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|These contributions of poetry and prose were shown as part of Faith and Arts Sunday at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu—February 15, 2009
Poetry and Prose by Writers’ Workshop (February 15, 2009)
The Writers Workshop is a group of church members and friends who meet once a month to work on their writing together. Everyone is welcome to bring something they have written that they can share with the group.
Group members displayed the following examples of poetry and prose as part of Faith & Arts Sunday 2009.
In response to a request from a fellow Mormon gay man, asking that we honor someone who had been important in our life’s journey to self acceptance, I wrote the following. I had previously written a whole essay entitled “Papa;” this is a portion of that essay and background explanation.
“I want to honor my father, or as I referred to him through most of teens and later, Papa.
“I wrote an essay about my relationship with him about three years ago. I wish to share with you and your readers a paragraph or so from that essay. As background, I had been in therapy during my freshman year at BYU to change me from being homosexual. No, I was fortunate; I was not subjected to reparative therapy, either the electroshock or the induced vomiting kind of torture. Instead I had a therapist who never maintained that I needed curing or that he could cure me, a therapist who may have indicated to my parents in the spring of my freshman year that homosexuality was permanent. This therapist left BYU while I was on my mission between 1961 and 1964.
“After my sophomore year at the Y [BYU], instead of a mission which I felt was still not available for me because I was still attracted to men, I decided I would go to San Francisco for the summer. My parents certainly knew that San Francisco offered plenty of temptations for gays even though it had not yet earned the reputation of being a safe haven for us. My parents were both active and committed to the Church; you can imagine the fears that they faced when I told them my plans.
“My final paragraph reads,
“Well, if a mission with a male companion 24/7 was not a suitable environment for me in 1960, certainly San Francisco in 1961 was less suitable. Just before the family drove me to the D&RGW/Western Pacific train station in Salt Lake City, Papa offered our family prayer and prayed that I would know that they loved me regardless of what happened and that I was always welcome to come home. At the time I dismissed this as his thinking I was rebelling against the Church, which I wasn’t. Since my peace with Papa, I’ve come to treasure the words of his prayer. He knew what threats/opportunities San Francisco held for a young gay, and I’m positive he also knew I could be tempted. Yet, in spite of what he feared could happen or did happen, he wanted me to know I was always welcome home. Far too few Mormon gays had a father like mine. How blessed I was and am to have had this strong a love and acceptance in my life.’”
James CartwrightTop of Page
12 Dec 08
The sun left quietly
Not even a grey glow
No celebration in reds, turquoise,
pinks and golds.
Today whispered into night.
13 Dec 08
Rains came sweeping in
Curtains from ocean hiding
the mountains in grey.
If I had made
If I had only made
If I had
Plans for old age
Rocking by the window
Moving in place through hours
And hours of past
Memories overlooking each other
Feeding on the carrion of regret
How can I change
Years of silence?
Lips move with no speech
No sound I heard
And I pray that I am not too late
For some word.
If I had known
If I had only known
Living dies slowly
Sitting in a chair
For forth dollars a day
Wilted petals at my feet
Grass which is no longer green
Drier than the mind
Can we hope without hope
In spite of fear
Because of a touch?
Where is my cup?
Old Lady, shriveling away
Beneath blue shadows
Seeing memories long forgotten
And losing the morning
Returning to a waterless womb
Silent and dark.
Whose child is this
With bones drying out?
If I had saved
If I had only saved
What I had
I would have -
Oh save me -
More than I need
More than I have.
I need nothing.
If I had water in my room
It would help.
Fritz FritschelTop of Page
for Niell G. in celebration of his 6th Birthday
Have you ever heard of a dolphin who’s doleful?
Never, never!! Jumping, cavorting, teasing
They swim completely soulful
A bit of water squirting—or is it sneezing?
Far from their Delphic origin
Now near us they find a new mate,
Namely Niell, often more engine-
Eer than of ichthyologist trait.
Oh! The loops and leaps,
In the depths and deeps
That these creatures perform.
All in step, all aswarm,
First they dive, then arrive
Nose and snout
They can lure
Full attention from their audience,
Showing off their drilled obedience.
Classy work for any swimmer,
But these aquatic companions are unique,
With their sleek physique—so chic!
