Dust by Scott Schuleit

The leaf obeys its Creator,

wavering its green in the tireless,

unfailing wind.

And the sky

continually bears

on its immense back,

a burden of blue.

And when a storm comes on

the clouds darken,

weaving together without question,

and from this,

lightning loses its silver,

its flicker and flash,

always obeying

with sudden bursts of illumination.

The rain falls willingly,

dropping down

to pummel dry earth,

mixing it into mud

as it should,

a task performed

without hesitation,

yet the dust,

that which is most blessed,

crowned over all creation,

burns,

burns with a rage

deep in its breast.

 

Posted on February 17, 2016 and filed under Poetry.

Ineffectual by Helen Jun

this cliché is blaringly foreign: this pseudo-

shallow, callow kind of disabling of words

renders my poetic style completely irrelevant.

 

7 years of orphaned poetry. the perpetual 

depression of melancholic indentation

jabbed with pain that strikes the heart-and-eye

the punch line, the throbbing ring of naked-hollow

sorrow, the aesthetic grief of rhythm and rhyme

the lament of broken words, haunted

by past-present reality, abused into

submission, trial after trial after trial trial trial

 

---

yet here i sit today, prayer and pencil in hand

somehow, at some point, you've changed me.

this feeling of saplings and children and dreams and new gifts—

i'm so happy. bubbly. artlessly excited by the joyful futility

of grasping at connotations and definitions and banal phrases.

Jesus, teach me to express despite words this new thing

of being loved by you. i your healing, lovable daughter.

 

because now i realize:

i love you still, like a sunflower to the sun.

You love me creative, as poetry could never detail, for You can't be contained in these tiny,

          ineffectual abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz.

Posted on November 5, 2015 .

Church: For Those That Don't Fit the Mold by Katiannah Moise

Many days like these, I get a feeling that I need to pray

I don't do it often because I am busy

With work, homework, my social life.

 

It hurts to say that I can't pray because I am “too busy.”

It’s like I am saying I am “too busy”… for God.

 

And so I go to sleep—I sleep and sleep for hours until the next day…

 

Yet sometimes I get a feeling that I need to pray… and I do.

sometimes, right before I sleep

I quickly run through a Hail Mary[i] or the Nicene Creed[ii] on cue.

 

To pacify me and to pacify YOU.

 

I grudgingly go to church… even though I want to go to sleep.

Some days, I barely remember the sermon

And I sleep as we genuflect before Communion.[iii]

 

It's sad that in Church,

The house of God’s People,

I can't stay awake.

 

But I take the Communion because I believe in YOU and you believe in ME

…well, of course I do…

 

To pacify YOU and to pacify me.

 

Yet sometimes I get a feeling that I need to pray and Sing

In that mass

I sing loudly, so loudly my heart shakes and I feel alive.

 

I feel awakened, I feel spirited, and I sing.

I sing off-key.

 

 

My heart is aligned with the fact that I can feel GOD hearing me, hearing me.

I can feel it.

And it feels so good because it is different.

 

Different than passing a test I studied for,

Or seeing my favorite dish served at lunch,

Or getting praised by my friends…

 

It is a feeling of hope and realization that when you SING and PRAY

HE hears you.

 

Inside, I start to cry… or maybe I AM crying.

Spilling tears, for once.

For once, my actions are real.

 

I am not trying to pacify YOU or pacify me.

 

I feel, I believe, and I am happy.

 

Sometimes I get a feeling that I need to pray… and I do.

It is good.

It is good.

 

[i] A prayer to the Virgin Mary used chiefly by Roman Catholics, beginning with part of Luke 1:28.

[ii] A profession of faith widely used in Christian liturgy.

[iii] The service of Christian worship at which bread and wine are consecrated and shared.

Posted on September 17, 2015 .

Invitation by David A. Vosburg

To teach is to invite.

We invite students to learn,

   to grow,

      to discover with us.

We invite them to engage with the unknown.

We invite students to walk with us,

     to take risks,

     to try something new.

They listen,

        step to the board,

      and share their ideas.

They ask questions.

We listen.

     We ask questions.

We invite students into our offices,

     our laboratories,

our homes.

We share chemistry,

 wonder,

    a meal

    —even our lives.

We open the world to them.

They reveal their weaknesses, and our own.

