Seven Alleluias

Happy Easter everybody.

Seven Alleluias. Now that’s some good news.
Not one but Seven. How ‘bout that?

Seven things to shout, Seven ways to pray,
Seven Gates into the City of God.

All Seven are good; all Seven are praise.
But where to begin? Where do we start?

The First Alleluia, Alleluia Number One:
God is Love, and He loves us much.

So it is we pray, “Thy Will be done.”
So it shall be Amen at the Gate

where Everything is Love, Love is Everything.
The Second (on a Circle of Seven)?

God became a flesh-and-blood mortal;
He lived with us some thirty-odd years.

So whatever we pray, be it good, be it bad,
we petition the One Who Understands

beneath the arch of the Gate with the word
HUMILITY burned into the oak above us.

Alleluia Three? Well, that’s the One that has God on a cross,
an Innocent dying, the Guiltless for the guilty.

So we pray, and the prayers we pray, the forgiveness we need
as we kneel at the Gate of the Forgiven.

An empty tomb, a Resurrection, and the Fourth Alleluia
celebrates that first Easter morning at each day’s dawn.

So we too can rise from a death that is lies
and follow the Savior-Son through the Gate called Promise.

When the Fifth Alleluia comes, it is with the Holy Spirit.
We sing “Hosanna,” the key that swings open the Pentecost Gate

into the Country of the Sixth Alleluia,
into the Land of the Gate of Belonging

where we People of God rejoice and pray,
and hope for the Day of the Seventh Alleluia

as we gather at the Maranatha Gate to wait
for the Seventh Stroke of the Clock and the Second Coming.

So it is we pray. So it shall be. Amen
and Alleluia times Seven. Now that’s some Good News.

Moses

For all those holding Passover.

I remember Moses. He stood there before Old Man Pharaoh, stuttering and telling him, “Let my People go.” That day he was as tall as the day is long as it stretches from dawn to sunset. The Egyptians laughed. How dare Moses insult them with his arrogance. When the Old Man refused to let us go, Moses stretched out the staff of the Lord and gave him ten plagues, each one worse than the last.

Then Moses stood before a crowd of us. We were angry because Pharaoh had added more to our work than we could bear. More straw, more brick, that wicked man demanded from us. Moses stuttered till his brother Aaron spoke his words.

“Pharaoh will let the People go,” Aaron said, but he did not believe. None of us did. When you’re a slave and the Master has used you all up, what hope do you have?

Then the tenth plague bore down on all the households of that accursed land. The Angel of Death roved around that Passing-over night from midnight until dawn, going from house to house, killing Egyptian children. But our babies were spared. The Lord had told us to mark the doors of our houses with the blood of a lamb. This we had done.

That night the Nile ran red with despair. The Papas and the Mamas of Egypt grieved a grief as sad a lamentation as any heard by that River in its long years since the beginning of the world. It was their first-borns that Death snatched from their arms and sent to the grave. There were some fine Egyptians, but the Angel spared none of them.

Next we heard Pharaoh commanded Moses to take his scum and go.

“Go. Leave. I will not see you any more,” Pharaoh’s anger spoke and it spoke hard. “Get thee hence.”

His gods had failed him. Where was Horus when the Lord of the Two Lands, Ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt, needed him? His son, his only child, his heir by the woman whom he loved more than all his kingdom, his only son was dead. While the priests prepared the son of Pharaoh for burial in the Valley of the Kings, we rejoiced and danced in the streets. Our deliverance had finally come.

“We’re free,” my uncle Eleazar shouted. “Our jailers are jailers no more.”

The sun rose early that new day as we gathered in the Land of Goshen. Everywhere there were people, our people. There were so many of us that the streets buckled under the load of our weight. We had not known that our father Jacob had so many children.

Calmly standing above us, and before us, was Moses. He raised his staff of oak and turned toward the sea and led us out from that land of our slavery toward a new home in a Promised Land.

Big Nose, Mommy & Me

Have you ever wondered what a baby thinks as he’s looking up at you with those baby blue eyes? Perhaps we can imagine.

It’s all about me. It’s true. The world revolves around me. Ask Mommy. She’ll tell you.

“Isn’t he handsome?” Mommy says. I am in my crib. Her face is above me. She smiles her large smile. I love her smile. It makes me feel warm inside. I giggle.

“He’s not so hot,” Brother looks through the bars of my crib. He has big eyes. Big ears. A big nose. His big mouth smirks at me. I look at him. I frown.

“You be nice,” Mommy says.

Yeah, Big Nose, you listen to Mommy.

“I am nice,” Big Nose says.

I stick out my tongue. I spit. Pooh on you.

“Now, now,” Mommy says to me, “ignore your brother. He doesn’t have a clue. It’s great to have a little brother like you. You’re just darling, you know that? Yessir, goo goo ga ga.”

I do know that. I’m back looking at Mommy. She has the most beautiful face in the world. Cut it out, Mommy. You’re tickling me. Please, you’re tickling me. Mommy stops the tickling. She pulls the blanket over my shiny new body.

“Look at him,” Mommy says to Big Nose. “Isn’t he wonderful? And that smile. Who couldn’t love a smile like that.”

See, I told you. The world does revolve around me. And I’m wonderful too.

“What’s so wonderful about the little turd?”

I frown. Mommy, he called me a bad word. Well, he’ll be sorry. I’ll fix him. I’ll fix him good.

“Don’t talk like that. Just look at those … toes.”

“Pee eww,” Big Nose says,

They turn their faces away.

Sorry, Mommy. That was meant for him.

