Sunday, April 30, 2017

Bearing Witness to the Times: 100 Days

100 Days

Can the first one hundred days 
Unfold the path before us?
The New Deal reshaped a nation.
The Great Society held out promise
But did not foretell the struggle
And the unraveling that would come.

These one hundred days –
Marked by petty discord,
Wartime posturing,
And confused uncertainty –
May be telling our own story.

While many voices still call out
For justice and equality,
Many others turn a blind eye
To the fascist greed
That shapes the public square.

Sober minds can recall missteps in our past:
A constitution that counted three-fifths of a person
To accommodate slaveholders;
A Supreme Court’s Dred Scott Decision;
A government enforcing the Indian Removal Act.

A country that sings “Let freedom ring”
While shackling slaves
And engaging in genocidal acts
Has been our paradox
Of good and evil.

Taking pains to correct past mistakes,
Our country has made gains
In “liberty and justice for all.”
Now we carefully negotiate our way
Through one hundred days of chaos,
Wondering if those gains will be lost.

“This cannot be us,”
We cry in dismay,
“We are better than this!”
This is, indeed, us.
We are those things we hate
In one another.
Where do we go from here,
Now that our true colors
Are on display?

In the clear light
And in the aftermath of an electoral vote,
Perhaps we see ourselves too clearly,
Or perhaps we do not see at all.

We live with divided allegiances
And shared dreams,
Holding out hope
That our best efforts
May yet correct
Our current missteps.

                                                ~ CK


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Daylight

with the morning dawn
the city lights fade away
  dispersed like darkness   


Photo: "Daylight coming in Downtown Tuscaloosa"
Credit: Dennis Johnston of Dennis J Photography


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Keep Trying to Say it

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

― Arundhati Roy, War Talk

It is never comfortable to be living in between the times as we are right now. The old is passing and the new in still on the horizon. We have no way to fully know how long or how hazardous the transition will be from here to there. The writer Arundhati Roy gives hope to all who are currently trying to make a stand for a better way to live. As she admonishes, whether you tell our story in words, in music, in art, in drama or in dance, keep on telling it. Continue to be a voice for our time.

Below is a video clip of George Harrison encouraging the Smothers Brothers during a time of political censorship to keep on trying. "Whether you say it or not, to keep trying to say it." ("That's what's important.")


Monday, April 24, 2017

Monday Music: Moon River (Eric Clapton & Jeff Beck)

There is no archetypal image quite like a river. "Moon River," music by Henry Mancini and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, taps in beautifully to that archetype. The song was written in 1960 to be sung by Audrey Hepburn in the movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's. Andy Williams' recording of the song put him on the map as one of the last great crooners. A host of other singers have recorded it.

Here we have the guitar work of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck to help the song sail further on.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bearing Witness to the Times: Sanctuary Cities

San Francisco is one of several sanctuary cities    (Photo by Kaddi Sudhi)
(Headline from Reuters)

Sanctuary Cities

Across the country
Cities rise –
Reaching for humanity,
Calling upon our higher nature.

While often seen
As places of danger –
Cruel life on the streets
And hideouts for our greatest evil 
Cities also gather our greatest good,
Presenting skills of workers
Talents of artists
And dreams of seekers.

While a nation constricts,
Guarding its borders
And hoarding its treasure,
Some cities rise in freedom.

Some cities proclaim our best,
Welcoming the stranger
And speaking to the hopes of our ancestors.

Defying bitter politics of fear,
Sanctuary cities offer shelter
And refuge
To all who have heard the call
Of Lady Liberty
In New York Harbor.

While politicians cry
“We are a nation of laws,”
Our conscience cries,
“We are a nation of immigrants.”

It is to the city that we come.
We come to find ourselves,
We come to find America.

                                                           ~ CK

*    *    *

Photo by Mike Blake (Reuters)


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Towhee Splashes

a towhee splashes
in the cool springtime waters
secure in his world


Photo: Spotted Towhee bathing by Matthew Tekulsky


Friday, April 21, 2017

Incidental poetry

April is National Poetry Month, and writers are always interested in finding writing prompts to stimulate their craft. Here is a bit of "incidental poetry" in which I took a Facebook status from a friend, "What could possibly be more sad than an empty teacup," as an immediate prompt:

An Empty Teacup

What could possibly be more sad than an empty teacup?

Ah, but an empty teacup is full of promise!
What will it yet hold?
Earl Grey?  

