Levels of Danger

Driving with you through a national park,
I saw a sign.
With colors faded and dial missing,
It proclaimed, “Today’s Fire Danger.”
Did you see it too?

Its faded rainbow pie pieces
Were still there ready to be served to us
With its missing pie server dial,
And my tongue’s memory tasted again
Their former flavor-filled messages.

The green pie piece, delectable minty cream,
Is ready to declare that the fire danger is low,
That today is a day with higher humidity
And damp wood which releases its energy slowly,
When the forest is too busy for fire’s kisses.

The blue pie piece with its cardamom blueberry savor
Is waiting to declare there is moderate danger.
Today, fire’s accidental touches and deliberate caresses
Awaken forest’s sensation,
But not her passion.

The yellow pie piece, lemon meringue heat-gilded,
Is weeping to cry out that there is high danger.
Fire is very aroused, and forest is very interested.
And flames will rush to meet the need.
The tiniest spark will awaken a passionate blaze.

The orange pie piece, pumpkin made cinnamon-hot,
Is quivering to yell, “Be very, very careful.”
Forest’s energy is aroused and reaching for release,
Desire has awakened for the consummation,
Of an orgasmic conflagration.

Finally, the red pie piece, hot pepper and blackberry,
Is waving its arms to scream, “You’re past the point of careful.”
Now you need Lady Luck or Mother Nature or Providence
A super hero prevention
To avert a super-spreader forest fire orgy.

Those weeks ago, I saw the pie inert and faded
Vibrating only with memory’s energy.
Our phones now bake their old flavors,
And wrap them in portable packages
An app pie easy to slip into a picnic basket.

The phone’s flavor message is so small
So convenient and unobtrusive,
That I never opened it, never tasted it.
I wasn’t lighting a fire on our drive through the park.
Our picnic food was car temperature and prepackaged.

But the faded pie sign was there
Obtrusively greeting me as I entered the park,
Reminding me that I do not live this world alone.
Nature and careless guests may serve fires at their picnics,
And that smoky flavor can still reach out to consume me.

That evocative sign has shadowed me since,
For I tasted myself in the sign.
My tongue salivates with memories of serving pie pieces,
Of fiery orange arousal: “Beware of rapacious abuse!
The vulnerable are in danger of conflagration!”

But you have always been safe in your flameproofed house,
So you serve yourself a piece of blue pie
And savor its mild spice and playful caresses.
Then you say, “It’s not so spicy as you said,
Why are you always so worried?”

And you, who love to gaze into the heart of the fire,
Go and sit beside the fire of abuse
While I incinerate at its very heart.
There you relax and chat with my abuser
As he roasts me alive before your eyes.

You who have declared your love for me,
You who have declared your friendship for me,
You who have declared ministerial concern for me,
You who have declared legal protectiveness of me,
You lounge, eating your pie, absently watching me burn.

You, who were protected from the flames,
Refused to taste my pie, baked in the heat of my pain,
You lived in your environmentally-controlled house
And denied the truth of my pie,
That the world outside your door is in flames.

Instead you say, “You have experienced the flames of abuse
So now you think everything is fiery abuse.”
But you never realize that your own experience shaped your belief.
You, who have always been safe from the flames,
Think everyone could be safe from that raging fire if they tried.

I sit like that sign in the park
Colored message faded from the ever-present heat
As you drive past in your air-conditioned 4-wheel drive,
Never tasting the savory memory of my freshly baked warning,
Never unwrapping your phone’s prepackaged app pie.

And you say to me, “You just want everything perfect.
You are never satisfied with your own pie.
Why do you want me to taste your pie?
Why do you want a slice of my safer pie?
Just eat what Divinity served you.”

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Call and Response


…..He is abusing me.  Please will you help?

…..Be quiet, my sister.  Take this not to heart.


…..His beating has opened deep wounds.

…..You portray only pain.  You must learn to rejoice.


…..He is abusing me.  Please will you help?

…..He’s worthy of grace.  You know we all sin.


…..His beating has opened deep wounds.

…..Your feelings keep God away.  Repent to find grace.


…..He is abusing me.  Please will you help?

…..You sound like a child wanting a hero.  Rescue yourself!


…..His beating has opened deep wounds.

…..Your heart is the problem.  You must forgive.


…..He is abusing me.  Please will you help?

…..God has a lesson in this abuse.  Seek so you’ll find.


…..His beating has opened deep wounds.

…..You are so troubled!  Don’t you have inner peace?


…..He is abusing me.  Please will you help?

…..I hear your cry.  Let me pray for God’s advice.


…..His beating has opened deep wounds.

…..I see you are wounded, but my ministry is busy.


…..He is abusing me.  Please will you help?

…..You should ask someone else.  I am doing God’s work.


…..His beating has opened deep wounds.

