Saturday, March 25, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Cherry Trees

with every spring
the blooming of cherry trees
 brings hope to the land


Photo: Cherry Tree Blossoms & Jefferson Memorial
by Cliff at Flickr


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Seventh Station of the Cross: Jesus Falls a Second Time

[The following is from a series first posted during Lent in 2015.]

< The Sixth Station of the Cross                                                                         The Eighth Station of the Cross >

Jesus falls beneath the weight of the cross a second time

Abandoned gas masks litter the floor

It was April 26, 1986, when the Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred. Pictured above we see the large nuclear power plants standing tall against the sky before the disaster. We also see the sad aftermath of nuclear power gone wrong.  Billed as "safe, clean energy" by the Empire in the U.S., nations of power naturally pursued greater sources of power. Near misses in the U.S. have sent warning signals, but accidents in the former Soviet Union and more recently in Japan have demonstrated how severely we can strike at the sacred body where we live. Empire shows little regard for the sacred body of nature. Under the reign of God which Jesus preached, life will come to all. Under the rule of Empire, however, death is always looming.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sixth Station of the Cross: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

[The following is from a series first posted during Lent in 2015.]

< The Fifth Station of the Cross                                                                       The Seventh Station of the Cross >

Veronica steps through the crowd to wipe the face of Jesus

Homeless Jesus sculpture (Photo by Mark Rumsey)

He Died Not Too Far From Here
By Charles Kinnaird

It was my first time to volunteer at the soup kitchen. A lady named Veronica handed me an apron and told me I could work with Fred. “He can show you ‘round this place,” she said.

Fred was an older man, tall and lean with closely cropped hair that was mostly gray. He said he was retired now, but before that he did “just about everything.”

“I come down here every Saturday morning and I help ‘em set things up,” Fred told me as he handed me a wash rag to wipe down the tables.  “You know, most folks will wipe down the tables after everybody gets done eatin’, but I like to wipe ‘em down before they get here, too. That way they know we’re thinkin’ about ‘em. They know they’re  comin’ to a place prepared just for them.”

“How long have you been doing this?” I asked.

“It’s been a few years now. Been more than a minute, I’ll say that. And I’ll tell you why I do this, though I don’t know how you might take it.” Fred paused and took a deep breath, “You see, I heard all my life about how Jesus died for my sins. Then I come to find out he died not too far from here – and I’ve got Veronica to thank for tellin’ me that.”

I wasn’t sure what to say, so I didn’t say anything. I just looked at Fred in anticipation of what he might say next. He looked at me with a side glance and wry smile, then he tilted his head back and laughed.

He then continued, “I can tell you don’t know what in the world this old man’s talkin’ about, but I’ll tell you what happened. Now you don’t know Veronica, but Veronica loves to cook – that’s what she does. She cooks up yonder at the school house for the kids then she comes over here on Saturday and cooks for these folks that are down and out right now.

“Well, this one Saturday morning she come up here and found this man lyin’ on the sidewalk up against the wall. She told me she didn’t know if he was asleep or dead, but she called out to him.  He stirred just a little bit so she got down closer. That man was all dirty and had scratches and scabs all over his face. She didn’t know if he had fallen or if somebody beat up on him, but he was so weak and tired. She ran inside and got the preacher, ‘We got to help this man,’ she said. She grabbed a towel and a wash cloth out of the charity closet, got a bowl of water and went out there to see if she could wash off his face.

“And this is the way she told it to me – she said when she knelt down to wash that man’s face, somethin’ told her this might’ve been somebody important. Now I won’t lie to you,” Fred continued, “I’d have probably said he was just some bum who’d been drinkin’ and bein’ no count all his life, but Veronica said somethin’ told her different.

“Well, Veronica and the preacher brought this man inside so they could get him somethin’ to eat and drink, but when they helped him on in, that’s when she knew he was too sick for them to do much for him. And that’s when they called 911.

“When the ambulance came, they got this man loaded up and Veronica told the preacher she had to go with him to the hospital. She told the ambulance drivers she was gonna ride up there in the ambulance, and she just hopped on in. Veronica says she still don’t know why she done it, but it was like somethin’ told her to go on with them to the hospital. And she stayed up there ‘til the doctors came around and saw the man. She told ‘em she didn’t know who he was, but she just found him out on the sidewalk by the soup kitchen. Then they told her that they were gonna get him into a room, so she came on back. She called the preacher to come pick her up so she could get on with her cookin’.

