Category Archives: Poetry

IMMIGRANT LABORERS, a POEM, by Rev. Minna Quint, WTS 2014, Capital Hill Lutheran, Des Moines, IA

For hands
Covered in callouses
Bruised from rough labor
Dried by a scorching sun
My God where are you?

 For faces
Tired from long hours
Worn by the weather
Hardened by oppression
My God where are you?

 For stomachs
Starving for satisfaction
Longing to be filled
Growling
Growling
Growling
My God where are you?

 For jeans
Torn apart by physical labor
Stained with pain and disapproval
Bleached in the sun of unrighteousness
My God where are you?

 For wallets
Soggy from a day’s sweat
Empty
Old
Frayed
My God where are you?

 For hearts
That struggle to be loved
Screaming at inequality
In a country that shouts
“The land of the FREE”
My God where are you?

“REFLECTIONS ON INTERNSHIP, WEEK 2: I AM PETER” By Carina Schiltz, M.Div Intern, Milwaukee, WI

Sitting in my white-walled office,
there is always a bustle outside
in the hallway, yet
I still feel safe here.
It’s home base.
Galilee.
I’m with the seemingly popular
and victorious Jesus, who
teaches and feeds and heals.
I know who he is–The Messiah
The Son of the Living God.

But then he told me that
we’re going to Jerusalem.

And that I have to leave my office.

He talked about death and a cross,
and naturally I said, “No.”
But we’re going. Crosses as our yokes,
slogging one foot in front of the other toward…something.

Next week we’re doing a neighborhood
clean-up, and today
in the church parking lot there were
wrappers, and
used
condoms
snaking along the pavement.
Someone will have to pick those up.
What will they say to their children
who will inevitably ask, “Mommy, Daddy,
what’s that?”

What does this have to do with following you, Jesus?
I walk past the filthy parking lot,
carefully avoiding the empty Magnum wrappers
and snaky plastic,
and I listen to sad stories
and frumpy individuals who have everything wrong
with their lives, and I drive to the next,
almost-closed-up church
on this road to Jerusalem, and the cross.

As powerless as I feel
I am pulled like a magnet toward
peoples’ sorrows, and they tell me,
and I can’t fix it.

Sometimes I deny you, Jesus, and
I do try to fix it by myself. Sometimes
I doubt that you know what you’re doing.

I mean, look around.
It’s bleak here.
But you say to follow, so I do:
out of the office and into the neighborhoods
where I sometimes lock my purse in the trunk,
my brain making judgments until I am
paralyzed with fear,
but people live here everyday
and you are there among them.

The ugly and the beautiful all
wrapped up into one.
And sometimes I am unwilling to see you in it.

Pessimistic.
Judgmental.
Glass not even half-empty.
But here I am.
The rooster is about to
crow again, isn’t it?

SHACKLED By Jean Peterson, WTS Archives Volunteer

When he was here, “Uncle Bob” named a bit of history:

Centuries ago the insane were shackled, chained to institutional walls – jails, dungeons, oversized crib rails or beds.   Centuries ago?   Did it stop then?

Not so long ago.   Still,  now, in our lifetime!

II   Two centuries ago you could be shackled to a tree and whipped… for no good reason, just because your skin is darker than mine.   Yours, clean, shines, but us dirty folks of my hue thought we should dehumanize, torture, and humiliate you.

Then Good Abe said,   “STOP!”   “Let them go!”   150 years ago.     Did it stop then?     Good Abe said, “Let them go!”   Some were set free, but they did not escape  the misery of slavery. They “owed their souls to the company store,” just a different kind of bondage and   Many were set free only to encounter the Lynching Tree.

III- Confined   A lifetime ago (within mine) you could be herded into a train – a cattle car, withnospacetomoveorfreshairtobreathe untilthetrainstopped,then pushedproddeddowncattleramp intostockyardsconfinedbybarbedwireelectrified toopenairputrifiedbypollutedstenchfrom smokingchimneysofgasfurnaces, queuedinspectedlikemeatselectedby wavingrodpointingtoleftortoright toshowersortemporarysurvivalslavelabor identitystrippedsoulsstolen shovedsqueezedintobarrackstosleep? oncrowdedhardbunkboardslabs shelvesinrowssharedwithstrangers fourorfivebodiesinonebox, somedeadsomelikeyoubarelyalive, nightmareshiftssharedbynamelesslabormates… upatdawntorollcallshoutyournumberor startoveragainstandingatattention,thenlaborallday inrockquarryorbeforcedtoshovethecorpsesof peopleyouonceknewfriendskinyourownmother fathergrandmothergrandfatherssisterbrother babiestoo intotheovens burntheirsoulless emptiedbodies turningtoashes yourfellowhumancattle beaten objectified dehumanized de-souled,   just   because   you were   a Jew.