When do we enjoy them? “Immer, immer!”
Give us more of their prancing,
Give us more of their dancing.
Bring on the boys.
Bring on the noise.
Where’s our swimming wear?
Let the dolphin, friend in the water,
Champion snorter, divine sporter,
Lead Niell and friends
Into fields of play,
And seas of joy
Forever and a day.
What prize is there for you who are wasted and slain,
Caught in the crossfire of fear and fear
So sure the blush of youth would gain
Every wealth and rank of aging years,
As if the late freeze leaves the bud.
Fritz FritschelTop of Page
Recently at an Obama rally in South Carolina
We heard a rousing speech.
What is it that makes a speech Rousing?
Some message that touches the inner nerve of humanity—
Sometimes conveyed in a song
Sometimes in a poem
Sometimes in a smile
Sometimes in a novel
Sometimes in a gesture.
Would that we had many many Rousing Moments in our lives
Rousing us from humdrum habits,
Keeping us awake to Something Greater,
Nudging us to be a little more disciplined, a little more aware
Of Life’s better answers.
Politics is not a place I like to dwell, and not a place where I’d expect to be roused.
But there were moments that day in the voice of an individual—moments among the
muck - that seemed to stand out for a “goldener” aspect of humanity.
Regardless of where the message comes from and for what purpose it is used,
There is something in that kind of voice that stays in the room when everything else has gone—
Something that lingers and gives voice to an intangible wish, large as life.
Mary Ann Hurst
A peasant from the glasscutter’s guild ducked into his twig-roofed hovel to flop exhausted on a pallet. Pain from the bruise where his master’s wrath had landed dissolved with a satisfied sigh as he thought about the window. The ruby shard snuggled in soft metal, soldered next to the emerald tree hummed with playful tension, as did the orange sash on the Duke’s lavender robe. What a wonder. The life force of cohabiting colors, like the yellow speck in the Bethlehem sky, moved, beckoned, whirled as the Divine story marched boldly forth in its lead shrouded web. So the old man slipped into sleep wrapped in rainbow dreams.
A couple seeing Europe on a shoestring had one more cathedral to go. This one promised Mozart on period instruments at sun down in a splendid medieval glass bottle. Local moneychangers herded them through a tourist-shearing sty onto rusty folding chairs.
The curious crowd from the world around clattered into the stone cutters-canyon and calmed. “My!” “myyyyy!!!” Hush descended as every eye looked up. Quiet breath-catching sounds punctuated the sunset spangled music resting on the backs of a thousand gifted craftsmen, all at peace slumbering in graves nearby.
Clever this light to shed its extraneous dress passing through glass to enter the eye and drape its purity around hearts, shivering all with awe as their awakened souls drift upward.
Donald K. Johnson
What to do when unexpected water from above
Spills rainbows into ravines
Washes smog from the sky
Fills nostrils with nature perfumes
Flounders toads onto golf greens
Shows the breast beneath the blouse
Awakens alley cans with a percussive cascade
Stripes the Ko'olau with white
Muffles the park in petal-patter hush
Opens umbrellas and
Curse the gift or lift your arms in welcome?
Rule-ribbed umbrellas are for those who would not be wet
Or distracted from other plans
For those who resist and
Choose not to take pleasure
In the moistening mist
Good intentions dissolve when drenched
So why not sing
Visualize a stomp on that rain soaked plain in Spain
Ride a leaf boat
Seek a sodden hug
Mud slide a grassy slope and
Let your day float away on wonder
Donald K. JohnsonTop of Page
Smiling eyes, upon his gentle face
Green fronds spreading like lace
Little known spirit of Nature
We need you in this time obscure
We are late to see how
Nature is our nurture
We must be good stewards now
A base of our culture
Feeble but are we
Greedy for progress
Sawing branches on which we press
Save for the trees what are we?
