“Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.”
~ Revelation 5:1

Nights unfold
Like the scrolls of Revelation
Dragons and Leviathan breathing inconvenience
Gehenna burning bright
As the pale horse gallops across America
Lead me not into temptation
Bring the whore to heel
Empire to ashes
As the Barstool Prophet orders another round
Truth to Power, “he sighs…” and sips his martini
What changed from Egypt to Babylon to America?
From bathtub gin to methamphetamines 
Sing me another song Abishag
A melody for humanity
Lyrics of carnal hermeneutics
“going all the way down”
Keeping my body warm in the night
We know Goliath died long ago
Yet, his shadow looms over us all
So, bring me to Jerusalem
We will find new wine to drink
And five smooth stones in a wadi


i went for walk yesterday
and saw a deserted street
while a child walked along a beach in the sun
bars and churches with lights out
jesus in the grave contaminated by death
will he ever wake up?
i went for a walk the other day
and saw the juxtaposition of commerce and life
one sacrificed while the other saved
blue eyes and black bodies dying in the poison rain
will love dance in the field of lilies
will we ever know what to do?
i will go for a walk tomorrow
and see what i saw yesterday and the other day
playgrounds closed to children’s laughter
the white noise of humanity quieted for a season
to love another like ourselves and be our sister’s keeper
embraces distanced by plague but not forgotten
will there be meaning in decency?

Nurses and Covid-19

This is Donna. She is a registered nurse. Every morning or night depending on the shift she would wake up and go to work. Earlier in her career she woke up and went to take care of children in an intensive care unit (ICU) and she would fly in helicopters when needed to help pediatric patients. Now she works in radiology helping people some of whom are very sick.

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
~ Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell To Arms

She became a nurse after living through a horrific automobile crash in which her husband died. That is why I turned to Hemingway and his words, “…many are strong at the broken places.” He wrote those words in his novel about the first world war and the time he spent in Italy recovering from a wound he suffered as an ambulance driver and the nurse who took care of him while he was convalescing. Donna is a tremendously strong, loving, caring woman which is why she is a great nurse filled with compassion and empathy. 

This morning I took photos of her as she was getting ready to go to work like she has done so many times before except today and every day after today she is going to work during a pandemic. She is an essential worker. Still taking care of people. She is not interacting directly with infected Covid -19 patients at the hospital, but no one really knows who is infected and who is not. We simply have not had enough testing to know that. So, she like so many others who are going to work each day are playing Russian Roulette with a virus. She takes all the precautions to protect her patients and herself, but nothing is for sure and nothing protects absolutely. 

The virus is continuing to spread and in Duluth, Minnesota the experts are saying the peak may not be until June or July with other waves of the virus over the next year to eighteen months. As the need for medical professionals to treat the infected patients grow, she may find herself working in an ICU again because of her experience. 

As hospitals and clinics begin to do more routine procedures again even though the pandemic is not any less dangerous than yesterday, a week ago or two months ago. It still is lurking and waiting further increasing the risk for nurses all medical staff. Why would the hospital increase routine procedures? Hospitals like so many other businesses and institutions are bleeding money. It is a symptom of the systemic breakdown of our world where humanity is sacrificed for money. Donna like so many in medical careers would go to work and run to help someone in need while everyone else is running in the opposite direction for safety. That is who she is. She would volunteer to help if her help was needed. There are other people deemed “essential” workers who are going to work every day because they cannot afford not to. They need the work to survive and to have healthcare (if they are lucky to have healthcare at all) in order to be able to take care of themselves and their families. As George Packer writes in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly, “We now have two categories of work: essential and nonessential. Who have the essential workers turned out to be? Mostly people in low-paying jobs that require their physical presence and put their health directly at risk: warehouse workers, shelf-stockers, Instacart shoppers, delivery drivers, municipal employees, hospital staffers, home health aides, long-haul truckers.” This is our present and future reality. 

Yesterday I was reading through a specification book for a construction project that will be starting this summer in Duluth, MN. I came across words which illustrate the essential vs. non-essential divide and the disjointed matrix between the value of money over the value of a life: “The awarded contractor will be required to submit a work plan for the project as it relates to maintaining any state mandated workplace management as it relates to COVID-19. This should include daily management of work crews, including policy for managing the site and workforce should a contamination be identified in order to maintain the project schedule. This plan will need to be submitted for review as part of finalizing the Owner/Contractor Agreement.” Regardless of contamination which means sick humans the schedule must be maintained. This directly affects Donna and her colleagues – more infected people, means more infected people at the hospitals. Does anyone think about the unintended consequences of these actions? The Butterfly Effect of words and decisions?

