Wednesday, October 18, 2017

God our Mother

to be a mother is to suffer
to travail in the dark, stretched and torn
exposed in half-naked humiliation
subjected to indignities
for the sake of new life

to be a mother is to say,
this is my body, broken for you
and in the next instant 
in response to the created's primal hunger
"this is my body, take, and eat"

to be a mother is to self-empty
to neither slumber or sleep
so attuned you are to cries in the night
offering the comfort of yourself
and assurances of "i'm here"

to be a mother is to weep
over the fighting and exclusions
and wounds your children inflict on one another
to long for reconciliation and brotherly love
and when all is said and done
to gather all parties– the offender and offended
into the folds of your embrace
and to whisper in their ears that they are beloved

to be a mother is to be vulnerable
to be misunderstood, railed against, blamed
for the heartaches of the bewildered children
who don't know where else to cast
the angst they feel over their own existence
in this perplexing universe

to be a mother is to hoist onto your hips
those on whom your image is imprinted
bearing the burden of their weight
rejoicing in their returned affection
delighting in their wonder
bleeding in the presence of their pain

to be a mother is to be accused of sentimentality
one moment and injustice the next
to be the receiver of endless demands
absorber of perpetual complaints
reckoner of bottomless needs.

to be a mother is to to be an artist
a keeper of memories past
weaver of stories untold
visionary of lives looming ahead.

to be a mother is to be the first voice listened to
and the first disregarded
a mender of broken creations
and comforter of the distraught children
whose hands wrought them

to be a mother is to be a touchstone
and the source
bestower of names
influencer of identities
life-giver, life-shaper, empath, healer
and original love.



Monday, September 25, 2017

language as μεταξύ

That is what I investigate. Words both enable and limit human communication.
Divine communication.


When I hear:
Linguistics? Cool! How many languages do you speak?


It's like asking an optometrist how many eyes she has or a marine biologist how many orcas he owns.

Language acts upon the world, it does not merely passively describe/reflect it. Words create worlds.
God speaks to us as he makes us.



What is the world that we are creating, with our political discourse and rhetoric? In what worlds do our pattern of language index our membership? How can changing speech change society?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

a Tayal myth

Here is a story that lies deep in the Taiwanese clay that makes me.

Long ago, two suns ruled the sky. There was no alternation of night and day, and the earth was scorched. The grass withered, the flowers faded, the rivers too were parched. The people of the land convened to speak, and determined that one of the suns had to be shot down.

Three noble warriors volunteered themselves. Each packed his own provisions and carried also a young child on his back, for the journey to the sun was very long. Along the way, they planted seeds. Year by year, month by month, they pressed on. The men grew old and and died.

The children they had carried were grown now. They continued on to the place of the suns to shoot one down. On their journey back they were nourished by the fruit of the trees planted by their fathers. 

"The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it—at no matter what risk" said James Baldwin in his "A Talk to Teachers."

Sometimes we plant for the seasons and sometimes we must plant trees. We who labor to change the field(s), must take the children and seeds along.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

between breaths

Monday night we tangoed in Mitzrayim. Quite literally. The Argentine tango at Penn Museum's Lower Egypt exhibit all evening.

Saturday night after being fed royally by the TSA, all of whose activities revolve around food and feasting, I introduced some of them to Lindy at PILE. Cultural immersion they said.

Sunday while I moped around the church-coffee table at a place I had not visited before because I forgot to coordinate a ride to G&P, I hear, ESTHER?! I glance up and there is the beaming face of a 2nd year in my very same program. She said, Oh my gosh, I'd been praying a long time to make some Christian friends at Penn!

This time of year, every group and initiative says, join us, join us! Clamoring for my attention, affection. Keep me true Abba.

This time of year... my edges get fuzzy. The aki air is tumbling.

Mom went off to TW again.

Guh got a gougou and stars recrossed.

And I remember so hard how Prometheus brought the gift of fire... to the prairie. And I dwell still in this lack and abundance and cycles of seasons. But this one's different.

I met a Peruvian mummy. Being interred in the fetal position - that makes sense to me.

I got to handle 200 years of woven textiles from the Americas. Breathtaking. The Collections ask to be studied. Museums were projects of colonialism.

There is a thorn in my ass sparing me from any delusions that I am good at loving neighbors or serving refugees. When he swung his cane at me and threatened to beat me last week, alarm bells went off, shot me to that speedy space. I called the police. I don't think it was the best thing to do. He and I are made of the same scared, sacred starstuff.

