Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spiritual Insights--and Poems!--at the Airport

Sunday's post of a few weeks ago put me in mind of poems I've written, poems that explore the intersections of air travel, bread, and spirituality.  It's not necessarily a path that many poets explore. I refer to Maundy Thursday, after all.  Who even knows that festival anymore?

Still, I send these odd poems out, and they find a home.  This one was published in Florida English.

Today is Maundy Thursday, so it's also a good day to post this poem.  And I got the good news last night that my best friend who has esophageal cancer was able to eat a regular meal last night.  Between tumors and nausea, she hasn't been eating much at all this year.  This poem reminds me of her, of my trip to visit her, of that long afternoon in the airport.

Perhaps it's time to think about putting together a new chapbook or full-length manuscript.  Maybe it's time for a book that's more overtly spiritual.  Yesterday I got my copy of The Nearest Poem Anthology, where my poem "Heaven on Earth" appears.  That poem is a favorite of so many people.  Maybe it's pointing me in a direction I should follow.

In the meantime, here's the poem.  I wrote it when my flight was delayed by hours and hours on Maundy Thursday at the Atlanta airport.  As I observed the airport and thought about the ancient holiday and my home church, the poem practically wrote itself.

Maundy Thursday at Hartsfield

 We long for Celestial food, or at least to leave our earthbound
selves behind, but it is not to be. The airport shuts
down as late thunderstorms sweep across the south.
I resign myself to spending Maundy Thursday in the airport.

One of a minority who even knows the meaning of Maundy,
I roam restlessly. I cannot even approximate
a Last Supper—the only food to be had is fast
and disgusting. I think of that distant
Passover, the Last Supper that transformed
us into a Eucharistic people.

A distant outpost of a vast empire, teeming
with a variety of humans, all hurrying
and keeping our heads down: Jerusalem or the modern
airport? I watch my fellow humans, notice
the hunger in their faces, their haunted feet,
so in need of love and water.

I watch Spring Breakers and athletes and moms
and gnarled elders and unattached children, all racing
through their earthly days, hurtling through time,
crossing continents, without any rituals to ground
them. I think of Christ’s radical
agenda: homelessness, care, and listening,
ignoring rules that made no sense,
making scarce resources stretch,
food eaten on the run, a community hunted
by their own and by the alien government.
I miss my own church, by now gathered in a dark
sanctuary, participating in ancient rituals
we don’t fully understand, looking for that thin
place between the sacred and the every day.

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