A poem (it’s about Jay Gatsby)

So one of the cool things about being a high school teacher is I get to assign creative writing pieces, which I then get to complete along with my students. I know, tricky, right? A couple weeks back, I asked my juniors to write a poem inspired by The Great Gatsby. Theirs turned out great, but the poem I wrote turned out pretty good, too, so I thought I’d share. Feel free to comment!

“Akeldama”

I sold my name for this silver dream,
in the dim belief
that the golden girl,
who moves like music,
her voice quivering like water
reflected in a golden bowl,
would slake her restless thirst
in the fountain I constructed
from the wealth I would squander
in an instant for her warm hand
pressed into my damp palm.

But now, our future spills forth
like blood from a chest wound,
hemorrhaging in thick crimson spurts,
an edifice of illusory hope
buried under a gray cloud
of ashen ruin.

 

 

My First Moot

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAImagine a lighthouse. Somewhere overlooking the Irish Sea, let’s say, just to keep the story rabbit-y. There’s nothing picturesque about this scene. Here we have a storm-tossed maelstrom of sound and fury. But in the midst of this tempest, there’s the reliable lighthouse, its beam sweeping the wine-dark sea, searching, searching for ships to save.

Now, in this extended, and perhaps too elaborately created metaphor, I’m not the lighthouse, mind you. No, I’m the boat, caught up in the waves, traveling too close to the rocks, over-matched and bound for certain disaster.

And all I’m thinking is, “Damn the relentless invasiveness of light. Turn it out!”

Never underestimate our desire to hide. Human contact is a strange, scary thing. So is being known. It goes as far back as Adam, this penchant for privacy. The cycle of free will: freedom, leaving, getting lost.

But, thank God, that, “In the midnight searching,” God leaves “no stone unturned.”

Because, for me, hiding has become as comfortable as breathing. In my creative life, I take in lies like oxygen and breathe out excuses like carbon dioxide. Not talented enough? Heard that one. My best is average? Pretty much a daily thought. A hobby not a calling? Yup. And the spiritual lies are even more stellar.

So, even though I had Hutchmoot circled on my calendar since the day I registered, and was telling everyone who asked that it was my own personal Comic-Con, there was still plenty of apprehension in the days prior. Part of it was the usual first-day-of-school jitters. What if the other kids don’t like me? What if I have to sit by myself at lunch?

But I think it was the expectations – I had an agenda-less agenda, but still, I dared to hope… And with hope comes another cycle of voices telling me the frailty of hope.

So there I was, parking my rented Hyundai and slowly, fearfully, ambling past the playground and turning the corner up the walk toward that wooden door, behind which lay the unknown.

Then, one friendly, face. And another. Then, the smiling, bearded face of Pete Peterson. And the unveiling of shepherd’s pie. And Andrew Osenga and Eric Peters singing about being broken men. And Arthur Alligood blowing my mind. And Andrew and Skye breaking my heart with the beauty of God’s promise to make all things new. And while that was happening, a voice inside spoke clearly, distinctly, that old things are passing away.The time for hiding was over.

So three and a half days flew by, filled with music, stories, conversations, and banana pudding.

But what did it all mean?

In college, I had a professor who used to wax fondly about the afterlife.  “I can’t wait to hang out with C.S. Lewis,” he would say, “and just talk Narnia for, like, a couple years or so.”

That sort of casual talk about heaven frankly took my breath away. I mean, there’s nothing doctrinally un-sound about such talk. But I’d never pictured it that way, I guess. Too many harp-and-robe coloring pages in Sunday School.

But having just finished my first Hutchmoot, I think I get it now.

No, Hutchmoot isn’t heaven. But maybe heaven will be a bit like that stone wall in front of Church of the Redeemer: casual chatter drifting by, a breeze rustling the auburn leaves, guitar music and pipe smoke wafting past. Okay, I’ll try to rein in my imagination. But there was that sense of being home, among fellow sojourners who were longing for where they belong and trying to figure out what it means to be not there yet.

It was the perfect antidote to the disease I didn’t know I had.

As I engaged on one of my (many) post-Moot resolutions today, taking a 10-minute break in the middle of the school day to walk the sidewalks, grab the bark of a tree, feel the leaves slip through my fingers, I was struck with one massive thought:

I wish I was back there.

Where else could you be among friends you’ve never met yet? Find someone else who has a Treebeard figurine on his writing desk or gets teary-eyed at the sound of Kermit the Frog strumming a banjo? Or be that close to the Spirit, carried along for days by his sustaining breath?

But, then I remembered something Andrew said during his talk on Saturday. I know I’m not going to do this justice. He quoted Chesterton talking about leaving on a trip, and remarking that his destination is home. The upshot, I think, was that every journey we take ends in home. So I set off for Nashville, but really, I was leaving so I could come home again.

And I’m glad to be home. There’s work to be done here. There are two little boys who need a Dad to wrestle with and read to them and teach them about being a man in this world. There’s a wife to be nurtured, and a home that needs a spiritual leader. There’s are stories to be written, and oh so many, many creative mountains to climb. And home is where all that will happen.

So, yes, Hutchmoot was everything I hoped it would be – the music, the encouragement, the art, and the food, oh yes the food. And here I am in my own little personal hutch smiling broadly as I remember a hundred little details from that weekend.

I am healing in places I didn’t know I was broken. The disparate pieces of me which I had treated like separate compartments – father, husband, artist, church member, bibliophile, the list goes on – are fusing together, and I think, finally, I’m beginning to understand who I was designed to be. Did Hutchmoot do that? No, not really. It just continued a work that began six months, or a year, ago. A work that will go on for as long as I’m breathing.

So, to quote The Proprietor, “I don’t want to go back, I just want to go on and on, day by day.”

And I won’t lose heart.