Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade
5/18: Tools of the trade

Your mind will be full of numbers
And your mouth of foreign words
Pythagoras and algebra,
Nouns, adjectives and verbs

Your eyes will scale the volumes
Of human knowledge and intellect
Your hands will know the weariness
Of assayed essays to inspect

Your feet may know the tempo
Of the clock and it’s demands
Your back, the weight of pressures
And industry’s circumstance

In all these things, remember
Let your heart remain unchanged
Save for the things the Lord himself
Undertakes to rearrange

Your value was predetermined
And cannot be added to
Resumes and accolades
Are not the sum of you

Things like these do have their use
This much must be conceded
As a spade in the farmer’s hands
Has use to till the land that’s seeded

But spades and rakes cannot suffice
When a meal is in demand
The eternal soul can ne’er feast
On scraps from finite lands

Our devices are often thought to be
The ends and not the means
We idolize the hills we climb
And the accomplishments so gleaned

Yet wonder is a mighty force
We all possess at birth
Unto a world that trades for trinkets
Such things of priceless worth

“I count it all as loss” ’twas said
About that once thought as gain
By one who had much more than most
And had nothing all the same

“that I may gain Christ”, he said
Who saw the truth behind
The veil that shimmers in the winds
Of shifting trades and trends and times

We once were told to be like these,
The children in our midst
They who see with sight unshielded
Those things aged eyes have missed:

The face of God, the form of Heaven
The Holy waiting in the wings
A world that is not bound by time
And countless, wondrous other things

The thought of it is daunting:
The learning we now possess
Though strive we might to grasp it
Will fail us nonetheless

The thought of it is humbling:
The wisest teachers you may meet
Are they who hear the voice of God
While blowing bubbles at your feet


Overly Considered Distractions

3/18: Overly Considered Distractions
Overly Considered Distractions

Thistles and thoughts – a pair of like kind
Bristles get caught in the fabric of mind
Hooks that stick within cognitive space
Crooks that wick due peace from its place
These that some with ease brush away
Are thieves for some who endeavor to stay
Sapping the vine to thirst-ridden strings
Rapping the mind with repetitive things
Estranging all reason from the false and the real
Exchanging in treason a known for a feel
Drawn in by aroma of flowering notions
Brawn into coma by reductive motions
Bear I these thoughts by prick of the stem?
Dare I get caught in their poisons again?
Hither have I a thorn in the flesh?
Whither contrive the remedy best?
To leaven the mold that hems me today
Heaven has told me that there is a way
Every one captive, these thoughts that advance
Devilry active made weak by faith’s stance
Jesus, the maker of all things and I
Frees us, the breaker of all things that bind
He who rends man from the leeches of sin
So intends to make whole his pieces within
From fading of hearts to rage-waters of mind
Come wading, Lord Jesus, ’tis yours to preside
Announce and lay claim, once more if you will
Pronounce by your name, “Peace, be still”


2/18: Patterns

It seems some days are tessellations
A fractal recapitulation
Thus, for some, is desecration
Yet yields another’s jubilation
And here have we a complication
A puzzle for just contemplation
Accept thy patterns with hesitation?
Or with joy ascend unto thy station?
See thou routines as desolation?
Or priceless gifts worth re-creation?
Are the fires of life a motivation?
Or an all-consuming conflagration?
Are the ticks of time your ear’s vexation?
Or heralds who bear blessed proclamation?
Know the status of thy situation
Is not beyond manipulation
Contentment, hear this attestation
’tis a path now due our navigation
The Lord who laid this road’s foundation
Will aid when bent toward deviation
They who steer toward Heaven’s nation
Will find a sound orientation
God who set all in circulation
So sees us in our oscillations
And can redeem their ruination
Providing needed sustentation
Scattered pieces, ’tis our relation
Our days are such, in aggregation
The Lord, with humble fragmentations
Can forge his glorious constellations

How Did You Do It?

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To my Grandfather,
whom I’ve always loved but never knew:

You are a distant star to me.
A mysterious diamond shines in the night-sky back of my mind
whose light is just now reaching me…
When I see your picture, you look back at me most intently
as if to tell me
that although I never knew you, still you knew me.
As though to ensure that I’ve received a message you sent back then,
back when I could barely talk that is just now being delivered to me.
To tell me that you cared for me.

And like a star dies,
you shone across a universe of time that preceded me,
casting rays that stretch into days that you would never see.
Your messenger knocks at today’s front door,
sent from a source that isn’t there any more.

