Sunday, March 31, 2013

Public Enemy Number One

by Jim Rapp

Food! Man shall not die by food alone –
there are more prominent non-culinary hazards –
but food has always been a special danger zone;
a vulnerability, a cause to be on guard.

And I recall the innocence, the bliss
with which our family drew together
on those special days which none would miss,
in Christmas cold, or summer’s wilting weather,

and ringed our chairs around a family feast
of candied yams, a Jell-O mold, some buttered peas,
and, at the center of it all, a slab of fatty beast.
Ah innocence! No – in ignorance we took our ease.

And one by one I’ve watched them early die;
Mother and Father mourned at eighty-seven,
sister in her eighties; brother a mere child
at seventy-two; all feasting sadly now in heaven.

My one remaining sibling, still a child
at seventy-nine, and I just two years younger,
hope that surgeries, and pills piled high;
ICDs implanted deftly, help us linger longer.

If we had known in time to heed
the wisdom of an Oz, 1 the diet of a Hurd, 2
we would have lived to longer feed
on Eden’s Tree, 3 augmented by bean curd.

But now, alas, we’re doomed to follow
all our kin who with us heedless glutted
at our poison celebrations – sallow,
pre-maturely old – by Oz and Hurd tut-tutted.

When I am called to sit at that great feast –
the Marriage Supper of the Lamb4
I’ll wait to start until I’m sure, at least,
that Oz and Hurd have certified the Lamb.
1 - Mehmet Oz – A cardiac surgeon-turned-celebrity-
              TV- host, medical/dietary generalist,
              psychiatrist, and New Age Guru
2 - Karen Hurd – A local dietary expert specializing
              in a bean-based diet
3 - The Tree of Life (Genesis 2:9; Revelation 22:2)
4 - The Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Song of the Oak at Winter’s End

by Jim Rapp
We debated fourteen years ago
if we should let that pine tree grow
so close to the deck; the oak would go
for sure; its scrawny branches, hanging low,
would be a nuisance for certain.

The pine has repaid our mercies many fold;
we’ve watch a family of blue birds hatch and molt;
seen it host a host of winter driven snows;
caught its dewy needles basking in the morning’s glow,
And rested ‘neath its cool pine-scented curtain.

And today the oak has paid its long-owed debt;
the stubborn leaves that winter’s wind had let,
chattered in frigid pre-spring winds that met
to rob it’s winter hoard, but all the wind could get
today was “song” – a rattling, rustling , resurrection song –
           Again! Again! And yet again.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What Were You Thinking Habakkuk?

by Jim Rapp

(Habakkuk 1 – 3)

There are many models of the prophet in Scripture;
some thundered judgment, some wielded the sword
in their own hands, some wept, some, like Abraham
and Moses, interceded for those coming under the
judgment of God. And then there is Habakkuk who,
when shown the coming judgment on his people
said, in effect, but not without fear and trembling,
 "so be it, God." Which prophetic model most
reflects the heart of God? Or do they all?

What were you thinking Habakkuk?
Did you really believe I would zap
all those sinners and not touch
the things their sins had corrupted:

the herds of cattle taken by the powerful
from their impoverished brothers to be held
until redeemed at impossible rates of interest;
the vineyards planted on stolen ground
and tended for low pay by the very ones
from whom they had been taken;
the wages promised to workers but not given,
or if given, not enough to feed a man;
the barns-full of grain from fields stripped
clean from side to side and end to end
with nothing left for the widow and orphan;
land impoverished – farmed to exhaustion –
rather than given a deserved Sabbath of rest;
Hebrew brothers held in bondage beyond the
commanded year of Jubilee;
the King’s might maintained by excessive taxes
and forced labor, protected by young men
who should have been home tending fields;
the Temple’s elegant show, bought and paid for
by grinding the face of the poor;
daily commerce enriched by exploiting
the strangers in your midst?

No, Habakkuk. Sin does not stay isolated
in the hearts of sinners; the whole nation
is corrupted; it groans under the weight of sin.
Unrighteousness cannot be eradicated
from the land by precision thunderbolts
aimed at particular sinners;
everything is contaminated:
the air, the streams, the farms, the markets,
the government. Yes, even the house of God.
Unrighteousness has become the common wealth;
every man, woman, and child owns a part of it;
cherishes its fruits; grasps for his piece of it;
is loath to see its goodnesses destroyed;
closes his eyes, stops his ears, hardens his heart
lest he see and hear and know of his own complicity.