I went straight to work and tanked a training session I was giving. Bad. Not clear of this cloud yet.

von Balthasar and Weil and Harjo and Ignatian exercises keep my heart chambers spacious.

interrogating my privilege and platform constantly these days as friends are affected by DACA, as I enroll students at NSC. Nationalities. Birth lottery. Being a POC in this day and time. Can we bundle and align with indigenous peoples? Should we? Dare we?

The Chao family came down. Revolutionary War museum and Washington's tent. SEPTA troubles and Wissahickon. Sarah haircut experiment.

Chinese students all around. That REC meeting, the KA girl who thinks she's white spilling over, and me wanting to evaporate. AAPI. Burdens/opportunities of representation. Never been in academic spaces in which AAPI's weren't at least more represented than Chinese internationals. (Until now.)

Can I really do this school thing?

Can I learn more languages? Achieve sociocultural fluency in Mandarin instead of this like 9-year-old stammer.

October in Chicago...? Sigh.

Ling and Em and Cliff are home.

Losing my kirigami scissors (where are they?!) is driving me nuts. Brush & ink centering.




Thursday, August 31, 2017

Salome or Esther

what favor shall i seek? and whose?
wattissa hesed

even up to half my kingdom
 what shall i ask of the King?



...your favor, Lord, is our desire
it's Your beauty, Lord
that makes us stand in silence
Your love is better than life.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

two days we feasted

“What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.”

And Esther said “If it please the king, let the king and Haman come today to a feast that I have prepared for the king.”

Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther has asked.”

So the king and Haman came to the feast that Esther had prepared.

And as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king said to Esther, “What is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.”

Then Esther answered, “My wish and my request is: If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my wish and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come to the feast that I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said.”



July 22–23, 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

watch out for the iconic ones

I have been guided by this way of seeing, now for two years and 8 days. By windows and icons and crystal lenses.

In times like these I so sharply feel Ann Judson (AJ)'s chastening ache and borrow her form to confess:

My heart is bound up there; I felt he was my earthly all, my purest source of light, voice, warmth, protection in these dire straits. But God saw it was necessary of my error and strip me of my little all. Oh may it not be in vain that He has done it.

Ssstill?! Christ have mercy. In Adoniram's words:
O may we not suffer in vain! May this bereavement be sanctified to our souls! and for this I hope we have your prayers . . .

The danger of icons, of course, is idolatry. But how would I see through these stonewalls without a window? I do see You, so clearly through them. The iconic ones. Keep my focus there, let the lens fall away.

A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth,
through it pass,
And then the heav'n espy.
// George Herbert, "The Elixir"


give, feed, serve, receive, love, speak, clothe, wait. as unto Thee.

10. Resolved, to love fiercely but loosely: My friends are not my own. If ever I invest in friendship, to do so freely and charitably, not to buy or possess. If ever I embrace, to do so as to make space for, rather than engulf the other. I can love others, and forget myself, I can risk loss, because I am recollected by Love himself. 19 Jan 2015

16. Resolved, not to make idols of icons. Heart, don't turn good things into ultimate things. I will fail at this a thousand times; a thousand times I will fall at clay feet. A thousand times, help me fall, fail, return to kiss and wash Your feet with the truest tears of repentance. 17 July 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

winged help

In the dream, I stood at cliff's edge, watching the eagles hunt.

And the roar and the mist cleared my vision and I saw, they were angels playing in the waterfall! I joined in their laughter.

I told C my happy dream and asked, do angels play?

Maybe, if it is a part of their obedience to God and a life of praise and glory to Him.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My favorite colors

ephemerald is
green and gold, hues hard to hold
fading forever

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Poetry?

No, my dear,
it's just a painting
with line breaks

Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Love after Love"

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.


// Derek Walcott (1.23.1930 – 3.17.2017)

Walcott wrote this in 1986 the year of your birth, and I hope you feel safely seen.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

transcend and superintend our civic order and engagement

"Be known for a Christian anthropology that puts the dignity of life — of every life — at the center of the political enterprise... be known for courage in applying this commitment, without prejudice, to every party and ideology.

"There are temptations of pride in this prophetic role as well... It is easy, through an excess of outrage, to become the parody of a prophet. But Christian faith, at its best, points to a transcendent order of justice and hope that stands above politics. So it was in the abolitionist struggle and the civil rights movement. So it needs to be in the Trump era."

// Michael Gerson

Sunday, January 22, 2017

#whyimarch(ed)

Friday I sighed.
Saturday I marched.
Sunday I rested. And reflected.