There have been many metaphors tossed around as people grasp to understand the pandemic. The metaphor I have been thinking about to make sense of this moment is the Western Front in World War I (WW I) and the trenches dug parallel to each other filled with soldiers who had fought to a standstill. The word “war” has been used to describe what we are living through in the fight against Covid-19. Even as it may appear that we have come to some sort of standstill and people are becoming antsy and wanting to have their normal lives back while thinking the pandemic is slowing and the curve being flattened or that they will not contract the virus in blinded exceptionalism in which it is always the other who is infected but not me. 

We have dug trenches and may be lulled into thinking that it is safe to climb out of them, but we will find ourselves infected by the virus if we hastily run across “no-man’s land” thinking all is quiet like a character in Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front who, “… fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front. He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.” The war with Covid-19 is not over just as WW I was not over when it was fought to a standstill without a peace treaty. We do not have a vaccine or herd immunity – we have a tentative hopeful cessation in some locations brought about by safeguards put in place but not an end to the pandemic. People not abstractions are still dying just like they still died in WW I when it may have seemed that the guns had stopped firing and the mustard gas had stopped floating over the trenches. This brings us back around to Hemingway and his novel, A Farewell to Arms where he writes about the abstractions of war, “Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates.” 

As I am writing this Minnesota has had the largest one day increase in Covid-19 cases and the deaths have risen to 200. Two hundred lives not abstractions on a spread sheet, not percentages but faces of humanity. This is the situation Donna leaves home every morning fully cognizant of as she walks into a place where the virus lurks looking for both the weak and the strong, the old and the young to infect as it is no respecter of nomenclatures placed on humanity. 

Hopefully, we can find solidarity and hope in our shared experiences and discover meaning in our decency of doing our work to help others. That is what I see in Donna and her colleagues in healthcare doing – finding decency in helping other while fighting not only the Covid-19 virus but the viruses of ignorance, selfishness and forgetting pride.  

“The knowledge that the whole of humanity, from Thailand to New York, shares our anxieties about how and where to use a face mask, the safest way to deal with the food we have bought from the grocer and whether to self-quarantine is a constant reminder that we are not alone. It begets a sense of solidarity. We are no longer mortified by our fear; we discover a humility in it that encourages mutual understanding.”
~ Orhan Pamuk, What the Great Pandemic Novels Teach Us

Bukowski – Days run away like horses over the hill

I put together this digital story centered around a portion of an interview Charles Bukowski did years ago. He talks about the value of rest, to simply sleep when you need to and not feel guilty or that you “should” be doing something. This digital story is a reflection on how I am feeling during this pandemic and the uncertainty and liminal spaces we find ourselves living in while pondering the ramifications of these times. I wrote a poem for the digital story with the word “apocalypse” in it. I do not mean the word as it is often used or understood in the pop culture of evangelicalism but rather with the sense of an “unveiling.” What is being unveiled before our eyes? What injustices and systemic evils? Times of difficulty throughout history have been an apocalypse of one kind or another for the simple reason of what those times and experiences unveiled. Take a look around and reflect on this unveiling.

humming the soundtrack for the apocalypse
eyes begin to see and ears to hear
a world full of stories 
(crying to be heard)
(begging to be seen)
laments of the voiceless
forgotten ones 
with backs bent to build a forsaken 
“American Dream”

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

The cost of this pandemic is not in the percentages – either of the survivors or the dead. But, in the actual human lives lost – the family member, the friend, the colleague, the neighbor, the lover, the child. A human life gone because of ignorance and lack of vision. 
Canal Park, Duluth, MN

“There’s a grief that can’t be spoken,
There’s a pain goes on and on.
Empty chairs at empty tables,
Now my friends are dead and gone…”
~ Les Misérables, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables 

Wait Without Hope
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.
~ T. S. Eliot, East Coker

Stay At Home: Day 8 – April 4, 2020

Duluth, MN April 4, 2020

“April is upon us, pitiless and young and harsh.”
~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
“April is the cruellest month…
 I will show you fear in a handful of dust…
 After the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and palace and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience…”
~ T.S. Eliot, excerpts from The Wasteland

I went to Duluth yesterday to photograph “Stay at Home – Day 8” – last Saturday I photographed emptiness in black and white. This week the sun was out and so were people. I chose to mostly process the photos in color with a few exceptions. It seemed right for the day and my mood. There were more people around and outside than I had expected, and I am not sure what to think about that. People have to get out and feel the sunshine and the wind and move and yet there was an eeriness to humanity moving freely amongst a deadly virus. A few people had face masks on, and some had gloves at Target. Unfortunately, the mask I saw were worn improperly with noses exposed or very loosely fitting. The gloves worn into a store and then back into a vehicle do nothing to protect you. I witnessed two individuals in a car with masks and gloves on and thought of that image of a metaphor for this time of ignorance, lack of preparation and vision. We keep moving without knowing where we are going thinking we are safe. As Jürgen Moltmann writes, “It is in the foreign country that we first come to cherish home. It is only when we have been driven out of paradise that we know what paradise is. Every perception requires detachment and ‘alienation’. That is why all self-knowledge is always a little too late, or a little too soon. In the pressure of events we are blind to what these events are.”