Leaves limbs and trunk
Only dust remains from the saw
Green memory in our eyes
Sadness in our heart
Alas all living things
Are but transitory
New life sprouts
Old trees fade away
They were faithful friends
Shelters from the sun
Yet they leaned over
A danger in our courtyard
There will be new saplings
In new places, new landscapes
New leafy friends to grow
Nature is in God
O my Pyrenees Mountains
Cradle of my life
You offered me shelter then
A place to be proud of
Where the Green Man is secure
Where Nature itself is nurtured
Everything there is robust
Every being is free to roam
Ridges and crests sublime
Valleys and abundant life
Fragrant plants and flowers
With intense shapes and colors
Up there one can see forever
From vertiginous summits
Earned by arduous climbs
Waters bound from the cliffs
To sinuous inviting valleys
Forests deep and meadows green
There is part of my heart
My love for nature at its best
There my soul can rest
Where all is blessed
I’m at the playground
Playing with my friend
Say the bear
Make the bear
The bear’s after us!
Up the ladder
Down the slide
Quick, get away,
Say the bear
Make the bear
The bear’s after us!
Rock the horse
Ride him to and fro
Say the bear
Make the bear
The bear’s after us!
Up the ladder
By the ropes
He’s nipping at our toes.
Say the bear
Make the bear
The bear’s after us!
Time to go
home for now.
Say good-bye to bear:
Say the bear
Make the bear
Come back and play again.
toast in the toaster oven
in the middle of the kitchen a vase blooms:
a pot, a red spoon, and
that 600-lb frosted gorilla in the middle of the kitchen
last night’s carrot cake,
or all that’s left of it—
who will pounce?
sens originel ‘meaning, from the origins’
I want you to refuse this text and better still
go make your own, invent, create: no longer
consume pale reflected notes, now
singer of your own new song
artisan of your own sharp eyes
producer of your own imaginings
continuer of your own eternity
maker of your own meaning
and may I do as much for you
inside the kingdom of sentiment #1
past personal feeling
past perfect feeling
conjugated anew? not now:
our past a perfect togetherness
our togetherness perfectly past
inside the kingdom of sentiment #2
present impersonal feeling
present discontinuous feeling
conjugated no longer: indeed,
our past a continuous togetherness
our togetherness presently past
inside the kingdom of sentiment #3
future potential feeling
future progressive feeling
conjugated again? after all,
our future for the taking
our now a future in the making
Damask continues to be a popular fabric, which can be woven from any thread. The design of the table damask may be sateen weave with floats (longer, raised) threads in the filling (crosswise) threads, the background may be a sateen weave with floats in the warp (lengthwise) threads.
Single table damask has a four-float construction, and double table damask has a seven-float construction. The double table damask has more yarn; the floats may pass over 18 to 20 yarns in an elaborate design. Its luster depends on length of float, length of fibers used, closeness of weave, and uniformity of yarns.
Damascus, Syria, dates back to 3000 B. C., and is the oldest, continuously occupied city in the world.
Merchants named each fabric by the city which manufactured it. Damascus was famous for damask. China has long been occupied with fabrics, but Damascus outstripped them with their production of damask.
Gerda M. Turner
I took piano lessons because I was anxious to play the piano. My first piano teachers were not professional piano teachers. They were school teachers who happened to play the piano. Sometimes there were no school teachers who played the piano. But I practiced.
My mother ordered a music magazine from St. Louis, Missouri. It had a religious bent. (Have you ever heard “Will there be Any Stars in my crown” with variations?) I also ordered music books and popular ballads from Sears-Roebuck catalogue. My parents enjoyed hearing me play.
One day Lovise Christianson was visiting my mother. She was an elderly widow we had known for years. After some visiting, my mother said, “Gerda, why don’t you play a piece for us?” As a dutiful daughter, I sat down to play one of my mother’s favorite pieces. I was playing and had almost reached the end, when Lovise asked my mother, “Are your hens laying any eggs in this cold weather?”
I continued playing and finished the selection.
Gerda M. Turner
A child born,
A woman becomes a mother,
The tie cannot be broken
The process not reversed.
To love, care for, nurture;
Separate in occurrence,
Each a half blink
In the space of eternity;
Each with eternal impact
Throughout the universe.
Dear President Elect Obama:Thanks for your Christmas gift to me and so many others in the form of your hard work, your election and most importantly your comments about foreign policy, which show a better face of America to the world and especially the Muslim communities. Thanks to you, an enlightened foreign policy seems to be visible on the horizon. In an attempt to thank you, I am writing this simple Christmas card with some ideas that might fit into your goal of improving our national image to the world.