If it is righteous judgment you desire, Habakkuk,
then you must know that it can only be bought
at the cost of all that sin has corrupted.
When Babylon, my servant, sweeps over the land
the fig tree will no longer bud, and there will be
no grapes on the vines; the olive crop will fail,
and the fields will produce no food;
there will be no sheep in the pen,
and no cattle in the stalls.

You tremble, Habakkuk;
your lips quiver and your knees buckle.
Your heart is pounding.
Is the cost too high, Habakkuk?
Think, Habakkuk. Think.
Do you want the righteousness
you insist that I restore?

       At any cost, Yahweh! At any cost.
       Though all is lost, I will rejoice in You,
       I will be joyful in God my Savior.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

You’re As Old As You Say You Are

by Jim Rapp

Somewhere he lost track of how old he was?
Was it willful or did he simply slip a cog?

He’d been claiming one more year, alas,
than he by rights could claim – it’s time that he de-fog.

But once you’ve claimed, for one whole year, the age
of seventy-seven, it’s hard to give it back;

he’s the only man in history – more than any saint or sage –
who’ll spent two years at the same age. Alas! Alas! Alack!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Minor League Stuff

by Jim Rapp

“Are you reading a good book?” the stranger asked.

“Poetry . . .
           one good,
           one not.”
I replied to her.

In baseball a .500 will get you the MVP;
in poetry you’ll be allowed to play on the sandlot.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Evisceration of the Poet

by Jim Rapp

If a tree, falling in a forest inhabited by
modern poets, depended on them to make
its falling known to the world, would its
fall make any sound?

Poets were our first story tellers,
the first historians too,
for all I know, accountants as well.

No one had heard of a bookseller,
stone chiselers were relatively few,
clay tablets served poorly in lieu of an ink well.

So poets of old were expected to say –
audibly – all that needed to be said,
and say it with art so clear

that it lodged for all of one’s days
on a “tablet” easily recalled and “read”
when the poet was no longer near.

But some poets have become harem eunuchs,
with no purpose except to bemuse,
storing sterile sigils in books and on chips.

Alas, these modern poets have found a new shtick;
speaking in tongues, in utterance abstruse,
no meaning escapes through their lips.

Dispossessed of the power to propagate
from father to son and son’s son,
they have forsaken meaning for mystery

neither they nor fellow sophisticates,
though trained in poetic locution,
can unravel as story or history.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Emigrante: On Earth without a Green Card

by Jim Rapp

(The Mustard Seed Migration)

Thinking they were no longer here –
a breed long dead; unable to adapt
to empirical realities of our day –
we dropped them from our view.

But suddenly we find them everywhere;
alive, so numerous they are apt
to overturn our verities and lay
our fallacies in open view.

Crushed by tyrant ideologies,
Hushed by rival faiths’ intolerance,
Scorned by intellectual sophisticates,
Ignored by pleasure seeking masses,

A million souls inscribed in martyrologies
witness to the saints’ endurance;
a thousand thousand-bodied army replicates
Golgotha’s bloody malice as it passes.

But now, in Africa, China, India, Brazil –
in Moscow and Siberian Russia too –
emerging from their murky underground
behold, two billion faith-full souls . . . and growing.

Inheritors of the earth – indigenous – aboriginal – still
claiming every soil their rightful place to be and do.
The mustard seeds have sprouted. They abound!
Their growth is sure and shows no signs of slowing.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


by Jim Rapp

(Thoughts while strolling the hardware store)

Time comes to divest of tools
but never to quit coveting them;
the aisles are full of shimmering jewels
as precious as mined and polished gems

calling the artisan back, and back again
to ogle the endless ingenuity
displayed, since the world of man began,
in tools wrought, re-wrought incessantly.

But there comes a time to divest,
a silent order to “cease and desist”,
an urgency even, to let go and devest,
to give them away . . . then sit back and rest.