slow motion

we were not often angry
not the sort that that we saw
in the pictures with dust and
drywall tumbling past in slow
motion heavy with merit
and indignation nor were
we the sort that threw a vase
at the wall with a righteous
contempt for all things false and
pretentious for after all
we lived in the false too long
to know when we were ever
angry except when we were
stabbed by the raw bitterness
of words spoken in truth but
masked in jest and we called it
unkind and called it unmeant
because if we spoke truly
then we were always angry

Image: The Peacemaker, 1882, Edwin Hughes 

you’re somebody else

I saw the part of you
That only when you’re older you will see too
You will see too
I held the better cards
But every stroke of luck has got a bleed through
It’s got a bleed through
You held the balance of the time
That only blindly I could read you
But I could read you
It’s like you told me
Go forward slowly
It’s not a race to the end

Well you look like yourself
But you’re somebody else
Only it ain’t on the surface
Well you talk like yourself
No, I hear someone else though
Now you’re making me nervous

You were the better part
Of every bit of beating heart that I had
Whatever I had
I finally sat alone
Pitch black flesh and bone
Couldn’t believe that you were gone

Well you look like yourself
But you’re somebody else
Only it ain’t on the surface
Well you talk like yourself
No, I hear someone else though
Now you’re making me nervous

Well you look like yourself
But you’re somebody else
Only it ain’t on the surface
Well you talk like yourself
No, I hear someone else though
Now you’re making me nervous

Where are we?
Where are we?

Well you look like yourself
But you’re somebody else
Only it ain’t on the surface
Well you talk like yourself
No, I hear someone else though
Now you’re making me nervous

Well you look like yourself
But you’re somebody else
Only it ain’t on the surface
Well you talk like yourself
No, I hear someone else though
Now you’re making me nervous

I saw the part of you that only when you’re older
You will see too, you will see too

“you’re somebody else” by flora cash

(a.k.a. a study in seeing)

2019 Books: February & March

Is it too late to throw in the towel? Let’s be honest: I will not read 100 books this year. No sirree, not unless I rocket through three books a week during the summer. I only read two books in February and made up for it by finagling ten in March. But at some point, you stop enjoying the reading because you’re just trying to finish. Here’s the list:

The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson
A surprising new addition near the end felt a bit deus-ex-machina, but the worldbuilding and breakneck pace is exactly why I don’t read series-in-progress…how can I wait more than a year for the next one to come out?

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
First time reading this one meant two discoveries: 1) I don’t like political satire, and 2) Swift influenced the English language and literature scene in astonishing ways. I can’t really call anyone ‘yahoos’ anymore without wincing. If I use it on you, I meant it.

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
The award-winning third book in his YA trilogy, and it deserved all the awards. Stunning, unflinching, and relentless. Ness’s strength lies in the way he organically develops complex and heart-wrenching crossroads–and then never lets the story avoid the most difficult decisions or the most devastating consequences.

Peace Like A River by Leif Enger
Possibly my favorite read of the year. Narrating in the vein of Scout Finch, the writing itself is some of the most beautiful I have tasted in a long time. This book earned laughs, tears, and a surprising amount of soul-wrestling.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
A non-fiction book, but a weighty one that is worth a mention. It was a difficult and thought-provoking read that immerses you into his story without ever forgetting your place outside of it.

Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris*
I read this years ago during a deep dive into all things YA. This was a quick re-read in prep for the second in the duology, and it reminded me that this is classic (and unexceptional) YA. Girl has a happy life, meets devastating guy, swoons and stars ensue, and all hell breaks loose. Or, in this case, has a countdown to it.

Unbreakable by Elizabeth Norris
The story made me curious enough to read part two, but little else. It was decent and unremarkable and frequently frustrating. I’m glad I finished it, but I really don’t care.

Broken Symmetry by Dan Rix*
Digging into the mental YA archives made me return to this one. The story is unexceptionally written and has some atrocious B-plot elements, but for various reasons I’ve returned to it multiple times (maybe because I skip whole swaths of the book now). There are some gripping concepts and the sci-fi element is fascinating, which makes it all the more frustrating for involving paper doll characters and stupid decisions.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Want a gut-punch unlike any you’ve felt before? Read this one, where the deep South and the black experience and spiritualism and broken people continuing in broken paths all converge. Brief, gripping, and memorable.

1984 by George Orwell
Yet another classic I read for the first time, and one that did not disappoint. The legacy of this book is so ingrained in our culture that the original story surprised me with its deep philosophy, honest and arresting characters, and surprisingly tense pacing. If you’ve ever used the words “Big Brother” in conversation, take the time to read what started it all.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling
Welcome to the book where all the things hit all the fans. I blew through this one, which was refreshingly light in the angst department and devastatingly dark in the plot development one. Book Seven cannot come quickly enough.