“Well, that was the first time she seen this man. The next day was Sunday and she decided she would go back up to the hospital to see how he was. She got up there and saw he was still real sick, but he just barely opened his eyes and saw her. Then he just barely smiled, and he just barely opened his mouth and spoke to her just one time. He said, ‘I remember you – you’re just like an angel to me, and I don’t know why. I feel like I’m just one of the least of these and you don’t even know me, but you come to help me out.’

“Now that’s when Veronica said it happened. She said it was when he said ‘I’m the least of these,’ it just hit her like a lightnin’ bolt. This is how she told it to me, she said, ‘I felt this electricity just come though me and it was like Jesus was sayin’ you done it do me – and all I could do was cry.’ She said she had to leave out from there because she wasn’t doing nothn’ but cryin’ and shakin’.

“So that was the second time she seen him,” Fred said, “and it turned out there would not be no third time. When she went up to the hospital the next day after work, they told her he had passed – there wasn’t really anything they could do, you know. Well Veronica – she was still kinda tearful then, but she said she was somehow feelin’ stronger inside.  It was after all that happened that she came and told me the whole story, what I told to you just now, and this is how she started it off:

Next time you hear somebody say Jesus died for your sins, you tell ‘em, No, he died not too far from here. And not only that, you tell ‘em he’s dyin’ somewhere every day, and if you look around you might see where he’s dyin’. And if you see he’s dyin’, feed him if you can, give him some medicine if you can, but if you can’t do nothin’ but wipe his face, then you just wipe his face, because Jesus is dyin’ somewhere, and he’s dyin’ not too far from here.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Music: Frank Zappa on The Steve Allen Show

An early television appearance by Frank Zappa in The Steve Allen Show. Steve Allen was one of th e pioneers of television. He created The Tonight Show and was probably one of the most intellectual and well-read entertainers of the day, as well as being a true humanitarian.

Here, Frank Zappa demonstrated how to turn the bicycle into a musical instrument and plugs his new record. Allen has a hilarious time and likens the young Zappa's efforts to the new atonal music that was coming on the scene in academic circles.

(When you hit the "play" button below, you will be directed to watch the video on YouTube. Just follow the link and you'll be able to watch it)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Bearing Witness to the Times: Dealer of the White House

(Shutterstock photo)

Dealer of the White House
(To the tune of “Master of the House” from Les Misérables)

Dealer of the White House
Believe me, I can charm
Ready with a handshake
(If you're not like Mom*).
Tweeting out the tales
Making quite a stir
Voters seem to like a little flying fur.
Glad to do a friend a favor,
Putin says I’m really smart.
I can bring it all together,
Everything except a little heart.

Dealer of the White House
Herder of the cats
Signing orders everywhere
For this and that.
Rallying the base
(It’s really kind of fun)
While I take away the safety net from everyone.
Tell the crowd I’m gonna fix things,
Make ‘em think they’ve got a friend
Tell ‘em anything they like
But you know I’m gonna fleece ‘em in the end.

Yes I’m the Dealer of the White House,
Best there’s ever been.
Got a crazy plan
To really do us in.
Tweak a little here
Take a little there
Making sure the corporations get their share.
Take away the arts and learning
Build a lot of bombs and walls
You can make the country great
Or you can prop it up before it falls.

Yeah, you can make the country great
Or you can prop it up before it falls!

                                                        ~ CK

President Trump meets with German Chancellor Merkel in the Oval Office
  Friday, March 17, 2017.(AP photo by Evan Vucci )


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Sunlit Sky

a world divided
may just be a sunlit sky
from two points of view


Photo by Malcolm Marler


Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Fifth Station of the Cross: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

                                 [The following is from a series first posted during Lent in 2015.]

< The Fourth Station of the Cross                                                                                The Sixth Station of the Cross >

Soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross

A wood engraving of handcuffed and shackled slaves passing the U.S. Capitol

According to tradition, Simon of Cyrene was a black man ordered by Roman soldiers to help Jesus carry the cross. In the United States, our own Empire was built in large part upon the backs of African slaves, forced to carry the burden inflicted by Empire. It is a blight we cannot erase, but slavery has been a common tool of Empire throughout the ages.  

Twelve American presidents owned slaves and eight of them, starting with Washington, owned slaves while in office. Almost from the very start, slaves were a common sight in the executive mansion. A list of construction workers building the White House in 1795 includes five slaves - named Tom, Peter, Ben, Harry and Daniel -- all put to work as carpenters. Other slaves worked as masons in the government quarries, cutting the stone for early government buildings, including the White House and U.S. Capitol. According to records kept by the White House Historical Association, slaves often worked seven days a week -- even in the hot and humid Washington summers. (From "Slaves Built the White House and Capitol" at Afrocentric Culture by Design)

We still struggle to overcome the inertia of slavery as we wrestle and argue over voting rights, racial profiling, and prejudicial hiring practices.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fourth Station of the Cross: Jesus Meets His Sorrowful Mother

[The following is from a series first posted during Lent in 2015.]