We are humbled.

True community forms.

We invite students to think,

   to create,

        and to explore.

But most of all, we invite students to hope.

For we too have been invited.

Posted on September 10, 2015 .

No Title. Simply Love. by ShaKayla Rouse

Picture a heart- big and red- full of life and joy Babum Babum Babum

a steady, healthy rhythm- a consistent beat- Babum. Babum.

            Can you hear it?

Now imagine that same heart being broken apart maliciously in a frenzy or slowly in agonizing turmoil- it’s up to you

breaking right down the middle, crackling, until it nearly shatters

            the pain- sometime piercing, sometimes aching

Can you feel it?

 

This is my heart.

 

It breaks my heart when we all come together and sing

 in church or at a weekly Christian fellowship meeting.

We sing songs about following God's will and being loving

            Unity, harmony...

And sometimes, honestly, I can’t stand it

 

and it makes me sick.

 

Because even within the body of Christ,

            that’s meant to be a representation of God’s kingdom,

the same racial, socio-economical, and other social constructions that

plague

our

society

has seeped into the church...effectively dividing us fellow Christians, our family.

So much so that people start to question their worth.

 

It’s not supposed to be this way.

 

A college-aged boy was born and raised in the church.

It was there where he learned to love God and to accept Jesus as his savior.

            doing all the Christian things- praying, serving, ministering

His church family couldn’t have been happier, seeing the boy’s love for glorifying God.

“Praise God for this boy,” they thought to themselves,

 

“God’s hand is definitely at work”.

 

His life, by no means, was easy just because of his faith.

He went through hardships that I have never experienced.

However, “God is on my side and my christian family loves me.” he thought- a message of

peace,

love, 

hope...

It was during his adolescent years when that message began to change into a message of

            confusion,

                        isolation,

                                    hurt…

His church family didn’t notice that transformation. Is there someone to blame?

 

Sometimes it is hard to see the truth.

 

I cry, I weep, and my heart is full of sorrow

I get angry, I shout, and I scream out:

“Why

God

why?”,

as I clench my heart in pain,

“Why is your body behaving like this?

Fellow Christians are supposed to be like family,

We are supposed to love one another as we love ourselves

No division in the body; its parts should have equal concern for one another.

 

Yet, all I can clearly see are different forms of hypocrisy”

 

The boy never said anything aloud, seeing how others like him were being treated.

He kept it hidden away for years, trying to hold onto that message from before

of peace, love, and hope, but it was so hard.

He prayed to God pleading that his story would be different, that his family continues to love him.

Finding the courage, he opened up to his family and stated that he is gay.

 

One would expect love or compassion…

 

Instead, he was met with revulsion, condemnation- with no understanding.

His foundation’s - his church family’s- reaction devastated him,

treating him as if he committed the ultimate sin.

Thus, effectively driving him away from the church and to some extent God,

the God who still loves him as a son- but for the boy,

 

Sadly, it is arduous to see.

 

I cry, I weep, and my heart is full of sorrow

I get angry, I shout, and I scream out:

“Why

God

why?”,

as I clench my heart in pain,

“Why is your body behaving like this?

Fellow Christians are supposed to be like family,

We are supposed to love one another as we love ourselves

No division in the body; its parts should have equal concern for one another

 

Yet, I all can clearly see are different forms of hypocrisy”

 

I will never understand the pain he must have felt.

I can’t comprehend how having those who you thought would love you

through thick and thin just abandon you...

especially by those who claim to serve the same God you do.

However, I can cry with him and mourn for his pain.

 

Lamenting is what God called me to do.

 

However, amidst my tears and frustration, I know that God, my father, is near.

He tells me to hold my head up and not to worry

for he is God and I simply need to be still.

I mustn’t stop in my walk of faith; I mustn’t let the hypocrisy faze me.

Instead I am to go out into the world, with his word in my heart,

And show everyone’s God’s love and his glory.

 

I am to walk in the authority that I have through Jesus too.

 

Even though my heart is heavy, I continue to fight and call out to my fellow Christians:

We are supposed to be set apart from this world,

so let’s help out our brothers and sisters instead of solely condemning and judging them.

            For the Bible says:

“For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged,

and with the measure you use it will be measured to you”.

 

I will let God's word, the bible, speak for itself.

