"Jesus, Are You Real?"

Jesus, are you real?
Did we make you up?
Is salvation what you want
Or is faith enough?


Do you know where I'm bound?
Do you know who I am?
Are you just a word I use
When I don't understand?


Standing like a statue in the sea
In a little truck stop in Tennessee
And bombs are crashing down in waves
On a giant TV screen


And I am struck
I cannot move to make it stop
What can I do? People are dying in their beds
While this flag flies over our heads


Jesus, are you stronger than a loaded gun?
I'm beginning to believe you're not the only one
Strong enough to show your love, strong enough to give
Strong enough to go through hell, strong enough to live


And all night long I sat with you
In a darkened hospital room
And nurses checked in by the hour
I was made aware of a higher power


And how this fragile life we live
Is not ours to keep but ours to give
What in the world am I gonna do
If anything should happen to you?


All I do is doubt you, God
All is do is love you, God
All I do is question you
What else can I do?


This world was never solid ground
The past is coming back around
All I do is search for you
What else can I do?


And when I say I search for you
I mean I search for peace
I search for hope, I search for love
And one day for release


Jesus, my life does not feel the same
New things happen everyday, things I can't explain
But I am not a man of faith, I'm a man of truth
But is this feeling in my heart, is this feeling proof?


When you do not know, you know
And when you know, you do not know
And when you think you do, you die
And when you do not think, you grow


Are we left here in the dark
Or are we left here in the light?
It seems to me that both are true
And it's up to us to know what's right


All I do is doubt you, God
All is do is love you, God
All I do is question you
What else can I do?

This world was never solid ground
Religion cannot help me now
All I do is search for you
What else can I do?


And when I say I search for you
I mean I search for peace
I search for hope, I search for love
And one day for release


God give me strength to accept the things
That I just cannot know
And even when I lose control
I will not let you go 



Performance without rehearsal.
Body without alterations.
Head without premeditation.

I know nothing of the role I play.
I only know it's mine. I can't exchange it.

I have to guess on the spot
just what this play's all about.

Ill-prepared for the privilege of living,
I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.
I improvise, although I loathe improvisation.
I trip at every step over my own ignorance.
I can't conceal my hayseed manners.
My instincts are for happy histrionics.
Stage fright makes excuses for me, which humiliate me more.
Extenuating circumstances strike me as cruel.

Words and impulses you can't take back,
stars you'll never get counted,
your character like a raincoat you button on the run –
the pitiful results of all this unexpectedness.

If only I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance,
or repeat a single Thursday that has passed!
But here comes Friday with a script I haven't seen.
Is it fair, I ask
(my voice a little hoarse,
since I couldn't even clear my throat offstage).

You'd be wrong to think that it's just a slapdash quiz
taken in makeshift accommodations. Oh no.
I'm standing on the set and I see how strong it is.
The props are surprisingly precise.
The machine rotating the stage has been around even longer.
The farthest galaxies have been turned on.
Oh no, there's no question, this must be the premiere.
And whatever I do
will become forever what I've done.
***Wislawa Szymborska
trans.  Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak


Morning Commute

(Easter 2015)
I hurry off to work
in the early dawn.

I cut through
the cemetery,
past the grieving
friends and widows,
and as I reach
the shade of
the caves,
I knock over
some poor soul.

As I reach my hand out
to lift him up,
I notice the scar on
his wrist.

"Nasty cut, you have there."

Arisen, he grunts and says "Thanks."

"A lot to do today. Shalom."

"Me too. Shalom."

And as I reach the east gate,
with my face meeting the rising sun,
I hear a cry
"He is not here!"


Mama told me

Some students take offense very easily.

During one lecture, a student asked a question I’ve heard many times: “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” My response was and is always the same: we didn’t evolve from monkeys. Humans and monkeys evolved from a common ancestor. One ancestral population evolved in one direction toward modern-day monkeys, while another evolved toward humans. The explanation clicked for most students, but not all, so I tried another. I asked the students to consider this: Catholics are the oldest Christian denomination, and so if Protestants evolved from Catholics, why are there still Catholics? Some students laughed, some found it a clarifying example, and others were clearly offended.

Two days later, a student walked down to the lectern after class and informed me that I was wrong about Catholics. He said Baptists were the first Christians and that this is clearly explained in the Bible. His mother told him so. I asked where this was explained in the Bible. He glared at me and said, “John the Baptist, duh!” and then walked away.

Defending Darwin


Ash Wednesday


No gifts.
No chocolate.
No parties.
No alleluias.

Just the faithful
gathering at
His command
on an
winter Wednesday.

They pray that
their hardened hearts
be opened
so the ashes
of pain and sin
that are
encased in
be scraped away. 


To Be Rid of a Rival

For this curse,       you need a liter of good grain liquor
and a heartful       of unquenchable hate.
Keep the bottle corked,       and spend a long, dry night
thinking of everything       your rival has
that ought to be yours.
                                     At dawn, roll up your trousers
and set off barefoot       down an unmaintained
side road that dissolves into sand,       then dead-ends
at the river.       Walk upstream until you see
the swift skein of the water       tangle and fray,
marking the snag
                              where the river dumps its garbage.
An almost spokeless       bicycle wheel, an oil drum,
two traffic cones       and the aluminum
bones of a beach chair       have fetched up on this altar
of wet rock and weed.       Wade in as close
as you can to make your own
                                                 ugly offering.
The stream may be icy,       but your stoked-up rage
will keep you warm       as you unstop the bottle
and drink deep,       wishing your rival
gone gone gone gone.       Your curse will gain
strength with every swig.
                                            Picture a heart attack;
picture a jittery       mugger with a gun;
a missed stoplight       and a truck; a sailboat
in a thunderstorm.       When your head starts to swim,
take a final pull,       then throw the bottle hard
onto the trash heap. A trail
                                               of white lightning will
glitter for an instant like shards       of glass across the air.
Wish once more.       If your libation is accepted,
some misfortune will soon       carry your rival away­—
cast off, washed up, worn down—       until nothing is left
but a slight catch       in the river’s throat.



The trick is that you’re willing to help them.
The rule is to sound like you’re doing them a favor.
The rule is to create a commission system.
The trick is to get their number.
The trick is to make it personal:
No one in the world suffers like you.
The trick is that you’re providing a service.
The rule is to keep the conversation going.
The rule is their parents were foolish,
their children are greedy or insane.
The rule is to make them feel they’ve come too late.
The trick is that you’re willing to make exceptions.
The rule is to assume their parents abused them.
The trick is to sound like the one teacher they loved.
And when they say “too much,”
give them a plan.
And when they say “anger” or “rage” or “love,”
say “give me an example.”
The rule is everyone is a gypsy now.
Everyone is searching for his tribe.
The rule is you don’t care if they ever find it. 
The trick is that they feel they can.
Khaled Mattawa