< The Third Station of the Cross                                                                            The Fifth Station of the Cross >

Jesus meets his mother, Mary, who is filled with grief

A woman cries after her son was killed in an air strike in Basra

When a nation increases its strength and influence to the point that  it becomes Empire, the primary concern becomes to preserve its own power and influence.  In Matthew 25, Jesus said that the true measure of a nation is in how it treats the weakest and most vulnerable within its borders. Empire, on the other hand, often relies only upon one tool – military power – to solve any problem. As such, the loss of innocent lives becomes collateral damage which, to Empire, is only to be expected.

When collateral damage has no face that Empire can recognize, then many mothers will weep in the wake of military campaigns, air strikes, and drone attacks done in the name of establishing freedom and security.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Monday Music: Forever Young

Peter, Paul & Mary, the folk trio that emerged from the folk scene of the 1960s, recorded many albums. My three favorite albums of theirs span their career. the first is their live Peter Paul & Mary In Concert double album released in 1964. It offers a wonderful taste of the folk music scene and they include their hit by the up and coming young artist, Bob Dylan, "Blowin' in the Wind."

Their Reunion album in 1978 is, just as the title states, their first venture coming back together after having disbanded.It is a real musical treat, hearing the group as they have matured and reflected upon what it means to live in the world, dream the dream and fight the good fight. The selection here is another Dylan song, "Forever Young."

The third of my favorite PP&M albums is Life Lines, released in 1995. It continues in the tradition of celebrating the vigor of life committed to serving the common good, celebrating live lived on this planet, and affirming the beauties of humanity.

For now, enjoy "Forever Young" from Reunion.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bearing Witness to the Times: Ale for What Ails Ye

Tidal Marsh on San Francisco Bay (CBS photo)

Ale for What Ails Ye

Shakespeare’s Falstaff
Extolled the virtues of sack
Even as he joined the fight
Upon Henry the Fifth’s noble call to arms.
Moreover, the Bard oft spoke
Of merriment and ale.

The psalmist sang
In sacred text
That God gave us wine
To make the heart rejoice.

Partaking of the vine
And passing the brew –
A time-honored practice
Going back to antiquity.
Egyptian hieroglyph
And Sumerian cuneiform
Record the practice
Of fermentation.

One might say
That alcoholic beverage
Is the mark of civilization.
Or, one might also say
That as soon as people learned
To live in large communities,
They needed some way
To tolerate
Life in such close proximity.
Thus wine and ale
Smoothed the rough edges.

The dark side came
When English employers
Paid workers in gin, 
And colonizers gave firewater
To indigenous tribes.
Liquor became the co-conspirator
In the exploitation of people
On two continents.

Yet the altered state
Continues to have appeal
As heads-of-state
Conspire to wreck
The natural state
While calling into question
Our human fate.

We raise a glass
To celebrate 
The things that remain;
To tolerate
The troubled times;
To smooth the rough edges 
And for the glory of ancient Sumer.

                                                     ~ CK

Good People Brewing Company, Birmingham, AL (Photo by Bryan Richards)

*    *    *    *

The best thing that poets can do is to bear witness to the times – articulate what is happening in the moment; speak to the real life experiences of your people.  I am setting myself a goal to write a poem each week that reflects what I see and experience in the life of our nation. I may not post a poem each week, but if I can write one poem a week there will be some chronicle of our sacred/tested/doubtful union.

I hope my efforts will not be polemical, but will rather be a true expression of what is. My goal will be to speak to our experiences of what we see and feel in our community and national life. Hopefully that poetic chronicle will depict the joys, sorrows, celebrations and uncertainties that come forth in our common struggle for a more perfect union.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Northern Lights

trees stand quietly
under the clear northern skies
earthly light dances


Photo: Aurora Borealis by Skeeze courtesy of Pizabay


Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Third Station of the Cross: Jesus Falls the First time

[The following is from a series first posted during Lent in 2015.]

< The Second Station of the Cross                                                                           The Fourth Station of the Cross > 

Weakened by torments and by loss of blood, Jesus falls beneath his cross

“It is hard to make a desert in a place that receives sixty inches of rain each year. But after decades of copper mining, all that remained of the old hardwood forests in the Ducktown Mining District of the Southern Appalachian Mountains was a fifty-square mile barren expanse of heavily gullied red hills–a landscape created by sulfur dioxide smoke from copper smelting and destructive logging practices. In Ducktown Smoke, Duncan Maysilles examines this environmental disaster, one of the worst the South has experienced, and its impact on environmental law and Appalachian conservation.”

