*icons of: power… philosophy… money… self*
(from the 1st edition:)
I have long loved and hated poetry. I love it because it speaks to me on so many levels. I hate it because too much of it seems either dated, rather obscure or sometimes, downright
unapproachable. Not to mention that I am both of the generation (and of the profession) that would rather curl up with a good record than a good book. Have we grown lazy in terms of reading? Would we just as soon have others do our thinking for us? Could be. And it might be we need to be challenged to THINK and think more biblicly as well as artfully. Which brings me to a couple of other questions:
What is poetry? And for that matter, what separates it from prose? I don’t know, but I think I’m probably prosaic as opposed to poetic.
In part, Webster’s definition of the word “poet” is: “a person who composes poetry, and who has the gift of poetic thought, imagination, and creation, together with eloquence of expression”. “Poem- a composition in verse, especially one that is characterized by a highly developed artistic form and by the use of heightened language and rhythm to express and intensely imagine….”
Truly good writing is a mystery to me. The English language challenges, humbles, delights and intimidates me terribly. So I try to read it when I can, write it when it seems I’m moved to do so. Words are a bit like crayons, they’re fun to play with. But they also hold intrinsic moral content and therefore great power. We will be judged both by and for them- here and hereafter! I write with this in mind.
In the event you find something of value here, may you benefit in the Lord. As you find things fit for the dumpster- feed it with my compliments!
UPDATE, 2nd edition, Spring 2001: Funny how everything changes and nothing changes at all! Some seven years haven’t dampened my commitment to these words or their deeper
meanings. There are still those who chase one or more twisted icons of their own design, East and West. There are still self-made prisoners of self-centered dreams. May God’s incredible grace bring them the courage to face and embrace what Jesus called Truth. There is no hope of freedom in mere imagination, for the truth alone sets us free! -g.k.
1. a picture, image or other representation.
2. a representation in painting, enamel, etc., of some sacred
personage, as Christ or a saint or angel, itself venerated as
3. a sign or representation that stands for its object
by virtue of a resemblance or analogy to it.
my Lord and Savior
my Wife and Dearest Friend
2) ACCUSER OF THE BRETHREN
5) TONIGHT I TOOK COMMUNION
6) THE CZARS HAVE CHANGED THEIR NAMES
7) EAST MEETS WEST
8) DOES FREEDOM RING?
9) IF I RULED THE WORLD
10) IN VIEW OF THIS
11) AND I WOKE UP
12) ? IN MY KITCHEN
13) THE NEW CANON
14) IT IS NO LIFE
15) IF I WERE A POET
16) THE PROBLEM WITH PRESS
17) PS 19.1
20) MY UNIVERSE IS SPLIT
21) GREY DAY
And here we have the preamble preview prefix preface this
momentary irritation slight dress-rehearsal it is the grain to
the seashore the drop to the ocean the zero to infinity the
immediate to the infinite this forward, this decisive second
launches us towards an eternal destination.
ACCUSER OF THE BRETHREN
as pointed wire
’round this bivouac
accused to abused to tortured- No-
we shall call it
of course we know so you might as well sign it
It won’t do you any good
But then again…
Aaah your family-the pictures are right here. Yes, lovely,
quite lovely aren’t they? Lots of time.
It is hard speaking the language of heaven and
the language of earth as well
some days you are hard pressed to find one
with the gift of interpretation.
Yet silence seems less commendable
when you have something to say
Let the language of heaven Be held in esteem…
And the tongue of Hades
calendars in motion
it’s getting later than I think but I
try not to think
I take comfort, my
times in His hands
and if it were my
there would be none
Who gives strength and sustains
gives grace for aging
I think I’ll make an interesting old man!
TONIGHT I TOOK COMMUNION
tonight i took communion
i didn’t feel You
were You there?
tonight i was sick and, yes–tired
i think it showed
but my mind was on You
and a deeper joy
rings in my soul
it is fact–body broken
it is fact–blood spilled
it is certain
You accept me
You love me
tonight i took communion
Feeling chose not to attend
i sent Fiction, Feeling’s friend
to visit him.
Tonight i took communion
and You with me.
THE CZARS HAVE CHANGED THEIR NAMES
The czars have changed their names
but their dacha’s remain the same
guilty masses, bloody purges
of course it’s all for the best
where there is no God and neither devil
neither demons either one has only men
the good, the bad.
Of course we have the rules
And someone had to make them
And they were good men good rules the Best!
Only someone had to interpret these flawless codes
and ensure purity
but what do men masquerading as God
know about such matters?
EAST MEETS WEST
just who was it that decided? did it begin simply, as
“just another day at the office?”
was it hard work or dirty business, hmmm?
was it anything like an eastern European version of
western back room politics
come on, surely after all this time
you could tell us!
It is history, isn’t it?
Glasnosted? Perestroika-ed? Just a shade…
sorry–I was just going to say, capitalistic in scope.
Were the masses considered mathematically?
Did the totals correspond to the ideals?
Or did they really figure into the prophesied vision of the
eternal state-that-would- be-deity at all?
Surely someone concluded somewhere
that these newest secular icons would need
And what purpose or meaning would have remained
for those pagan pontiffs of 1918
without peasants over whom to
So could someone just come out with it?