Another aspect to this pandemic is the defining of “essential” workers. I believe some like medical personal, law enforcement, fire and EMS, scientists are essential but the claim that the many of the other industries are essential is more of a comment on the desire to keep capitalism alive and well. Most white-collar workers can work from the relative safety of their homes while that is not the case with the blue-collar work force or low-income workers. It is almost as if a calculation is being made to the percentage of people that can be sacrificed for others to have the life, they expect living in America? As the president said, “The cure can’t be worse than the disease.” As I have written already, I believe there will be a reckoning to come after this when people realize the cost of this pandemic is not in the percentages – either of the survivors or the dead. But, in the actual human lives lost – the family member, the friend, the colleague, the neighbor, the lover, the child. A human life gone because of ignorance and lack of vision. 

Here are some images from yesterday in Duluth, MN: 

The cost of this pandemic is not in the percentages – either of the survivors or the dead. But, in the actual human lives lost – the family member, the friend, the colleague, the neighbor, the lover, the child. A human life gone because of ignorance and lack of vision. 

“This is going to be imprinted on the personality of our nation for a very long time.”
~ Dr. Anthony Fauci

The Metaphor of Plague

“Human existence is so fragile a thing and exposed to such dangers that I cannot love without trembling.”
~ Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace

Last night I drove to the Minneapolis Airport Herbert Humphry Terminal 2 to pick up Donna (my partner) who was flying home from Ft. Myers, Florida. She had been down there for a week to be with a dying friend on what will undoubtedly have been her last birthday. We had talked about the risks of flying to Florida as cases of Covid – 19 continued to increase across America and the world. Donna is an RN and she spoke with two epidemiologists about traveling and they said with proper precautions she would be fine. There will be more risk for Donna when she returns to work on Wednesday as a nurse in Duluth, MN. Her going to Ft. Myers a gift of time to a dear friend who will probably not be alive in a month. 

In these times we now find ourselves living in perhaps gifts of time in whatever way are sacred offerings. As Simone Weil said, “I cannot love without trembling.”

When I arrived at the airport, I parked my car and entered the airport to wait for the arrival of Donna’s plane. I wanted to experience what it would be like inside the terminal. It was eerily quiet and vastly empty. I walked around soaking in the absence of humanity in a space usually occupied with life. I observed and took photos and I thought to myself is this what Covid – 19 (a post-modern plague) is doing to humanity? Creating spaces and suspending time. Or as the Irish poet says in the interview below, “diverting newness.” Not that Covid – 19 is in itself something good, it is in fact horrible. Yet, what we as humanity do in spite of it and in the face of it and because of it which, “…takes our eyes away from the obsession of the moment.” This can define us by embracing the fragility of life with compassion in a time of anxiety and suffering. 

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.”

~ John 8:6-8 NRSV

I thought of this image of Jesus writing in the sand because of an interview I heard years ago. This portion of an interview is taken from the Paris Review, Fall of 1997 No. 144. It is called “Seamus Heaney, The Art of Poetry No. 75” where Heaney is interviewed by Henri Cole. The complete interview is here: (…/the-art-of-poetry-no-75-sea…)


“Don’t you argue in an essay—using the example of Jesus writing in the sand—that poetry has the power to suspend violence? You suggest that it wasn’t important what Jesus wrote in the sand, but it was the unexpected gesture of his turning away from the stoning of a prostitute and writing in the sand that stops the stoning or suspends it.”


“Yes. Debate doesn’t really change things. It gets you bogged in deeper. If you can address or reopen the subject with something new, something from a different angle, then there is some hope. In Northern Ireland, for example, a new metaphor for the way we are positioned, a new language would create new possibility. I’m convinced of that. So, when I invoke Jesus writing in the sand, it’s as an example of this kind of diverting newness. He does something that takes the eyes away from the obsession of the moment. It’s a bit like a magical dance.”

So, the metaphor of plague “…a bit like a magical dance…” or put another way an opening to something new. What can we hold onto and sustain together? What injustices can we avert by our own writing in the sand? Are there diversions we can create by gifts of time to bear witness to a shared renewal in humanity? To not allow, “…the terror of the unforeseen…” to paralysis us.

“…the unfolding of the unforeseen was everything. Turned wrong way round, the relentless unforeseen was what we schoolchildren studied as ‘History,’ harmless history, where everything unexpected in its own time is chronicled on the page as inevitable. The terror of the unforeseen is what the science of history hides, turning a disaster into an epic.”
~ Philip Roth, The Plot Against America

Where Is Iran?

“As tensions between the United States and Iran rise in the aftermath of the American drone strike that killed the country’s most powerful commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a new Morning Consult/Politico survey finds fewer than 3 in 10 registered voters can identify the Islamic republic on an unlabeled map.”

~ Joanna Piacenza, Can You Locate Iran? Few Voters Can