 

We cannot remain silent because we don’t understand or can’t relate.

We cannot use the excuse 'I don’t know what to say'.

Suffering and pain is universal.

Let your heart break for others, not just for those who outside the church

but your Christian family too.

Read your bibles as well and learn the truth.

Because only by learning about God's character through the study of the bible will

 

you be able to understand the God I serve.

 

Once we learn to open our mouths and hearts,

we will be the family we are supposed to be-

the body portrayed in the songs we sing.

That's why we were created, to bring glory to God’s kingdom and to serve one another.

 

As difficult as that is, I know that we can do it.

 

To that gay college student, I sincerely apologize.

For no one should be treated the way that you have.

My heart aches for your pain.

You are part of my family in Christ who

deserves

to be

loved.

I want you to know that not every Christian out there are like the ones you may have encountered before.

There are Christians who care.

Do not let the negative experiences you had with Christians prior

dicrate how you see God or all of them.

 

We are only human.

 

I cry, I weep, and my heart is full of sorrow

I get angry, I shout, and I scream out:

“Why

God

why?”,

as I clench my heart in pain,

“Why is your body behaving like this?"

 

Nevertheless…

 

I smile, I laugh, and my heart is full of joy

I calm down, I sigh and I proclaim:

“Thank

you

God”

as I lift my hands to the sky,

“Thank you God, and I praise you in advance.

Fellow Christians, one day, will be like family.

We will love one another as we love ourselves.

No more division in the body; each part will have equal concern.

 

I will no longer see any forms of hypocrisy”.

Posted on September 10, 2015 .

Foster's Forest by Danny & Bishoy Nasry

Not far from here, there once stood a frightfully beautiful forest, quivering perpetually with life. Some say that the trees came alive at night, as subtly as the twinkling of the stars above them.

The forest teemed with creatures great and small. They were sustained by a mix of sunlight, grass, and the fruits the trees dropped every morning without fail. The creatures were happy together, provided as they were with an abundance of food to eat and an abundance of company to share their days with. The eating of meals was, for as long as any of the creatures could remember, an event that they shared together, slowly and quietly, in a clearing in the middle of the forest—an event in which they all enjoyed fully the sweetness of the grass and the juiciness of the trees’ fruit. Aside from the occasional squabbles that you will observe within any family, the creatures did not harm one another, at least not ever out of malice.

It is true, though, what they say: that a certain fox, named Foster, once tried eating some grass while he walked during lunchtime and that a hapless little ant got stuck in the crease of a grass strand he had scooped up. The rustling of the leaves beneath Foster’s paws, you see, muffled the little ant’s yelps of terror. The unfamiliar crunch in Foster’s mouth stopped him dead in his tracks. “I’ve done a horrible thing!” Foster thought. “A little life is no more, and I’m to blame. And now that little life is inside me! That sort of thing has got to be deadly…oh no!”

Foster just knew he would keel over any minute. But as an hour passed, all Foster felt was a slight grumble in his belly. Oddly enough, he felt full longer than usual, and he realized he ate less than usual at dinner that day. Foster made a mental note of this, though he thought the sensation of fullness must have been a coincidence. As had become his habit, Foster still occasionally walked and ate, when no one else was watching. And, on one fateful day, the now slightly less foreign ‘crunch’ came again -- and (“Ahh!”) in the same bite, a second! Foster’s almond-shaped eyes widened to walnuts in dismay. The gravity of taking two precious lives was too much for Foster to bear. He wept and crumpled to the ground. “I’ll never walk and eat again! Never!” Foster half resolved, half lamented. He lay there an hour before he willed himself to rise. This time it was unmistakable: he felt just as full when he arose as when he had finished his murderous meal. “How can this be?” Foster wondered. “If something catastrophic doesn’t happen by dinner time…” Foster’s thoughts paused in a confused haze, “then, well…then maybe this isn’t so bad.”

Foster could hardly believe what he was telling himself, could hardly accept that such a thought had entered his mind. But something in him allowed it to stick around, to cross, and even crisscross, his mind as he waited, on pins and pine needles, till dinner. To Foster’s surprise and almost to his chagrin, the only thing awry at dinnertime was that he didn’t feel hungry. He went for a walk instead and this time at no danger of gobbling up an ant in the meantime.

