Where God Hides
Between the inhale and the exhale
lies a house where God dwells.
He rests in the lull after
the prayer and before the amen,
and curls up in the darkness
between the match strike and the flame.
He reclines in the crevice
made by gently-held hands
as well as in the instant
between eye-close and kiss.
Sometimes He hides in the furrows
among ripples on a pond
or in the head of a candle snuffer—
yellow glow turned to smoke.
Even a ubiquitous God
has His favorite hiding places
where He prefers to spend time
while he’s also everywhere else.
St. Dominic’s Patio Chair
I have spent hundreds of hours
praying in the blue patio chair
in my office—across from the bookcase
filled with rolls of duct tape and fishing
gear and a tub of spackling paste. Plastic
mesh pulled tight between powder-coated
metal arms and legs—arms just far enough
apart so my elbows don’t touch them
when my hands are folded in my lap.
Hands lie nestled one inside the other,
fingers never intertwined; bare feet
shifting back and forth on the carpet
like grazing animals, until they find
their perfect spot. Is it a paradox
to find my sweet Lord’s presence
in a place designed for drinking beer
between games of cornhole? I wonder
if the chair misses its compatriots, exiled
outside in the rain around the umbrella
table. Perhaps it is they who think
the indoor chair has been exiled.
St. Dominic surely would have included
my chair in his nine ways of prayer,
had he sat in it for only a few minutes—
inserting the chair sitting position between
standing erect with arms outstretched
and reaching towards heaven like an arrow.
When I get to Heaven and find
a place prepared for me, I hope
that place has a blue patio chair,
for there are times when I imagine
worshiping God for all eternity
sitting in this chair. And I hope
in Heaven, I meet St. Dominic
so he can try my chair and comment
how comfortable it is and how his
elbows don’t touch the arms, as I watch
his feet graze the floor before settling in.
But for today, the chair and the bookcase
and the rain outside are mine, as I sit
with the Lord, my soul resting
in a chair disposed to prayer.
One Thing Remained
Thumbs pressed firmly on his eyelids,
fingers wrapped over his ears,
while the crowd rustled and murmured
amid the sweat and dust.
Why had he answered, “yes,” when asked,
“Do you believe I can do this?”
He didn’t know if he really believed
or simply had a desperate longing—
if there was even a difference
between the two. For seventeen years
he had grasped at straws; deceived
by both physicians and Pharisees.
When the stranger said, “Let it be
done for you according to your faith,”
the man wondered if it was mercy
or if he was being mocked for his lack
of conviction; having so often been taunted.
Memories swelled—dreams of the torrent
of light that might again fill his body.
With eyes still shut, he feared hope—
as the years had taught him to fear it.
Yet only one thing remained: To open
with even the smallest scrap of trust,
expecting brilliant blaze or enduring night.
When I told you My love was so great
that I wanted to spend eternity with you,
I didn’t mean an eternity at some far-off time,
as if everlasting life was a clock wound
by your death. Eternity began the day
I conceived your soul—on that day,
I unfurled within you, long before your birth;
long before you first saw the world.
Yet you forget our eternity is well underway,
squandering our time as you imagine me
in some far-off place, aloof and hidden.
From your conception, no time will ever separate us;
not a second of your earthly life or thereafter.
You always have been and always will be
Each year before school started, mother led
him to the store, through the men’s department,
past the boys’ clothing to the back room
with the faded cardboard sign that said:
He didn’t know what made him irregular—
perhaps it was the birthmark on his left leg
or the cowlick of hair he had to smash down
with water each morning before the bus came.
Heaps of clothing lay tangled in large gray bins,
not possessing the common courtesy to line up
for easy inspection on wooden hangers.
Some pieces tried to escape over the bin edges
and onto the floor, as if not even the shirts
and pants wanted to associate with him.
His mother plunged her arms deep
into piles of cloth, like a scuba diver hunting
for sunken treasure, trying to find a pearl
that had gone undetected by other shoppers.
As she grumbled, “awful button holes”
and “horrible seam stitching,”
he anxiously raised his eyes to see
if any of the other customers had noticed
he was irregular—the sign suspended
from the ceiling like a lighthouse beacon,
warning the richer families to stay away.
He knew it was too much to wish
for a hanger shirt: a shirt neatly pressed
and arranged by size on a shiny metal rack.
He had once asked his mother about hanger shirts
but she had just shot him a look he knew meant
he should be quiet and forget that question.
Standing in front of the clothing bin, his head
bowed, all thought of hope and hangers
slipped away until a pair of pants hit him
in the ribs, pressing his pendant Crucifix
into his chest—the form of one irregular boy
leaving its impression on another. And he heard
his mother say, “Try those on in the fitting room.”