And this cup could welcome a guest –
a traveler,
a special friend,
an aunt or grandma.
It may allow that visitor to sit at your table
and bless your house.
There is an old man yet to visit, with a staff and a cape –  
Except for the briar pipe in his mouth you might mistake him for Elijah,
But the empty cup may beckon that moment.

Oh, the possibilities of an empty teacup!

*    *    *

Be on the lookout for writing prompts this month during the course of your ordinary day.


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Rest on the Flight into Egypt

How still the air must be this night –
A wisp of smoke
Moves straight to the sky
As the fugitive fire 
Slowly dies.

How still the night
As the light of heaven
Rests in Egypt’s ancient arms.

How still the night
As donkey grazes and
Joseph sleeps
While beyond the distant river
Some petty tyrant
Fashions weapons of war.

And a newly blessed mother
Slumbers in the protective Sabbath
Of a watchful Sphinx.

                                                 ~ CK


Image: Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Artist: Luc Olivier Merson (French, 1846–1920)
Medium: Oil on canvas
Date: 1879


Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday Music: Tallahassee

I just happened upon this indie/folk group after discovering the "1809 Studios recording sessions" on YouTube. 1809 Studios, according to their website, "is a private recording studio house inside a re-purposed, 19th century Erie Canalside Tavern. Offering relaxing surroundings, sleeping accommodations, and combining classic & modern equipment with reasonable prices.

"All bands have full access to a bunk room, full bathroom, kitchenette, lounge, and outdoor recreation (canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hammocking, camp fires, etc). Here you can easily remove yourself from daily life to focus on making the best recording of your career."


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bearing Witness to the Times: The True Story of War

Tanks line up for the parade in Pyongyang on Saturday. (AP Photo)

(Headline from The Guardian)
(Headline from The Hill)

The True Story of War

Refugees tell the true story
Of leaders’ declarations of might.
After seeking shelter
From bombs and marauders,
They leave desolation behind
Hoping to carry on.

What hopes do they carry
With the few things gathered in their bags?
Will children play?
Will the ground be steady?
Will families reunite in foreign lands?
Or will they simply survive
To look for hope on another day?

Refugees tell the true story
Of a world where life struggles to maintain
Amid the rubble scattered
By presidents and generals
Who live in opulence and greed;
Who trade in proud speeches and intrigue.

Those who find peace
Avoid the brutal boot heels of victory,
Or find shelter and sustenance
From kind souls who do the penance
For a nation at war.

Even now
Refugees wait,
Stranded as it were,
Between desolation and hope
While egocentric heads of state
Test new bombs
That may swell the ranks
Of refugees who tell the true story of war.

                                                                             ~ CK

*    *    *

Donald Trump lauded the bombing of ISIS targets
in Afghanistan on April 13 (Getty Images)
 North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un applauds during
parade in Pyongyang on  April 15
 (AP Photo)


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Texas Springtime

blue skies in Texas
bluebonnets cover the hills
springtime stakes its claim


Photo: Stone Fenced Field by Earl McGehee via Flickr


Friday, April 14, 2017

Closing Prayer for the Kingdom (The Fifteenth Station of the Cross)

< Fourteenth Station of the Cross

Oh Lord, you taught us to resist Empire by living with confidence in the reign of God, but our hearts are turned by fair winds and vain promises. Sometimes we are crushed under the heels of Empire, and sometimes we aid in Empire’s oppression, whether by active participation or by silent assent. We are the ones who shout “Hosanna!” and we are the ones who cry, “Crucify him!”

In the dark illumination of the Via Dolorosa, we have seen ourselves. We have seen ourselves capitulating to Empire; we have seen ourselves facing sorrow and death. We have also seen Christ among the living and the dying. We have walked the path that separates the Way of Life from the way of death.

In the darkness that is Good Friday, we stop to experience the absence of your light. We dwell in the moment of death and non-being as though the light has gone out. It is only by knowing the magnitude of loss and the depth of sorrow that we can truly honor the Way of Life and the hope of God's reign in our hearts.

You taught us in Matthew 25 that a nation is to be judged not by victories over its enemies, but by how it treats the weakest within its borders. May we therefore set out to care for the sick, give purpose and rehabilitation to the prisoners, provide for the hungry, and make a way for the destitute that in doing so we may all share in the bounty and gladness of the reign of God. Teach us also to care for the good earth. May we come to see all creatures that dwell within this fragile home as integral parts of your wondrous creation. 

