From an American poet: Here (Walking With the Master in the Isles of Alexander)

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by Cantinker Moss

 

On a summer’s day

In the Midwest,

I thought

Or dreamed:

 

Side by side we walked

In the Isles of Alexander.

And I said, “What about this?”

And He said,

“My hand carved the sides of the hill called Saint Elias.

The breath of My nostrils made the course of the Yukon.

My voice charged the sun beyond the Near Islands.

And I watch over them now.”

 

Side by side we walked

In the Isles of Alexander.

And I said, “What about these?”

And He said,

“I smile at the birth of the blacktail in the forest.

I shout with the raven, and I sing with the eagle.

I hold in my hands the spruce and the hemlock.

And I watch over them now.”

 

Side by side we walked

In the Isles of Alexander.

And I said, “What about them?”

And He said,

“I made the stars to guide the Tlingit and Inupiat.

I cautioned Pastor Duncan by the shores of Metlakatla.

My face turned grim at the soldier and the shaman. 

My heart hears the cries on Northern Lights Boulevard.”

 

“But son,

Make no mistake:

I told your poet,

‘They also serve, who stand and wait.’*

Serve me wherever

Or whatever date.

And remember, I am yours, and you are Mine

Here.”

 

*John Milton (1608-1674):   They also serve who only stand and wait (1655)

 

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The Blood of Christ



by Cantinker Moss



For years I have wanted to go to the Rocky Mountains. It’s not that I have never seen mountains…I have seen great mountains on the coast of southeast Alaska. I also spent time in Boulder, Colorado, which was the first time I ever saw such majestic mountains. I was on my way to sea duty in the U.S. Coast Guard and was scheduled to fly to Juneau, and then Sitka, Alaska where my ship was docked.

When I viewed these mountains, it was at night; and from Boulder, the faint moonglow gave them a very surreal look…almost like, “I know you’re there, but then, I’m not sure.” Later, I learned these particular rock formations were known as the Flatirons, and they did not occupy a lot of the natural real estate outside of Boulder. They were the beginning of the Front Range; the foothills so to speak, and I felt pretty blessed to be there.

But I am here to talk about another range of mountains. I have not seen it in person. Yet I have had no lack of blessing, thanks to the miracle of the PC and the internet. A website that I have enjoyed over the years has been http://www.sangres.com. It has a second title, “For Your Daily Dose of the Wonders of the West.” This website shows the beauty of the Rockies, state by state, and it was here that I discovered the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This comes from the words Sangre (“blood”) and Cristo (“Christ”.) When you put the Spanish preposition between the two words, you have Sangre de Cristo, not to mention that this is a proper name and a geographical name, which puts it in its rightful form and place on maps of New Mexico. (In the western U.S. there are dozens of place names that trace their name origins to Spanish; e.g. Colorado and Los Angeles.) And no wonder; the Spanish were the first European settlers here.

But why does this mountain range have the privilege of an association with Jesus Christ? I’m sure that those first off the boat with the flag of Spain decided that this land was theirs for the taking (no matter if anyone was there before them) So “if the land was theirs,” Then it would follow that they could create the maps and the local place names in their language too. But what of the place name of this mountain range? Those who first came to this area from Europe noted that the hue of the mountains themselves would change depending on the time of day…particularly morning and evening…sunrise and sunset. It was as if the mountains themselves were turning red in color. And what those religious Spaniards saw was red…the color of blood…the blood of Christ.



The Blood of Christ



I don’t want the things

My heart thinks I desire.

But I want to see the fire

Reflected on the higher

Country,

Like the rising crescendo of a choir

Glowing from the fountains

That are the mountains:

The

Sangre de Cristo Mountains

To the north;

That far-flung range

From God’s lone domain.

Oh, what God gave us!


Oh, what God gave us

When God gave us the Heavens and the Earth!



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An American’s View From Below: Mountains

by Cantinker Moss

Photo by Victoria Dihua Xue on Unsplash

 

I don’t know much about Mr. Tolkien and Middle Earth, but I think I remember a hobbit named Bilbo saying, “I want to see mountains!”

Now, I think I recall a Mt. Doom (appropriately named) and the Misty Mountains being there.  And didn’t that he-devil, Saruman, live in those highlands?  Where was it that the Fellowship went or where the old hobbit met his end for eternity?

But I am an American, all you short and tall gentleman—gentle creatures of Middle Earth.  And I live in Middle America—the Midwest—fly-over country where the wheat, corn, and soybeans grow…where great rivers run to the sea.  But where do many of those rivers begin?  They begin in the mountains.