As was his habit, he walked by the trees, those majestic trees, to look at them; to gaze upon their beauty; to get away from the hustle and bustle at the center of the forest. This was grand. Here, he felt grand!  Anything that gave him more time here, more walking beside these giants, must be good. After all, could there be anything better? Yes, the other foxes and creatures were aware of the trees and their beauty; after all, neither tree nor creature could thrive without the other. But in what way were they aware? Did they experience this same sort of thirst that Foster felt? Foster needed to know more about the trees, about how exactly they formed their fruit during the forest’s short nights, about what caused the sheen of their green leaves to be so brilliant, about the processes that allowed the trees to grow so tall. And the way to that knowledge was all too apparent now: having ants for food. Filling ant-meals would mean more time alone with the trees, while the other creatures were busy eating, slowly and quietly. “It’s true that lives will be lost in the process,” thought Foster, “but they are only ant-lives after all; have the ants ever done anything meaningful anyway?” Foster certainly couldn’t think of something they’d done that was big enough to matter. The other creatures made the forest more beautiful. But no one would miss the ants or hear their complaints.

He was convinced, if only just barely.  Foster’s manner of eating slowly changed. He started out by being less careful to avoid the ants when they got stuck in the sweet grass; then, without telling himself he was doing so, he looked for patches of grass in his peripheral vision that trembled more with what would likely be ants; and then, after a long while, he unabashedly pursued them in the grass.  Eventually, Foster only needed one ant-meal a day, and the yelps and crunches that perturbed him before came at last to seem almost like a familiar jingle. He had much more time to be with the trees. He studied them. He understood more about them. The little pieces of bark he nibbled off of the trees and kept helped him always feel a little closer to them. Foster noticed that while he was alone with the trees at the edge of the forest, he began feeling oddly itchy. In what he thought must have been a coincidence, he would often scratch at the itch and find that an ant or two was scrambling through his thick fur, usually near his ears. How sweet it was when his new food source came to him, when he could eat the source of his itch and be energized to keep doing what he wanted: to be with the trees. Though it wasn’t his meal time, Foster never stopped to consider why the ants kept approaching his ears or why their yelps seemed more shrill. He had more time for what mattered to him — for studying the beauty of his world, of the trees that were just as beautiful as ever.

Some say that Foster ate a beetle once, and that, after a while, other creatures no longer felt safe near him. They say that when Foster walked about, his eyes glinted in a way they hadn’t seen; but no one could definitively say whether it was the flecks of wisdom or something else. When his fellow foxes caught on to what he was doing, he persuaded some, with genuine intensity, that his way was good; for, he had more time and more understanding now; he could be with beauty in a special way.  Others could not bring themselves to see things the way Foster had come to see them.  The forest was beautiful. It was very much alive. And some of the creatures experienced its beauty in new ways, and more often.

It’s true though, about the trees; few said that they came alive at night any more.

Poems Left Unbled by Danny Nasry

Poems left unbled

Canvases left gaping

Fancy, new journals perpetually shelved for want of perfect thoughts

Vivid dreams diluted by a deluge of those hazy and forgotten

Snoozes and sighs at the pregnant morning light

Scorn of structure that is structured destruction.

 

I’ve been holding my breath for so long

Trying to keep my life in accord

But this trembling at the weight of life

Is hardly the sweet resonance of a chord

Shouldn’t creativity flow from me like harmony?

How can simply being bring harm on me?

Is this poem locking me in this me-made ward

Or warding off its own song?

 

I’m so scared of cresting a climax

Of finding there’s nowhere to go but down

That when my calves begin to strain at the foot of an incline

I begin walking sideways, looping around the summit

Always in resolution, without suspense to resolve

Have I grown to love the ineffectuality of fear

More than the frightful dynamism of love?

Do I love fear and fear love?

 

To combat my slothy apprehension

I’ve shackled myself to an instrument of death

It (dis)graces my wrist, oppressively consistent

Irksomely methodical, recording life-moments

The morsels it belittlingly calls seconds

The things I want to relish as firsts

The breaking of the hum of life

Into these staccato jerks and jolts

Chips away at what’s left of me.

 

My life has my voice’s vice—

Though a tuner would tolerate it

It’s neither fleshy nor sonorous

Like the skeleton of a good life

Without any meat on it

This life looks good on paper

But the fruits don’t show it true

A bad song stuck in your head

The worst sort of déjà vu.

