Moment of Turning

All nations surrounded me.
In the name of the Lord, I cut them off.
They surrounded me — surrounded me on every side.
In the name of the Lord, I cut them off.
They surrounded me like bees.
They blazed like a fire of thorns.
In the name of the Lord, I cut them off.
I was pushed hard;
I was falling,
But the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and my song —
And He has become my salvation.

Psalm 118:10-14 RSV

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For the Director of Music

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction?
Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

But I cry to you for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, Lord, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?

From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.

–Psalm 88

The Charisma Monologue

There was a certain charismatic figure who dwelt within the Realm.
He had a charming smile,
a compelling style,
and hypnotic, dark green eyes.
His academic lectures and topical orations
received standing-room-only standing ovations.
His musical concerts were roundly applauded,
his literary works acclaimed and belauded,
his products and services widely promoted,
his slogans and sayings repeatedly quoted,
round and round the Realm.

But the more he gained in influence and clout,
the more the ruler of the realm felt threatened,
so he sent out a number of clandestine scouts,
to glean information as to what, after all,
this most mysterious figure was really and truly about.

And yet, all the while, in his secret spot of sacred seclusion,
the vibrant visionary kept valiant vigil,
and carefully crafted a culture of the future,
where no one would reign,
nor would any be ruled,
and no stigma remain,
for all would be schooled,
and taught to be equal in all the essentials –
not equal in power, or wealth, or credentials –
but equal in something far more germane;
that is to say, equal in rights.

So upon the completion of his grand design,
the famous folk figure then issued his claim,
arranging to meet with the ruler by night,
and to kindly submit without conflict or fight,
the plan for the realm that would set things aright,
but how he was shocked to encounter disaster!

For just as he ran up to greet that staunch master
Did handcuffs and clamps have him brutally bound,
And bayonets aimed at his heart bid him pause,
As the ruler declared: “How dare you defy the divine book of laws!
Down you must go to the depths of the Earth
Where you’ll learn not to doubt the full scope of my worth!”

But as our friend fell,
through all of that hell,
he still dared to gaze
at that hoarder of praise,
And left with the monarch a song to his shame,
that no measure of might could contest or defame,
for the plan he had crafted
would later be drafted,
to the glory and honor of the human name:

in a world where not one will look down on another;
in a world where we all will be sister and brother –
And destined to sing in one voice and accord
Before all who have called themselves Master or Lord –
In a resonant blast,
in a chorus resounding
beneath the most luminous, shining dark sky
On that night, when at last
freedom will be abounding,
On that night, Man and God shall be equally high!

creation sistene chapel michelangelo

“The Charisma Monologue”
from the new musical Eden in Babylon
Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope. 
 All Rights Reserved.

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Holiday Moods

I’ve been playing the piano lately.   It helps to have access to a Baldwin grand piano at my church.   A while back I posted a youtube of a couple tunes of mine that came out surprisingly well.  This spurred me on, so I decided to work up a bit of a Christmas-style medley for the holidays.

I call this “Holiday Moods.”  It’s a blend of a little song I wrote to the words of Isaiah 30:29.  Behold:

Ye shall have a song,
As in the night,
When a holy solemnity is kept;
And gladness of heart,
As when one goes forth with a pipe
To come into the Mountain of the Lord:
To the Holy One.

Nice poetry, no?  You can probably hear those words in the notes I play.  After that, I went into a rather startling rendition of the carol, “The Holly and the Ivy,” followed by my arrangement of the main theme of “Jupiter,” from The Planets by Gustav Holst.  That segues into the time-honored Martin Luther hymn: “Holy Holy Holy.”   Here’s the youtube:

I hope you enjoyed that!  Happy Holidays to you — and to yours.  

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A Fountain of Tears

Oh, that my head were waters,
And my eyes a fountain of tears,
That I might weep day and night
For the slain of the daughter of my people!

Oh, that I had in the wilderness
A lodging place for travelers;
That I might leave my people,
And go from them!
For they are all adulterers,
An assembly of treacherous men.

 “And like their bow they have bent their tongues for lies.
They are not valiant for the truth on the earth.
For they proceed from evil to evil,
And they do not know Me,” says the Lord.

Jeremiah 9:1-3

The Mark of Cain

“Do you really need that thing?”
I heard the softness
of a half-familiar voice
as my eyes were opened.
And I saw a pair of young White hands,
playfully swinging my brand new HP notebook
from side to side,
and to and fro,
and side to side, again.

“Yeah, I do,” I smiled, looking up
from my half-slumber,
from the bench on which I sat,
just outside McDonald’s,
on University and Shattuck Avenue
in Berkeley, California.

It was still dark.
McDonald’s would not open
for another ten minutes or so.
I had seen other friends of mine
across the street,
and had waved.
It did not seem like any other morning,
as we all awaited our senior cups
and the single refills we would receive
as long as we promised not to linger
more than twenty minutes in the store,
and promptly took our first and only refill
for the road.

I was certain this was a young buddy of mine,
playing a joke on me,
as others had in the past,
when they noticed I’d acquired a laptop.
“High Top!” they would shout.
“High Rise!” – and I would grin.
But the grin of the green-eyed monster
was much wider than the smile
which which I looked up at the lad,
only to see his hoodie obscuring his young face,
like a veil, and his body,
like a cloak.

