Monday, August 31, 2009

Last Night by the Sea

LL in Long Island

"Can we go see the stars on the beach?" she asks.

It is ten o'clock at night, past her bedtime. I have never seen the stars and moon over the ocean. I understand her desire. We go.

The beach is empty. Moon is soft in a black sky. Stars, we see stars. And the sand, beneath this street lamp, looks like moon dust. My Eldest leans into me, smoothes my hair. "Can I have the camera?"

She photographs the moon. Moon dust beach. And me, back to the land, face to the sea.

This, this is a beautiful way to spend our final night on Long Island. Moon, stars, sand, and a young girl longing to take it home in some small way. I understand her desire.

moon beach

LL by the Sea, photo by Sara. Used with permission. Moon over Beach photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Finding Mine in Yours

At the Door

Art engenders art. Or it can... if it has been deep and true... opened itself, invited, "take me."

Says Lewis Hyde in his chapter on Whitman, "A work of art that enters us to feed the soul offers to initiate in us the process of the gifted self which some antecedent gift initiated in the poet. Reading the work, we feel gifted for a while, and to the degree that we are able, we respond by creating a new work (not art perhaps, but with the artist's work at hand we suddenly find we can make sense of our own experience). The greatest art offers us images by which to imagine our lives."

That is what Ann's art did for me. "Come in," her words invited. I went inside, put my hands against the walls, lay on the floor and stared at the ceiling. Quieted there, I remembered my own discoveries, made while writing God in the Yard...

I stand as a bridge between perceived gaps. I learned this as a young child of divorce, watching dad throw a mop across the kitchen floor, shout at mom and leave... and she fuming... and me standing by, wide-eyed, shaking. Hold on, I learned. Hold on tight. See what happened when you fell asleep? The world as you knew it crumbled. Child, do not sleep. Stand. Stand as a bridge. Hold the world together, even if it breaks you.

This discovery reemerged while I lay there, motionless, in Ann's words. She had said, "this is the reason why you never leave home." And her words worked themselves into a poem, as I sat beside the pool watching my girls. Art engendered art...


Why do we not
leave home?
Is it really for fear
of what lies
beyond, or rather
for fear that the
roof will abscond
with the doors
and the shutters
we've always known.
And who would they
blame if it happened
just so? If the whole
curtained place simply
picked up its stakes,
disappeared on the wind
in our absence. What
are we really afraid
of? Why do we not
leave home?

I think this is a fitting ending for my house poems. You'll be writing about the closet this week, and I look forward to your offerings. I look forward to finding myself in you.

Girl at the Door photo, by L.L. Barkat. Hyde quote is from Chapter 9.

High Calling Blogs The Gift: Surprise

Beauty is Way to Play, Not Compete at High Calling Blogs
Divide Wisdom, MT by Dave
Quick Clips from the Slippery Issue of Geez magazine
I Am [color] series at Love Notes to Yahweh
I do in sickness by Fred Sprinkle
The other girl by Fred Sprinkle
On nights like this by Milton Brasher-Cunningham
Psalm 66: Black Water and Crimson by Richard j
Justice Exposed by Cindy Hanson
Magical Realms by Cindy Hanson
Skeletons in the Closet by Laura
Creative Writing Challenge Justice Edition at Bible Dude
Renewed by Nancy Kourmoulis
t h e . c l o s e t by nancy
spring cleaning by kelly
something less than purple by bkmackenzie
routine is good by redorgray
Closet by Yvette Massey
Testimony (in the closet) by Glynn Young
I am a rag doll by Claire
Fragrance by Monica Sharman
Comfort in the Rough by Monica Sharman
A short review of Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach by Byron Borger
Eve’s Second Garden by Marcus Goodyear
Superman by John Poch
Thanks for waiting by Jim Schmotzer
Teachable Moments by James C. Schaap
Back Porch Refuge and Basement Closet Pirates by deb

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Found in the Closet

Mary Claire 5


I found you
tucked between
black pinstripe
and woolen

plaid. One strap
already slipped
from the white
plastic hanger

as if you knew
I would reach
through any minute
now, shake red

silk free of darkness,
slide you over my
shoulders, let your
sweet cherry bow rest

beneath my breast.
I remember now, you
used to belong to
petite Asian friend

of my sister. Did she
have a baby doll face
and what was the cut
of her hair? What would

she think if she saw
you now, making silver
headed church women
whisper and stare?

Why yes, this coming week we are digging in our closets for whatever poems me might find there. Please post your offerings by Thursday, August 27, for links and possible feature at High Calling Blogs. As usual, leave your link here in the comment box so I can easily find you.