Gift idea No. 1: Creation of the American International Disaster Relief Corps. The AIDRC would enlist Americans who are willing to volunteer two to four weeks of their time to go to foreign lands on short notice to assist people following natural disasters.
We have no shortage of natural disasters and no shortage of families crying out for emergency assistance around the world. American volunteers could be flown to those countries, where they would be elbow to elbow with needy fellow earthlings - and I'll bet the first thing they discuss is something other than religion and politics. Under this program, which probably would cost less than the cost of two Falcon jets ($130 million each), people in faraway countries (often Muslim countries) would meet real Americans who are making a difference in their lives. The AIDRC volunteers wouldn't interfere with existing NGOs, and countries could ignore the volunteers if they didn't want the help. But the residents of countries that accept this assistance would finally have an alternate understanding of the words “the Americans are coming.”
Gift idea No. 2: Creation of the Meet Me in America program. This effort would enlist several thousand American communities willing to host small groups of visiting elementary schoolchildren from around the world for one- to two-week visits to America. I know many groups that would be glad to show youngsters around their communities and who would love to have their family and friends learn from those children at the same time.
Now I know that certain “International Studies/Washington-think-tank experts” will tell you it's dangerous to let our border guard-dog mentality weaken by bringing in 10-year-old Muslim schoolchildren to go to the beach in Hawaii or to enjoy a nice cool shave-ice treat. But I have confidence that no little Muslim kid would be crazy enough to blow up the shave-ice lines on a hot August day. That’s nuts. The shave-ice tastes too good. And I doubt that many Muslim 9-year-olds and their parents would be plotting a way to blow up the buffet table at some Iowa farm community’s Fourth of July picnic—at least not before getting through the potluck line and past the dessert table.
The Meet Me in America program would allow thousands of youngsters to meet real Americans and see how we live and act in our home communities. It also would show the world that rather than be frozen by 9/11 trauma, Americans are moving forward without fear, willing to meet people throughout the world. Again, some countries, religious groups and communities might not want to send youngsters to see America, but each child who did come would be filled with thoughts about how to create the type of world that they desire for themselves and their families.
Gift idea No. 3: Creation of the University for the World program. This effort would consist of a highly publicized scholarship program for Third World, qualified college-age students who need help with college costs. This program would fund thousands of students to travel to America or other countries for college or vocational courses. It also could fund scholarships for American students who want to travel to Third World countries to study. And guess what? This effort to get college-age students to meet others in the world dressed in something other than &dquo;battle gear” again would cost less than two Falcon jets.
Please accept my gift ideas to you in the spirit of Christmas. I think they come close to touching on your policy goals of improving our image to the world. I know they encompass my belief that we need a “second front in the war on terror” and that a Good Samaritan foreign policy costs less and makes as much sense as an exclusive “bombs away” foreign policy.
I have to admit that I debated whether to write this Christmas card to you and publicly expose myself to possible criticism for being hopelessly naive. But then I remembered that I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic, where I helped build schools, initiated a community-run clean water system that has functioned for more than 40 years and still have friends who warmly welcome me back to their farm communities, and who remember me as the Americano who taught them to work together to build up their community.
Merry Christmas to you and your family, Mr. President-elect.
(Joseph F. Zuiker is an attorney in Honolulu.
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Dec 25, 2008 Honolulu Star Bulletin
OK... I admit that I was kind of proud of my kid when I heard that he and his wife were invited to become Peace Corps Volunteers. Isn’t that what we all want... for our children to follow in our footsteps. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic over thirty five years ago, I was blessed with what might have been the best years of my life. For two years I laughed, cried, and mostly sweated with kind people who became proficient in interpreting my inadequate Spanish and then accepted me as one of their own. Against considerable odds, we built a six-room school for our crossroads town that formerly had only a one room shack for its students. We struggled to make road improvements that dragged an eroded footpath upscale, giving it new stature as a dirt road. And we began a drinking water project designed to return ownership of the neighborhood stream to thirsty animals—alone. During those years I was living out my generation’s idea of the best life one could ever have, a life which included a tour in the Peace Corps.