IV- (Nisei)   Early in my lifetime, we took your property and kept it despite your 2nd or 3rd generation good citizenship, then put you away with meager jobs and poor schools for your children, just because your grandparents were born in a land which has become our wartime enemy.

V   Four centuries ago Massasoit hosted my pale-faced forebears from across the sea  — hungry after a long sail from a strange land across the ocean.  His hospitality to rude guests uninvited, your home now overrun by land-greedy pale faces pushing ever westward, shoving Native hosts aside, all the way across this continent with no  respect for Native Nations’ sovereignty, disregarding hosts’ good care for woods and soil and animal species; greedy, pushy, selfish pale-face with no respect for Natives’ humanity.

My  ancestors stole your land shackling our Native hosts’ descendants (of many nations) to untillable soil, tearing down forests housing food supplies.   We ingrates pushing, shoving you to ever smaller, reduced barren dry arid land strips, shackling you to areas which cannot sustain life for any tribe and leaving you invisibly shackled to a tiny patch of land in a dry, barren, arid soil worthless for growing any food or sustenance.

VI   Centuries ago?   “Let my people go . . . “   My skin is black. I am a Jew.   I am insane.   My Grandfather was born in Japan.   My native grandfathers welcomed you     Shackle me –   Let me hang.   Force me to burn my own kin.   Confine me to untillable barren land.   Take our property and keep us silent despite our good citizenship.     Centuries ago?   Now!    Has it stopped yet? No!     “Let my people go!”

Let us go free,   Now!.

GOOD FRIDAY By Dr. Beth Leeper, WTS Prof. of Church History

We are in the Easter Season; however the following poem incorporates the darkness of all people every day which we bring to the cross all year long.

Safe home, caring parents,
Jesus had it easy some would say.
Three years of travel, crowds who cheered and jeered;
A fleeting moment in a life of love and comfort.
A nasty week, no doubt – no hymns of pious devotion then.
Flesh torn by whips, thorns, nails;
Betrayed, denied, who needs such friends?
Desolate, forsaken, abandoned by his Father
in his time of need.
But for how long?
Three hours.
Excruciating hours of anguish;
but only three.
How dark could his darkness be?

What was that darkness in which he lingered?
Whose pain, whose suffering, resounded through his frame?
Shrieks of children raped,
screams of soldiers shot,
cries of women beaten, men tortured.
The whimpers of the innocent and the damned
filled those three short hours.

Darkness covered the earth,
But deeper darkness filled our Lord.
The black whirlwind of swirling madness.
The depths of death-craving distress.
Blind, lame, plague-riddled, rotting with disease.
Sunken cheeks, jutting bones, eyes clouded with hopelessness and flies.
The sick and dying, the world’s refuse:
The essence of darkness,
the substance of pain.

A lifetime of torment
multiplied by a billion, a trillion, a quadrillion living creatures.
Countless lives, endless ages,
anguish from the dawn of time.
Overwhelming misery crashes down,
swirls in,
engulfs those three short hours.
Unspeakable darkness crushes the life
of that once-cherished son.

Does Jesus enter into my darkness?
Or I into his?
In the union of human with divine
two are one, forever inseparable.
Locked in swirling blackness, I remain helpless,
unable to escape the pain.
Clothed in eternal light, the Son unlocks the blackness,
enters in,
freely embraces the grief that is mine.
How great the cost, extinguishing life and light.
Three short hours,
but a multitude of lifetimes compressed;
A neutron star of suffering, darkness, and death.

A PSALM: LAMENT FOR CONSOLATION By Wade Brinkopf, Final Year MDiv

A Psalm: Lament for Consolation

In you O Lord, I have put my trust.

My words wash away but yours will stand forever.

There is no one but you O Lord who could feel my despair.