Now, about my own closet poem. I wrote it because I was thinking how surprising it is to have something within and not know it, or not remember. That's how I feel about the art I'm finding inside. Where in the world did it come from? It surprises and delights me, like the red dress in my closet (which, by the way, I did wear to church on Sunday and received many compliments).

Mary Claire in soft pastel, art and photo by L.L. Barkat.

High Calling Blogs That Girl (Not the Other One)
Jim’s Concrete Patches
Kelly’s Grandpa’s Deck
Fred’s That Girl
Cindy’s Living Beyond My Wasteland and Wishes on Fire
Monica’s Homesick
Claire’s Really?
A Simple Country Girl’s Some Porches Connect
Lorrie’s Sword
Mom2Six’s Swing
Claire’s I Am a Rag Doll
Liz’s Rooms Outdoors
LL’s When Morning Comes, Today, and Girl (scroll down to comment 33 or so)
Linda’s Porch
Lance’s Porch Weather
Marcus’s musings Think Like a Poet and a Scientist
Glynn’s Found by the Pool
Jane’s Conversion
Yvette's Dancer

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Turning Down Christianity Today

Commercial Times Square

It is tempting to commercialize one's art, since the need for a paycheck and reputation-development are real.

But if the most beautiful, powerful things we produce are indeed a gift, as Lewis Hyde notes in The Gift, then we may need to occasionally turn down an opportunity to sell, if it means debasement of the work.

Which brings us to our story. Almost two years ago I got a very exciting email from an awesome editor at Christianity Today. "We want the article," it said. "Can you cut the piece to 1300 words?" I'm not a prima donna (much) about my writing, but I knew that to say yes to this request would mean killing the spirit of the article, excising its most beautiful parts.

Indeed, when the editor sent back a potential draft to show me how we could make it work, the beauty was gone. This was not about the editor's skill; it was about the size of the box. The beauty had to go.

Let me tell you, it was not easy to say, "I can't sell it." I needed that sale, or so it seemed. My book was about to come out. It was the first time CT had offered to buy from me. I couldn't see into the future and know there would be another CT opportunity (there was, just a few months later).

At present, the piece has made it through several approval rounds at another magazine. Who knows if they will buy it. Or the next magazine, or the next. It can take time to find a home for beauty. And if we never do, at least it is still beauty and has found a home in us.

Commercial Times Square photo by L.L. Barkat. Post is for Chapter 8 of Hyde's The Gift.

High Calling Blogs The Gift: Work as Art
Laura's Priceless

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Poet as Minor Pastor

Pastor as Minor Poet

I wanted to be a pastor. Seventeen years old, word-loving, soul-loving. It seemed the thing. So I declared a Bible major.

That was before I considered what it would take, where the openings would be. Before I sat in classes as a woman among men. It occurred to me one day... this might be an uphill journey I wasn't willing to take.

So I declared an English major.

It was a good decision. I don't say this to make a statement about women in the ministry. I say this because I truly believe I've found my sweet spot, as a prose-poet... and even... dare I claim it... as a poet-poet.

In The Pastor As Minor Poet, M. Craig Barnes suggests the image of pastor as poet...

"Someone has to teach the people how to dream."

"It takes a poet to find that presence beneath the layers of strategy for coping with the feeling of its absence."

"The minor poet knows these people. He or she knows the unique struggles, confusions, and yearnings they carry around in their hearts because they are perceived not as people in general but as the collection of individuals who have made their way into the heart of the pastor."

At one point he quotes Barbara Brown Taylor, who says, "The parts of the Christian story that had drawn me into the Church were not the believing parts but the beholding parts." And I found myself scribbling in the margin... my job, then, is first to see, then to describe and say, 'Behold.'

It was in that moment that I thought... I am reading a book about being a pastor-poet. Why does this stir so deeply? Is it not because I am the inverse? I am the poet as minor pastor. And it is exactly who I want to be.


Come rest
a while in the red
rocker, tell your
cares to me. Day
is still young, wisteria
hangs purple from the
wainscot porch roof,
dew poised on its turning
leaf. Drink a shivering
glass of sweet tea, suck
lemon on your way
to settled sugar endings.
Rock your cares into
my floorboards. Come,
rest a while with me.

Poetry prompt: let's go out to the porch (or the deck, or the yard if you don't have a porch... or, maybe you write about a porch from the past or the one you dream of having). Please post your offering by Thursday, August 20, for possible feature and definite links at High Calling Blogs. Leave your link here in the comment box so I don't miss you (I'm a little busy these days and I do miss things.)

Pastor as Minor Poet photo, by L.L. Barkat. Thanks Scot, for bringing me to this beautiful book.