…..Pshaw!  Those wounds are small.  Bind them up and move on.







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Opposing Magnets 2

One magnet rests in my right hand
The other sits in my left hand.

My hands apart, both seem at peace.
My hands draw near, gripping each piece.

Peace broken, now they fight my pull,
For each one presents the same pole.

Poles send energy in an arc
Seeking their partner for the ark.

Arc and arc collide and refuse
To join, count each other refuse.

Refusing to meet, each one flees,
Springing from my fingers like fleas.

Fleeing magnets hurtle away
Unless one turns to make a way.
Face about one turns, now aweigh.
Faces two:  one away, one toward.

Wards down, springing together, they
Warred before but now they make peace.

Piece grasps piece, two stronger as one
Peace uniting, electrically bound.

Bounds testing, I grasp them to pull
For each presents a different pole.

Pulling against my hands they cleave
Resisting my efforts to cleave.

Cleaving the magnets now I know
Why my heart so often cries, “No!”

Abuse knows my heart, noes my heart.
My heart knows abuse, noes abuse.

Abuse strives for my heart’s arrest.
A’ rest my heart’s longing to be.
Abuse struggles to wrest my rest.
Arrest abuse.  Grant me a rest.

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My Lantern’s Shield

I stand in a valley
Windy violence buffets
Me in deepest darkness.

In this pass I struggle,
Uncertainty roots my
Feet in stormy locus.

In my hand I hold tight
Bitterness, a lantern
Sheltering fragile flame.

Hope’s the flame I hold to.
Its dim light a ballast
Holding me through storm’s toss.

Lifting lantern higher
Seeking any signpost,
I still discern no guide.

Voices in wild wind’s gust
Scream at me to let go
Bitterness in my grip.

“Sin,” the voices in howling
Rage, condemn my heart for
Holding glassy anguish.

Painful past’s abrasive
Sand did melt in father’s
Kiln, abusive hatred.

From abusive heat the
Molten sand I gathered
Blowing, shaping, cutting.

This, the brittle glassy
Shield not bitterness but
Shaped experience is.

Oil of joy I gleaned from
Stories, others’ gladness
Fuels this flame of hoping.

Clasping lantern, bracing,
Head bowed, back bent, strain I
Just to cling to this spot.

Uncertainty holding
Me, as storm’s battering
Ravages wounded heart.

Stormy voices howling
Seek to trick me, urging
Lantern’s shield’s removal.

“Hope’s delayed by your own
Fault.  The storms won’t cease ’til
You release past’s shielding.”

Naked hope could never
Burn in stormy gales.  Thus
Stand I, keeping hope’s shield —
My experience of
Hope delayed — ’til storm winds
Cease and hope can light a
Blaze in hearth of home and
Lovingkindness warms me.

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The Forty Lashes of Blame

Words of blame, of shame
Fall across my shoulders
Like the lashes of a whip
As I cry out in pain.

Those who pronounce
My sentence declare
Abuse is the only way
To teach me to do right.

Those who wield the whip
Declare that love for me
Gives strength to their arm
As they only want my best.

Those who hear my cries
Call out for me to find peace,
To find in the lashing of pain
The lesson God is teaching me.

Each mistake another lash,
But each success unacknowledged.
No relief in doing well
Only blame, only shame.

The absolute value
In math is positive
The absolute value
For blame is negative.

Is there nothing good in me?
No redeeming grace to end
The torment of the lashes
And to call forth compassion?

Those who walk by my broken form
Tell me to heal myself; tell me
That my bleeding body and weeping voice
Must not touch the whole, make them unclean.

I cry out:
I am wounded.
I need help.
I need justice.

They lash out:

Be quiet!  Don’t you know?
To be wounded when they whip you:  sin.
To need help when you are broken: sin.
To long for justice:  unforgivable sin.

Know your role.
Know your place.
Your role: the scapegoat.
Your place:  the desert.

Alone in the barren land,
Your job to die, not to cry.
Why do you return?
A voice crying out in the wilderness!

God does not use abuse to teach.
Can a good tree bear bad fruit?
Don’t preach for the abused to find a lesson in abuse!
Can the thirsty drink the sands of a mirage?

Christ came in order to bind up
the wounds of the broken-hearted.
Christ does not bind and flay the broken-hearted,
Nor gag them to rescue the abuser.

The voice of the bleeding man cries out:
The blood spilled on the ground cries out:
The voice of one in the wilderness cries out:
The unsilenced scapegoat returns and cries out:

Christ’s body!  Unbind and bind up!
Do you follow Christ?  Knot the cords that bound.
Believers!  Wield the whip against abusers not abused.
Church!  Drive out those who wield the whip to drive away those Christ seeks.

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Who Hated Whom?

We need new words.

He came into my room
In the darkness,
In the night.

(Due to html formatting constraints, I have posted “Who Hated Whom?” in PDF format here.) 