May we live with your confidence in the reign of God, even in the face of hardship and death.           
                                                                                                                                                                                     ~ CK

*   *   *   *   *

                         From The Book of Common Prayer:
                         (just prior to the consecration of the bread and wine at the Lord’s Table)

Lord God of our Fathers: God of Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob; God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: Open our
eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver
us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace
only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for
renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one
body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the
world in his name.

Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the Bread.

                                                                ( Eucharistic Prayer C)


*   *   *

Note: For a meditation on Holy Week beginning with Holy Thursday, see Paschal Triduum: A Personal Journey


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Fourteenth Station of the Cross: Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb

< The Thirteenth Station of the Cross                                                               Closing Prayer for the Kingdom >

Jesus' disciples place his body in the tomb

When Jesus is confined to the pages of a book,
 then he remains entombed and Empire has the upper hand

Beyond the sacred page I seek you, Lord;
my spirit waits for you, O living Word.
                             ~ Mary A. Lathbury

The best way to keep Jesus in the tomb is to confine him to the pages of a book. When that book is given holy status but never read (or hardly read or selectively read), then Empire succeeds in keeping Jesus entombed so that religious people often end up doing the bidding of Empire. The popular hymn, "Break Thou the Bread of Life," by Mary Lathbury contains a subtle word of wisdom that is the key to seeing the risen Christ: "Beyond the sacred page I seek you, Lord." When we confine Christ to the pages of the Bible, he is dead to the world around us. When we allow Christ to exist beyond those pages where he can address the death-making machinations of Empire, then he is risen, indeed.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Bearing Witness to the Times: A Unity of Bombs

Photo from Mass Communication SPC. Ford Williams/U.S. Navy via AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Tomahawk missiles streak through the air as Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter conducts strike operations against Syria while in the Mediterranean Sea on April 7, 2017 (New York Daily News)

(Headline from The Hill)

A Unity of Bombs

How quickly sentiments can change
With a bomb –
Like a collective sigh of relief.

A shower of missiles launched
Toward a Syrian airbase
Suddenly changed the public narrative.
Opponents applaud a decisive act.
Critics allow
That something had to be done.
It’s like those Hollywood westerns
When the sheriff fires a gun into the air
And the crowd settles down.

When peace and diplomacy
Become tiresome,
A good bomb can break the tension –
Reset the clock.

An empire
With excess guns and bombs
Has one solution for every problem.

While heads of state
Or congratulate,
The people remain crushed
Under the heel
Of political power.

A bomb makes a leader
Look decisive,
But the dust always settles
On the people now seen as collateral damage –
Disregarded and marginalized –
The dust settles,
Streamed by humanity’s tears.

                                                            ~ CK


Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday Music: Raga Pancham Se Gara (Ravi Shankar)

Two remarkable musicians: a young Ravi Shankar on sitar accompanied by Allah Rakha on the tabla. In this live recording (from 1968), both musicians bear honorific titles: "Pandit" Ravi Shankar -- Pandit is a Hindu term for scholar in philosophy or music; and "Ustad" Allah Rakha -- ustad is a term for teacher. Both men were quite accomplished musicians.

Pandit Ravi Shankar & Ustad Allah Rakha performing live for the BBC at Pebble Mill


Sunday, April 9, 2017

An American Poetry Project

Twilight's Last Gleaming

I refer to this as an “American Poetry Project” because it is my own private attempt to take a look at the state of our nation and to render some public sense of the times in poetic form. I wrote the first poem, “When Hope Is Set in Stone” on Inauguration Day and have written a poem each week since then to try to grasp the mood in our country. President Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address, referred to the 87 years since the country’s founding and the war which was “testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

We are now 240 years beyond our nation’s formative Declaration of Independence, and some see these times as testing the very fabric of democracy.  Below are the poetic “witnesses” that I have composed to date. I do not plan to cease in my weekly writings, but with 12 poems to date, it seemed like a good time to stop and take stock of what we have seen.

