In Weekly Despair

I am very nearly officially out of poems to upload. I think I’ve said that before, but I’m actually starting to mean it. Good gracious, I’m actually going to have to write original content again. While I’m lamenting that, here’s a poem I wrote for my sister and her husband:

In Daily Prayer

Another Christmas present from a couple of years ago. I know how long it’s been because there are now two children in the household rather than just the one mentioned in the poem, though they’re still getting up by the light of moon (because my three-year-old nephew is apparently just a naturally early riser and the baby has an internal alarm that’s triggered whenever her mother is about to drop off to sleep; my brother and his wife, on the other hand, managed to produce a child that gets up after eight, so if I ever have children I’m going to be asking them for advice).

Also, this one is practically plagiarism, as you may have noticed (if you’re at all familiar with common Lutheran prayers, which, of course, everybody totally is). I love borrowing other people’s work, putting together a mashup, and calling it an homage. Good times. Actually, the more structure a poem has the more I like writing it. It’s fun to try and work around whatever rules I’ve chosen for a particular project. Sometimes I think I have such a hard time focusing on any of my novels because the playing field is just too open-ended. The amount of options bog me down when I write general fiction (I have spent years arguing with myself about the best way to start chapter one in a novel that I threaten to deep-six every other month), whereas a poem is both short and girded by pretty strict rules. You want to say something long and complicated? Oh, I’m sorry, you have ten syllables and a rhyming word to work with, now describe the difference between sanctification and justification in five words or less.

(Well, shoot, I just realized now I’m going to have to try that at some point. If only to find out if it can actually be done.)

In the meantime, enjoy, even if you’re not into the common table prayer. Just try not to focus too much attention on all the slant-rhyme.

Eyebrows in Heaven

There are a lot of things that I know to be true, even though I can’t prove them. One of them is that there is both a heaven and a hell. Another is that I have the certain hope of going to heaven after I die. However, setting that happy thought aside, I have to admit: the actual idea of heaven terrifies me. It’s a joyous thought in the hypothetical sense, but as soon as I start to think about the details I find that the mind-bending unknown quality of it frightens me. What is it going to be like to exist outside of time? Will I retain my memories? Will my family still be special to me? If I don’t remember my previous life, how can I appreciate the grace which God pours out on me? But if I do, how do I not live in mourning over those lost to a weeping and gnashing of teeth?

There are good answers to all of those, undoubtedly, but I’m not going to know them until I’m there. Instead, whenever the heebie-jeebies really start to creep up, I go to my old friend CS Lewis. In his seventh installment of the Chronicles of Narnia, “The Last Battle,” (my least favorite Narnia book as a child and one of my favorites as an adult), he paints a beautifully joyful and comforting illustration of heaven that boils down to this visual of running towards home. Only instead of growing tired you run faster and still faster until you’re fairly flying. And still you go faster.

It’s one of my father’s favorite depictions of heaven, so a couple of Christmas’s ago I wrote this poem for him:

Further Up and Further In

As an aside to my dad (if he ever gets around to checking out my website – yes, that’s right Dad, you can feel the stink-eye from here): the last verse is a little different than the one you have on your desk. I was never completely pleased with the original, so I used The Story Folder as an opportunity to retcon my own poetry. (Except that it wasn’t technically retconning, since the intent is still the same. I know, semantics; I can’t help myself. I get it from both you and Mom.)

However, Narnian allegory aside, some misgivings remain. For example, I look mostly like my mother but I inherited the Schultz eyebrows from my father. What this means is that, if I don’t do maintenance on them, after a few months of unfettered growth I could actually rock a unibrow. Yes, that’s right folks. Visualize that for a second. So here’s the deeply theological question: is the unibrow a natural feature that delighted God to give me when he knit me together in my mother’s womb, or is it a result of sin? (And let’s be honest here: it’s got to be a result of sin). But if it isn’t (is instead a cosmic joke that God has played on a streak of Schultzes across time and space), then my name is written in the Book of Life next to an ID photo that looks like the Scandinavian version of Frida Kahlo. As soon as I shuffle off this mortal coil I’m going to be running around heaven with one fuzzy eyebrow gracing my face. I’m going to have a unibrow for all eternity.

I’m going to look like this:

This. This is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night.