Who WAS it that decided upon such
DOES FREEDOM RING?
i thought i heard a dull sort of toll
or at least the sound of fools
who babbled incoherently
who dared to challenge rules
who were these pious
ahhh, “anointed” masses?
they should have tightly clung to lessons
taught them in our classes
these are irresponsible to do what they’ve been told
wonder at their Master
what is gold?
whose bullets fell in virtuous works
no defense could withstand
whose bivouac was heaven
wonder at the foolishness
teachers, learn the sting
where soldiers march in different step
IF I RULED THE WORLD
if I ruled the world
everyone would be blind
in which case
all would be thought of as
creatures of beauty and wonder
if I ruled the world
each person would be deaf
and our minds would be filled
with the richness of
everyone’s imagined voice
and majestic singing
if I ruled the world
every nose would simply filter out
any possible offensive odor
so that only glorious fragrances
would enter into our lives
and if I ruled the world
only exquisite tasting
and delicate touching
in the fallen race of man
aah, but if I ruled the world
darkness and light would mingle
right/wrong collide in confusion
love would never have been…
no choice- no love.
IN VIEW OF THIS
flung far like old rags
grunted going, gone
and then over
over into arms of
What a view!
What a View in view!!!
where crowns are thrown
before golden tear-washed Feet
we love much
before this throne
world without end
AND I WOKE UP
…and I woke up
as though I had been sleeping
at times I had wished I was still asleep
at times I wished the dream had stayed with me
one finds oneself
at the end of a rope
at the end of oneself
at the end of the end
one wishes the end would end, one does.
one and one make two
could it be
two make dreams come true?
sometimes it seemed almost a movie to me
and who wrote the script, indeed?!
why when I awakened, I knew
even as I had been known
the night far spent
the day at hand
in hands pierced
? IN MY KITCHEN
invasion of my
so severely real to
crossed my heart I thought I’d
no more taken for a
knees to floor
mouth to ear
deliver me from
THE NEW CANON
true to the disciplines of Athens
before the mind of man
hail to enlightened theory
what the poor Bible-foolish need is
HERE no partial knowledge
inherent rights have we
How Dare one criticize, yes blaspheme
of human philosophy
IT IS NO LIFE
You blaspheme the sanctity
of the birthplace
for as many pieces of silver
they are never named
you trifle with Consuming Fire
solutions in the clay
“It is no human.
It is no life.”
certainly–you’re most right!
It is death
Buy and sell
It is written in the Books
and the payment
you didn’t know?!
Except we turn
we reap precisely
what we sow
IF I WERE A POET
if i were a poet i’d scream and spit justice
i’d bite and howl treachery
well i’d fix what’s broke.
if i were a poet
i’d know an adjective from a preposition
i’d sport a six-ton thesaurus
i’d give readings to snobbish socialites
and rotted crass intellectuals
beatniks and hippies
if any were left.
and if i were a poet
i’d crawl out of journalistic trenches with a
over the top i’d slog
in the face of formidable odds
and when the last writes were writ
when i had said my bit
they’d say, “He should’ve quit before he started.”
See–if you’re really a poet
you’re not history…
’til you’re departed.
THE PROBLEM WITH PRESS
first i must say plural
see i liked the sound of the singular
but for accuracy–it’s problems!
do i believe all the good things
do i accept the criticisms
they missed a few strengths
they need my list of critiques!
and the hype–these icon makers!
by what criteria–no–whose criteria
is art judged?
comparison by comparison?
trend by trend?
i must stop noticing press
the problem with press
i’m in it.
sometimes i feel the landscape envelopes me in its
enwraps me with its
kisses me with
but only a shadow
scant slight fogged bit of reflection
of the love
Who made it.
when I first listened I did not hear
when I first looked, I did not see
as I first read I didn’t read
once notified I did not notice!
I say it to my shame
I said nothing
I tell you in my sin I felt no shame
In silence I had peace
I had rest
But today I must shout
I must scream!
The corruption and the lust has my throat
The famine of justice denies my sleep
The insanity of a world that markets
its own insanity
Causes me to pray, to sing, to weep
For every prisoner
For every victim
For every despot
For every bigot
For every day my vision clears
Tongue is loosed
God grant mercy/come Lord, come!
The language of abuse.
What can I do about all this?
Listen I have to support a family
I’m sorry I’ve got finals next week
Look I’m not called like you are!
Hey-I bought the cd
I put it in the offering
Let ’em go out and get a job
I’m not responsible for what my ancestors did!
It’s the least you can do for the least
Peter, do you love Me?
MY UNIVERSE IS SPLIT
i woke up one morning
i mean, i AWAKENED
what happened during the night?
The night “far spent…”
it’s true and i know it’s true
i didn’t want to know it.
my universe is split
sometime during this night
it used to…i used to be so tidy!
in fact things are clearer than ever
but nowhere as clean or neat. my God my God why have I forsaken
somewhere in this night
i allowed bad seed to root
i wanted perfection and accepted
i wanted the right thoughts and accepted only
the right speech
i wanted right relations and accepted a
the inside of this cup is not clean
it is daybreak.
i must put away the dream
my universe is split.
i thank You!
slight leaf rustle
nip in air
i wear grey
as a cloak, ’round me
in dark bark
soil, brush, earth
scent rain tonic
Glenn Kaiser is a pastor at Jesus People U.S.A., an
inner-city Chicago-based Christian community and missionary outreach. The
calling of JPUSA is to serve Jesus, the poor, seniors, widows and orphans,
as well as predominately young, disenfranchised and often forgotten fringe
people so often discarded in American mainstream society. It is a unique
and costly calling. It is uncomfortable yet motivated and sustained since
1972 by The Comforter. For further information about JPUSA or Glenn:
www.jpusa.org and/or www.grrrrecords.com
2nd Print Edition/2nd Electronic Edition of “Interviewing Icons” 6/19/20 -Junteenth-