I too, want to see mountains.  Let me show you mine.

First, there are the old men:  the Ozarks; grizzled in their age from the Mississippi River to Oklahoma.  They are full of springs and creeks with sand pines along their banks.  Then throughout the plateau, an assortment of hardwoods are arranged on a palette to display an autumn effulgence on a bright October day after a frost.  Ah, Legolas, you would never find a finer tree to make a bow.

Then there are the Appalachians, and all their children from Maine to Georgia:  the White and Green Mountains…the Berkshires…the Alleghenies…the Adirondacks and Catskills…the Blue Ridge and Smokies—The Great Smokies… with a rising haze as if someone lit the forest on fire without a flame—only the smoke.  In these eastern lands, north and south, are the passes and hollers that met Boone and the pioneers on their way west.  This is the land of Sevier and the Over-Mountain Men who defended those Carolina farms from the arrogance of a king and his army at Cowpens and yes, in all its irony, Kings Mountain.

But then there is the West with its Cascades, Sierra Nevadas, and Rockies.  It is a place, beyond the plains and prairies, full of glory but also sadness…a place of humiliation and a displaced people.  It is reminder of a flawed earthly history.  Some once called it a frontier.  But in fairness to all people, perhaps it can be a reminder of a newer hope in the hearts and minds of all people.  And might this hope be fixed on a point that is newer than all?  It is a kingdom, greater than all kingdoms, which has a King, greater than all kings.

All these earthly mountains, east and west…north and south, are still wonderful because the great King created them.  The ones in the West are still mighty and have the names that the great King allowed women and men to put on their maps.  Their names are Wind River… Sangre de Cristo…the San Juan Mountains in the Ucompahghre…the Grand Tetons…the Flat Irons…the Anaconda Range southwest of the Mussellshell…the Black Hills…the Wasatch… and the Land of the Canyons in Utah.  Oh yes, and then there is the canyon…the Grand Canyon.

Over in California are the Sierras with their gold and big trees.  East of that in Nevada, is Virginia City, Gold Hill, and the Comstock.  And out of those hills, Gimli, you could mine silver…the finest in the world, and which sustained a nation for a time.

Follow the Cascades north, and you will find Rainier, that great volcano, which some say is warm at the top.  Further north, is Denali in Alaska.  It is the earthly mountain that looks over all the mountains on the continent.  And then, in the middle of the western ocean, are the Islands.  They hold mountains shining with the fiery possibility of their own danger.

Mountains…East and West…North and South…all upon this great continent.  Climbed…cursed…on calendars…on postcards…photographed…painted…and in some cases, worshipped.  But what of a mountain rich in history…with nations at war for its divine wealth…a mountain that indeed moved kings, caliphs and presidents…yet, nobody’s property but those to whom it was given…someday sought by all…someday adored by all:  a holy hill named Zion.

No wonder Bilbo wanted to see mountains.

 

 

An American’s Look at Judgement

by Cantinker Moss

My son shared this story with me the other day.  He is a member of the Antiochan Orthodox Church, one of the oldest congregations in the world, having its roots in the first century.  In fact, in the book of Acts in the New Testament it is written that “they were first called Christians in Antioch.”  The closest source that my son could find for the story, though I’m sure it is public domain, is in the existing writing of St. Paisios, as translated by John Sanidopoulo.  I personally think that there is great wisdom to be gained from the story.

“Once on Mount Athos there was a monk who lived in Karyes. He drank and got drunk every day and was the cause of scandal to the pilgrims. Eventually he died and this relieved some of the faithful who went on to tell Elder Paisios that they were delighted that this huge problem was finally solved.

Father Paisios answered them that he knew about the death of the monk, after seeing the entire battalion of angels who came to collect his soul. The pilgrims were amazed and some protested and tried to explain to the Elder of whom they were talking about, thinking that the Elder did not understand.

Elder Paisios explained to them: “This particular monk was born in Asia Minor, shortly before the destruction by the Turks when they gathered all the boys. So as not to take him from their parents, they would take him with them to the reaping, and so he wouldn’t cry, they just put raki into his milk in order for him to sleep. Therefore he grew up as an alcoholic. There he found an elder and said to him that he was an alcoholic. The elder told him to do prostrations and prayers every night and beg the Panagia to help him to reduce by one the glasses he drank.