The blog series is called, “Bearing Witness to the Times,” and here are the first 12 poems of the series (you can click on any title to read the poem):

Dealer of the White House (to the Tune of “Master of the House”)

Late Note: Here are further installments:

          A Unity of Bombs 
          The True Story of War 
          Sanctuary Cities 

          100 Days


 *    *    *


Photo: Twilight's Last Gleaming by Phil Dolby  


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Fish Pond

a tree's reflection
bends to a koi's bright graces
the world welcomes life


Photo by Larry O. Gay


Friday, April 7, 2017

The High Museum of Art

(Getty Images photo)

Last week my daughter and I took a trip to Atlanta to visit the High Museum of Art. My daughter is an artist and has toured the High on a few occasions, but this was my first visit. I suggested to her after one of her trip to Atlanta that one day we should go and that way she could give me a professional tour. That day finally came when after several months we both had a day off from work at the same time, so we headed off to Atlanta.

At the High Museum of Art, my daughter Elaine had some fascinating commentary about how artists work and how contemporary artists all work basically in tandem, being fully aware of one another's work, whereas the traditional artists in the past were more isolated. Some had knowledge of others' work, and most reflected a particular school or tradition in their work. (By the way, you can see my daughter's work at

Today I am including three of the works that I was most impressed with:

Opening Day at Talladega College by Hale Woodruff

I was pleasantly surprised to see the exhibit "Rising Up: Hale Woodruff's Murals at Talladega College." I had read several years ago about the murals from Talladega College going on tour and thought it would be something I would like to see if I had the opportunity. With time, it departed from my radar, so I was happy to find the opportunity right there as I toured the museum. Apparently the murals have come to stay at the High after a multi-city tour. Woodruff was an Atlanta native and influential in the art scene. You can see more about the exhibit and view a brief video about its history and significance at

*   *   *

The Mourners by Frederick Flemister

Georgia native Frederick C. Flemister  was one of the foremost artists to emerge from a group taught and influenced by Hale Woodruff who founded Atlanta University’s School of Art. "The Mourners" immediately caught my eye and drove home a powerful message in its portrayal of a lynching of a young black man in the same style as religious art depicting Christ's deposition from the cross.

*   *   *

Hail Mary by Luc-Olivier Merson

I love the way that Luc-Olivier Merson uses a contemporary (to his day) French peasant scene to place the Madonna and child. It looks simply like a farmer tipping his hat to a lady as he is walking by. The title of the painting brought a surprise and a smile as I stood there admiring the work. There is a faint halo that the artist placed around the lady's head to show the viewer who the man is greeting. I love the juxtaposition and intermingling of time frames which to me gives "Hail Mary" a timeless quality. (Where might you meet Our Lady in the course of the day?)

Merson employed a similar combination in another painting of Mary and the Christ Child in "Rest on the Flight into Egypt." The combination there is not of time and place, but a convergence of myths. The artist represents the Virgin Mary and the infant Christ resting in the arms of the Sphinx. It is quite a beautiful and dramatic painting. That one is at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and you can see it at

*   *   * 

One of the exhibits currently at the High is "Cross Country: The Power of Place in American Art" on display until May 7, 2017. The paintings, all holdings of the High Museum of art, were arranged according to geographic region. I found many inspiring pieces there, many of which I thought would work well with a haiku or other poetic form, so you can rest assured that you will see some of them referenced in future blog posts.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Thirteenth Station of the Cross: Jesus is taken Down from the Cross

< The Twelfth Station of the Cross                                                                The Fourteenth Station of the Cross >

The lifeless body of Jesus is tenderly placed in the arms of Mary, his mother

Michelangelo's Pieta at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome

Reflecting upon Michelangelo's Pieta
By Charles Kinnaird

Revolutionary words,
Valiant tasks,
And the highest of aspirations
Having been brought to an end,
She looks with compassion
   upon his lifeless form.
He is enfolded and finds rest
Within the fully human and never-dying
Mother of all.

There is room in her flowing earthly garments
To enfold every missed step,
   every high calling,
      every miscalculation.
Each pointless task
Together with all fruitful endeavors
Are gathered into her bountiful lap.

In stillness and silence
Her fully human and never-dying love
Brings redemption to the son.
As all shall know
When the clamoring and shouting have ended,
All things are brought with compassion
To the bosom of the
Heavenly and Earthly
Mother of all.

*    *    *

Migratory bird caught in oil spill in South Korea (BBC photo)
In the wake of Empire, souls are often crushed. When an oil company wreaks havoc upon the environment, many lives are lost. When we try to restore the damage, we are taking Christ's body down from the Empire's cross of death in hopes of seeing life come forth again. As a matter of public relations, Empire will apologize for the deaths and may offer a pittance in compensation. Afterward, however, Empire will continue its strides in death-making.

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