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Poems ThatShould NeverBeRead InChurch byTravisPoling

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GhostCatPress Richmond,Indiana 2010

Thefollowingpoemsfirstappearedindifferentforminthesepublications:Lawof AttractioninAlba:AJournalofShortPoetry;SheStands,StillWeepingin DreamSeekerMagazine;EasternMarketMetroStation,Washington,DCand ThisisWhatSavestheValleyinCrossCurrents. PoemsThatShouldNeverBeReadInChurch byTravisPoling;PublishedinRichmond,Indiana byGhostCatPress. Copyright2010TravisPoling.ThisworkislicensedundertheCreativeCommons AttributionNonCommercialShareAlike3.0UnportedLicense.Toviewacopyof thislicense,visithttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/byncsa/3.0/orsendaletterto CreativeCommons,171SecondStreet,Suite300,SanFrancisco,California,94105, USA.SomeRightsReserved. Seconddigitaledition.June2010. Visitwww.travispoling.comtopurchasebooks,downloadpoemsforfree,contactthe author,andschedulereadings.Emailtravis@travispoling.com

TableofContents

NOTE:Underlinedtitlesappearinthissample.

Introduction Prologue TheBookofAngels EasternMarketMetroStation,Washington,DC SwallowingFists TheHillsofIona Watermelon UponFindingTravelingThroughtheDark TheBookofPrayer WhatPrayerIs SomeBeliefsAboutMountains SheStands,StillWeeping LawofAttraction WheretheBoardwalkEnds ThisisWhatSavestheValley LandingonEarth TheColorofBones NewShoesforMoses IslandofProtection Explorer NotestoPoems

Introduction Formanypeople,theprocessofcreatingorreadingatextcouldbeconsideredasort ofprayernotinthesenseofasetritualwithprescribedwordsorattitudes,butas anencounterwithsomeforceorexistencebeyondthesingularselfthatallowsone toemergewithrenewedvisionandpurposetowardtheworld.Somepoetsand readersmaybelievethatinordertobereligious,poetrymustexpresssome traditionaldoctrineorspiritualtruth,andmayeithershunorembracesuch religiosity.Asabelieverinthepremisethattheresponseofthereadercanbeas validasanyintentionofthewriter,andthattheaudiencecontributestothe creationoftheartisticwork,Iamsuspiciousofartthatseeksprimarilytopushthe audienceinonedirectionoranother.Ratheritisintheformerbroadunderstanding ofpoetryasencounterthatIbelieveallpoetryandallarttobereligious. Ifpoetryisreligious,itmustalsobedangerous,oratleastbrutallyhonest.Religion callsuponustoovercomeourfearandanxiety,butinsteadofplacingour vulnerabilitiesoutintheopen,wehidethosepartsofourselvesthatmostneedthe healingandtransformationthatreligionatitsbestcanofferus.Webelievethatif wedonotshowhowafraidweare,ourfearswillvanish.Wealsoknowhowuntrue thispropositionis,andsowehidethefactthatwearehiding,andavoidany encounterthatcouldexposeourweaknesstofriendorenemy. Life,however,hasdifferentplans.Weencounterotherswhobreakapartour barriersandrevealtousjusthowfragileandsacredwereallyare.Iseethese others,eitherhumanorfromotherpartsofcreation,tobeangelsonbehalfofour deepestliving.Partoneofthisbook,TheBookofAngels,tellsstoriesofthese messengersandinvitesustolistentowhattheymightsaytous. Parttwoofthiscollection,TheBookofPrayer,canbereadasasustainednarrative ofajourneyorpilgrimage,thoughthesettingsandcharactersdonotremain constantthroughout.Eachpoemismeanttostandonitsown,butalsotoforma narrativecycleofspirituallife,deathandrebirthinwhichtheentirecosmos participates. Thesewordsandstoriesexplorethedepthsofjoyandfear,lifeanddeath,seeing andnaming,regardlessofwhatourreligiousandothersocialinstitutionsrewardor repress.Theyarepoemsthatshouldneverandthereforealwaysbereadin church.Likewise,theyshouldbereadinbars,coffeeshops,offices,courtrooms,bed rooms,kitchens,museums,parks,andanywhereelsethefullbreadthanddepthof livingistobeexperienced.

Ultimatelythesepoemsareforthereader,andasIstated,mostanyresponseis valid.Aswithallpoems,whatmattersmostisthattheyareread,forpoetrywithout readersmeansdeathdeathforpoetrycertainly,butworse,forallwhohave forgottenitsvision.Maythesewordsremindusallofwhatitmeanstoseeand knowlifemostfully. Specialthankstothefollowingfriendswhosawandhelpedtheearliestdraftsof manyofthesepoems:BeateGilliar,SusanYanos,SusannaChildress,JeffGundy, DavidWright,MattGuynn,AaronNell,RachelPeterson. ThanksalsotomywifeKaren,myparentsMargeandEd,andmanymorewhohave encouragedmeallalong.

