A response in Taps to the Supreme Court upholding of the transgender ban

Day is done, now expel
those who answered the call to serve well –
from the bunk, from the field,
places yield.

Sun has set, shadows grow
when the honest are punished and go
and commanders are forced to their shame
to list names.

While the light fades from sight,
hold their gifts — something pure, something bright:
transgender and serving and brave,
some – the grave.

One by one, harm is planned
for the vulnerable best of this land.
Lest this country grow weak –
conscience speak!

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Living in a Port … government shutdown

Living in a port means this blizzard
whips in with snow
mixed with the ocean’s water
driven by wind
that seems to come all the way
from Iceland or Norway,

means the super blood wolf moon
will draw high tides
to beat across sea walls
and homes nearest to shore,

means that Coast Guard families,
people we know,
lots of them,
are going to Gather,
the food pantry, to keep eating
during the government shutdown,
though they are still
on the water to protect us.

Forecasters personify storms
and often say
that they are cruel.

(Portsmouth, January 20, 2019 I guess from the comments on Facebook I need to be clear that I do not think the storm is in any sense cruel, it is the government shutdown that is bitterly cold and destructive, and, of the five branches of service, it is only the Coast Guard that is not being paid.)

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Remembering Mary Oliver

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
The Summer Day

She asked us, asked us –
in a world
where so many demand things of us,
proclaim a right or righteous way,
or only talk about themselves …

(though she had her instructions too
pay attention, be astonished, tell about it.)

She asked about our plan,
admitted it was human to be lonely
which made us all
feel a good deal better,

and we just let being wild and precious
soak in and put a smile in us.

Now I was very fond of her dog poems,
but I am thinking today
of another one,
the one with this line —

“Listen — are you breathing just a little,
and calling it a life?”
and I think back at her –

now, you are not breathing –
but you did not merely visit the world –
you taught us
how to start our days
in happiness and kindness,

and we will always be calling you a life.

(Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?)

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Living Psalms — a re-engagement with an old oracle — Guest post Marvin K White

Living Psalms project which is a beginning model for the eventually much more detailed Emancipatory Liberation Psalter. It is an opportunity to put particular graced content into the Psalms portion of UCC.org’s Worshipways from Advent through Lent this year and see how folks respond and then tinker some more … The writers UCC WRRRLDDD Leaders are artist/activists and come from a wide range of faith traditions (it is the platform in this project which is United Church of Christ) The psalms re-engaged and speaking out to our world, sometimes a re-speaking of the psalm, a litany or responsive reading  some readers’ theatre, movement, engagement, art or dance.

Just to introduce folks to this concept I re-print Marvin K White’s telling out of Psalm 36.

Psalm 36:1(NKJV) An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked …

An Oracle Within My Heart Concerning Oracles

Here is an oracular reading of Psalm 36. You have to read it as if you have come to me because you believe that God is speaking to me (and that you have paid $20 for the honor of doing so.)

Of dreams, it is said that we are everything and everyone, in ours. The thing chasing us and the us running, we are both. The thing falling from the sky, the sky, the windrush, the calculation to groundhit, the wings, the take flight, the “before it’s too late”, the “too late”, the life flashing before our eyes, the flash, the eyes and the light—everything. Each thing that is archived in the dream and brought into our knowing as memory, and each thing that fades into the backdrop and background of the dream that is lost on us and to us, all of it collapsed, are the symbols that God speaks to us through. Our questions and quests turn into symbols.

Of oracles, if you’re a really good one, God is lining up your symbols in a pattern that is made articulate by you. God is throwing God’s voice through your symbols. Your symbols become vehicles for God. You surrender control to God. You are being shown what God has seen in God’s present. God’s present is past, present and future. God shares a proprietary vision with the oracle, and that vision can only speak into it’s, the oracle’s context and into its presence. In the oracular realm, dreams are made of symbols, symbols become knowledge, knowledge becomes certainty, and certainty becomes material. The oracle and God are everything and everyone in Psalm 36.

We are the within. We are the “my”. We are the heart. We are the concern. We are the transgression. We are the wicked. We are God. We are the eyes that sees before God and we are God experiencing God’s self as unafraid of God. Everything.

Of God, alpha and omega that God is, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient that God is, the oracle is God and the oracle is God. God has to become the wicked that God has turned into history, and deliver that news to the oracle in symbols. God never gets in the oracle’s face. God is the one flattering their selves. God’s own words are wicked and deceitful. The oracle; the dreamcatcher, the dreamlanding, the dreamspeaker, translates the symbols into contemporary terms. The oracle is the God confession and the oracle is the God exoneration. The oracle is the forewarning and the forewarned. The oracle is telling God how this does not have to be God’s history.

We are told and the untold. We are the cursed and the curser. We are the lost place and the cursor. We are the erased and the eraser. We are the diminished and the diminisher. We are the lie and the lied on. We are the left out and the insertion. We are the history and the “not history” in the dream.

