Saturday, May 21, 2016

requiem for (too) many

born on the wrong side of town
to the wrong parents
went to the wrong schools, when we went,
took the wrong classes, rarely paid attention,
and never did the dumbass work
hung out with the wrong crowd
people said the Army’d shape us up, nice try,
getting kicked out was easier than getting in
married a few times, cut and ran,
quit bothering with the details
had some shitty jobs, thankfully we
were usually fired before we decided to quit
lost years to bad habits and so-called friends,
only kind of either we ever had
found Jesus, a bunch of times,
some for conscience, others for convenience
had kids we never knew, who were smart enough,
to not waste time getting to know us
stayed out of jail, some of the time
left no property, no money
maybe memories 
we must all leave memories
maybe a few good ones
with someone, somewhere...

Monday, March 21, 2016

Make a difference?

mom went to Seattle

they said it was because
the hospital in Bellingham
isn't big enough

and now i'm supposed to sit 
in a too small desk and listen to
a teacher talk and talk and talk
about manifest destiny,
or habitats and ecosystems
or, worse yet,
variables, equations and functions

as if i believe
any of this stuff will make 
a difference in my life

For World Poetry Day 2016

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Thankfully our love outlasts our cars

Got the ’62 Bug about the time we started
Dating. Used graduation money and some
savings, $400 total. Two years, trips
over the mountains to see you and a rebuilt
engine later I bought the ’68 Opal Kadet,
powder blue. Carried us away on our
wedding day. Not a bad car, unless you
wanted heat. First new car was the ’75 Civic.
Made us feel so grown up. We traded it for a
Honda wagon, four doors and hopes to need
the extra space for kids. Soon added the Datsun
pick-up for daily commutes, me north, you east.
Basically a headache. Next the silver Accord,
the fastback. You kindly gave into my dream that
became a nightmare, worse than the
Datsun. Kyle was about 6 months when it broke
down in Everett on our way home from your
Grandfather’s Memorial service. Bob was with
us. I think of it every time I drive by the
restaurant, now a casino, that we went to to
find a phone. Michael arrived and so did
the Ford (Why a Ford?) Escort. Four-door
hatchback, Fawn was the official color. More
like blah. Next came the Colt Vista, seven
seats, but not a mini-van. My ego could not handle
a mini-van. Unnumbered trips up and down I-5 for
family visits and vacations with the boys. Got a
used Honda for a second car. This led to learning
emerald black is not black. Became Kyle’s car
and eventually died somewhere in Oregon. Bought
the Rav in ’97. That brutal year that included my
Dad dying of lung cancer. When the Colt ceased
operation, somewhere between home and Mt. Baker,
I got the ‘95 Tacoma. Traded the Rav for a
Highlander, ’08. 0% interest loan with room for
camping gear and grandkids. On an unseasonably
hot day, before a June wedding, Kyle helped me
pick out the Mazda 3 (0%, again). Velocity Red,
6 speed, quick and agile. Seemingly the perfect car
as we, yet again, entered an era of unexpected life
shifts and possibilities.

Read more here:

Monday, December 28, 2015

Ten Things For A Short Journey

Here is the opening and a link to a new piece I have in the current issue of Topology Magazine:

30 years ago we travelled a few miles across town. It was a relatively short distance, but a change of untold consequences. We were leaving a work setting where housing was part of the compensation and culture. It was not quite a commune (and hopefully not a cult). We had two young sons. We were a one-car family. We wanted to be near downtown and near my new place of work. We found an affordable fixer-upper, in an era of high interest rates.
We soon learned that the public school, about two blocks away, was the unofficial center of a tight knit neighborhood. Our new address put us in between the center of downtown and the interstate, about a mile from each. In the three decades we have lived here, we have raised our children, lived in two homes within a half-mile of each other and transitioned though a number of life and career shifts.
Bellingham has continued to morph and grow over the years. We have seen the loss of a major employer with the closing of the pulp mill. We have lived through the coming of a regional mall resulting in the near death and eventual rebirth of downtown. Bellingham may now have more brewpubs, coffee shops, and hipsters per capita than either Portland or Seattle can boast.
Here is the link for the rest of the essay:

Friday, December 11, 2015

Noisy Water is here

Noisy Water is a new anthology of poems by Whatcom County poets. Here is my contribution:

Will runners be frozen on their second,
or possibly third loop on the backside of Padden?
Will the Lynden faithful be found
sitting, on rock-hard pews,
attempting to appear deeply interested
in yet another droning preacher?
Will Lummi kids be caught forever playing chase
on the banks of the Nooksack?
Will cars be perpetually jammed at
border crossings in Blaine, Lynden and Sumas?
Will newborn calves be calcified suckling
their mother’s teats on farms around the county?
Will the neo-punk, quasi-hippie, post-grunge,
sort of goth street kids be forever huddled
on the corner of Railroad and Magnolia,
bantering with the spandex-clad city cops
astride their requisite bikes?

I wonder.
Will it be like Pompeii

when Baker finally blows?