This fog I’m in is a shrouded shalom,

Familiarity through paralysis,

An involuntary home.

Though I feel safe and known,

This me, by my sickly analysis,

Is not me—but a relieving groan

Is me in a whimper.

Is me in perpetual winter.

 

A tree in autumn that clings to its leaves

Though their colors have begun to run

Though they no longer feed me the sun

Their beauty leaves renewal undone

For their time has passed

The fear of being left naked and exposed

Leads to a disdain for the seasons

And these withered leaves I hold

Are their own illusion of a reason.

 

A water droplet with prismatic ability

I was made to refract the light

But instead, its heat and my fragility

Cause me to sizzle out of sight

The scorching light now remains white

With its rainbows kept latent

This vapor I am, ever nascent

Feels but an agony of delight.

 

As I finally bleed this poem

Fear is drawn to the scent

But the poem he bled overwhelmed fear to death

Oh that my life’s poem would vanquish fear

Oh that there wouldn’t be fear in my final breath.

Posted on September 10, 2015 .

The Chasm Stares Back Unblinkingly by John Montesi

TW: Depression and suicide

It does not waver or relent. It is in an eternal staring contest with all who dare to try it. They must know that they will lose. Its pupils fill its eyes, you cannot see them. It is all darkness. Every time you think too hard or consider the Eternal Recurrence of the Same in its cosmological infinitude or its practical application in Suburban America, the chasm smirks. If you overindulge the thought exercises or greedily lap the overly sweet honey, its eyes widen.

War, killing, disappearances, death, dying, too soon, depression, disease, overpopulation, nothing, everything, atoms, monkeys, mud, Mars, methane, mitochondria, everything, nothing. You blinked.

The darkness is full of the unjustifiable, the unexplainable, the explained, the contradictions.

Man’s folly is that he believes in his own justice, that “just” has meaning.

If we are atoms in the void, it doesn’t.

If a God sets the weights and balances, it doesn’t.

The chasm will consume the strongest mind and the strongest man. He will embrace a horse. He will swallow a shotgun. He will make a noose of his own hair. He will use a blade made by his fellow man to open his own wrists. He will gouge out his own eyes. Still, the darkness does not blink.

We must be ok with losing the staring contest, with looking gingerly until our eyes water. Then we must blink and wipe away our tears and never look back.

It is not for us to see or understand, not for us to judge.

We cannot judge since we do not have justice.

With weights and balances, we can stare a little longer and walk away alive.

They are not ours but we use them all the same.

We can see it and hear it and feel it and leave it.

Its machinations do not concern us.

Without scale, we will search evermore for the eyes we cannot see.

The only greater folly than manmade justice is misplaced striving.

If we strive to know Him, we will not look in the chasm.

We will look at it and know that there is nothing to find because there is nothing there.

If we strive to know the chasm, we will fall.

Posted on September 10, 2015 .

The Physicist by Janice Choi

My high school physics teacher was a great storyteller. Just tall enough to peer at us over the pile of lab-rubble on his desk, he would smile with a knowing glow which, though but an effect of the projector’s lamp, held a significance greater than that of its physical cause and effect. The rest of the room was always dim and dusty–lukewarm–perfect for dozing off. Given my near-narcoleptic tendencies, I struggled in each class to keep my mind present, scared of missing a story or lesson. Of course there were days when my eyelids gave into the force of gravity–I still find myself wishing I could go back to fill those gaps in narrative. But there were other days when the room transformed into a theatre of trill, filling with vivid details recounted in his creased voice. Sitting in that room was always–or at least as often as my internal clock permitted–a sensory pleasure, as his lessons were veined with life advice and tangential musings.

I have no doubts that the man was a genius. Given that, his patience had to be of admirable breadth. He waived gaps in attendance (mental and physical), and carefully re-explained concepts until we could grip more tightly onto the subject matter with our dull teeth. Still, there were moments when he struggled to maintain composure as the ever-patient mentor. Perhaps a student asked a question that demonstrated an absolute neglect of critical thought, or an inexcusable failure to consider the givens. In such cases, as well as in the face of flagrant disrespect (particularly of the strain that interferes with others’ productivity), his gentle manner would recede giving way to a didactic, cerebral disposition. However, these were the times that his impeccably logical nature was revealed most apparently. The ticking of his brain, his way of approaching our surroundings–they were functions of logic, buffered from our world of supposition only by a carefully cultivated ability to empathize deeply.

