Sorry, sorry, sorry

The political meaning of "collateral damage" repentance

by Ken Sehested

We kill and bomb
Murder and maim
Target and terrorize mostly
      (for high-tech armies)
from great distance
the better not to see actual faces
or severed limbs, or intestines oozing through
holes where belly buttons used to testify
to being a mother-born child

But then we apologize
           So sorry
                Deeply regret
                        Such a tragedy!
                              Sorry, sorry, sorry

Read more ›


by Ken Sehested

There is a raucousness to God, in God, of God, by God
that the orderly mind cannot abide (finds chaotic, riotous)
that the prim-proper mind finds embarrassing (even trashy)
that the erudite mind judges tacky (mangy)
that the pious mind believes unseemly (well-nigh depraved)
that the disciplined mind finds rowdy (or at least untidy)
that the morally rigorous simply cannot condone.

Have you ever been in a place—
like, maybe, as a child in church, sitting
next to your best friend who,
despite trying hard not to
(how can I say this without
offending delicate sensitivities?),

“break wind”?
What might normally be
only marginally humorous, now
(given the solemn circumstances,
the prohibition of irreverence being severe)

becomes funny all out of proportion
and, despite your best efforts,
trying to swallow the guffaw
rising from your esophagus
(like trying to muzzle a sneeze),
it squirts out anyway, and the
breath suppressed shoots
up through the nasal cavity,
launching a snotty snort
out your nose, giggles
thus threatening a riot?

Read more ›

For RJ: The One who shields from detainment’s constant threat

by Ken Sehested

when you need to do it,
where you do it,
how you do it,
with whom you do it,
for whatever reason and
         whatever manner you do it,
oblivious to both promise of reward
         and threat of punishment,
neither heaven nor hell,

foreswearing hate for enemies
         no less than pride of companions,
in strong days and weak,
hard times and favorable,
rain or shine,
in famine and in feast,
with surge of courage or
         barely-disguised trembling,
in Arabic, Hebrew or English,

Read more ›

The work of praise

Portending peace for the earth

The Blessed One does not stand in need of our praise;
nor sits impatiently, impudently, awaiting our
genuflection; nor strides restively, demandingly,
threateningly, toward our cowering pose.

No, none of this. There is no protection to be warranted by
proper groveling, calculated flattery, sustained applause,
pleading curtsies or bargaining bows.

It is, rather, we who need to praise. By it we transcend
self-serving ways. By it beggarly egos loosen their grip;
anxious trembling and toil, stilled and rested; fury, calmed;
moans, soothed; regrets, unknotted.

Read more ›


We are slalom skiers, feet-high
bodified beings dependent on
inches-wide thin board to keep us
aright and alert to the unpredictable
weight of water, or the studded
terrain, with obstacles requiring

(given the bullet train of events)
near-instantaneous dodging when
neither surf conditions nor topo
maps can be consulted, eyes,
hands, and feet preoccupied as
they are with coordinated maneuvers.

Tumbles, even vertigo, are inevitable.
Do not assign animus in the
waves’ collision, or the
mountain’s jagged contours.
No one passes through
unbloodied. Make them count.

Read more ›

Elegy for an Ash

by Ken Sehested

I confess I complained more than I should,
of your small branches falling in my yard,
having to stop the mower to toss them
to the side, for later bundling at the
curb for the city’s yard debris pickup. And
for your prodigious leaf rain each fall.
I suspect, though, you were pleased to
know your petals fed my compost. Did your
sensors recognize parts of your own
genome sequence in my cherry tomatoes?

I did not genuflect in your direction
nearly enough. For that I sorrowfully
repent. Now, that side of the house feels
naked. More so, since finally, two years
ago, I took an ax to the ivy vines blanketing
your height. Some growths, however
pleasing to the eye, are malignant and
voraciously suffocate all other life relying
on photosynthetic access.

Read more ›

Hallelujahs and heartaches, too

Kyle Childress: Quarter century and counting

by Ken Sehested

What a day! What a day! Not to mention a year, twenty-five
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 quarter-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 (Above you)
         and your beloved (beside you) 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.

Read more ›

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O Come, thou fount of Mercy, come
And light the path of journey home
From Pharaoh’s chains grant liberty
From Herod’s rage, confirm thy guarantee
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O Come, thou Watchful Keeper, bestow
Glad heart, warm home to creatures below
Give cloud by day and fire by night
Guide feet in peace with heaven’s delight
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Secure the lamb, the wolf no longer preys
Secure the child, no fear displays
The vow of vengeance bound evermore
God’s holy mountain safe and adored
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Read more ›

Such is the journey

We are free to act boldly because
we are safe.

We are safe because we are at rest.

We are at rest because we have
been forgiven.

Read more ›


The problem with humility is that
if you think you have some, you
probably don’t. No mirror exists
that will reflect it. And trying to
check on your “humility quotient”
is like pulling up a plant to see if
the roots are developing.

Genuine humility is swayed neither
by promise of heaven nor threat of hell.
Humility is blind to every lovely face,
every bar of achievement, every
seductive gesture save that of God.
Not because God is possessive or
judgmental or petulant. God is
delightful. Once you experience
that Delight, all other measurements
seem frivolous.

Once you experience that Delight,
you become fearless, free from the
clutches both of vanity and hesitation
alike. Such self-forgetfulness gives
rise to freedom, and freedom results
in audaciousness, for in the Presence
of such a Lover no gain can boast nor
loss encroach.

Read more ›