Here's a link for more info:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pessimists' lullaby

Car seat to shoulder.
Warm cheeks whisper, exhale.
Fold into sheets and blankets with
ever waiting menagerie.

Pause between prayers and a kiss.

I wish I could promise,
you need not fear. That nothing
will ever go bump
in the unceasing abyss of night.
Intruders will never
slip through the window
or skulk under your bed.
Peaceful rest is guaranteed,
and our house will never erupt
from an electrical misfire or
a candle left unattended.
I want to guarantee illness cannot
invade our little world.
That we will wake anew
as the east sun crests 
every morning.

I’d like to tell you everything
will be all right, always.
Honest, I’d like to.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Letter to my younger self

My weekly guy's group decided to tackle the project of writing a letter to our younger selves. Following is my piece:

April 2015

It’s 2015 for me, 1975 for you. You are in Salem, first year of marriage and last stretch of college. Your focus is your new life with Connie, school (OCE), church (Salem Alliance) and ministry, friends, family and driving (school) bus #206.

In a few years you’ll learn of a book called The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck. It begins with the phrase, “Life is hard.” In your case it might have helped if he had added, “…and you don’t need to further complicate matters…” Remember Jesus said it before Peck, “…in this world you will have trouble…”

You’ve known fear, anxiety and anxiousness throughout your days and they will always be with you. Get used to it, but don’t let them rule or guide you. You will be much better off if you learn to make decisions and take actions based on your greater commitments and values (in spite of the discomfort you feel or the lack of approval, support and understanding of others).

Your default choice will often be to focus on avoiding mistakes and failure. You’ll think that knowing and following the rules and not effing up will protect you. It won’t. This angle will be about as rewarding as watching the Blazers playing not to lose.

Control is often the initial knee-jerk response to fears. It will ultimately fail you and usually result in a worse situation than that which you are trying to resolve or avoid. Certainty, sounds nice as well, but is shortsighted. Learn to live and love the tension. Life is much bigger than you can imagine and you will, hopefully, have many years to work things out.

Tenacity will be one of your better life strategies, but it is only helpful when you are being tenacious for the right thing(s).

I’d love to point out your blind spots and give you the quick fix of how to avoid the troubles they bring. Can’t do it. You can’t, and or won’t, see them in the moment. Sometimes they become painfully, lightening flash clear in reverse, other times they linger in the shadows with little if any direct awareness but ongoing impact. The best I can say is 1) you will always have them 2) be cautious with certainty, 3) keep seeking and listening to wise counsel, 4) learn and live with humility toward others and, lastly 5) be patient with yourself. Through a glass darkly…

I am guessing this section may cause you to question that we are in any way connected, but here goes. Belief is easy; faith is the challenge (and opportunity). You’ve been taught and accepted a very specific way of knowing God and being Christian. You’ve got it all figured out, because it is clear, simple and you have to. …by faith, not by sight…

You are young in life and formation. Get ready for challenging and crumbling of systems, beliefs and practices. This process will eventually help you grow closer toward wholeness. Belief that can be reduced to words, doctrinal statements, creeds (which you know little of at this point) and systematics is basically information one can intellectually agree with. Faith is more dynamic and thereby more risky. It is a process of living into and becoming a person changed by God. In this season of life I’ve learned to love the mystery. I hope this doesn’t sound trite; God loves you and will be with you. Deep and wide…

Career and jobs can bring joy and fulfillment. Your path and personality will take you to places in which you will essentially give your whole self to your work. Remember such situations are temporary. Most of what you are going to want to fight for in work settings is not worth the energy, emotions and effort. Don’t give more to a job than it asks, deserves or gives you. Sorry for sounding like Oprah (you’ll know who she is in a few years) but remember to find your value as a human BEing, not a human DOing…

Relationships are worth working for and working at. They cannot be forced. They will bring sustenance over the years. Marriage will be central. Connie and you will experience deep joys and the edges of despair. Hold fast, it will be worth it. Children (and grandchildren) will shape your family in unimaginable ways. Good luck understanding extended family and in-laws. I’m still working at both and wouldn’t begin to think I have them figured out. Love one another…

Friendships will be rooted in diverse settings. Some will last decades; others will grow within and last for a specific context and season. You never know which will become those that hold you in storms or join you in joyful celebrations. Do unto others…

Forgiving others and yourself will be a challenge (understatement). Each glimpse and step of progress will be painful but worth it. It is a cycle of death and resurrection. Dying to self, to your ideas and to being right. Remember, without death there is no new life. Forgive as you have been forgiven…

Patience will be another ongoing challenge. The need for patience is woven through most of what has been mentioned. It will come little by little with the hard cost of life experience. Do your best not to resist the opportunities to learn, live and grow in this area. Let patience finish its work… 

Be ready for surprises. There are people you don’t yet know and situations you can’t imagine. There are books, stories and songs I wish I could share today, but I trust you will appreciate them more when you encounter them step by step along the way.

Keep listening, learning, seeking, serving, reflecting, breathing, recreating, resting and laughing. Lastly remember, all things are being made new…

Shalom, peace be with you