MW Cook

An illiterate scribe

Category: poems

A Few Lines on a Warm Afternoon

I am not just lying, stretched out under this tree in the warm afternoon of early autumn.
I am not just listening to the ever-unique chatterings of birds and squirrels who argue and flirt with each other in the branches.
I am not just breathing this air made fragrant with the warm decay of the shifting season.
I am not just watching the leaves as they lose their delicate grip to tumble down and rejoin the dust they sprung from.
I am not just drifting in and out of idle thoughts and half-dreams this sleepy afternoon.

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I just am.
And I don’t need a photo
or a sketch
or these words on a page to make it so.

Even so,
I write the words
and slip a leaf into the brim of my hat
as I slip off to my next class.

Richard Feynman on Everything

There are the rushing waves
mountains of molecules
each stupidly minding its own business
trillions apart
yet forming white surf in unison.

Ages on ages
before any eyes could see
year after year
thunderously pounding the shore as now.
For whom, for what?
On a dead planet
With no life to entertain.

Never at rest
Tortured by energy
wasted prodigiously by the sun
poured into space
A mite makes the sea roar.

Deep in the sea
all molecules repeat
the patterns on one another
till complex new ones are formed.
They makes others like themselves
and a new dance starts.

Growing in size and complexity
living things
masses of atoms
DNA, protein
dancing a pattern ever more intricate.

Out of the cradle
onto dry land
here is is
standing:
atoms with consciousness;
matter with curiosity.

Stands at the sea,
wonders at wondering: I
a universe of atoms
an atom in the universe.

– Richard Feynman, from his lecture, The Value of Science

Song of Myself – Walt Whitman

Excerpt from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself

In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less,
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.

I know I am solid and sound,
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.

I know I am deathless,
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter’s compass,
I know I shall not pass like a child’s carlacue cut with a burnt stick at night.

I know I am august,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,
I see that the elementary laws never apologize,
(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by, after all.)

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

My foothold is tenon’d and mortis’d in granite,
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.

Frost on my Window

Frost on my window
obscuring.
Fractals reaching,
yearning,
stretching without moving.

I cannot see beyond the
beautiful
holy
ice.

But that’s OK.
Sometimes beauty is better than clarity.
And to love is better than to understand.

Thank you for the frost on my window.
For the clouds covering my eyes.

Who Are the Music Makers?

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
– Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy – ‘Ode’
Full text here.

     Who are the music makers?

     Who are the dream dreamers?

     Do you want the job?

     It’s not an easy role. You are forced to wander alone by the cold, infinite sea. You will have to pitch a tent in the dark, sacred desert. Your dreams will give birth to Nineveh and Babel, and then you will find your prophecies tearing them down again. You will have to give up the world and be willing to have the world give up on you in return.

     Can you do it?

     Are you willing?

     There is much in store for you, should you take this heavy yoke.

     You will become a mover. A shaker.

With wonderful deathless ditties,
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.

     The path turns itself dark. And that makes the light of your music all the brighter.

     Is it worth it?

     The pain? The loneliness?

     Tell me this, instead.

     Is life worth the pain of living?

     Are children worth the pain of birth?

     Is gold worth the flame that makes it?

Innocence Lost

I used to stare at this painting every time I visited my artist friends in Peterborough. It’s the kind of painting that grabs by the throat with silky fingers and demands to be gazed at.

My wife must have noticed, because she secretly bought it for me this month.

Paintings used to confuse me. I can look at stories and film and draw meaning from them pretty naturally, but I couldn’t do that with paintings. Until one day I was asking my artist friend what the rules were.
“What rules?” she said.
“The rules in interpreting art. How do I know what the artist is trying to communicate? Do colours mean something? Shapes? Help me out here.” Can you sense my desperate need to have everything defined and quantified?
“No rules, silly. Don’t try to figure out what the artist was trying to say. What is the piece saying to you.
Sounds simple, eh? Probably something you already knew. But it changed everything for me. I could suddenly see life in an art form I hadn’t understood. I think that’s when I really fell in love with this one.

Go check out Needle and Nest Design. Buy something. Leave an encouraging comment. Pick up some inspiration for your own journey. I sure did. Love you, Ben and Mel.

