Why I Wrote a Poem

Last night, I dreamed I finally cried
About everything that’s happened.
Truthfully, I dreamed that we
Were in a morgue, and I saw you
Gasp, recognize a woman’s face,
Glazed and pale, mouth agape and
A crust of pulmonary blood
Staining her bony chin and then
I recognized her, too, and wept.

Up to this point in the crisis
I’ve managed to hold things inside.
Truthfully, I’ve not been at all
Sure what to feel, or how, or when—
I’m still not used to pandemics—
And so all my feelings jumble
And fail to register outside,
Making my face a mirror of
A confused and exhausted soul.

There have been both joys and sorrows
Watching the world change day by day.
Truthfully, I want it to stop
So I can sit still, take a breath,
And let things ooze out on paper
And begin to see what I think
About all this, or anything.
I want to rest, to plead, to rage
And I want to learn how to cry.

But I have been writing what I can,
Breadcrumbs for my future feelings.
Truthfully, I follow a rite—
Approaching life’s holy places
With tender phrases to hold close
Things which defy analysis
Or would be profaned by bare speech—
Pull on the ephod, take the blood
And incense into the presence.

Epigrammar

A comma belongs between each of your great thoughts;
Otherwise folks might confuse your “is” with their “oughts.”

Verbs make the world go ’round, ’tis true,
But for their acts, nouns are the glue.

To end a sentence, a preposition is more
Apropos than something else you could use it for.

“Every day” is an everyday phrase,
But using it rightly earns you great praise.

The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.
Why that matters is just too hard to ‘splain.

“If Ogden Nash could see me now,” I said,
“He’d tell me, ‘Write about a cow instead!”

Metered verse constrains the form of these words,
If only we could trim these thoughts by thirds.

On the Side: Takin’ Care of Business

Marginally profitable side businesses are the stock-in-trade of young families.

The ongoing race between month and money always comes down to a nose, so we cheat, dressing the one up like a halloween witch and hoping the judges don’t notice.

At different times this has taken the form of landscape design (me), editing college papers, resumes, and sundry writings of others (me, though usually quid pro quo), summer daycare (Rachel), non-profit office temporary help (Rachel), tutoring in a homeschool co-up (Rachel, also quid pro quo so our kids can attend), selling insurance (Rachel), and selling books (Rachel, currently). Whatever it takes to pad the bottom line so the bills don’t outpace the savings.

My latest venture came to me by a friend’s suggestion. He found a service that does (for a small feFlower Checkere) what I can’t seem to stop doing everywhere I go–telling people just what kind of plant they happen to be looking at. A few e-mails later, and I found myself working ad hoc on the back end of a Czech web business: FlowerChecker.

The basic premise involves a purchased app (there is also a free version now) in which users buy credits to redeem for positive ID from uploaded images of plants they’ve encountered. The fun comes in from the fact that there is no sophisticated, algorithmic database analysis running the show. Rather, FlowerChecker is a good old-fashioned mechanical Turk, with dozens of botany nerds (like myself) on the back end debating IDs and resolving requests. Each of us gets a small cut of the company’s earnings for completed requests weekly. Seriously, try it out sometime.

Beyond that, through a friend of a friend, I’ve been engaged in editing a medical text for missionary/rural doctors in the developing world. Freelancing will land you in all kinds of projects. This one has plenty of long words, grotesque illustrations, and helpful information, but it’s a privilege to help out with ministry in this way. Getting
paid a little for my time and effort is nice as well.

The blogging and other writing work are footing the bill for all this fun, sacrificing their Dollartime for the good of the group, but balance and routine will return in their season.

So the march goes on, and every little bit helps. Momma dollar and Poppa dollar are hard at work on the multiplication process as we speak.

Canticum Vitae

By what mystery does a man become alive?
With whose grace and power does his heart drum “alive”?

Strive. Flail. Drive. Rail. Keep afloat amid the wreckage.
Not one day can we add to keep the sum alive.

Sin and sorrow; today, tomorrow, tear and burn
Thought, sinew, bone, barely leaving some alive.

Love and mercy, justice, thanks and praise demanded
To be real, not a burdened, sallow bum alive.

Out of hope, out of joy, out of peace, out of strength;
A soul cannot remain on but a crumb alive.

Dare he remove the shroud, nameless horror beheld?
Stare it down, be still found with those who come alive?

Despair never keeps him who dies to be reborn.
Death’s defeater knows who to wrest you from alive.