Planets of a Soul

“Planets of a Soul” was born out of a season of restlessness and fear. Like many Christians, I often feel torn between the weight of my own thoughts and desires and the weight of the Gospel; although the message of Jesus is beautiful and life-giving, it is not easy. Many of my conversations with God wrestle with how hard He is to follow, but every time I am still convicted of how much better it is to trust in the hardness of Jesus rather than imploding by myself.

As I contemplated this, an image of a chaotic, disintegrating universe came to mind and I was struck by how much each human soul is like a universe all its own. Scholars more learned than I could probably trace this idea from Plato to C.S. Lewis and beyond, and, while I’d love to pretend that this poem was a meticulously constructed synthesis of the ideas of such great minds, it is no such thing; I simply wrote what I saw and felt. Hopefully, there is some grain of truth in it.

What fills in the gaps of a
Fractured soul – a fractured universe?
They are one and the same. 
The vacuum left by pieces of identity
Pulling apart either fills with stars
Or black holes.
But what happens when the planets collide,
When orbits degrade, when galaxies unravel
Into chaos?
The spheres of a mind torn by fear 
Are powerless to stop their own destruction.
The collision course has already been set.
Even the purest atmospheres,
The sweetest thoughts
Cannot stop hot, dark ideas from tearing
Through the space of the soul
Without gravity, without order, all is lost.
So does a heart implode on itself.
My universe is bleeding.
God, can You fix gravity before it is too late?
Can You change black holes into stars,
Turn planets back to their orbits?
 	*	*	*
If repentance is a turning, I don’t see
How a planet could stop itself from
Turning back again.
Maybe I’m turning around the wrong
Stars altogether. Maybe my
Solar system will die anyway,
Even if it’s perfectly ordered.
Order means nothing
Unless the Son gives light.
But I fear Your rays are
Too strong for me.
What am I to do?
I implode on my own, I explode with You.
I hate both options.
But I suppose I would rather 
Burn quickly than suffocate slowly.
*	*	*
Then again, maybe a soul cannot be destroyed,
But only change form.
Planets cannot be protected,
But their remnants can turn to
Shooting stars, bathing new skies
With Light, power, and dreams.
So re-form me, Father,
Show me a better universe – 
Give me new stars to sing about – 
And give me the courage
To break and burn 
in the Light of  Your Son.

Notre Dame

The following is a moving and convicting tribute to Notre Dame, composed while she was burning and the world was watching. The poet employs beautiful language, as well as a well-known prayer to synthesize culture, emotion, history, faith, and philosophy in only these few stanzas.

One red flame is lit among the shambles
The white, wet water lilies choke
A torn blue mantle tossed among the brambles
Shrinks and burns and blackens in the smoke.
The feast of God is eaten by pagans and neglect conjures up
The wide, white demon of a smoky Mephistopheles—
Again the Maid is burning at the stake.
Another linchpin snaps in fracticals
While earth tetters on a limping axil
The orbits of the world in jeopardy,
I set my place for morning tea.
Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee.
Five past eight must be the hour of her decision.
Walsingham and Guadalupe make their intersessions
And turn their maiden eyes to the Isle de la Cite.
The sun sets over Orléans, and Paris passes into darkness,
Save the specter of a flame-licked spire
Teetering like the steady stars.
From some ancient corner of the nave I hear the Maid calling out:
Hold high the cross that I may see it through the flames
While a red-hot Carolingian beam crashes down
For the first time in eight centuries.
In a stunned half second half the world is silent
While the empty Temple of kings and clerics
Burns through the night like the shrines of Childeric
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Already I imagine the sterile, angular promontory
That will be your successor
Towering like some brutalistic savior;
Sculpted by a well-meaning socialist
In happy service to his motherland.
I am already assured by my betters that
Our imitation game will be sincere;
That my trembling hand will be held
While any memory of that shimmering spire
Fades like the foggy breath of the Seine
In the first glimpses of the April sun.
Across the river, ten thousand candles keep a different flame
And ten thousand mourners line the streets
As if to bid a queen goodbye—
Silent mourners who expect mortality of men,
But not of churches.  They sing.
Je vous salue, Marie. Pleine de grâce
And they ask Our Lady the burning question:
“Will you demand to exist?”
Will you listen while we ask you why?
Are you mortal?  Can you die?
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.

A Sonnet for My Son, Should He Cry

This poem was penned on an airplane. Something about a baby’s cry in that crowded sky-bus at so-many-thousands of feet inspired me; I wanted to write something for him in language that he could grow into, think over, and pray with over time. So, I took out my phone, opened my memos, and thought of my son.

For all the weary weight you may carry,
Know no burden lighter than lifted eye.
When firsthand you feel Earth heave, Hope tarry,
Clutch tight her broken wings and, in Faith, fly.

From above all is small, though wounds be raw;
Doubt toward his wounds til in His yours you see.
Lead-weighed happiness doubled by grey awe
Oft finds befitting shade under Christ’s tree.

So, bow your bruised heart, and, if needed, bend
Your eyes above, looking down on lowly Death.
Find Grace in your tears, which both pierce and mend,
And all the lonely cries you cry catch breath.

When your sadness swells with heartstrings de-strung,
God grant you peace in your sorrow, my son.

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