I looked up at the sky
    for I was innocent and fearless
And the sky opened herself to me and showed me glorious things.
    Things of sunshine
    Things of green
    Things of life and light and lovelies uncountable.
And everything was bright and beautiful.
    I looked with the longing on a child, my scarlet hair flying in the wind.
    I drank with reckless abandon, caring not for the cliche.
    In my hunger.
    In my desire.
    In passion, pure and pleasured.
Oh, it was good.

I looked up at the sky
    feared.
For the sky had died.
    Grey.
    Dark.
    Cold.
Silent stony streams with flowed dryly beneath me.
    I tilted my head to the heavens, lips parted in desire for something loved and lost.
    Hair torn by unknown hands, dipped in oil I could not rinse.
My thirst abandoned me.
    and my hunger
    desire
    blah.

Twit. Twitter. Tweet.
    Red, flitting and flying about.
    It landed before me, upon the crooked finger of a branch clinging to life.
    I wanted to touch.
    I wanted to reach.
    But I remembered the taint upon my head.
Twit. Twitter. Tweet.
    It bore its own mark
    yet was beautiful still.
    Yet was beautiful still.
    Yet loved still.
Am I still lovely?
    (yes)
Am I still beautiful?
    (yes)
I am pale and thin. I am sick and stained. But do you still look upon me with desire?
    (for the good is greater than the taint)
    Yes?
    (and the root is purer than the branch)
    Yes?
    (and dare not say otherwise, bride)
I looked up again, the bird was full of love and taint together.
    May I touch your bird?
    (darling, it was for that reason i sent him)

Swords or Plowshares?

Doctrine!
Dogma!
Orthodoxy!
Good or bad, small or big, all depending on your point of view.
Or, perhaps more pointedly put, depending on your view of the point.
The point!
The point!
What is the point?
A statement usually uttered in the dark depths of despair, never really expecting an answer to reach that far down into Shadow’s lair.
But my cry is not hopeless or thoughtless or a cry for attention. I want the point, no matter it’s sharpness.
The greatest of men once called only a few things important, and maybe just one. So what is the one? What’s the point?
What is the true dogma?
What is the true doctrine?
Wherein lies that romantic orthodoxy?
Is it not to live life as Christ’s proxy?
Surely life as a proxy outweighs popular orthodoxy.

This insight just might tell me there’s no need to fight over who’s wrong or right in this plight.
For I say and confess that dogma is less than the over-all stress of Christ to clean the mess of this world and our souls.
So why should I complain when you say it is plain that Saviour’s campaign in his battle with pain was to sustain and maintain a healthy dogma?
For that’s a doctrine and my thoughts make another. And I’ve already established that doctrine is secondary.

Ah! But wait!
I suddenly fear a fight must ensue.
For your doctrine dictates your life.
And when your doctrine holds itself in its own high esteem the outcome borders obscene.
Ivory towers with puzzle doors, the residents within claiming to have food but will not open their gates except to those whose poor tongues can utter ‘Shibboleth’
Ivory towers stand in the land of famine, claiming to burst with true mana. But the gates are locked and the password is Shibboleth and most in that land cannot manage the post-alveolar fricative – SHHHHH.

When dogma preaches out that doctrine has the clout to show who is in or out of the kingdom of Christ, then your disciples will flout everyone who is without as they sit and tout their books and their preachings.
And those towers of ivory will forever be empty of everything good, except for the slaves and sermons and books and matrices.

So what do we do, who stand at the base of the beast and look within, after knowing that there is no food to be had?
We leave and find Him who feeds.
And what of the crowd, growing ever so loud, demanding to be let in so they can freely starve with the keyless gatekeepers? Must their lives become ash? Must the monks in the tower perish without the power they claim to wield over the elements?
Or must that tower be burned?

I have two objects before me. Both pregnant with power. In my one hand I have a plow, the likes of which can wound the earth so that it gives birth to those things that nourish and cure and enrich.
Shall I use it?
In my one hand I have a sword, which I may turn upon that tower, standing tall with all the pride and beauty of ancient Babel. This sword can chip and slash and bite and gnash away at the tower, so full of power, that mayhap it will crack and the monks will see the attack and realize they lack whatever it was they were searching for. And maybe they’d leave that tower of sin and begin to take part in the noble plowing.
A sword and a plow, which one ought I use now?
Can I hold them both here at once?