After a year he managed with struggle and repentance to make the 20 glasses he drank into 19 glasses. The struggle continued over the years and he reached 2-3 glasses, with which he would still get drunk.”

The world for years saw an alcoholic monk who scandalized the pilgrims, but God saw a fighter who fought a long struggle to reduce his passion.

Without knowing what each one is trying to do what he wants to do, what right do we have to judge his effort.

-A story of St. Paisios, translated by John Sanidopoulos

Photo by Sarah Noltner on Unsplash

From An American Poet: What Really Matters Is What Happens At Home

by Cantinker Moss

 

Originally penned in 1999, this poem has more to do with what happens off the diamond.  Though inspired by the Baseball Playoffs,  (Go Sox!)  it is intended to be a metaphor for something more universal.

 

Casey was at the bat,

And he didn’t strike out.

 

Now let me tell you something about baseball

And the ones who play the game.

 

There is the pitcher:

Tall, rangy, poised.

The franchise.

The golden boy.

He steps out of the dugout

And walks to the mound.

His is the arm that launched the season.

His is the arm we talk about all winter.

Movement, speed, location,

Heat, curve, change.

You wonder and adore.

He is the king of the hill.

 

He throws the ball.

But what if it is hit?

 

There is the infielder.

Perpetual motion.

Lateral motion.

First base, second, short, the hot corner.

‘Round the horn.

His glove is his partner.

A weapon.

A secret solution.

The enemy of the bat.

The siren call of every hit ball.

“Come to me…come to me…”

And then like a cat,

Six, four, three,

And that’s that!

Two outs, as a matter of fact.

 

He fields the ball.

But what if it goes through?

 

There is the outfielder.

(No, actually there are three of them.)

Maybe that’s why young boys want to be one.

Because they need so many of them.

So many of them.

So many names.

Names that you and I remember:

Joltin’ Joe and the Mick,

Yaz and the Kid,

Tris and Say Hey,

Hammerin’ Hank and the Babe.

But logically speaking,

And due-respect keeping,

If the pitcher did his job,

And the infielder his,

Would there ever need to be

An outfielder or three?

 

He catches the ball.

But what if it falls?

 

And then there is the catcher:

The player behind the plate.

They say he sees the whole game,

Probably the first to know its fate.

His ears hear the umpire’s “Ball!” and “Strike!”

But he alone may know whether they were right.

And slammed foul balls to the mask.

And foul balls run out to the back!

His body twisted backward on the dugout rail,

Or headfirst into the bat rack.

Those passed balls that just might have been wild pitches.

And yes, he feels the pitcher’s pain!

But the pitcher never comes to him.

But he goes out again and again and again.

And his knees are shot,

But he still “runs ’em out.”

And catchers become managers,

And some other players, millionaires no doubt.

 

But let me tell you something,

And may humankind know it well,

From the catcher’s mitt to the family hearth

Know this:

As far as we are all concerned,

What really matters

Is what happens at home.

 

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From an American Poet: The Woman In the Womb

by Cantinker Moss

” A Nation that kills its own children has no future.”

Pope John Paul II

It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.”  Likewise, as I thankfully had not been the aborted, so far as reason leads me, I would not be the one who performs, condones, requests, legislates in favor of, or undergoes an abortion.  We both speak of democracy more than we think.

This post is not an easy one.  No doubt, I may be misunderstood.  Roe v. Wade introduced a complex if not controversial situation.  On one hand not all pregnancies occur under the same circumstances…no “one size fits all.”  There are rapes.  There is incest.  All demanding careful consideration and not the rapid, indifferent judgment of the mother by her peers.  Once the “baby bump” appears, so does a scarlet letter of sorts, unless the pregnancy was “cleared” as legitimate;  i.e. a visible couple in many cases with shared vows and wedding bands.

Abortion in its most fundamental examination and possible application (not all mothers who think about abortion, have abortions) is actually a horror.  Plain and simple…no matter how you rationalize it, a human with life is there and then gone:  the life snuffed out.  But we are not just talking about any creature…pig or platypus…we are dealing with human DNA, at least according to science.  And I know that many in science determine life according to certain time factors, but still far too many lives…legitimately classified as “living” are terminated.  Just ask Dr. Gosnell.

