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slammin'

Here is a piece of slam poetry that was part of my presentation at a theology conference today. It is based on Psalm 127:1-2.

I woke up one day and said, I am going to build a house
I got a hammer and some nails
and a big book from Amazon that promised
"do it yourself without fail"
I envisioned something extraordin-ary
marble and glass, cedar and cherry
impressive and functional
smaller than Babel yet bigger than a stable
And I took my first nail and I raised my hammer
and I swung with all my might
and this is how I broke my right....thumb

I woke up the next day and said, I am going to build a career
I drew up a plan
go to the best university in the land
study smart, network hard, get straight A's
hire myself out to the highest bidder and one day
hopefully not too far away
build my own business empire
smaller than Rome, of course, but bigger than Bethlehem
And I took my first exam, after a night of cramming
which is after all, obligator-y
and this is how I made my first C...minus

I woke up a week after that and said, who needs a career?
I am going to get back to nature and raise my own food
I planted organic seeds
pulled out organic thorns and weeds
fertilised with organic manure from my organic pure-bred bovine herd
I irrigated with purified water and tilled the nutrified ground
from dawn till dusk
I turned vegetarian, bought a juicer, and voted egalitarian
The fields were turning ripe and heavy with harvest
not enough that I could eat, drink and be merry for the rest of my life, no
but certainly more than a handful of manna
And so I sharpened my sickle while I watched the harvest moon grow
and that was how I saw the hail coming out of no...where
I didn't go to bed that night as I watched my city of grain...maimed
my curses and threats did nothing to shame… this icy enemy
He marched in the gate and took what he wanted
He flaunted his cold power and flattened the tower-ing stalks of wheat
And only then did he beat his slow retreat

I woke up the next day and said
building a house is vanity, total insanity, all pain and no gain
a decaying proposition
and building a career is vanity, too
false expectation, deflation, promises that never reach gestation
and self-sufficiency, it is a vain lie, pie in the sky
requiring more for less
reaping nothing but stress
everything I have tried is vanity
is this the curse of humanity?
If there is a God, he is not on my side
He has taken me for a ride, and I want to get off!

I woke up the next day and there was a knock at my door
it was a carpenter, someone I thought I had met before
I can build you a house, he said, but it might take awhile
I use only the best materials and those don't come cheap or easy
Cheap and easy have already been tried and found wanting, I told him
What's the cost going to be? I inquired of the man who had come knocking

What do you have? he asked
Well, I said, due to some unfortunate circumstances
I am left with only my two hands
and one of them is giving me some pain
an old injury is to blame
I know all about old injuries, he said, and pulled out
an experienced hammer
I am ready to get started, he told me, and waited for my reply
Well if you want to build it, I said, I am willing to try...again

The arrangement had me puzzled, I had to admit
because there was nothing I was contributing to this equation
except the story of how I jumped from one failed situation…to the next
I had to know, so I asked
If you are the builder, then what is my task? Am I to be your assistant?
He laughed at the question
as if he heard it all the time, and said
You? Why don't you be....loved. Yes, beloved.
This is a photo of an old barn near St. Lazare.

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