“The little turd just pooped a big turd. Guess his turds are wonderful too.”

They both face me again. Mommy reaches down to unpin my diaper.

“Like your poop don’t stink. I’m here to tell you that was mild compared to yours.”

I knew it. Even when I poop, I’m wonderful. Why would she change my diaper if I wasn’t? I smile at her. Then I giggle.

She smiles back at me. “You’re absolutely adorable, you know that?”

I do know.

Neruda

April is National Poetry Month. Here’s a story to celebrate the month.

The first class of the second semester of American history was filling with college students and would be full soon. Michael’s eyes slowly looked around the classroom. A few faces he knew, but most he did not. There was one in particular he’d never seen before. Across the room in the corner was a blonde, an older student in her early thirties like himself. She had a pony tail and an orange sweater. When class was over, she gathered up her things and left quickly.

The next time he saw her in the class she wore green. Her hair hung loose and fell to her waist. She sat in the same corner alone and away from her nearest classmate. On her desk, her laptop and her books walled her against any intrusion from her fellow students.

After the class, he overcame his hesitation and walked over to her. She was pushing her laptop into her backpack. “Do you come here often?” Michael asked, pouring what little charm he could muster into his words.

She gave him a look that said she didn’t much care for his charm, then she said, “Not sure if I do, but my hair does. ”

Not able to come up with an entertaining comeback, Michael said nothing. His eyes followed her as she rushed out into the hallway. His mind raced for a way to stop her and engage her in a conversation. He had nothing. This was not a good way to start off a relationship with a woman he wanted to have a relationship with. Not a good way at all. This wasn’t even a good way to keep one going. Hopefully he would come up with something next time that gave him a half-ass chance.

The next time he walked into the class late. There she was over in the corner in her usual place, her laptop open, her books stacked on the desk. She typed fast on the keyboard. He dropped into the chair at the desk beside hers. She glanced over at him and gave him a leave-me-alone look. Her eyes matched the blue of her dress, then they went back to her laptop screen.

At the end of the class, he leaned over toward her, parted her books and asked, “Would you like to go dancing?”

She showed him her ring. “I have a husband.”

“We can take him along with us. He might even learn a few new dance steps. I’ve been told I’m a good teacher.”

She shook her head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Before he could come up with something for that comment, she was gone.

When he saw her again in class, he sat at the desk next to her again. Asked, “Just coffee then?” She was in her orange cashmere, her hair in its pony tail.

“Coffee always leads to sex,” she answered.

“Then don’t take your coffee with cream or sugar.”

“I only drink it black.” She opened her laptop cover.

“Never heard of black coffee leading to sex.”

“Now you have,” then she went to her notes. But this time she smiled.

At the end of the class, she turned to Michael. “You like my hair?” she asked.

“Very much.”

“That settles it. I’m cutting it and dying it green.” She seemed to be enjoying herself.

“Can I show you some trees?” he asked.

“What would you want to do that for?” she asked.

“So you’ll know what color green to dye your hair. You can tell from the leaves. Besides I like trees.”

She sighed the kind of sigh that said that she might enjoy the trees. She packed up her laptop, then said, “Let’s go. And no tricks. I’m on to you. Understand?”

“I thought you were,” he said, following her out of the classroom.

Walking out onto the campus lawn, he pulled up beside her and said,”We could be soul mates, you know.”

“I’m afraid not. My last three soul mates I killed off. And I don’t want to be guilty for a fourth death. I’m like Maggie on ‘Northern Exposure’. Guess that’s why they call me Maggie.”

Michael had a name for her now. “I’m Michael.”

A few days later, she was not in the classroom when he arrived. He went to their corner, unpacked his laptop and summoned up his notes for the class. The professor arrived and took his place at the podium.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I have some news,” he began. “Maggie Street, one of our students, will not be with us today. She is in the hospital. The police are holding her husband for questioning.”

A stunned silence swept through the class.

“It’s pretty clear what happened. Her husband came home last night. Took out a .45. Walked into the house. Shot her in the head. She’s in a pretty bad shape. Not sure if she will live or die. Give her your prayers if you do that sort of thing. Otherwise send some good thoughts her way.”

For the next week, Michael waited in the waiting room in the hospital everyday after class. Late in the week just before visiting hours were over, a woman in her late fifties walked over to him. Her hair was gray. “I’m Adele.” She offered him her hand.

He stood up, took her hand and said, “I’m Michael.”

“You know my daughter, Maggie?” she asked.

“I do. We are in the same class together.”

“Thank you for coming. I’ve seen you here every day for the last seven days.”

“How is she?” he asked.

“She woke up hungry as a bear this morning. The doctor says she will be fine.”

Michael went to say something, then stopped himself.

“She has no brain damage, thank God,” the woman continued. “With a lot of work, she will be back to normal. At least that is what the doctors say. It’s a miracle.”

Michael breathed his relief.

“Would you like to see her?”

“No,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure…you know, that she was going to be okay.”

“Well, she is. And thank you,” Maggie’s mother released his hand. “I have to get back to her.”

That night alone in his tiny apartment Michael wrote a poem, the first he’d written in a long time. He wrote:

“I dropped the poems into my bag.
They were Neruda, and only Neruda.
I went to show them to you,
but could not. I could not.

When I see your face,
I think Neruda.
When I see your hair, your lovely hair,
I think Neruda.
For you are the summation of a poem,
of all the poems of Pablo Neruda,
and only Neruda.

When I first laid eyes upon you,
it was like my first kiss.
It was as if I was reading
Neruda for the first time.”