The Shadowglass by Rin Chupeco
The final book in The Bone Witch trilogy, and one I intend to read again. Partly due to its enticing and brilliant worldbuilding, and partly since a dual timeline throughout the trilogy confused and muddled the foreshadowing that was woven through it.

What did you read this month?

We Know Better

Sometimes the weight of what I want from the Lord feels too large even for Him, as if what causes my knees to buckle and my shoulders to bend is too great a thing for Him to hold. I should trim my prayers and excise my requests. What have I for miracles? I know better.

So I have stopped shouting for them. Removed them from my voice, that another might not know where in my soul it dwelt. Softened the prayers to whispers, though perhaps He might still hear. And, one day, I lay them aside. I read the road signs and the investment prospectus. I look at the medical charts and transcripts and there is new gray hair each morning. Along with new morning mercies, for the Bible told me so. I pray for humor and laugh with Sarah. I pray for wisdom and echo Zechariah. I pray for safety and board the ship for Tarshish. For how could this be?

What audacity it must be to plead for such a thing! What terrible grief it must be to never hold it! What unending, unbearable discouragement I take upon myself, that I choose to hope so deep and wide. May I never hope so greatly as to be disappointed. May I never pray so deeply as to be lost.

Surely the Lord knows the desperation of unvoiced hope. Surely He would bring it if He could. Surely He would not prod us to ask of Him such things as we have never seen. Surely He would not make us foolish, flushed with barefaced bravery, daring to ask for what we have not held. Surely He would not disappoint us, so surely He would not command us to ask for what He will not give.

Surely He would never expose the great burden of wanting that weighs our steps and makes us weary on the journey. Surely He would never expose Himself as the giver and withholder of the most terrible of miracles. Surely He would never ask us to hope in such hopeless times. Surely we must simply watch our feet in a world of fog, for we know there are no horizons to see. Surely we are wise to walk like escaped convicts, hearing our sins rattle behind us like chains, these collected griefs that we know we will never lose and always deserve.

Surely we should settle for lesser hopes, that we may never be lost and never resent Him. Surely we should embrace the lesser miracles, that we may never hope too much and never ask if He can hold this, too. Surely we should assume that the great and beautiful remaking of the world is merely a story of the far country, for there is nothing for us here to taste and see. Surely we should assume that these whispers of rolled-away stones and shining faces belonged to other generations. What have we for miracles? We know better.

Into Jordan

Drown me, Father, drown me, too
I shelter pride, hungry and sly,
but my humility smiles; I am
waiting for all eyes to see me and
laud this pity called graciousness.

Drown me, Father, drown me, too
My greedy hands fumble blindly
between need and want,
and I give that I may ask;
my gifts have rules for opening.

Drown me, Father, drown me, too
I am possessed by envy, but
very good at concealing the hunger
of my own resentment; I call it
attention to detail.

Drown me, Father, drown me, too
I am not angry, just a little bitter,
and this poisoned kindness
will not kill anyone; we all know
that the truth hurts sometimes.

Drown me, Father, drown me, too
I cannot tell the difference
between love and lust, for all
the flowers rot eventually; I thought
next time I would feel better.

Drown me, Father, drown me, too
I crave in excess and pretend
self-restraint, but everyone
needs at least one day off;
all things in moderation, you know.

Drown me, Father, drown me, too
I am lifeless with complacency,
and even my passion is dead
with sloth; I’ll awaken it with
just a little more time alone.

Drown me, Father, drown me, too
I know my faults and deadly sins,
and perhaps my little goodness is
all pretend; but if I go under
Jordan’s flow, will You leave nothing
to me?

I’ve forgotten that is what
You promised; only You in the end.
So drown me to death, Father.
Drown me, too.

First published in the 2018 edition of Thin Space, Crux.

These Days

These are the days when I hate the city.
The woman walking down the street
Red hat, green scarf, fake nails
Singing to her phone
Singing to herself
Singing to music no one else hears
She stops only to yell at a car as it passes her by
Yells and yells as if it is her teenage son
Who stole this creaking gray thing with missing hubcaps
The driver rolls down his window
And curses back, though she no longer cares

These are the days when I hate the city
The fire trucks screeching past:
Chief Officer. Engine. Engine.
The horns never stop; a long, steady blare
Trying to deter the woman scurrying across
Determined to cross while the space is clear
She has the walk sign, after all
The cars pull aside, the rescuers scream through
And a haze is left behind, reminding us that, perhaps,
Somewhere in the city, something is burning

These are the days when I hate the city
The light turns green and a car waits to turn
But here, again, is a siren’s dying wail
Far behind his screaming brothers
An ambulance careens toward us
The cars pull aside, he buckets through the fumes
And before there is a breath of silence
A car honks, impatient to move on