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Second Grade

Kick, kick, kick
He sat behind me
I sat before him
Kick, kick, kick
School days are counted
By ticks of the clock
But not for me
Tick kick tock kick
Around the clock
Kick, kick, kick

Rules, rules, rules
She stood before me
I sat before her
Rules, rules, rules
School days are noted
By each teaching learned
But not for me
Teach rules learn rules
Nothing learned but
Rules, rules, rules

No, no, no
Mom spoke before her
She stood against Mom
No, no, no
School seats are chosen
By order of names
By ABC’s
I – sit, U – kick
Decree, our plea
No, no, no

Kick, rules, no
She valued order
She valued not me
Kick, rules, no
School is for learning
I learned no reading
Me < rules
“Value me!”  “NO VALUE!”
180 days
Kick, rules, no

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Opposing Magnets

Be a big girl.
Be a tough girl. 

“Look at that new guy.
He thinks he’s so cool.
Don’t worry.  We’ll get him.”

I looked where they looked.
I saw the new guy.
I saw, but I see deeper.
I saw the mask.
And I saw beneath.

He acts so cool, confident,
But underneath,
he fears.
Cool confidence covers

I turned to see
The girls who laughed
The tough girls
The big girls
I saw beneath.

They act so big, so tough,
But underneath,
They hurt.
Tough condescension covers
Deep wounds.

They got him, hazed him,
He struggled to hold his mask
While they laughed,
Insecurity flickering with
Cool confidence.

He took it, smile locked,
They struggled to hold their masks
While he smiled
Deep wounds shone through eyehole
Of tough masks.

Afterward they separate,
Each one, alone, wonders,
Worrying, “Did it slip?
Did they see beneath?
Did I pass the toughness test?”

“Yes,” each decides,
“I passed the test.”
They pretend the other questions
Are not echoing
In their hearts.

In their hearts they despise
Those who fail the test,
Those who are not
Big girls, big boys,
Tough girls, tough boys.

I stand and watch,
Knowing my turn is coming.
I long to be seen as a big girl,
But I know myself.
I cannot pass their test.

They put a pea in the bed
To test me for a princess
And I know I will fail.
My heart has learned to flee the bed
For mine was strewn with nails.

But my head says, “It’s just a pea.
It’s just a moment of meanness
Be a big girl.
Be a tough girl.
Endure the laughing cruelty.”

My head hears the rules.
“Let us haze you.
Let us test you.
Then you’ll be in.
You’ll be ‘one of us.’”

My head berates my heart.
“Don’t be a baby.
Don’t be so weak.”
My head drags my heart
To climb on the bed with the pea.

My heart follows my head.
Reluctant agreement,
But the closer the bed comes,
The harder the step.
My heart knows the hate haze.

With their words and taunts,
My head drags my heart,
Toward the hazing magnet,
But the polarity of my heart’s magnet
Is trauma — negative.

But the closer head and heart come
To the hazing magnet
To laughing hurt and pain  — negative,
The more the magnets fight to escape
And then … SPRING.

Anger awakes to protect me,
They put a pea on a mattress
And pretend that it proves
Their bigness, their toughness.”

The force of anger sends
My heart flying off,
While my head shouts their taunts,
You’re not a big girl.
You’re not a tough girl.

Head and heart struggle,
My head despising my heart
As the taunts echo in my head.
While in my heart burns the fire
Of my trauma.

I bear the scars.
I survived years of hate haze.
I am the big girl.
I am the tough girl.”

Don’t play my life
And call me a baby.
No mere princess to be tested,
I am a warrior queen
Too big for your test.

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Silence is Golden


My momma said silence is golden
And it is
The golden color in volcanos
A burning fire trapped in bones
Growing hotter
Under pressure

My daddy said silence is safety
And it is
Safety bought by a sacrifice
In fear watching the knife descend
While he turns and
Walks away free

My brothers said silence is their joy
And it is
Freedom from the weeping heart’s plague
Joyous laughter erupts to give
Joy for larking
Pain for grieving

My sisters said silence is our gift
And it is
A lump of coal crying out shame
Our world’s appraisal of our worth
Coal to be burned
In flames of silence

My church said silence is woman’s
And it is
Unforgiven Eve ever mute
Hears Adam propound our God’s grace
Freedom from sin
For all but her

My mind said silence is a dam
And it is
A clash between power’s pull
And the need for life unfettered
Power purchased
At others’ cost

My heart said silence is a hook
And it is
A weighty anchor never weighed
Lashed to rocks with storm waves lashing
Binds a soulboat
In a cruel bight


My momma feared the end of silence
End it must
How can the volcano erupt
Without ravaging all nearby
Driving away both
Guilty and Innocent

My daddy fought the end of silence
End it must
How can the safety be broken
Without danger and exposure
Tormenting both
Oppressor and Oppressed