Relatively early in our nation's entering into the Industrial Age, we saw the sheer havoc and destruction that industry can have on the landscape. The copper industry did much to build the country and move it into the modern age, but Empire often moves with callous disregard for the environment that should nurture all of its inhabitants.

Copper smelting—the process of separating copper from rock—is credited with doing most of the environmental damage in the Ducktown Basin in the 19th century. The process required wood to fuel the smelters, and there was no wood left in the area by 1876. Logs were floated down the Ocoee River from Fannin County, Ga., and about 50 square miles within the Ducktown Basin had been stripped of vegetation by 1878.

Ducktown was an early example of the Empire's crucifixion of the environment. Unfortunately there is still resistance from corporations to make any changes in their practices which continue to pollute, continue to contribute to climate change, and continue to bring damage to the sacred body of the earth, our only habitation.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Second Station of the Cross: Jesus Takes Up His Cross

[The following is from a series first posted during Lent in 2015.]

< The First Station of the Cross                                                                        The Third Station of the Cross >

Jesus willingly accepts and patiently bears his cross

© AFP Immigrant workers harvest grapes in California's Napa Valley

"We do rely on a foreign workforce. We really have an issue in terms of attracting domestic workers. They typically don't want to work in agriculture. It's out in the elements, it can be a hard job"

Many of us live in comfort in the Empire, taking our bounty for granted. It is a bounty that is largely dependent upon the work of immigrant laborers who are poorly paid, lacking in many services such as housing and healthcare, living in substandard conditions. We in turn denigrate the illegal immigrants upon whom we rely for the food and wine on our tables. Undocumented immigrants willingly take up the burden while Empire enjoys the bounty.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Monday Music: Down Home in Sweden - Olle Hemmingssons Trio

The Olle Hemminingssin Trio playing "Lover Come Back to Me" with a diesel engine providing the percussion. In the video below, you can hear "Sweet Georgia Brown" with an old tractor. These videos are a fascinating peek into Swedish life out in the country beyond the city lights.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Bearing Witness to the Times: Verdicts and Revolutions

Hosni Mubarak, former president of Egypt, was taken back to a military hospital
 on Thursday after a court session (Photo by Mohamed Hossam, European Press)

    Verdicts and Revolutions

    The news came over the radio:
    “Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Found Not Guilty.”
    He has been cleared of any responsibility
    For the deaths of protesters
    During the Arab Spring.
    The ageing and ailing
    Former head-of-state
    Was released from jail
    With little fanfare –
    Memories of the people’s uprising
    Have faded
    With military rule firmly ensconced
    In an ancient land.

I heard the news
On my way to the Golden Temple Café.
A banner in front of the 
Health food store and vegetarian restaurant
Proudly proclaims, “Celebrating 43 Years.”
Forty-three years ago
(That would have been the Nixon administration)
In the Deep South
A Sikh yoga practitioner and restaurateur
Began a quiet revolution
That has lasted to this day.

There have been days
When I took refuge
In that  vegetarian café
Where a simple meal
Of beans and rice
Became a sign of hope
In distressing times.

Today I think of those heady days,
Now six years past,
When Egyptian youth filled the streets.
They were moved by hope
For a better way.
The news of a 'not guilty' verdict
Lets Empire stand
While streets are quiet.

It’s vegetable curry today on the menu.
Around me are happy people
Engaged in health food and conversation,
Reaping the benefits
Of that Sikh entrepreneur
Whose vision of health and wholeness
Has endured
Through many swings
Of the political pendulum.

Here at home
Uncertainty reigns.
Demagogue power holds sway;
Whispers of intrigue and corruption
Continue to erupt.
Is there hope
For a democratic spring?
Or will it fade
Like the Arab Spring?
Or will it find resurgence
After a time of remission?

Still there is a sign of hope –
Vegetable curry on rice
In a vegetarian restaurant
Whose future 43 years ago
In the Deep South
Was anything but certain.

                                                ~ CK

"The bossman," Harinam Singh Khalsa


All photos from The Golden Temple Natural Grocery and Cafe are from the store's Facebook page.
(Read a 2014 article in B-Metro here.)