Keeping Your Options Open

A while ago a great poem was posted on one of my favorite blogs.  Here it is:

The small man
builds cages for everyone
he
knows.
While the sage,
who has to duck his head
when the moon is low,
keeps dropping keys all night long
for the
beautiful
rowdy
prisoners.
Basically, the poet is saying that small, insignificant people make it their business to disable and contain others.  Maybe they do this so others won’t notice how small and useless they are.  But the great man, the sage so large that he needs to duck when the moon is low, makes it his business to set these people free.  Nice thoughts, eh?
You know who is a great man?  Jesus.  So why, then, do people assume that follow him means a limiting of freedom?
We’ve all heard people say stuff like, “I wish I had had more fun before I became a Christian.”  Implying, of course, that being a Christian is no fun.  And people have reason to say that, don’t they?  They way many religious people talk, you get the impression that following Jesus is about refusing to do fun stuff.
But I think it’s not like that.  It seems to me that following Jesus actually opens your options.  Jesus frees you to do wild things.  Jesus freed Ruth to get a bunch of cash, head off to Pakistan with two little kids and throw the money and love at widows and orphans.  Jesus enables us to create and enjoy things in such a better light and for such a better purpose.  Jesus adds depth to all our relationships and fun.  Jesus frees me to be unconventional and counter-cultural as I try and figure out how to show him off in the way I live.  Jesus is the ultimate great sage, dropping keys that open the cages of every single problem we have created for ourselves.  Yay for Jesus!

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A Writer’s Prayer

Holy muse,
who puts creative sparks in every soul,
your words sustain like a cool water hole
in deserted places. The parchment scroll
alone is weak, empty, until you dole
living spirit to the one with the quill
who, in turn, is lifeless without the skill
thou giv’st to each according to your will.
O ye great muse, make me a Bezalel.

Thou source of all good, be pleased to ignite
the dry stick of my life. And then enlight
the dark places of my soul. And upright
the overturned in me, and turn to right
the crooked ways. Take my dry, broken pen
and use it and dance with it to open
the eyes that cannot see. And enlighten
the minds without thought, time and again.

The glory is thine and we have the joy
of worshipping thee as we ought. Employ
my words and mind to thy cause. And deploy
sacred help from above. Let me enjoy
thy enabling spirit. Make my mind free
to weave phrases and plots that honor thee,
and make all my words and pages agree
that thou and thou only hast the glory.

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One Basket

A wise stock broker told me just the other day
“If you wanna get cash there’s only one way.
Make yourself a diverse portfolio,
investing all over, that’s how to go.
It may sound odd, it may sound quite funny
but if you wanna make lots of money
never put all your eggs in one basket.

So I thought about this for a time and a while
then I asked him, “Why?” and he said with a smile,
“You never can know what will fail or fly.
Invest with a hundred, thirty might die
then seventy are left to give you gain
and thirty that died are just a small pain
’cause your eggs are in more than one basket.

So I again thought for a time and a while
then soon I realized, nodding with a smile,
this advice is good and it’s even true
for who can know what certain stocks may do?
“So,” I asked again, “what if you could tell
which stocks would do poor and which would do well?
Would I still need so many baskets?”

My friend didn’t pause for a moment’s reflection,
he quickly replied without hesitation,
“If you have the pow’r to see front and back
where would be plenty and where would be lack,
if betting was not a blind guess for you
and you knew what every stock would do
then you’ll put all your eggs in one basket.”

I reflected on this and thought for a moment
and thought of the old, old tale of atonement.
I remembered it in the Book I read
about him who lived though once he was dead
and how he took care of those who did trust
in his strength. Though endure for a while they must
live one in a lion’s den, one in a basket.

I smiled again when I thought of the story
how some forsook all for his love and glory
and underwent some drastic life changes
and were written in history’s pages.
Some we called fools for they all died at last
because to only one thing did they clasp
they put all their eggs in one basket.

They gave up their whole lives, their dreams and joys and pains,
they lived for their Lord in drought, famine and rains.
They cut out the sin and put on the new
just like they had been commanded to do.
Because they heard a wonderful story
that Christ would win with pleasurable glory,
so they put all their eggs in one basket.

No one has told me what is the front from the back.
I do not know of future plenty or lack.
But one thing I know, and here I hold dear,
that whatever happens, Christ will be near,
and his might will win when night turns to day
and all will prosper who walk in his way.
So I place all my eggs in his basket.