spoken words of magic…

as i’ve taught my students about spoken word the last few weeks, one of the cool things is to find fresh poems for them to have as examples. i’ve shown them my good friend James Wilson and slam poetry sensations Taylor Mali, Sarah Kay, and Buddy Wakefield. this is a wonderful poem by Buddy. by the way, i’ve been careful to edit for the students. enjoy…


Hurling Crowbirds at Mockingbars (Hope is Not a Course of Action)

By Buddy Wakefield

If we were created in God’s image
then when God was a child
he smushed fire ants with his fingertips
and avoided tough questions.
There are ways around being the go-to person
even for ourselves
even when the answer is clear
clear like the holy water Gentiles would drink
before they realized
forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past.

I thought those were chime shells in your pocket
so I chucked a quarter at it
hoping to hear some part of you respond on a high note.
You acted like I was hurling crowbirds at mockingbars
and abandoned me for not making sense.
Evidently, I don’t experience things as rationally as you do.

For example, I know mercy
when I have enough money for the jukebox.
You know mercy whenever someone shoves a stick of morphine
straight up into your heart.
It felt amazing
the days you were happy to see me

so I smashed a beehive against the ocean
to try and make our splash last longer.
Remember all the honey
had me lookin’ like a jellyfish ape
but you walked off the water in a porcupine of light
strands of gold
drizzled out to the tips of your wasps.
This is an apology letter to the both of us
for how long it took me to let things go.

It was not my intention to make such a
production of the emptiness between us
playing tuba on the tombstone of a soprano
to try and keep some dead singer’s perspective alive.
It’s just that I coulda swore you had sung me a love song back there
and that you meant it
but I guess sometimes people just chew with their mouth open

so I ate ear plugs alive with my throat
hoping they’d get lodged deep enough inside the empty spots
that I wouldn’t have to hear you leaving
so I wouldn’t have to listen to my heart keep saying
all my eggs were in a basket of red flags
all my eyes to a bucket of blindfolds
in the cupboard with the muzzles and the gauze
ya know I didn’t mean to speed so far out and off
trying to drive your nickels to the well
when you were happy to let them wishes drop

but I still show up for gentleman practice
in the company of lead dancers
hoping their grace will get stuck in my shoes.
Is that a handsome shadow on my breath, sweet woman
or is it a cattle call in a school of fish?
Still dance with me
less like a waltz for panic
more for the way we’d hoped to swing
the night we took off everything
and we were swingin for the fences

don’t hold it against
my love
you know I wanna breath deeper than this
I didn’t mean to look so serious
didn’t mean to act like a filthy floor
didn’t mean to turn us both into a cutting board
but there were knives sstuck
in the words where I came from
too much time in the back of my words.
I pulled knives from my back and my words.
I cut trombones from the moment you slipped away

and I know it left me lookin’ like a knife fight, lady
boy I know it left me feelin’ like a shotgun shell
you know I know I mighta gone and lost my breath
but I wanna show ya how I found my breath
to death
it was buried under all the wind instruments
hidden in your castanets
goddamn –
if you ever wanna know how it felt when ya left –
if ya ever wanna come inside –

just knock on the spot
where I finally pressed STOP

playing musical chairs with your exit signs.

I’m gonna cause you a miracle
when you see the way I kept God’s image alive.

is for anyone who needs safe passage through my mind.

If I really was created in God’s image
then when God was a boy
he wanted to grow up to be a man
a good man
and when God was a man
a good man
He started telling the truth in order to get honest responses.
He’d say,
“I know.
I really shoulda wore my cross
but I don’t wanna scare the gentiles off.”


why i write in lower case…

when i started blogging, i wanted to have a “style”. i wanted to write well, but i wanted to do something a little different.

i’ve always admired the work of e.e. cummings(he’s actually my favorite poet, i bought his complete works a few years back). his orthography of not using capitalization or periods has always intrigued me. he’s quite a controversial poet who refused to back down from the subjects he wrote about.  even though he used avant-garde style, his forms were traditional in a sense. he was a master of syntax and many of his poems are actually sonnets.

Critic Edmund Wilson once commented “Mr. Cummings’s eccentric punctuation is, also, I believe, a symptom of his immaturity as an artist. It is not merely a question of an unconventional usage: unconventional punctuation may very well gain its effect… the really serious case against Mr. Cummings’s punctuation is that the results which it yields are ugly. His poems on the page are hideous.” 

to me, that means Mr. Wilson just didn’t understand. he probably didn’t want to spend the time to labor over the beautiful words and tricky word play that makes cummings so wonderful to me.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                            i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

From “i carry your heart with me(i carry it in” (1920) 
so that’s why i write in all lower case. it’s different and it’s an homage to one of my favorite poets. i do use punctuation, but only because i value the “pause”.
i’ll leave you with a few of my favorite cummings quotes.
“always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.”
“America makes prodigious mistakes, America has colossal faults, but one thing cannot be denied: America is always on the move. She may be going to hell, of course, but at least she isn’t standing still.”
“be of love a little more careful than of anything”

“humanity i love you because when you’re hard up you pawn your intelligence to buy a drink”

“nothing measurable matters”

Psalm 96

i’ve been giving people snippets of Psalms on FB and twitter as i go through the 40 day reading plans in The Voice of the Psalms. it’s a great translation.  today, there’s not enough room to post this whole thing and i didn’t want to put 20 posts up, so i’ll just link to here and you can read the whole thing.

Sing a new song to the Eternal One; Sing in one voice to the Eternal, all the earth.