But in the following poem, something sinister is suggested.  Not because women set out to be “monsters,”  but that in our present society the real ethics have not been examined enough.  As I listened to the recent Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings, I was surprised to hear one senator refer to “abortion on demand” as a code word.  Since when couldn’t “abortion on demand” refer to just that, abortion when you want it.  And what is unreasonable about a minor needing parental consent to get an abortion.  I mean, yes, there are irresponsible , even abusive parents who have questionable authority in their children’s lives.  But what of the truly loving, caring parents who are genuinely concerned about the future of their children?  And I don’t mean parents who count it as caring for their children to attend Harvard.  In fact some of these mothers may indeed have gone through the guilt and regret of having abortions themselves, and they do not wish their daughters to go through similar experiences.  But mostly I couldn’t help but notice so much emphasis on the victimized mother…and I am by no means saying that great forces beyond an individual’s control do not turn the abortion debate into something of a “game of Pong.”  But could someone have at least mentioned what was inside her womb?

That is what this poem attempts to do.

A ghastly sight is she.

A sisterhood of blood they must be.

(Yes, even the unborn bleeds.)

And she suffocates in salt

And moves in pain:

The woman in the womb.  

She will be no lady of the house

Or princess arrived to the ball.

She will never govern or influence

The affairs of men

Or mankind at all:

The woman in the womb.

No glass ceiling will she ever approach,

Let alone crack or break it when

Judges of this generation pass sentence

And a Slaughter of the Innocents

Comes to pass

Because of women

Who carry

These women

In their wombs.

Sisters, mothers, girls and 

Aged matrons who demand

Their legal pound of flesh.

Rock stars, movie stars, and Nasty Women

Who shout, “It is the law!…It is the law!”

“And those of us who uphold this law

Think perhaps it is a better death

Than back alley and coat hanger surgery.”

So we each come to decisions:

Moral decisions,

Economic decisions,

“My future at stake!” decisions, (spoken and unspoken)

Inconvenient decisions,

Demographic decisions,

Some even say legislative decisions,

But nevertheless, life and death decisions.

While womankind is shrinking,

Until a generation is missing.

And future generations ponder

What of a people who in war, crime and peace

Killed their own?

Oh…you…defenseless one!

Without even one weapon!

To fight for your life

Against the stranger and the machine

That sucks out every limb and organ.

Oh…humanity!!

Is there anyone who has a heart,

Or even simple, thoughtful, kind regard?

But so… at the inn there was no room.

And the sound of laughter might come to ruin.

And life goes on from midnight to noon.

And babies are still nursed in hospital rooms.

And fathers take to heart either glow or gloom,

But make damn sure there is food in their spoons.

Whether in poverty or in wealth…from one parent or two…

Care for all life

(Not the least…care for this mother with child!)

Must always continue.

Because the woman with child or not,

At one time

Was

A woman in the womb.

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From an American poet: The Man In the Seat By the Rear Tire

by Cantinker Moss

 

On a bus.

Oh…too much of a bus

And somewhere near Mobile, in old Alabam…

Yeah, I guess it was.

This man.

This old drunk man

(Too much of an old drunk man)

In too much of this bus.

Well,

He drank

And stank

And thanked himself for all

He had a hankerin’ for.

But he did kill someone:

Someone from New Orleans,

Not the forgiving kind…

Who left all forty burns on his forearm

As if to pay the tab.

Oh God!

Oh God, dontcha see this man drinks too much?

Said this man.

But by the time it was over,

He was slumped over dead

In the seat by the rear tire.

The authorities arrived;

Everyone perspired;

Not sure what was even required.

And he,

Eyes wide:

A last retiring

Glance of glory.

And no one

Even

Applauded.

 

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From an American poet, 1743 years before: The Centurion

 

by Cantinker Moss

 

A song written back around the 1980’s.  A take on the Crucifixion.  What would make a Roman commander of one hundred men say what he did as recorded in both the Gospels of Luke and Matthew?  Righteous Man?  Son of God?  An end?  A beginning?

 

Chorus:  O there once was a centurion,

                His authority he was told was Caesar’s line.

                And he saw a world of oppression,

                From Gaul down to Palestine.

 

Well, he might have heard John the Baptist.

Saying, “Do no violence to a man.

For I tell you, One is coming

Whose fan* is in His hand.”

 

Chorus

 

And he saw them nail Him to the cross wood,

But he wondered why they told Him to come down,

While they ridiculed Him in His torment,

And His bloody, thorny crown.

 

Yet he heard Him say, “Father, forgive them.

They know not what they do (this brutal mob.)”

And maybe that’s the reason the centurion said,

“Truly, This was the Son of God!”

 

Chorus

 

  • Matthew 3:12  (KJV)

 

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