And here’s the rub:
This one way communication that passes without hesitation
From twenty-seven years past,
this signal reception brings back
your face and a million questions that I can’t ask

But had I the chance…
If, in a dream, I could return to my oldest memory:
You’re looking back to me, fixing the TV
so I could see the fans on the screen
while I swam in your chair; a sea of faded upholstery.
If God gave the opportunity to me
to take a single question to you in this scene
I know just what it would be.

No need to scour my tomes of question marks,
I know just the one that captures the sum of its parts:

“How did you do it?”

How did you do it?

And in that moment I hope you’d see
the countless questions inside of me,
that I’ve bundled within the one
the root from which the others grow from:

How did you grow up poor yet live such a rich life?
How did you capture the life-long respect of four sisters?
What was it like seeing both World Wars, Vietnam, the Depression?
How did you circumnavigate the country as a teenager,
sleeping under your car at night,
scraping concrete off of bricks to pay your way
for food along the route,
and making auto-repairs when you broke down
with no one there to show you how,
like patching your radiator with oatmeal for crying out loud?

Can you tell me how?
Can the life you lived then teach me now?

How do you make it through when so much is required of you?
How do you know you’ve done all that you can do?
How do you raise a family that will carry-on long after you’re gone?
How do you keep them safe in your heart while the world tears itself apart?
How does a father love a daughter into the kind of woman you taught my mother to be?
How does a father love a son into a man that he can be proud to be?
How does a husband treat his wife with honor and humility?
How do you nourish the family tree
with roots that drink deeply
from a well of strength and integrity
that won’t run dry when all that’s left of you is your memory?

Grampy please,

how did you do it?

Now let me expose the reason for those questions I pose,
to explain why I plead for answers to these,
for by now it should be plain to see:
These queries that I ask of thee,
Are the same that are being asked of me
It seems…

It seems to be that I’m on your journey,
overwhelmed and understudied but I’m learning

I’ve got so much to lose and I’m confused a bit.
I’ve been given a commission but need a clue what to do with it.
Made a few false-starts in life but trying to follow-through and be true with it.
It’s hard to live a good life in a world that is crude but somehow you did it.
So I might follow your footsteps but these shoes are too huge to fit.

But if you stood in mine now,
could you please tell me how
you wore yours so well?

If you could see my circumstance
if I had the chance
to tell you my plans,
would you applaud my stance?

What would you say to me
as I scrape the ground with my hands to the plow
trying to carve a small nest for my seeds to rest,
where they can settle in, where their roots can dig in
and sprout their first leaves on this family tree?
How can I do for them what you did for me?

To place a star in their sky?
Though all the world be shrouded in night,
give a bright, guiding light?

Is this something you can teach me to do?
You are someone I look up to
my methods and strategies are few
so I wonder: “How did you?”

This is no idol worship.
I’m sure you made mistakes, no man is perfect.
But there are those God leads,
like threads in a weave,
in and out of our lives for times of need.

Or to provide lessons to learn.
A foundation to stand on
when life calls us forth for our turn.

One more thing I need to mention:
I’m told, in some ways, that I’m your reflection
Same lips and nose and facial bones, I know
But there must be something deeper than those.


Is it true?

Are there things of me that are of you too?
Do I do some things the way you used to do?
And what of me? This ever-itching mystery:
Though you I never knew,
what did you know of me?

But like the moment we shared when I was two:
You, looking across the room to me and I, lost in your chair
looking back up to you –
This is all the recollection I’m due.
Of my one and only remembrance of you.
I can only pose questions to you.
And they echo within me still.

But I’ll hang on to this image.

For that was the moment –  just months before you left.
Though your heart gave out it feels like theft,
Yet somehow you live on despite your death
Right there –
In my youth, you gave me my oldest memory
To a toddler who could hardly speak
You deposited to my life’s treasury
And with a single glance, conveyed your legacy…

That star in the distance,
winks and casts its rays
from history to this day.

A shine that is lasting,
I’m searching and asking.
Always asking:


how did you do it?

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10/2017: Fragmentary

You’ll remember in fragments
What for me is a dream
Your recollection in pieces
Mine blurred at the seams
From each other we’ll gather
And contrive some whole
A form of this mem’ry
That is ours to behold
Whether with youth or with age
No mind can perfectly grasp
The minutiae of moments
As they slip to the past
So join with me here
In imperfect recall
Amid fragments and dreams
Let us treasure them all



September ’17: Cherish

I have no words to tell you how
To cherish the moment of here and now
But watch me closely and you will see
For such an art is first nature to me

I know not of time nor how it is measured
Save that the present is a thing to be treasured
And when it passes, I’ll welcome the next
And savor it fully; that’s what I do best

So come with me and I’ll show you the way
To discover the secrets God has hid in this day
Close your eyes, just a moment or two
Be here and be thankful – that’s all you must do



More sketches in the Sketch Gallery.