These Are Extraordinary Times

David J. Bauman:

US President Barack Obama sings Amazing Grace during the eulogy. Photo: EPA

The small thought, as I re-post this from my friend Jeremy’s excellent blog, The Sand County, is that anyone who watches this full eulogy and comes away still thinking that our President is not a Christian. . . well, frankly, you people baffle me.

Maybe you don’t worship the same way at your church. Maybe you don’t agree with every point of doctrine, but how can you watch and listen, and not know in your soul that this is the gospel of Grace? Might not be the sermon you would have preached, Pastor, but it was there. This is what real Christianity is about.

Some of you, some of my friends and family, have needled me with barbed comments about our president for nearly eight years now. How much of that came from you? How much from the mouths of others, and you just repeated it because it made you feel better? How much came from a pre-prejudice, not necessarily about his skin, but about his faith, about his political party, about his goodness and humanity?

I cannot help but wonder. As a man who went to Bible college myself, so long ago, a former youth president, drama ministry member, Bible quiz champion, youth pastor, choir director, wedding singer, church bus driver–as a man who knows as much about your Christian faith as you do, I say: You spent 8 years spitting back the articles and Limbaugh quips. After 8 years, I’m asking for less than an hour; listen to this man and tell me you’re not proud to have a president like him in troubled times like these.

The larger lesson here for me is not about him though; it’s in the words he says, and the grace he calls for, in the demand for owning up to our prejudice and selfishness, our one-sided-ness. His call for a truly UNITED States.

I’m sick of going back to business as usual. Can’t we shake up this nation and get back on track? He all but said what I’ve been saying for ages: We agree on more than the nightly “news” stars want us to believe we do. I think we’ve made some good starts. You believe in freedom to pursue happiness? You believe that maybe Cain was wrong when he declined to be his brother’ keeper? Let’s do each other and our founders proud. How about some of that love we preach? How about some of that Grace?

Originally posted on The Sand County:

I feel today, having watched President Obama’s eulogy in Charleston, South Carolina coming on the heels of several seasons of anti-black violence and police brutality, spring riots in a city I love (Baltimore) and on the heels of an historic victory for equality yesterday that I am truly living in historic, remarkable times.

I have studied American history for most of my life and I have to admit that I am stunned -stunned and immensely proud- to see the President of the United States stand up in front of a crowd of mourners and speak of love, call out senseless and racist violence, condemn rampant shootings and voter suppression, denounce the legacy of slavery in unequivocal terms and then sing “Amazing Grace.” And to do this not just as the President, but as a black man. This is a unique moment in American history.

I hope -fervently- that the United…

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Love Wins, We Win

The United States Supreme Court.

Every day we say, “It’s been a good day,” is a day someone was murdered somewhere in the world. Does this mean we should not celebrate the joys when they come?

In response, here is a bit from Jack Gilbert’s “A Brief for the Defense.” You can listen a somewhat muffled recording I made of the entire thing on SoundCloud last year.

The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world.

So the Supreme Court did some things right this week. That hasn’t always been their track record, and we have cause for celebration. Health care and the rights of all Americans to marry were supported. And while reading the #LoveWins hashtags on Twitter I came across this from Stephen Cramer, and I cannot express my joy any better than in the glory of these voices.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight

My Old Man, looking a bit Dylan Thomas-like.

My Old Man, looking just a bit like Dylan Thomas.

I’ve been doing a little series of “best-of” posts relating to Fatherhood this week. And I’ll be posting a bit more of an original one this week. But I can’t let Fathers Day pass by without sharing this poem again.

I talked with my father tonight and our parting words were the same as they so often have been lately:

“I love you, Dad.”

“I love you too, Bud.”

Now, when I became Bud to him, I’m not certain. I noticed it a few years back. But if you knew our history, you might grasp how precious those words are to me.

I ran away from him when I was 16, moved back after I graduated high school. I won’t get into the details from so many years ago, but I felt misunderstood by him, scared of him. I didn’t realize that so many men from his generation suffered the same struggle, an inability to communicate with his son in ways that I felt I needed. When I did figure it out (He seemed much smarter to me after I turned 25), I was determined that he and I would have a good relationship whether he liked it or not.

Well, of course he liked it. We lost my mother to cancer on the Good Friday before Easter in my 18th year. I was determined not only to be the kind of father my children needed me to be, but to remember and honor him for what he tried to do, even if I misunderstood it, and he was unable to speak the words of encouragement and love I wanted to hear.

After I came out (so much turmoil and tumult I try to summarize with those few words), while he still had a hard time finding the words, especially in person, he must have gone out of his way to search the stands of the local pharmacies for the right birthday and Christmas cards to send me. The cards said things they had never said before, how proud he was of me, how much he loved me and how much joy I brought to his life. I still get choked up when I get a card from him, and I know it’s not his new lovely bride picking them out.

At my sister’s wedding, I brought my partner (at the time) with me. It was a bit weird, I admit, especially being there with my boyfriend, my three sons, my former wife, and my sister’s son and daughter. We were obviously an eclectic mix, and though there was still some strife (mostly quietly) in my extended family about the fact that I, the former ministry student and youth pastor was openly gay, and here at a family function, still it did not stop my father from showing me how much he loved me.

He was always better at showing than he was at telling. It was outdoors, by the river, 11426735_10206388428616739_2790340549363484798_oas I remember it. There was an area that I think was something of a dance floor, a reception spot maybe, after the vows were said and before the festivities began. It was a scene from a movie, or that’s how it plays in my memory. Slow motion, the crowd parts as my father walks towards us. People glance about nervously, though it’s likely that was just in my imagination.

