Seeing pictures of people playing golf in the foreground, with the plumes of smoke from the erupting Hawaiian volcano in the background, makes me want to scream, "Get out of there!" Sure, they should be safe. But there were people in 1980 who went camping near the spewing Mt. St. Helens volcano thinking that they'd be safe. But they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, as the mountain exploded sideways, which no one anticipated.
I'm also thinking about the first case of urban ebola. That's a bad, bad sign. But at least the actions being taken have been swift.
Still, it's the kind of news nugget that makes me wonder if at some point, we'll look back and say, "We were so upset about the latest Trump debacle that we didn't see ____________." Readers of this blog know that I've spent time preparing/thinking about the wrong apocalypse. I scanned the horizon for mushroom clouds, not seeing the oceans steadily warming and rising.
Of course, history often works in circles, not straight lines. Perhaps all that time scanning the horizon for mushroom clouds are still ahead: I feel fretful about Iran and Israel and North Korea.
In the meantime, I do the work that must be done: teacher observations, annual reviews, buying food for both school and home, paying bills, making dinner, washing dishes, washing clothes--these tasks too run in circles, making me feel that I'm never done.
My creative work, too, feels circular, not linear. I return to the same themes, the same ideas, but execute them in different ways. I've been writing my Jesus in the world poems for over 20 years now. At first it seemed scary and subversive to imagine Jesus moving in the modern world. Now I worry that I've worked the theme to death and have nothing new to say--and then a new idea begins to poke at the edges of my brain.
Being around high school students this week took me back to one of my Jesus in the world poems, my series that attempts to answer that old Sunday School question of how the world would react if Jesus returned again and what would Jesus do and how would we recognize him?
I wrote this poem after reading a biography of Kurt Cobain, of Nirvana fame. Hard to believe how long it's been since Cobain died, so long since that music which seemed to split the world open. I remember a few details from that book, chief amongst them that Cobain often played a guitar that was out of tune, a guitar that didn't have enough strings. Did he not know how to tune the guitar? Did the missing string habit come from his poverty days and he'd gotten used to playing the guitar that way? The book didn't have the answer.
Chiron Review published it years ago. I think it still holds up.
If Jesus came to your high school,
he'd be that boy with the untuned guitar,
which most days was missing a string.
Could he not afford a packet of guitar strings?
Did he not know how to tune the thing?
Hadn't he heard of an electronic tuner?
Jesus would smile that half smile and keep playing,
but offer no answers.
If Jesus came to your high school,
he'd hang out with the strange and demented.
He'd sneak smokes with the drug addled.
He'd join Chorus, where the otherworldly
quality of his voice wouldn’t quite blend.
He'd play flute in Band.
He'd spend his lunch hour in the library, reading and reshelving.
You would hear his songs echoing
in your head, down the hallways, across the years.
They'd shimmer at you and just when you thought you grasped
their meaning, your analytical processes would collapse.
Instead, you write strange poems
to delight your children who draw mystical
pictures to illustrate your poems inspired
by Jesus, who sang the songs of angels,
that year he came to your high school.
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