We are everything that God has created and everything that God has created is us. We are the inputs and the outcomes. We are the possibilities and the fixed set. We are the intrinsic and the extrinsic. Everything. The audience, the gender, the questions, the mystery—all of it. We are not outside of what we speak into the room. We are the spoken and the room. We are the evil and we are the lovingkindness that can offer itself up to evil as a way forward. Everything. We are the impending doom and we are God’s “Third Law”: For every symbolic action in a dream there is an equal and opposite symbolic reaction, namely joy, that forces these two acts upon one another. “One day,” the oracle says, “We will not create bad news to go with the good news. One day,” the oracle continues, “We will allow the joy unspeakable, to come into being. One day,” the oracle waking will say, “We will know that we are everything to God and God is everything to us.”

Marvin K. White, MDiv, is currently serving as the Interim Minister of Celebration at GLIDE Church in San Francisco. He is the Artivist in Residence and part of the Arts Program Team at the Oakland Peace Center. He was the Public Theologian in Residence (’17-’18) at First Church Berkeley and a recent Yerba Buena Center for the Arts “Equity” Fellow (’16-’17). He is the author of four collections of poetry: Our Name Be Witness; Status; and the two Lammy-nominated (Lambda) collections last rights and nothin’ ugly fly. He is articulating a vision of social, prophetic and creative justice through his work as a poet, artist, teacher, collaborator, preacher, cake baker, and Facebook Statustician.


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We take no credit … (Jericho Walk)

I return from the bi-monthly vigil
At ICE headquarters.
We call it a Jericho Walk
and, as the story in Joshua goes,
we circumnavigate,
occasionally with benefit of shofar,
seven times, in hopes
to bring down the walls.

In spring and autumn it is refreshing.
In August sweat runs
between my shoulder blades,
and right now the cold bites
fingers and toes
and takes the singing right out
of even religious folks.

We recognize we are taking
ongoing, faithful, and
prophetic action,
but today those who went inside
come out and tell us
the desks are empty.

Continue in prayer
for all federal employees,

and, with a very small grin,
it is Donald Trump,
known for blowing his own horn,
who has brought ICE
tumbling down.


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Reflection on John 5, Bethesda — Dedicated to Michael Wesley Collins

I am in the pool this morning.
It’s a little after five am
and I am alone at this rather rundown
local gym —
high-stepping and breast stroking
to break down the scar tissue forming around
my two-year old knee replacement,
flutter-kicking at top speed
because of my cardio and pulmonary issues
and just plain exercising my muscles
because I learned that is
far more effective than
crossword puzzles or Jeopardy binging
against the onset of dementia.

So I am stirring my water,
but no angel –

as all around me wait
people who need someone to help them
get in and get help, and — after all this time —
to remind them that they want it
and what it might take to pick up their mats
and find a way home.

I am so aware
of the catastrophe of the chronic
the long slide-lining of those who need
healing of mind or body,

the tsunami of unwelcome
against the migrants of the world,

and the edge-lying along the pool of hope
of those with addictions,
of those homeless and waiting,
of those with PTSD,
and of those who will die by suicide today.

I have removed more background on Mr. Collins and keep the dedication to him in understanding that some of the social media posts around his death are causing pain and additional grief to his family. It is enough that he died by suicide, that he wrote about the sorrows of homelessness and that he is held in God’s hands.

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Ten Commandments for Human Trafficking Awareness Day

You shall have no other gods before God – not money, not power, not don’t-half-enough-time, not busy-with-other justice issues – when God’s children are enslaved.

You shall not make proclamations or memes or speeches if you do not also create support services for survivors of human trafficking and encourage congress to act.

You shall not deny the magnitude of forty million slaves this day and every day, for to do so is to take God’s name in vain and in pain and in chains.

Remember US Human Trafficking Awareness Day in January and United Nations Human Trafficking Awareness Day in July, if you do nothing else. Name this practice as the definition of anti-Sabbath in our world today. You shall not rest from working for justice on any day, for these children of God are worth more than any well-fallen-down donkey.

Honor the image of God in all descendants of Adam and Eve, in the least of these named by Jesus of Nazareth, in the new creation in Christ, and then — sing out the Magnificat of Mary for the most vulnerable of the earth, and your memory will be long in the face of the earth.

You shall not kill by fraud or coercion, by turning children into soldiers, by forced marriage, by abduction for organ removal, by debt bondage among migrant people.

You shall not permit the prostitution of unpaid and un-cared-for women and men and you shall not protect the authorities who are bribed to look the other way.

You shall not turn away from the stealing of runaways in the city or restaviks* from the country given in the hopes of a better life and education — as if it has nothing to do with you.

You shall not bear the false witness against your neighbor which says that this does not exist in our mines and our farms, in our factories and our pay-by-the-hour-motels.

You shall not covet the shoes made by slaves; you shall not covet the clothing made by slaves, you shall not covet the rugs made by slaves; you shall not covet the prices made by slavery.

* Restaviks are rural Haitian children given by their parents to urban dwellers to perform domestic service for food, clothing and education, who most often are worked nearly to death and offered no benefits.

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