Take this sorrow from my heart, release me from my shame.

Reason stands but for an instance;

yet, your word stands the test of every moment.

Turn me from my pathless way,

in your righteousness I can face the unknown.

Mine is too quickly faded away in morning glare,

but, brightly shines your gleaming stream turning darkness into light.

Ever present, your right hand stands before me.

Your glorious throne to adorn.

Crush this oppressor my Lord, this darkness in which I stand.

Push back this dark deception that creeps uneasily near your truth.

Only a breath of your Word and it fades completely away.

Your Word breaks the dark; the bright gleaming stream brings me life where there was none!

A JOURNEY TO HONESTY By Carina Schiltz, 2nd Year MDiv

A Journey to Honesty

The psalmists are so honest
With the state of their hearts.
Why am I so ashamed of mine?
Why do I run away
And not allow myself to say:
Yes,
I
Hurt.
Instead I slog along,
the road covered with cracks
and I realize: so is my heart.
But I cover it up with ‘fine’ and ‘ok’
until the wound gapes open,
an ugly gash of pride and shame
that I continue to cover with denial.

I stumble up the road, a winding path,
My dreams slowly leaking out of me,
Losing sight of what used to give me energy and life.

I’m searching for who I’m supposed to be,
Or avoiding who I really am—
I can’t tell which.
They say I am loved
But I struggle to believe it.

I end up at the foot
of this mountain of
obstacles,
But I’m at the foot
of something else, too.
A structure of some sort—
a cross.
Maybe if I sit here awhile.
Maybe if I rest…

Maybe this wound will be
stitched up.

I can’t do it on my own.

There’s a healing that happens
When I name the brokenness: I am
in pieces.

I
reject
myself.

But I am drawn to this
Structure
That reconnects me and says
“no, you’re not a mistake”
And the weight lightens a little.
Enough so I stand up again,
but not by my own power.
My bent back straightens
I flex my fingers, and finally
feel a breeze on
my face again.
I see.
Reflecting on the structure—
the cross—
are the broken pieces,
a kaleidoscope of colors;
and I behold the beauty of forgiveness.
There’s nothing I did—
I just sat here to rest.
Now I feel accompanied. My head held high.
And I journey onward.

I look back over the next hill
and still see it—
a cross at the foot
Of the mountain of obstacles—
and somehow
it overcomes them.

The next traveler is there
at its foot.
I am drawn onward.

Purpose.
Peace.

A PRESENT PARTICIPLE (“ing”) POEM By Rev. Dr. Ralph Quere, WTS faculty em.

A Present Participle (“ing”) Poem
Telos
How goes this conversing with death?
Is death at the end to be befriended or upended
By a dreaded enemy’s defeating by the spirit’s working
Often when in helplessness, hopelessness or pain’s distress
Death comes as respited releasing, awaited with eagerness
Tempting us to euthanasia or suicide: both rob God’s hands!
Scripture is clear: human life is enslaved by fear of death1
But there is an antidote, not a medicine, but a person
Called Resurrection and Life2 who killed killer-death

By dying—like many soldiers—dying to win a battle
And saving others, like Christ dying & sharing His kingdom
With others. Like the dying thief and offering it to all!
For many baptizings that begin it in God giving pardon,
New birth into new living that is lasting into the ages of ages
Linking us with Christ’s dying and living, kept by the spirit
Working faith & love toward the living word named Jesus.
St. Paul admits desiring departing and being with Christ!
A suicidal death wish? No, a longing for consummating Faith,
Hope and Love through the victory won by Jesus, swallowing
Death & defanging evil! This gift just keeps on coming
From the Father’s on-going so loving the world—

Rooting in the Son’s once-for-all-self-sacrificing and,
The undercover working of the creating spirit
Bringing the redeeming power of love3 & liberating truth
Of the triune deity’s trialogue displacing death’s dialogue
With the triune deity’s trialogue of
Christ, Grace & Faith!

The Dialogue with Death recommends that the dying “befriend” death. I agree that it is important to accept death when it is clearly approaching. The “Death and Dying” movement followed the literature about the “American Way of Death” the way the funeral industry helped in physical and psychological tools to mask and in effect deny death. Many psychologists recommend that funeral services should be “grief management.” The current fad in the “celebration of life” – a half step in the right direction. However that is understood and usually performed as celebration of the life of the deceased and paints plaster saint out of one whom the family and friends knew was quite the opposite. Even the best of the saints need to be remembered as “a sinner of (Christ’s) own reddeming (ELW p. 283).

