the lord’s prayer.

our father, who art in heaven
there are only a few numbers i know by heart these days.

remember when we used to talk all the time? now,
is the buzzing in my ears a dial tone or busy signal?

do you prefer to text? now–
thy name? i am,
of course, but i am i am
stricken dumb as a priest, deaf
as a disciple.

yet you gave that donkey a voice to cry out against the bruises inflicted upon her back. no one could hear me when
he wandered in without a sound.

let’s break the ice:
let me introduce you to your daughter, the
Redwood Tree, who
can’t be born without the scorch of forest fires.

if burn scars tell better stories, well
you should see the scars on me, i’ve
got a st. paul-sized thorn in my side, give us this day
our daily coffee and sourdough bread and ibuprofen, i swear
he wandered in without a sound,

and (now) i know i’m not the only one.

dear augustine, is the king sun really so far away?
dear augustine, i’m afraid we’re sitting in the dark.
anyone got a nightlight for this cave?

got a light for a joint of grace? fragrance
holy and pleasing–wait
is it bad to inhale smoke?–just smoke? who cares
i want to feel fine, and i’m pretty sure
this is how fine feels; you know
more like barely feeling at all.

hardly aware of our own existence, how
can we be aware of those around us? we’ve
gleefully pushed ourselves down the drain, tailspin,
dragging all we can touch undertow.

tell me, what’s the difference between the world and the heart,
deceitful above all things,
tell me, he asked, who can know it?

tell me won’t you tell me what is truth tell me tell me tell me why won’t you why why won’t you please tell me tell me WHAT IS TRUTH.

you’ve hidden them in my heart, specifically:
that to kill is to hurl the world into a million pieces. look,
my normal average day, my watching her standing in the kitchen with her collarbones pulled tight and her eyes staring at the ground–
my getting through the day as normal is letting thousands of people die.

yet sometimes i wonder whose hands are bloodstained the most. now i have said something terrible. now do i have your attention?

because awareness comes to me like staring at the sun. topographically,
the distinction between enlightenment and blindness is slight. wondering,
if this this apple-tree knowledge is the lesser evil (because sometimes I have my doubts).

because awareness comes to me like swimming under a tidal wave filled with heaps of seaweed embroidery thread,
all flooding full the wedge of a granite crawl space.

all the while, the earth is rotating at
1,037 miles per hour. ever considered
the miracle that we aren’t all hobbling around with speed-of-light-induced migraines?

so don’t you dare talk to me about the stupid weather, ask me
how i’m managing to keep myself from spinning out of control. because awareness comes to me like GOD IT’S SO HEAVY WHERE CAN I PUT IT DOWN DOWN HERE I’M NOT SURE WE’RE BREATHING MUCH AT ALL.

can petitions for healing raise the five bodies i’ve watched exhale back into dust during the past three years? (i think we both know they were taken away too soon).

can petitions for healing reconstruct the roadmap in his mind, who often considers the ways he would like to exhale himself back into the dust? what the hell
is wrong with the blood in our brains?

and lately, i confess–
i’ve been taking my own turn to go swinging from the ceiling.

an embrace can cover a multitude of sins, but
where are you when i am less than sober, and want to stone myself
for my own transgressions?

am i not allowed to cast stones on even myself?

i’ve been trying to determine the differences between things i want, need, and have been given too much of without letting my eyes get all blurry–i’ll streak the mascara, you know–because i’ve been drawing in meagerly professional eyebrows in the day and smearing teal shadow at night, but everyone knows, you know, that caramel is the best color, not a wasted yellow like piss, or black umber like burnt coffee but caramel caramel caramel and oh i’m going to drink it like kisses, drink it in like kisses, I SWEAR…

i swear i swore myself i would never tell anyone else.

i swear that when he began to kiss my forehead and my cheeks it felt like tears running down my face, pseudonym gentle;
more like a feverish prodding, picking
at my scabs, at the pathetic
rages i kept caged inside of me, hung up
on the walls of my skull, embellished
in smudges of ash and smelling of rain.

and i swear he wandered in and left without a sound.

but i was the one who woke up underwater, falling
under the lethe, i think…i’m starting
…to forget…if…
i’m…breathing…or
if…i’m…drowning.

catch…me?…i’ve been sinking all night
for far too long.

you,
YOU WITH LION’S TEETH IN YOUR EYES,
IF YOU LOVE ME, CATCH ME.

with muddy arms, with holes
frayed in the knees of your jeans.

lead me not into fragmentation, but deliver us
from, specifically, deliver me
from cutting off–even so welded with scar tissue–deliver me
from cutting off my own ears.

i question that you’re the sky; i
think you are the sand, and the dirt,
for that is exactly where i am made every day, and i’ve seen
your muddy arms, and the holes
frayed in the knees of your jeans,

and the way YOU sweat RED over the stained glass you create.

Keeping Faith While In Despair

Hey all! I received the privilege of publishing an article on Self Talk the Gospel, an online writing community that I had been interning with as a Content Curator during the previous six months. I wrote a guest post for their Impressed Series, in which their writers describe an experience with a piece of literature that left a lasting impression.