Then, in an instant, I felt a metallic force
carving a ridge into my lower back,
and just as quickly, a sharp yang,
a strike less than half an inch
below my right eye.

“Take it! Take it!”
I shouted, as though consenting
to be plundered, or condoning
the crime as though it had been mine
to commit as well as theirs —
as though having counted all the costs,
I no longer cared
that it took me a month to save up for that “thing” —
I in fact had slept outside,
when I did not really need to.
I had left a cozy cottage
in another County,
to prioritize the purchase
of the device I called my home.

Then I saw a large Black hand grab my backpack.
There went my new headphones,
a bag of marijuana, and a pipe,
a new lighter, socks, and sunglasses –
But no matter:
I was alive.

I got up and watched them closely –
the Black man on the right,
his gun facing sideways to his right,
as though informing me he was armed
and dangerous.

The taller ectomorph to his left,
With the hoodie.
Him I recognized,
but I knew not where or why.
I watched them jog,
I noted that the White boy on the left
was a runner.
No one runs with a form like that,
unless he has been trained.

They turned off to the left
and darted down Berkeley Way,
not to be seen again, until —
One day at my Spot,
I saw them together walking past,
That view from behind that I shall never forget.

“Are you who I think you are, Officer?”
“I am,” she said, turning to me
with that inscrutable austerity
That so defines her nature.

“I know who stole my laptop.”
And I told her who and who,
For each of them had walked past me
on the same day
and flashed at me the peace sign,
which I returned in kind.
I also questioned the younger one,
And asked if I should bother to replace it,
Getting right into his face,
feigning a crazed countenance,
eyes bulging widely,
as I chided him with these words:

“Or will I just get jacked again?”
The young man never missed a beat,
but looked up at me shrewdly:
“Do you really need that thing?”

“I tell you it was he,” I told the stoic,
jaded cop with whom I spoke so candidly
in broad daylight just outside the station.

“I’m not at all surprised,” she said,
without expression on her serious, worn face.
“But watch your own back
and be wise as befits your years,
Because we know that you are of the streets
when you call it Provo Park
and not Civic Center Park,
or when you call it Ho Chi Minh Park,
instead of Willard Park.
And know that on your forehead
there is the Mark of Cain,
because for all intents and purposes,
you yourself have killed a man.”

© Andy Pope
Moscow, Idaho
17 June 17

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The Belly of the Whale

I strongly sensed that I was being followed,
and I thought I knew by whom.
It must have been those two young men
Who had questioned me oddly
across from the Walgreens.
They had seemed so strangely disturbed,
when I merely declined to purchase
Some small item they were peddling,

in which I had no interest.

Though I thought I had been quite polite,
I feared I must have crossed them,
For I virtually saw them stalking me
From a place where eyes have never seen.

I broke into a jog.
I thought I might elude them.
I ran about a mile.
I thought I was in the clear.
So I thought nothing of stopping at the well
and shuffling through the throwaways
in search of shirt or trousers,
or perhaps a pair of boots.

Suddenly I heard a sound.
I looked up to see a handgun

rapidly, forcefully striking me
On the top of my head, and hurling me
Down onto the sidewalk.
I hid my eyes.
I felt the power of their guns
Repeatedly beating me upon the head
Like drumsticks on a drum.

“I am going to kill you, White motherfucker!
Kill your White ass, bitch-ass, dead!
White bitch-ass motherfucker!”
White racist pig!!”

Something made me plead with them:
“Guys!  Guys!  It doesn’t have to be this way!
Take everything I have — take the laptop –
but please, please spare my life!!”

As quickly as they had appeared,
they yanked the pack right off my back,
and while I watched in disbelief,

they fled into the night.

Down the stairs a lady ran.
“Are you all right?
Are you all right?

Do you want me to call the cops?”
Of course I did!

But when the police arrived,
they questioned me for what seemed forever,
as worried neighbors emerged from their doorways
and blood poured down my face like rain.
They ordered me to slow my speech,
And frisked me, shouting harsh demands,
mocking my requests for medical help,
and seeming to suppose that I was a criminal,
Or some kind of offender,
Rather than the victim
Of a crime of theft and battery,
Of violation – and of hate.

Finally they let me file a report,
which I held powerlessly in my hand,
at the Community Breakfast, before Bible Study,
in the morning following that long, long night.

There I saw the first of my assailants
Staring at me from across the line,

with pain is his own young twenty-year-old eyes,
as though pleading with me to spare him,
The way he had spared me.
And something gave me pause –
“He’s just a kid!” I thought.
And I collapsed in my integrity,
For I did not have the heart.

O Berkeley, city of my sorrow!
You care about social injustice and human rights from afar,
Yet you overlook the suffering of the one who sits nearby!
I swear I will not return to you,
Till running frantically upon your shores,
I warn you of the wrath to come,
And urge you to repent your wrongs,
Or face the fate that is your due.
For that will be the  dreaded day
Of many nightmares coming true –
The day when God will place me
In the Belly of the Whale.

Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope.
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