So the one whose life should be celebrated at funerals is Jesus whose death and resurrection are our new life and sure hope for eternal life. Handel’s Messiah draws from Revelations 5:9-14 for the final chorale: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.”

Scripture makes it clear that death is a defeated enemy – it’s not a warm fuzzy friend (see the notes in the poem).

1Heb. 2:15
2John 11:24
32 Cor. 5:19-21

A POEM by Carina Schiltz, 2nd Year MDiv

This was written in response to taking the Wartburg J-term course ‘Responding to Issues in Domestic Violence’, particularly contemplating the stories of survivors of domestic violence.

self-less

my bruised and broken body
is nothing compared to my
chewed-up and spit-out spirit
self? i have no self.
Savior?
He hangs on a cross and you
tell me to be like him–
to suffer.
To hold the family together.
But most of you tell me nothing.
Your eyes tell me to be
ashamed. To feel guilty–
and again I am a victim.
The worst is the silence,
a silence I have learned to
keep because no one will
believe me,
a silence that i keep
because i know my voice isn’t
worth anything to anyone.
It’s in the silence the voices scream
“YOU ARE NOTHING”–and
point to the man hanging on
a cross. Is that my fate, too?
A call to the cops
a cold corpse–
i’m already dead, can’t you
see that?
This is no way to live–
in fear, in isolation, in
punishment for my self-less-ness.
i am no self.
i am silent.

PATIENCE By Nat Bothwell, 2nd Year MDiv

Patience lives in the unsettled places.
In our in between-ness,
patience waits.
With a word of promise
patience speaks,
and for a moment,
the hunger for something not yet
is tempered
in a savored “now.”
Patience retrieves our forward thrown hearts –
wrestling them away
from the shores of memories
yet unmade.
Until there is surrender
in the unsettledness of “now” –
Until there is acceptance
in the between-ness of “here,”
patience holds… and hopes, and helps.
Patience endures,
through the churning shadows of our anxiousness,
to the warmth of a whispered truth.
Patience enfolds us – always,
in the embrace of loving stillness;
and with a nod,
says “soon enough.”

TWO POEMS By Kirsten Curtis, Final Year M.Div.

Reflections from “American Genocide” class, Fall, 2013

WHERE WERE YOU GOD WHEN THIS ALL TOOK PLACE?
WHERE WERE YOU GOD FOR THIS HUMAN RACE?

HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN TO YOUR HOLY ONES?
HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN TO ANYONE?

i am so small
compared to it all

and IT is so BIG
TOO BIG for me

i am so infuriated with the whole
feeling inadequate, ignorant, out of control

a fire has been lit deep in my gut
burning and churning – stuck in a rut
tossing and turning – wallowing in muck
physically, emotionally, spiritually stuck

What do i do now?
How do i cope?
Who do i turn to?
How do i know?

Tears of anger get me through
But who am I angry at
Surely not YOU?!?!?!?!

WHERE WERE YOU GOD WHEN THIS ALL TOOK PLACE?
WHERE WERE YOU GOD FOR THIS HUMAN RACE?

—————————————————————————

I love you God
but I am so mad
at this human race
that at times goes plain mad.

What were they thinking?
It’s obvious they were not!
Blinded by what they had not.

Wretched sin took hold
Did not let go!
It has a tight grip.
Death takes its toll.

Millions and millions lost their lives
Why?

For money
For land
For power and control
So one could feel superior
And force the other to feel low

What were they thinking?
It’s obvious they were not!
Blinded by what they had not.

What do we do now?
We tell their story.

The first Americans were here before you and me
They were robbed of their lives, their land, and their trees.

They were forced off their land, sequestered and shamed,
Dehumanized, Demonized, Degraded, Demeaned
Viewed through the lens of total depravity.

What were they thinking?
It’s obvious they were not!
Blinded by what they had not.

God help me please
To tell others
To promote justice and peace
No more covers
Exposing it all
For all to see
For it needs to be known
Before we can grow
And begin to become whole.

Only you God can help
Help us go forth
Help us and guide us
Like your light in the North.