But why, then, did he waste class time playing a song for us every day? “Listen to the lyrics to this one,” he would say. We strained to listen past the sounds coming from the speakers, and his most ardent fans gathered after class to deconstruct the meaning of each verse. Even as the rigor of our curriculum pushed short the time we had left, he never failed to set class time aside for abstract video clips, inspirational speeches, and excerpts from movies that were only tangentially related to the material at hand. I couldn’t help but notice his accompanying gestural nudges, designed to push us towards a place where we could try a little harder to pay attention to the details of our world.

As the year drew to a close, he announced his third retirement, and before our final exam, we fathered to surprise him with a farewell party. After a slideshow of photos from over the year and bittersweet goodbyes a friend asked a question aloud, dousing the conversational bustle about the small room. “If you were to give us one last, most important piece of advice, what would it be?” Now, keep in mind that over the course of one year, our beloved teacher had taught us many things. How to swan-dive into a shallow pool from a cliff safely, which precautionary steps to take if caught in a lightning-storm atop a dry plateau or peak, how to address stressful family situations, just to name a few. I cannot begin to describe the palpability of our collective anticipation that was growing denser as he smiled, eyes crinkling with a gentle, familiar concern:

 

“Love.”

And that was that. His final word of advice to us was not about survival, success, or braving the throes of socially constructed expectations that threaten our very livelihood as humans.[1] His greatest lesson was but one word–albeit a loaded, slippery word–and it left our logic-seeking, rote-accustomed brains demanding more of an empirically-verifiable solution.

There were several things that struck me about his answer. One was the contradictory nature of the situation: a physicist who had spent nearly an entire lifetime wiring his brain to work logically and efficiently–one that would agree with Rutherford that, “Physics is the only real science. The rest are just stamp collecting”–could muster the patience and empathy to offer high school students not only the tools with which to explore basic physics, but those with which to approach a meaningful life, and to elevate these lessons about compassion and reverence above the quantifiable truths we would’ve expected such a hardcore physicist to prioritize. The second was that in that moment, everything I knew about my teacher, my perception of life, our physical world, aesthetic value, and love, clicked together in a way that was utterly harmonious and impossible to describe. Perhaps it was the literal twinkle visible in my teacher’s eye, which illustrated more lucidly than any other medium could have, a deeply-rooted and constant acknowledgment of the great universe, and our place in it. It was a momentary and momentous revelation[2] to see that a fascination with logic and our physical world is simply inseparable from a sense of gratitude and reverence for the kind of beauty we find in pleasing compositions and emotional pulls, regardless of how it’s often considered counterintuitive and unproductive.

 

 

 

[1] Or rather, it was not explicitly about these things. In hindsight, it’s clear that his literal word of advice encompassed all three, and beyond.

[2] In the least dramatic sense of the word, yet the most profound: a simple uncovering of truth so basic and accessible that it shatters the basis upon which we’ve built our perceptions of life.

Posted on September 10, 2015 .

In Your Image: A Modern Psalm by Darby Barton

When I look into the mirror, I don’t want to see my  broken reflection staring back at me.

Fill my vanity with erasers instead of concealers.

Uncover my imperfections, my selfishness, my narcissistic

routine.

 

Reveal to the world my flaws so that it can watch you

permanently powder them with grace.

May your brush strokes not cover up, but mend the shards

of broken bits of a work in progress.

Finely dust them into resilient, beautiful scars;

reminders of wounds you healed and battles we’ve won.

 

Strip the varnish from my fingertips and tint them with an

everlasting reminder of the nails that you stained crimson

for me.

 

Lacquer my heart with a relentless layer of love for others.

Make it so thick with tender desire that I cannot help but

let it pour out of me,

collecting into a refreshing pool that reflects not my own

heart, but yours.

 

May I glow with the joy of the Son and not the temporary

offerings of a bronzer.

Contour my spirit with lines of gentleness and courage.

Pluck from me the shadowed pieces of a fragmented life

so that when I look into the mirror; I am gazing at a brilliant

likeness of You.

Posted on September 10, 2015 .