us and them.

Now it is time to put all the pieces back together
into a seamless whole. 

The Sage's Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for the Second Half of Life 
by William Martin


We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store
and the gas station and the green market and
Hurry up honey, I say, hurry, hurry,
as she runs along two or three steps behind me
her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.

Where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?
To mine? Where one day she might stand all grown?

Today, when all the errands are finally done, I say to her,
"Honey I’m sorry I keep saying Hurry—
you walk ahead of me. You be the mother."

"Hurry up," she says, over her shoulder, looking
back at me, laughing. "Hurry up now darling," she says,
"hurry, hurry," taking the house keys from my hands.

**Marie Howe

Lessons in the Afterlife

after we get through
the narrow door,
save us from
the temptation
of charging forward
in Your banquet hall.

Let us remember
that rushing 
doesn't work 
in a place
where the last
are served first.

Selection from Sirach 3


My child, 
be humble 
in everything you do, 
people will appreciate it 
more than gifts. 

The greater you become, 
the more humble 
you should be; 
then the Lord 
will be pleased 
with you. 

The Lord's power is great, 
and he is honored 
by those who are humble. 

Don't try to understand things
that are too hard for you, 
or investigate matters 
that are beyond your power to know. 

Concentrate on the Law, 
which has been given to you. 
You do not need to know 
about things 
which the Lord has not revealed, 
so don't concern yourself with them. 

After all, 
what has been shown to you 
is beyond human power to understand. 
Many people have been misled 
by their own opinions; 
their wrong ideas have warped their judgment.