My brothers resisted the end of silence
End it must
How can the party end its noise
Unless cries rise above laughter
Sobs heard by both
Joyful and Grieving

My sisters ignored the end of silence
End it must
How can the present be unwrapped
Except coal’s presence shows our worth
Shamed before both
Honored and Submitted

My church stood against the end of silence
End it must
How can the silence become speech
Without Eve’s shame touching Adam
Together both
Ashamed and Graced

My mind dreaded the end of silence
End it must
How can the dam fail without flood
Speech breaking propriety’s bounds
Truth helming both
“Blessed” and Wounded

My heart quailed from the end of silence
End it must
How can the soul’s anchor be weighed
Can a ravaged boat catch the wind
Weighed down by both
Hope and Despair


Don’t hate me Momma for breaking silence
Give me grace
The liquid gold which burned my bones
Scorched my lips my flesh before yours
Pressure bursting
Rupture burning

Don’t blame me Daddy for breaking silence
Give me grace
The knife’s descent was for your sins
It scored me deep before I fled
Accept justice
Embrace truth’s pain

Don’t fear me Brothers for breaking silence
Give me grace
As grief alone destroys the soul
So joy unshadowed makes us weak
Come weep with me
And then I’ll laugh

Don’t shun me Sisters for breaking silence
Give me grace
A gift in glitter’s unfulfilled
Unwrapping only showed the truth
They devalued
But we have worth

Don’t condemn me Church for breaking silence
Give me grace
Though I have anger so has God
Eve’s shame and grace mirrors Adam’s
Can Adam speak
Then why not Eve

Don’t critique me Mind for breaking silence
Give me grace
I did not choose this dam’s breaking
The walls you built to keep me safe
Delayed my pain
But could not heal

Don’t despise me Heart for breaking silence
Give me grace
I did not cut rent anchor’s chain
We take on water let us bail
Put soul to wind
We’ll try for shore


Don’t silence my daughters Momma dear
Let them speak
Release the pressure let them speak
Don’t build eruptions hear their voice
Speak golden coins
Not molten gold

Don’t silence my daughters Daddy feared
Let them speak
Don’t sacrifice another soul
To hide your sins and feel your knife
Seek truth’s safety
Instead of lie’s

Don’t silence my daughters Brothers mine
Let them speak
Let weeping’s shadow deepen joy
Grieve with them then they’ll laugh with you
There’s time for grief
As well as joy.

Don’t silence my daughters Sisters mute
Let them speak
In woman’s speech our worth’s displayed
Our gift is diamond never coal
Diamond is coal
Pressure proven

Don’t silence my daughters Church I love
Let them speak
Christ has given them commission
Tell my brothers I am risen
We’re clothed like you
Grace adorns shame

Don’t silence my daughters Mind so bright
Let them speak
Their words a river flowing free
Learning the boundaries as they grow
Life abounds in
River’s freedom

Don’t silence my daughters Heart of grace
Let them speak
Don’t rust their anchor near the rocks
Let their soulboats feel wind’s power
Fill their purpose
With Spirit’s life

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Songs of Sorrow

I stand weeping alone
’Midst their rejoicing songs.
Shouts of praise surround me,
Calling “Come and worship.”
But my heart will not lie,
Will not give empty words.
How can I sing of joy
From a heart of sorrow?

Oh! why is there renewed
In the hall of worship
The wall hostility —
One-way glass division?
Inside, light-mirrored glass
Reflects joy unto joy.
Outside, bright shining pane
Displays joy unto pain.

In light the joyous sing
And thus are seen by all
Proclaiming “Our God saves!”
In visible worship,
While in outer darkness
Grief’s unseen weeper cries
“Look upon my sorrow.”  —
Invisible worship.

Are the joyous more God’s
Children than those who mourn
That they may bring their songs
Into the family room?
Are mourners less God’s own
Than the joyful dancers
That their songs are homeless,
Broken voices busking?

Is there room for sorrow
In the house of worship?
While those with hearts of joy
Feast in the inner room,
The grief heavy-laden
Labor in pain outside.
Loneliness swaddles grief.
Bitterness, its manger.

Shall communion divide?
Where are the bitter herbs?
Is their place now removed
From the worship table?
Shall rejoicing hearts feast
In joyous company
While grieving hearts alone
Find no food for their souls?

The Psalter gave grief voice.
Deep knells for justice rang
Alongside joyful peals
In ancient temple poems:
“How long, oh Lord?” laments,
“Remember His deeds!” praise,
“I have sinned.” repentance,
“Declare His goodness!” odes.

What better place for grief
Than in the warmth of love?
What harder place to grieve
Than in the cold outside?
Let songs of sorrow rise
Within the worship space.
Let Christ enfleshed in Church
With keening Mary weep.



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