For my article “Keeping Faith While in Despair,” I chose to write about Soren Kierkegaard’s book Fear and Trembling (even a year since graduation, my humanities classes are still ringing in my ears), along with my experience of faith and spiritual depression. Here’s a snippet:

Finally. I had finally encountered a fellow lover of wisdom and member of the Christian faith who told me that the authenticity of my faith doesn’t depend on how I feel before I go to bed at night, or how I feel during worship at church. That my choosing faith is what matters, as opposed to depending on whether or not I feel like I have faith.

You can read the rest of the article by following the link here. If you’re curious about topics of Kierkegaard, the nuances of spirituality and faith, despair, and/or my writing in general, check it out!

Enjoy,
-Jennifer

Saline (pt. X)

The first time I dropped in on a wave, really dropped in, I finally knew what it felt like to be in my rightful place in the world. The timing, paddling, pop-up, and steering had culminated into that ever-desired perfect glide. For a few seconds, I spread royal wings and flew. For a few seconds, the sky rolled back to show how it was made of something as beautiful as an abalone shell.

* *

The painting is titled “Theology,” I said. One hundred eyes passed over the piece, consuming its wild blue spilling and plunging. Now they awaited my defense and explanation. 

The correlation is simple, this idea of Sublimity in the character of God; One experienced as powerful, infinite, mighty, and ultimate. Yet when we experience this, we are somehow allowed to live, often leaving full of something like love or respect. The same experience is manifest when I am in the ocean, delighting in its power without it killing me–hence the “theology” of the crashing wave.

* *

It is an important moment in life when you realize that the calmest part of the ocean is the water directly beneath the wave. It is like finally realizing that to dance in the arms of another person, you have to stop struggling to lead your way. It is a moment of enlightenment in which you realize to keep from drowning, you must go underwater. No matter how the white water roars, if you duck below the plummets of the break, there you will find peace. Finally, you must learn to listen to the sea, for it will tell you when it’s safe to return to breathing again.

* *

Noah arrived by my side and with his classic bemused half-grin and complimentary fist-pound. Kick-ass were his first words. Others had offered similar congratulations. But he followed to say something more striking in clarity. Good job capturing the calm water right under the wave. A lot of people forget that part, he said. I looked back at the painting. The effect had been unintentional, but now that he pointed it out, I saw it. And I realized it was something I had known about all along. 

Saline (pt. IX)

There was a lull in the swell.

Look! Dolphins. I lifted my hand dripping with saltwater to point out the dorsal fin tips peeking out of the watery blanket, not many yards from where Jordan and I drifted.

My brother is an extrovert. He laid belly-down on his surfboard and started paddling toward the grey-skinned mammals. I began to follow. There was an exciting fearful tension of wanting to get close and stay far away at the same time. I am an introvert. 

We paddled close enough to hear the sputtering sound of blowhole exhalations. I wondered if they could sense us, what they regarded of Jordan and I. wondered what their underwater world looked like. I regarded them as creature cousins, physically categorized as cetaceans, yet connected to us by a mix of sibling DNA and spirit capacity. 

The scene made me think of a book I had read when I was young, Island of the Blue Dolphins. I barely remember much about it except that there was a tribal girl left to fend for herself on an island, and a lot of imagery of sun-bleached whale bones. 

The dolphin brothers seemed unthreatened by our presence. Their smooth grey backs passed by us calmly, the same way the humpback whale swam by my uncle’s boat when we were giving my grandpa’s dust back to the sea. The way he said goodbye with his whale tail waving in the sky, slowly, nonchalantly.

* *

Is coming up for air by works or by faith? I was baptized by my own volition in the ocean. An overcast day off of Santa Cruz. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They said getting baptized was like dying and coming back to life. I wonder if it is regarded as literal by some people, similar to the Catholic Transubstantiation. It makes me wish Pastor Chad would have held me under longer so I could remember what dying felt like. Seems that I have been baptized many times since then, with the countless times of getting tossed by rough close-outs, under and back up again, like a soggy ragdoll. That’s when I really knew what resurrection felt like, when I could come back up to breathe again. But maybe that’s by works, not faith, so it wasn’t supposed to count?

Is coming up for air by works or by faith? Someone had asked the same question to Dr. Culp during his lecture. 

Well, technically, breathing itself is αργος, so what do you think? he said, smiling.

* *

Tonight was the night, and the painting was dry just in time. It was carried by four arms and four legs into the meeting hall, to the back wall, in preparation for the exhibition.

“Jesus Dub” videos

Unfortunately, Christians have created some stereotypes about the character of Jesus that are pretty lame. Cheesy old videos trying to document Jesus’ life don’t really help much. So someone took some clips of those cheesy old videos and added some voice-overs to poke some good fun at the lame stereotypes Jesus is often given.

I first saw these clips a couple years ago in high school youth group, and I had totally forgotten about them until one of my friends resurrected them after our Bible study (any irony at all?), and I think they’re even funnier to me now than ever.

They’re pretty short and witty, so have a laugh and check ’em out.