These are the days when I hate the city
The coffee shop is full
Five in wait, one highboy free
A discarded lid and water across the top
I wipe it off, throw it away, move to the line
The last man offers me a place ahead of him
Proceeds to tell me things I do not wish to hear
Learns my name when the barista asks

These are the days when I hate the city
A man curses me as I pass
Opens the door for the next customer
Tries to come in, and the barista yells at him
She already gave him water
But he threw it on the floor
His friend bought a drink and gets to stay inside

These are the days when I hate the city
The homeless man is still asking, still cursing
He finds nothing and his friend is still inside
So he faces us and pees on the glass
The barista hands out gift cards to those in line
Sorry for the inconvenience, please come again

These are the days when I hate the city
The sign is wrong and the train is late
Standing on the platform, counting the minutes
Next to me, a woman’s words are blue and angry
The only difference between us is she said it aloud

These are the days when I hate the city
There are places to go, people to see
I am fighting against the relentless clock
A training in recklessness in this race to be elsewhere

These are the days when I hate the city
Head up, eyes in constant ricochet
Alert for the threat that could be anyone

These are the days when I hate the city
When it teaches me to hate the world

These are the days when I hate the city

2019 Books: January

If I’m going to read 100 books in a year, I need to finish approximately two books a week (or nine books a month). Whew. I’m not certain how to do that and still read across genres and years. I only read five books this month, and I’m going to call that an accomplishment…even if it already puts me behind on the year. Sigh.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catheryn Valente

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Recommended this month: all of them? I hit the cream of the crop with these. Catheryn Valente wrote a stunning MG read that was completely whimsical without losing its ability to be profound. I have devoured Brandon Sanderson’s books (this is #2 in the Wax & Wayne series, set in the Mistborn/Cosmere universe) because of the gripping action, laugh-out-loud hilarity, intricate fantasy setting, and stunningly deep (and deeply consequential) moral code. Patrick Ness’s books were #1 and #2 in his award-winning Chaos Walking trilogy, and for a science-fiction YA novel, he never provides an easy escape from tragedy and the consequences of war. Lastly, Khaled Hosseini spun out multiple life-stories about brothers and sisters, countries and homes, mothers and fathers, those who care for others, and those who leave others behind–all in tender and careful prose. Read them all. Please.

Joining the Body (01.13.2019)

Today, I joined the church.

No, I am part of the Church. Today, I joined the local church. Today I stood before them and proclaimed that I am a member of this body of Christ. Today I stood within the body and knew in my soul the reverberation of Christ: this is my body.

The richness of what it means to participate and partake continues to grow; the seeds sown and resown continue to bear fledgling new branches. There are words I speak differently, words I hear differently, and a Word that I receive differently.

This is my body, which is given for you.

Church membership is not new to me, but neither is it perfunctory. It is not a box to check, not a verification of where I make my home, not a certification of my piety.

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.

It is been a way that I sit down, plug in, stand up, pour out, buckle down; a way in which I orient my life. This is my church, where I serve, where I give, where I commit my life. I have placed myself under the leadership, under the discipline, under the life-giving Word poured out in this place.

Do this in remembrance of me.

I know how to give. How to tithe my time and tithe my money and how to volunteer and where the supplies closet is when the 2-year-olds run out of veggie straws. But I do not know how to receive.

Take, eat; this is my body.

I do not know how to take this spectrum of life in which I live and draw it into the church. Church is where I give and where I receive the blessing of the Word. It has not been where I bring the troubles of my soul to be cared and corrected and comforted.

This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

That I can say both of these things is the reflection of a fractured theology that is still being healed. Is not the blessing of the Word also the comfort of my soul? Is not the teaching of the Word also the correction of my path? Is not the receiving of the Sacraments also the sustenance of my life?

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

I have sat in dark wooden pews and craved the teaching of the Word, clutching it to my soul for the troubles of the season. I have wrestled and wept in the stained-glass light, grateful for the closed-eyes tradition of prayer. I have leaked my soul with tears and tremblings because here is a thin place, here is where we sing and stutter of the Lord and find our souls in Him.

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.

Now I am standing before the body and declaring myself to be rooted in her. Now I have planted myself here, and I pray that the fruit I bear gives life. But now I am standing and learning to hold out my hands to receive. Hands to receive correction when my words are harsh and my decisions destructive. Hands to be held when the hurt is breathtaking and the losses too great to bear. Now I place my body within the body of Christ, His bride, made and remade, planted and pruned, until the final day.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

I will never arrive at the perfect body. There are elbows and daggers and whispers in this place, too. But there is life and fruit and the living Word. And I am here, by adoption and declaration, and I am growing here, learning to give and receive. For today, I stood and rejoiced at my place within the bride and body. Today, I knew in my soul the reverberation of Christ: this is my body.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!