Prologue: PoemsthatShouldNeverbeReadinChurch Therearepoems,somesay, thatshouldneverbereadinchurch, versesthatmightmakeyouthink churchcouldsomehowbedifferent, likecoffeemakesyouthink youshouldbeawake,alert,alive. Maybethatswhychurchesalways servedecaf;caffeineisunhealthy thewaypoetryisunhealthy evendangerousitcanchangetheway youact,evensee;itcanevengiveyoulife. Somakeyourcoffeeathome anddrinkitinchurchwhilereading poemsfrombooksthatarenotinthepews.

TheBookofAngels
EasternMarketMetroStation, Washington,DC Awomanofferedmeherbody onenight,underthestreetlight outsidethetrain,herdimeyes clutchingsorrow.Inthiscity Ifightagainstwar,butcannotresist theclashinhereyes,peeringintomine fordignity,forhappiness,foronenight withouthungerbecauseImight fillherortakeher,eitherwaytouchher hearttomine.Asdollarspassfrommyhands tohersHavethisinsteadweexchangeglances adifferentkindofcurrency.Itisthesmallertokens wetrade:aglance,standingstill,handtouching handsaying,Takeeat.

Watermelon Theblessingsofgracecantbeseen likeyoucanseeawatermelon, buttheytastejustassweet, sometimesmore. Andyes,yousometimesget seedsinyourmouth,parts thataredarkandtough, butyoucanspitthemout moreeasily,morejoyfully thancomplaining. Andifyouhappentoswallow somebymistake,thengrow anentirevineofsweetgraces blessingsinsideyourbellyandwait forthefruittocomeoutyourear, andreceiveit,andeatitagain.

TheBookofPrayer
SomeBeliefsAboutMountains Ibelievedthemountainsmadeallthings beautifulandgood. Ibelievedalltheworldwassafe exceptwarsanddogs. IknewtheweatherdrillswerereallyRussiandrills weneversawtornadoesinthevalley. ThedaytheairplanesdoveintoNewYorkandWashington, Icrossedthosemountains.

SheStands,StillWeeping Hercaravanmovesswiftly acrosstheplain,away fromthecity,away fromhome.Allherpast, possessions,confessions thatdefineherareaflame. Howcouldshenotstop, notglanceeyesoverflowing, saltonhertongue,tears downhercheeks,shoulders. Themorningpasses,andthen theday,tearsstillstreaming downherskin,dripping intoherpores.Months,years, adecadeofshock,ofrealizing whyandweeping,fleshabsorbing amotherssaltofsorrows corrosionfromepiphany thatunveilscorruption turnsallmothersintomonuments oftears,remindingGodofsorrow. Atleastsomeoneismourningasonly amothercanofcourseherhusband doesnotstop,doesnotwonderhow thatpillargotthere.Onlyshecan saywhyherhomewasdestroyed insulfur;onlyLotswifeknows Godssecret;itwhispersinherheart, assheshoutsback,Farbethatfromyou! Thatiswhysheturned,why shestands,stillweeping,and whythepillargrowssteadily.

ThisisWhatSavestheValley Somepeople,toomanyyoung,havetossedtheirlives fromHighRockwithoutsailsontheirbacks,without hopeintheirbellies.Theyleapintothisvalley tocrossitsabysstoGod,butGoddoesnotholdthemup, cannotsuspendbodiesinair,evenwhereair isaliveenoughtoflyon. Irememberthevalleyeverysingleday,itsfullmoons andhalfones,itsCassiopeiaourexiled,invertedqueen ofheavens,shimmeringsolacefromhercenterstar. Ihaveneverforgottenwhatitmeanstolivenestled, ringedbyblueridgesdeeperthanthesky thathanggliderssoarinto,andfartherdown deep,wheretheredoakspullintheirsap, tossingtheirleaves,theirlives. CumberlandValleyisparadise,Isay,but thatdoesnotstrikeoutdeath.Toooftentheyoung cannotseeitsvisions,evenfromvistas.Theyleap intobeauty,eyessoundlyshut.Theworldsendsclouds tooheavytogazethrough,splittingpeoplefromthis vibrantswale,whilethesunglancesdown, awarmblazethroughharvestrains. EveandAdaminventeddeath,wereexiledfromtheirland andIsympathize,livingasIdoontopoftheearth withHoosiers.ThehighestpointinIndianaisbarely aslope;tojumpwoulddeliveryoustraightbackdown onyourfeetthatcannotflyinthatboxofaland. Thevalleyisacrescent,likethatfertilesickleofaland whereEdenwasplowedoverlikeIndianaisplowed, andplowedandplowed. Whatsavesthevalleyisthehillsonrollercoasterroads thatliftyoursolarplexusfromyourseat;praiseGod forseatbeltsandpaddedcarceilings.Whatsavesthevalley isthelandholdingusup,neverbowingtoserveus.

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Webuildourhouses,ourroads,ourorchardsanddairies aroundtheland,ourchurchesnearstreams forimmersionbaptismstowadeinrealwaters,waters youcanfeelinthebonesofyourbones,swiftandcool. Creeksdonotflowinthevalley,theyrunlikebucksinrut buttingstationwagons,wideelms,andwomen. Mountainscandowondersformomentum,andforce, andgentleness,andpeace,andprayer,andshouting. Becausethemountainsshoutback,youknowtheearth hearseverysingletreethatfallsinherwoods.Becauseof thevalley,tumblingbodiesalwaysmakeasound.

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