*    *    *    *

The best thing that poets can do is to bear witness to the times – articulate what is happening in the moment; speak to the real life experiences of your people.  I am setting myself a goal to write a poem each week that reflects what I see and experience in the life of our nation... if I can write one poem a week there will be some chronicle of our sacred/tested/doubtful union.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Rose breasted Grosbeak

the exotic form
of the grosbeak on a limb
sudden springtime view

Hear grosbeak song at

Photo: Rose breasted grosbeak
Credit: John Harrison (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Friday, March 3, 2017

The First Station of the Cross: Pontius Pilate condemns Jesus to death

[The following is from a series first posted during Lent in 2015.]

< Introduction: The Hard Lessons of Lent                                                                The Second Station of the Cross >

"Pontius Pilate condemns Jesus to death."

A scene from an American Indian Boarding School
“Aside from the U.S. Government's Attempt at Genocide, what Has Caused the Most Egregious Cultural Harm to the Psyche of the American Indian People?”

The United States engaged in a systematic process of genocide in dealing with the Native American Population. Although today there is greater awareness and the boarding schools which sought to eradicate Native American culture are no more, Native Americans continue to suffer under the grips of a death-making Empire. On Native American reservations, people suffer the numbness of alcoholism and poverty which includes a poverty of income, a poverty of opportunity, a poverty of healthcare and a poverty of choices. Pilate, in his modern incarnation as representative of the Empire on American soil has condemned many to their deaths.

 The Second Station of the Cross >

Thursday, March 2, 2017

An Important Witness for Peaceful Interfaith Cooperation

For those in the Birmingham area, Sunday afternoon at the Homewood Library offers an unique opportunity to hear about an example of interfaith harmony that can be a light and a guide for out times. This is an important documentary film that is especially relevant to our times.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Hard Lessons of Lent

[The following is from a series I first posted during Lent in 2015. Today with Ash Wednesday, we   begin the Lenten season and I will be re-posting this 15 part series throughout Lent]

Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
                                                                                                 ~Psalm 44:22 (NIV)

One of the central devotional practices of Lent is found in the 14 Stations of the Cross. It is a practice of the Catholic Church that dates back to the fourth century when people would make pilgrimages to the Holy Land to retrace Jesus' steps to the cross. In church, the people walk to the various icons positioned around the sanctuary which represent each station of the cross while devotions and prayers are said.

I have friends and family who question why we continue to emphasize the crucifixion of Christ. Do we still think of God as a punitive deity who demanded the sacrifice of his own son to redeem the world? Well, no, I don't believe that, but I will not attempt to answer that question theologically in this brief space (see the writings of Jürgen Moltmann for a much more complete articulation of thought than I could give to the subject). Instead, I am inclined at this time to give a more visceral response to the question.

For all the good that humanity does, we are a people well acquainted with sorrow, suffering and grief. Moreover, we continue to organize ourselves under empires which practice death-making and crucifixion as a method of control. I believe that we engage in the passion of Christ at Easter because we ourselves live with suffering and crucifixion and we find hope in the Christ who resisted Empire, suffered, died and was buried and transcended the soul-numbing forces of Empire.

In the posts that follow, we will walk through the Stations of the Cross with few words. From a non-traditional point of view, we will view images demonstrating how the way of the cross is manifest in our day and time. The following guideline is taken from Loyola Press at

Stations of the Cross

The 14 Stations of the Cross represent events from Jesus’ passion and death. At each station we use our senses and our imagination to reflect prayerfully upon Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection.

1. Jesus Is Condemned to Death.
Pontius Pilate condemns Jesus to death.

2. Jesus Takes Up His Cross.
Jesus willingly accepts and patiently bears his cross.

3. Jesus Falls the First Time.
Weakened by torments and by loss of blood, Jesus falls beneath his cross.

4. Jesus Meets His Sorrowful Mother.
Jesus meets his mother, Mary, who is filled with grief.

5. Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross.
Soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross.

6. Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus.
Veronica steps through the crowd to wipe the face of Jesus.

7. Jesus Falls a Second Time.
Jesus falls beneath the weight of the cross a second time.

8. Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem.
Jesus tells the women to weep not for him but for themselves and for their children.

9. Jesus Falls the Third Time.
Weakened almost to the point of death, Jesus falls a third time.

10. Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments.
The soldiers strip Jesus of his garments, treating him as a common criminal.

11. Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross.
Jesus’ hands and feet are nailed to the cross.

12. Jesus Dies on the Cross.
After suffering greatly on the cross, Jesus bows his head and dies.

13. Jesus Is Taken Down From the Cross.
The lifeless body of Jesus is tenderly placed in the arms of Mary, his mother.

14. Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb.
Jesus’ disciples place his body in the tomb.

15. The Closing Prayer
Sometimes included as a 15th station, reflects on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.


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