Sing to the Eternal of all the good things He’s done. Bless His name; broadcast the good news of His salvation each and every day.

Enlighten the nations to His splendor; describe His wondrous acts to all people.

For the Eternal One is great indeed and praiseworthy; feared and reverenced above all gods, the True God shall be.

For all human-made, lifeless gods are worthless idols, but the Eternal plotted the vast heavens, shaped every last detail.

Honor and majesty proceed Him; strength and beauty infuse His holy sanctuary.

Give all credit to the Eternal One, families of the world!

Credit Him with glory, honor and strength!

Credit Him with the glory worthy of His magnificent name; gather your sacrifice, and present it at His temple.

Bow down to the Eternal, adorned in holiness; lay awestruck before Him, trembling, all people of the earth.

Shout out to the nations, “The Eternal reigns! Yes, indeed, the world is anchored and will not shake loose. He governs all people with a fair hand.”

And so, let the heavens resound in gladness! Let joy be the earth’s rhythm as the sea and all its creatures roar.

Let the fields grow in triumph, a grand jubilee for all that live there. Let all the trees of the forest dig in and reach high with songs of joy before the Eternal One, for He is on His way. Yes, He is coming to judge the earth.

He will set the world right by His standards, and by His faithfulness, He will examine the people.

how valuable is your time?

fleeting moments-Chuck Harris: June 2011


our most precious commodity

we can’t produce more…when it expires, it’s fleeting moments are gone forever

have i made the most of the seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years that have been ordained for me?

have i routinely squandered this most treasured of assets?

truly time is a gift given as a daily allotment

one moment moves to the next and if we regularly miss those moments, they are wasted time

there are many riches that can be lost and regained, but time can never be recreated

so let us make the most of time because the days are short

based on Ephesians 5

missing the call-Chuck Harris: June 2011

wisdom calls. she calls loudly.

have i listened? did i, do i love well?

do i love deeply? do i love purely? do i love sacrificially?

did i give up my own selfishness for others? do i prefer others over me?

i often think that i don’t, i didn’t. i just thought of myself

poor me.

i didn’t get my way.

i can justify anything. i can make myself believe.

i guess it comes back to that first question

was wisdom calling and like the fool, i failed to listen?

i mean i heard it. her voice boomed though still and small.

did i just not listen, or did i choose to ignore?

did i not like what she had to say?

it appears my foolishness has overtaken me again.

questioning joy…

really….joy?-Chuck Harris: June 2011

finding joy.

is joy a treasure that we search and dig for like precious metals and stones?

or is it like oxygen that floats freely in the atmosphere and is readily available to all who will just inhale?

as i read, i see those who experience complete joy didn’t walk the easiest path

in fact, their treks were dangerous leading to injury and even death

yet they continue to count this joy

like some sort of twisted currency with an outrageous exchange rate

no matter what overwhelms them they continue the quest, they count it ALL joy

and why?

so that in Him, my joy can be made complete

color my world

palette-Chuck Harris: June 2011

what is it that colors your world?

is it a philosophy? a belief? a system?

or is it something else?

do you view the world through a lens foggy and tinted or clearly through pristine glass?

is your view pixelated from what you’ve been taught or told?

or have you done the exploratory work of digging into wisdom yourself and created your own scheme?

do you trust and/or adhere to the views of others or do you stand alone on the vista surveying the vast expanse of life as you know it?

what adds to your art? music? literature? politics? religion?

do you only like the colors that speak to you, or would you be willing to look at something you consider brash or boring?

what are the hues you create with as you paint on the canvas of your journey?

what crayons are in your box? what paints are on your palette?


what comes out of your mouth?

speak-Chuck Harris: June 2011


they’re like little nuggets

they can be like gold or even drip out as diamonds

or they can be like a cancer

a destructive tumor that does nothing but eat away at what is healthy

we often spit them out as soon as they come to mind

never turning over in our mouth the hand grenade that we unleash to blow up and fragment fragile souls and hearts

they pass our teeth and exit our lips

they depart from the tip of our tongue and we can never take them back

words can bring moments of healing and wisdom or they can be curses that destroy and devastate the target at which they are aimed


i continue to open my mouth when maybe i should cover it with both of my hands.

one more for today…

from a better place.

the good-Chuck Harris: June 2011

i want to write about the good things

i’m searching for the good. i want to run after the good.

what is really good?

the good is hearing my sister’s laugh after many years of sadness

the good is tears of joy wept as i realize truth in the words i hear or read

the good is a hug and a kiss from my children

the good is hearing a song for the first time that touches a place deep in the recesses of the heart

the good is singing loudly, hopefully, beautifully!

the good is realizing that someday, somehow, somewhere, someone will see something in me that they will love even when the real me comes out

the good is what keeps me going


yes, i’m in a very honest mode right now as i write. i’m searching for a glimpse of something to spark my heart.

a psalm of lament-Chuck Harris: June 2011

how long?

how long must this trial continue? is it much longer?

could you please possibly give me a time frame so i know how long i’ll need to hold on?

i mean, if it’s not too much to ask?

i’m just being honest, i want to know if there is an end

i guess i’ll make due if there isn’t, but just to know

i’d like to know

i want to be in the light

the light that bathes the end of this dark passage of life

a bit of refuge in the bright sun of Your love before the next tunnel

i know this passage is difficult and necessary, but occasionally

just that little nudge of Your hand on the small of my back moving me towards the brightness

toward You

toward the space in between the dark labyrinths

how long?