All too soon my volunteer days were over and I came back to the U.S.A., got married, had five sons and quickly grew spiritually nearsighted. Yet over occasional after-dinner slide shows on our living room walls, I tried to explain to my sons the depth of my experiences in the Peace Corps and to help these young boys counter growing community beliefs that a good life required service only to oneself, and M & M’s (a Mercedes and a million in the Bank). But each year it was harder to feel connected with the Peace Corps and my adopted country. All too soon I could see the slides on the wall but no longer feel the sweat, tears, agony of possible defeat and ultimate joy of helping my Dominican neighbors to move life forward. I even began to doubt the motives of my generation and the wisdom of our belief that service to others is the highest reward we can receive and the best earthly investment we can ever make.
And over twenty years went by and my thoughts and feelings about the Peace Corps remained buried until a funny thing happened last year. My oldest son got married, started a promising career in the Cleveland, Ohio publishing community, made good money, and.............. joined the Peace Corps.
Talk about a mixed bag of emotions. I questioned his sanity in giving up a good paying job and I wondered how the Peace Corps could make any real difference in the world, given the additional years of pessimism and warlike activity I had seen since my volunteer days. I questioned what a Jesuit-trained journalist and his beautiful, liberally educated, social-worker wife, would do in some Third World country struggling with gross poverty or self-defeating narrow-mindedness. And I worried that the purity of their desire to help others would be trampled by a Peace Corps bureaucracy whose time had come and gone.
But off they went to serve. And then six months later, I visited them in their adopted country (the Republic of Vanuatu) to meet their new neighbors (the villagers of Liro, on the small South Pacific Island of Paama). I was going to view the modern Peace Corps in action, follow in my child’s footsteps for several weeks, and sincerely hoped I wasn’t going to be too disappointed.
Well surprise.... I am back from that visit and there is a smile on my face. During my two weeks in Liro Village, I watched my son teach his seventh grade English class; helping those students to think, question and take chances with their minds. And I watched my daughter-in-law work with women’s groups to explore new sewing skills that will translate into decent shirts for husbands and sons. (I didn’t know she sewed.) I also watched her patiently support the village nurse as they tried to figure out ways to limit spouse abuse and to enrich obviously malnourished children on an island with some of the richest soil and greenest garden plots that I have ever seen in my life.
During my visit I watched my son and his wife spend countless hours with school children doing homework, studying languages and writing to far off pen pals, all done around their big kitchen table lit by smokey and smelly kerosene lanterns. Who cared; kids were questioning, learning and dreaming.
And a week into my visit I had an opportunity to bump directly into that old Peace Corps feeling, while helping my son build a demonstration smoke-less (exhaust pipe) stove for a village family. The current cooking method in Liro, open fires on a dirt room floor, wastes firewood, causes havoc to the cook’s back and totally screws up the lungs, throat, eyes and nose of any little children hanging around their mothers’ kitchens. So my son and I, and a few other local fellows set out to build the sample stove. Together we constructed cement forms, wired up every scrap of metal bar we could find in area junk yards, and hand-mixed concrete under a blazing sun. But sweat, dirt and cracked skin meant nothing to me, because my son and I were focused on a shared but silent hope—that this stove was an idea that once planted would grow and bear a fruit in Liro Village called change. Thanks to that workday I remembered the true beauty of the Old and the New Peace Corps, small-stepped schemes played out on a true field of dreams.
But those insights were not the only riches I harvested. My visit allowed me to watch subsistence farm families love and care for my son and his wife with a gentleness that pushed me to the borders of disbelief. I discovered that those kids are surrounded by considerate, caring persons who seemingly ask for nothing in return. Fancy that, those kind people from Liro and my son and his beautiful wife, deserve each other. That’s awesome.
So thanks to a couple of my relatives who had the faith of their convictions and the strength to make sacrifices in material terms, I am now a very proud Peace Corps Pop. I have seen the small flames of selflessness in today’s world and it’s a great sight. I have seen that the Peace Corps is alive and well in this world, quietly going about its mission of hope for us all. I have seen my son and his wife in the prime of their Peace Corps careers, and it looks a lot like my career a long time ago.
And best of all, as I got on the plane to come back home, my son whispered something in my ear that still brings tears to my eyes. “Dad, it was your slides on the wall years ago that filled me with excitement about being a Peace Corps Volunteer and gave me the courage to try it out.”
Those darn slides.... who would have ever guessed?
Joseph F. Zuiker
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