References: Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24; John 6:27; Matthew 26:26; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:26; John 6:35-36; John 6:37; Psalm 34:8.

2018 Books: At Year’s End

65 books. 40 authors. 3 rereads. 36 standalone books. 29 series-starters or sequels. 25 new-to-me authors. Oldest book: circa 1200. Newest book: October 2018. Most popular author: Neil Gaiman.

Below is the list, alphabetically. * is a reread. † is a noted read (see below).

  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard
  • The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill†
  • The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley
  • Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley
  • Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson
  • Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson
  • To Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
  • Make Me by Lee Child*
  • The Midnight Line by Lee Child
  • The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco
  • The Girl Who Stayed by Tanya Anne Crosby
  • Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo†
  • Silence by Shūsaku Endō
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman (2011 edition)†
  • The Graveyard Book, Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman et al. (graphic novelization by P. Craig Russell)
  • The Graveyard Book, Vol. 2 by Neil Gaiman et al. (graphic novelization by P. Craig Russell)
  • The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman et al. (graphic novel)
  • The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman et al. (graphic novel)
  • The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman et al. (graphic novel)
  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber
  • Legendary by Stephanie Garber
  • Arabella by Georgette Heyer
  • Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer
  • The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
  • These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer
  • Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
  • MaraDaughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw*
  • Cress by Marissa Meyer
  • Winter by Marissa Meyer
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness*
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund
  • For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
  • On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
  • Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
  • The Dire King by William Ritter
  • Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
  • The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
  • Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers
  • Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Whose Body by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • The Archived by Victoria Schwab
  • The Unbound by Victoria Schwab
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck†
  • All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Prose Edda by Snorre Sturluson
  • Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
  • Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor
  • Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor
  • The 13 Clocks by James Thurber
  • Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak†

The daggered reads are just those: the ones that stick with you. Perhaps the story was striking and unexpected. Perhaps the book was hard to shake, even if it tasted bitter in your mouth. Perhaps the book opened up something dormant in you, both the dangerous and the cathartic.

I didn’t reach 100 books this year. But I was saturated in literature and have lived with words all year long. While I’d still like to hit that lofty goal, the point is to taste the richness of what is written: to identify the bitter and the sweet, to sort through what clogs the brain and what clears the soul. For better and for worse, that has happened. Cheers!

I am

I am not Simeon,
waiting for the consolation of Israel,
cradling the Giver of life and death,
saying farewell with clear eyes, and
witnessing the embodiment of that for which was hoped.

No, I am Moses,
fleeing from shame and aggression,
hesitating before an incendiary presence,
stuttering over personal weaknesses, and
striking with rage rather than wait one more time.

I am not the Roman centurion,
commanding men upon men,
recognizing the stature of divine authority,
confessing to personal unworthiness, and
placing fixed trust so another might be healed.

No, I am the bleeding woman,
sneaking through these clamoring crowds,
pressing close for just one touch,
coming with a little faith and a hesitant hand, and
fearing yet more shame for what has been done.

I am not Abram,
leaving both home and ancestral country,
climbing in faith the mountain of sacrifice,
offering up the son of promise, and
trusting that this, too, would be kept by the Lord.

No, I am Jacob,
stealing a blessing with goatskin hands,
fleeing wrath from self-sown deception,
fearing for the safety of an embattled family, and
sending peace offerings of dread to stay another’s hand.

I am not Anna,
worshiping the One who allows there to be widows,
praying that the Lord might be known in glory,
weeping in tears of gladness, and
perceiving with fulfilled joy the Redeemer of Jerusalem.

No, I am Zechariah,
serving the Lord on the appointed day,
listening in fear of promise and redemption,
trembling and troubled by heavenly proclamation, and
losing speech by consequence of intimate disbelief.

I am not John,
seeing within exile the enthroned Lord,
bearing faithful witness to grace and truth,
singing with the saints before the throne, and
awaiting redemption to make all things new.

No, I am Jonah,
sneaking away from truth and trouble,
pouting under the nearest tree,
waiting for the destruction of the Lord, and
pining for judgment to give this unrest its meaning.

I am not Mary,
receiving the gift with honest fear,
pondering the redemption of human birth,
proclaiming the goodness of God from a rejoicing heart, and
saying do unto me, that the Word may become flesh.

No, I am Eve,
walking with man in God-breathed Eden,
accepting falsehoods from hissing lips,
grasping that which was never man’s to hold, and
choosing self and sin for the generations to come.

I am not,
turning away in the face of soul-searing truth,
faltering before commands that I do not keep,
stumbling in sin along my own-made paths, and
asking yet again for new-made mercies.

For I am not,
but I am His.

And He is the Son of the Father,
coming in Word and Truth and flesh,
giving Himself for the life of the world,
restoring trembling sinners in new-made bodies, and
promising His life for those who enter the waters of His death.