Lamentation to adulation

Every psalmist’s perilous journey

by Ken Sehested

Blessed One, whose name we dare not speak, but of whose
Presence we dare not remain silent, we stand before you with
hearts in shreds and hands frozen.

We know that we creatures were made for praise and thanksgiving.
We recognize that gratitude is our natural home.

But these are unnatural days. Instead of Heaven’s jubilation at
Creation’s unfolding, most of what we hear are the arias of agony
and the cornet’s sounding of retreat.

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A poem for Thanksgiving

by Ken Sehested

Gratitude is surely among the precious few,
truly-renewable energy sources available. The
hearts of both giver and receiver grow larger
in the process. Saying thanks, especially beyond
the demands of simple etiquette, is among the
most accessible violence-reduction strategies.

It is quite possible, of course, that expressing
gratitude simply masks the desire to get in
line for future favors. Or fends off the
possibility that one is now in debt to the
donor. Or is simply a disguised form of
doing business (as in gratuities—tips—to
those who serve us). “Free” market values
have managed to commodify even our
most noble human values. Freedom language
has morphed into a cover for savagery.

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Ah, grief, my importune friend

Prose poem in the face of electoral dread

by Ken Sehested

“You've kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights,
each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.”
—Psalm 56:8 (The Message.)

Ah, grief, my importune friend, who has brought you to my table,
spoiled my bread, tainted my cup, directed my eyes to the psalmist’s sigh
and the prophet’s lament?

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Weather channelling prayer

Prayer in advance of a hurricane

by Ken Sehested
Written while thinking of a friend in Cuba

I am up late, glued to
the weather channel, tracking
Irene’s ruinous wake. Apparently
the storm is going north of you.
My furrowed face relaxes.

I do not believe in prayers
changing the course of hurricanes.
But that does not make me
cynical, or my prayers any less
urgent. It only means that
I love what God loves.

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More is at work than passes for the news

Pentecost Sunday 2020 prose poem

by Ken Sehested

Almost every breakthrough begins with a breakdown. Goodness is not thereby assured; then again, neither is our breath, day by day.

We hope to be effective; but our perseverance is not hitched to efficacy. We insert ourselves, compassionately and intelligently, because that's who we are. (Or at least who we are becoming.)

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Hallelujahs and heartaches, too

On the 50th anniversary of Rev. Francisco Rodés’ ordination

by Ken Sehested

What a day! What a day! Not to
mention a year, fifty of them piled
head-to-toe, some of them a bit
fuzzy now (thank God!), others
like constellations whose radiance
still guides during dark nights
of the soul. Little did you know,
a half-century ago, what your
profession would involve,
where your convictions would
take you, the joys then unimaginable,
the sorrows ruthless beyond belief.
And the "ordinary" days, the days
for which songs are never
composed, for which cakes are
never baked, for which poems
are never rhymed nor hymns
inspired, for which hardly anyone
but the Beloved took note.

Scores upon scores of hallelujahs
and heartaches, too. Cares that kept
you up at night and joys that set
you moving at the first sight
of dawn’s light.

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The spokes of grief spin on the axis of hope

by Ken Sehested

These are most surely the days to trace the shape of
hope in the swirl of despair: to reassure children, to
encourage harried parents, to tip big-time, to speak out
loudly against vacuous leaders, to praise medical
professionals, to acknowledge teachers who are
working harder than ever (with exponentially less
notice), to celebrate cleaner air (a foretaste of what
could be if together we were to rigger the needed will
for weaning from fossil fuels). And on and on. (Add here
your nominees for concerted public attention.)

Nevertheless, do not forsake the labor of lament, of
public rituals naming the anguish, of the singing of sad
songs. The very spokes of grief spin on the axis of hope.
No one grieves aloud except for the deep down
awareness that life has come off the rails of gracious
accord, of promised bounty, and the practice of
neighborliness embedded in our DNA.

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Prepping for Ash Wednesday

A supplication

by Ken Sehested

Return to your heart, O you transgressors,
and hold fast to the One who made you.
Stand with the Beloved and your footing
shall be firm. Rest in the Merciful One
and you shalt be buoyed.

Where do you go along these rugged
paths, pilgrim, so far from home yet so
winsomely loved? Be clear about what
you seek, and where you seek, for the
beatific life cannot be found in the land
of illusion.

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What we need is here

Meditation on mayhem while sitting shiva

by Ken Sehested
All Hallow's Eve 2018

Introduction.This prose poem’s origin began upon confrontation
with three recent tragedies spurred by white nationalists in my
country: pipe bombs sent to public figures opposing our nation’s
nefarious governance; the killing of two African Americans in a
Kentucky grocery store after the shooter was unable to enter a
black church for the same purpose; and then a successful, deadly
sanctuary shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue. This poem’s
completion came after participating in a Jewish mourning the

dead ritual (sitting shiva), specifically in light of the Pittsburgh
massacre, in one of our city’s synagogues where the rabbi,
referencing Isaiah’s famous “Comfort, comfort my people”
refrain (chapter 40), suggested that the text can
also be read
as “Find comfort in my people.” Which is exactly what we were
doing in that packed-to-overflowing sanctuary.

WE ARE IN A WORLD OF HURT. And the hurt submits to no tawdry
there-there, it’ll-be-alright. To the hurting, there is no be-alright
on the horizon. That’s why it hurts: such pain calls the future into
question. Hurt is more than pain. It is threat: that dawn’s dispersive
power against night’s dread can no longer be trusted. Of the kind of
weeping that compounds the sorrow and leads to no joy.

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