Dad walks right past me and holds out his hand to Brian (the previous Brian, you may remember), and says, “I just wanted to welcome you to the family.” And one quiet man nodded to the other and it was done. Hugs, and on with the wedding celebration.

That to me said more than words could have said, especially coming from an old former Baptist missionary and Bible teacher like my old man. And I love him for it, and for every word of support and every smile and hug before or since.

Dad is 82 now and though he remains healthy and stubborn as ever, I worry. I’m glad that today was the last Fathers Day I will ever work (more news on that upcoming) at a job that keeps me away from family on days like that. Who knows how many more we’ll have?

Now this poem means a lot to me, knowing that Dylan Thomas wrote it for his father before his father died, and I start to get a sense of why. Keep plugging along, as strong and as ornery as you can, Raymond Bauman. I love you.

Yours, Bud

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

©1937 by Dylan Thomas

Father’s Day Pizza and Poems

David J. Bauman:

Pulling rank on Father’s Day Eve yet again, with this #TBS #ThrowBackSaturday.

Originally posted on The Dad Poet:

No, there are no commas in that title. It is not a list. Although it could be, now that I think of it. So let’s leave the ambiguity, and the possibility of multiple meaning on the table, shall we?

It was Father’s Day on Sunday here in the sunny Sometimes-United States of Americans. It was supposed to rain, but the Pizza Patio Gods were with us and we were able to sit out on the patio overlooking the beautiful West Branch of the Susquehanna, just upriver from Lock Haven University. The owner of the joint (the pizza shop, not the university), wants us to do a commercial for him because I said this: “On Father’s Day we come to Pizza City; On birthdays we come to Pizza City; On Tuesday. . . we come to Pizza City.” Now in my defense, Michelle Obama, they do have salads there, and we…

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The 400th Post, and a Poem I Wrote

David J. Bauman:

It is probably against some sort of blogger etiquette to reblog your own post, but honestly this is the Dad Poet here, and tomorrow is Dad’s Day here in the US. So I am claiming special dispensation for a series of best-of reposts.
Sue me. ;-)

Originally posted on The Dad Poet:

Three reasons why being a dad is my favorite thing ever. Three reasons why being a dad is my favorite thing ever.

Assonance, it’s good for the heart as well as the ear. And it’s hard to resist sometimes, even in the title to a post. And this post is number 400. Talk about good for the heart! It seems like I’ve been at this longer, and technically I have, but those early days of writing here were extremely sporadic, with only a handful of posts that first twelve months.

It was a difficult time to say the least, five years ago and single again after a decade of coupledom. I’d had to give up the house that I’d been helping to pay for. I missed my garden, my kitchen, my home. Hard to imagine until you do it how it is to walk away from the path that you thought was the one you would follow to old age. And this…

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Poems by Seth Jani

David J. Bauman:

Oh these three poems! What a delicious trio to find in my reader today. I’ve been reading a great deal of “Mindfulness Poetry” lately, and these from the Blue Hour are as good a place to start posting them as any. Favorite lines:

“We must substitute the perfection of the moment
For the lesser perfection of words,
Though they may be the most perfect thing
We have…”

Originally posted on The Blue Hour:

In The House Magisterial

The immense and stumbling wind
Passes through a field
Into a house where a portrait
Of Christ slides from the wall
Onto the azure floorboards.
Overhead, the loneliness of childhood
Wanders the second floor
And dances in the strange, abandoned darkness.
Love, which is as real and full of light
As an apricot on winter evenings,
Sees itself shining in a mirror
Overrun by dust.
Of what remains from the old, long-gone inhabitants
I find only withered, flaking furniture
And a dirty, jewel-encrusted star.

Old Honey

Full of longing and delicately stored
In the small earthenware jar of honey
The dragonfly has waited forty years
To steal from its chrysalis
And be spread.

Wild Pears

Describing the dawn
As precisely as equating equations
Is a task that language cannot do.
We must substitute the perfection of the moment
For the lesser perfection of words,
Though they…

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Music Monday with Mary Cigarettes

cropped-0417001857.jpgI am out the door in just a few minutes with the youngest of my three incredible sons. I’ve been pretty busy lately, mostly in some very good and productive ways (look for an upcoming post about that called, “Where the Heck Did National Poetry Month Go?”), but also in some of those dull and plodding gotta-do-what-ya-gotta-do ways. One the good side there has been the “new” job (a year now this month!), and the newer job of free-lance editing with a lot of exciting stuff in the works for the near future.

The downside has to do with car repairs (the whole damn family’s cars! Seriously), and an old side-job that really should have ended a long time ago. Hard to say no though when the bills come to the door. Keeping lights on and such is important, but it’s not the whole picture. It becomes critical perhaps, the day-to-day, and sometimes it’s a little hard letting go of a sure thing (even if it is killing your knees!) that pays the bills for a risk that will make dreams come true. Sigh. Forgive the ambiguity, but as I said, I’m almost out the door this morning.

This week I want to share a few things that have been an encouragement, a life-line really for me. These include, of course, my sons, my Brian, poetry, and even a little bird-watching, but also some precious time spent with dear friends from over seas last month. I’ve been on a kick of reading tons of “mindfulness poems” lately, and I’ll share more of that too.

But for today, this Music Monday, here is a beloved man whom I cannot wait to one day meet in person. Mary Cigarettes has been so much more of an inspiration to me than he can know. The following videos are among the first of his that I watched several years back during post-forty life change. They still act as compass stars for me to keep me moving some nights. I forget that I have actually accomplished quite a lot, and have every likelihood of doing more if I don’t buy into my own self-criticism.

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