TO EMBRACE THE SPIRITUAL

TO EMBRACE THE SPIRITUAL

Invocation.

            This poem can’t rhyme
            Held in rhetoric’s weak embrace
            I’m writing it in a casino
            Listening to the little ball
            Swirl around the roulette wheel
            Nobody is noticing me
            Except a Chinese lady’s glance
            I’d rather write in a dive
            Or a coffee shop that isn’t too hip
            Or a library
            But they’re all closed this time of night
            Still, this poem won’t be plastic

Recitative.

There is an outdated English word
An archaic notion that probably doesn’t mean much
Except to me, and maybe to the devout
I don’t experience it often, except

Sometimes from immigrants, or among students
In religious colleges;–it isn’t just they try to help me out
More, the pleasant way they go about it—almost cheerful
You can tell they wish well to me, to everyone, beyond the journals

It is pleasant to experience a good-natured person
Sincerity is part of it
It isn’t just getting along, nor someone who won’t ice you
But to actively promote the good

It’s not just the kind of thing that will keep you out of a bar fight
Or make someone next to you want to talk to you, drinking beer
Nor even refined social graces, though they’re close
One discovers the good when it is sought out, actively

It could be giving an airport bartender you’ll never see again a good tip
Maybe, more ambitious, learning to play a Bach fugue
Instead of indulging in Facebook
Venturing out of your echo-chamber to confront truth

I try to make Carol happy and it makes her happy when I try
You have to know someone, care, study to make them happy
Learn the kind of thing they like, living in both your worlds together
It’s not a matter of getting them to like what you like

Carol didn’t like Mozart’s Requiem, nor Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto
When I took her out on dates—you can’t talk in a concert, anyway
I don’t look at show homes with Carol, anymore
And tap on the walls, listening for the drum sound of thin drywall

She likes it that I like the things I like, and I, too, for her things
I listen to the plots of the stories Carol is reading
Carol likes me to read her the poems I write
We go on walks together in the park

I know the kind of funny quips that make Carol laugh
And when we need to talk seriously about life’s terms
Walk through the world’s unkind circumstances together
I’ll make a personal observation and Carol will listen

This good-nature, this embrace of the good
Which devout people are like
It’s a certain way to approach life, to regard other people
It’s all more than getting someone out of your face

Playing a Bach fugue does something to my soul
You can’t get hanging out in a bar
Making your fingers work through the harmonies rearranges synapses
Generates the peace I uniquely feel playing Bach or talking with Carol

Bach was a believer and even when he didn’t write church music
The peace is there in the harmonic structure
Like the secular Fugue V of The Well-Tempered Clavier
Which I’m learning, now.  Carol isn’t a musician

She grew up on a farm.  Her dad sang in the church choir
My encounters with Carol rearrange my brain synapses like Bach
It’s that quality of good, of good-nature, that realm I enter with Carol
Like reading the Bible, or writing a sermon, or leading worship

You don’t want to break up that mindset with cheap talk
Sometimes, when I venture out of the house, I use language
That brings into existence a caricature of my soul, cheapens who I am
It isn’t elitism, this aversion for ungracious word order

You read stories of Jesus hanging out with the disgraced
Yet his words stand through millennia
It’s not elitism, this want to live spiritually
More a love for the life words can give, the peace love can give

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