Thanks to Wendy for this lovely review... "I don't think I could have chosen a more appropriate book to begin with during my reading time at camp. Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places, by L.L. Barkat, was a breath of fresh air to my soul..." continue reading

Monica’s Shoe Rack
Joelle’s Asphalt Halls
A Simple Country Girl’s Hall
Mom2Six’s Connecting
Lance’s Altered Jesus
Liz’s The Hallway
Yvette’s Dark and Dank
Heather’s Hallways
Amber’s A Hall Gathering
nAncY’s The Hall
Jim’s Sanctuary of Nothing
Ann’s Read the Writing on the Wall
Deb’s Great Hall Presents
Emily's Hall Hell Redemption
Laura's Down the Hall
Wendy's At the Corner of Now and Then

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ducks in a Row

sis button 2love notes buttonGreen Inventions icon

I was so impressed by their button design, I had to finally get my own ducks in a row.

You can pick up my little blogo-ducks (blog buttons) in the sidebars of their respective blogs...

Seedlings in Stone (Um, if you already picked one up, I updated the design about an hour ago and deleted the old new button. :) I promise not to fiddle with it anymore.)

Love Notes to Yahweh

Green Inventions Central

Blog Button designs by L.L. Barkat.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Nothing in Return

Rain on leaf

I was going to write about the scintillating topic of usury, which, simply defined, is about asking for a return on one's money or gifts.

Then I got distracted and went for a walk. It was end-of-day. Mist hung thick after rain. Sweet smells of earth, water, and lilies drifted. My littlest child held a closed black umbrella, and was twirling it by its faux maple handle. "See what I can do?" she asked. Twirling, twirling.

Up ahead, my oldest girl leaned into her daddy's side. Long dark braids swinging, she looked the child she barely is any more. Sky ached pale yellow, pushing back pearl-grey. Pink clouds puffed, moved slow. We passed by the white pines. Needles trembled into our path, sprung with crystals upon crystals capturing day's last light.

I noted the ferns growing through rocks... life, ever tenacious. And us, walking after rain. Walking through fragrance and mist, pines and pale yellow light.

There we were. And there the miracles... gift after gift, strewn in our path, floating overhead. Asking nothing in return.

This post is to welcome InCourage. Note too, High Calling Blogs will end their discussion of The Gift with this week's post; however, for those interested, I think I'm going to keep on. So you can come here for further discussion if you like.

Rain on Leaf photo, by L.L. Barkat.

Laura's Bleeding Heart
High Calling Blogs The Gift: Strings Attached

Baby, You Made My Decade, at Green Inventions
Coming into Wild Roses, at Love Notes to Yahweh

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

What Goes on in the Hall

roses on coat rack


Who looks
at the new straw
hat, remembering

how she beat
brazen rays each
day by sneaking
under a brim

like that. And who
notices the wrought
iron roses now
hung askew

on our cherry
coat rack; she
wrung pits
out of red fruit

too, swatted flies,
rolled tart sweet
flesh, juice into
crust, but that is

another story;
I am asking you
about the roses,
broken, and a

missing screw,
but you are busy
arranging tailored
black wool on

a cool hook worn
brass blue; we're
just in the hall
after all, we're just

passing through.

New poetry prompt: You guessed it. We're in the hall now. Even if you have no hall, there's a poem in that too. Please post your offering by Thursday, August 13, and leave your link here in the comment box, for possible feature and definite links at High Calling Blogs.

Brass Roses on the Rack, photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

I'm Going, Wanna Come?

Wedding Dress

Life is a gift. That's what Lewis Hyde concludes when looking at traditions around the world, where women are "given in marriage" and men are given "as sacrifices." Quite literally. Says Hyde, "The people of Fiji saw the two as equivalent gifts, the woman who is "brought raw" to be married and the "cooked man" who is sacrificed to the godking.

Okay, can we freak out now? Because that's kind of how I felt when I read this chapter. Very distressed.

There was this one moment when I caught my breath though, when he discussed how children eventually go out on their own and "begin to feel the desire to give [themselves] away— in love, in marriage,, to the gods, to politics, to... children." He says that adolescence is marked by "that restless, erotic, disturbing inquisition: Is this person, this nation, this work, worthy of the life I have to give?"

That's when I realized we all become teenagers again at certain junctures. Life opens, a new space, a turning, some kind of longing... and we ask the question afresh... is this person, activity, thing worthy of the life I have to give?

Just the other day, I brushed up my adolescent inquiry skills and asked that question. And decided yes. So I'm going. Wanna come? At least for the view, if not for the journey itself?

Wedding Dress in a Cage art, artist unknown. Photo by L.L. Barkat.

High Calling Blogs The Gift: I Am Woman?
Laura's Gift Labor

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