Yesterday over 1% of the total U.S. population marched in solidarity with the Womens March on Washington in protest of the Trump presidency.

Why did I march?
Why did I spend all day standing/walking, hungry and thirsty and chilly, with "I'm Esther, call Joshua ###-###-####" emergency contact info written in Sharpie on my arm?


A photo posted by Jon Stockford (@jonstockford) on
Not because I agree 100% with the organizers' views. In fact, I find myself dissenting with much of their vision of "women's health" and "reproductive rights." In the capitol, some groups with opposing stances on birth control were excluded from co-sponsorship of the event. Some women felt shamed or excluded for being "not progressive enough." This is sad. In Manhattan, I saw all sorts of women, men, children, humans join together and bring NYC to a beautiful standstill. It looked like free and creative expression. It sounded (for the most part) like friendly chatter and sporadic chanting. It smelled at one point like the sage that someone near me was burning. It looked like quick, sweeping mobilization and organization. And I am glad that "privileged white women" employed their privilege to open this space and time, efficiently. There was mirth and joy and anger and hope and civility and friendship.

I marched for women. Old grannies, yesteryear's suffragists, women of color, women refugees, mothers, little women, unborn women, future women, church ladies, unchurched ladies, anti-church ladies, for the womb of the earth. I marched for my neighbor-woman.



Gloria Steinem said, "It's about knowing each other, which is what movements and marches are for." In our hours of waiting, listening, speaking, strangers became friends, opinions were expressed, solidarity and affirmation of humanity in diversity were witnessed. I marched because I knew I could be frustrated by an overwhelmingly white and underwhelmingly yellow turnout, so I give my color. I thought it could be riotously angry, loud, hyper-liberal, condescending –– and I gave my dissent and diversity and diminuendo. I give from my margins and I give from my privilege––because I can afford to. I had time and energy where many, for example, could not have afforded to take a day off from their all day minimum-wage-or-lower work. And most of all, I march for the woman not like me. There is space for all of us, right?

To me, feminism is simply the radical idea that women are humans, too. Women's rights are human rights. Daughters of Eve do not come from men's ribs. Sons of Adam do come from women's wombs. I believe that a society's thriving is tied to the protection and flourishing of its women.

I am not in favor of donning Donald's labels and profanities and obscenities: "pussy" "bitch" "nasty woman", tempting as it may be to "reclaim" these words or to throw them back in his face. Or in wearing dishonor (even ironically). One of my objections to his presidency is the precedent he sets, Our children are listening. To him and to us, too. I do not believe his defamatory strategies and hateful rhetoric (or "giving him a taste of his own medicine") are most effective in promoting peace, or that his vulgarities should be publicly and proudly imitated. But the shock value is also important and possibly effective in highlighting what must not be normalized. Not without protest.

I do not join in the chants of "NOT MY PRESIDENT" because, sadly, he is now our president. Even as I protested with over half a million people in his hometown NYC that is my home too, I look at Gambia this same week, and I am so grateful for our country's peaceful transfer of power. I am grateful for our freedom of speech and right to nonviolent protest. I am profoundly impressed at how peaceful yesterday's demonstrations were in NYC. The civility and camaraderie. The people's patience while protesting. So much faith restored in NYPDblue. Here are some chants I did join:

  • L–O–V–E / Donald Trump dont speak for me
  • No hate, no fear / Immigrants are welcome here
  • We want a leader / Not a creepy tweeter
  • Consent in the sheets / Dissent on the streets
  • Show me what democracy looks like / This is what democracy looks like

And I carried a mirror, to show my fellow protesters what democracy looks like, to me. At some points in the day, democracy just looked like it needed a cocktail or a bagel or a nap or a potty break or a hug.

Democracy starts with the man in the mirror. I held a mirror instead of a sign, in hopes that our activism will always start from and return to ongoing reflection.

I held it out especially to any children, any "others," anyone noticeably on the minority of the march (the elderly, the elderly, the hijabi, the unpopular pro-Lifer, the colorful, the men) or of the country. I want you to know, this American idea, this project, takes all of us.

I hope we will stand close enough to our neighbors to see them in our mirrors––or at least within hearing distance. Hold each others posters, share snacks and lipbalm and stories, push strollers and wheelchairs. Maybe even embrace.

When they go low, we go high?

When we went low, He went lower. He descended to the dead, the dying, the departed––to hell. He gathers us up in his resurrection and ascension. That is how we, or I, go high.

This is my honest reflection.