by guest poet Ruth Kamm
Hands are soft and calloused and the whole spectrum of ignorance and experience.
Hands are clammy, moist, and slippery; altogether nervous things.
Hands are dry, cracked, and firm, utterly smiling and sure.
Hand are cradles for the lines of a downturned face or the curve of a hesitant neck.
Hands are the weapons of lovers and the slaves of killers.
Hands are fickle, fastidious things; in one moment the are caress and stroke and skin, and in
another they are fist and claw and bone.
Hand are makers of music, writers of novels, and wielders of blood-stained swords.
Hands are the physical extensions of a formless soul, curious and free.
Hands are the strong, seamless bits of flesh and bone that tremble when a father holds his
crooning child in perpetual surprise of its first breaths.
Hands are the molders of clay and dirt and brick and dust.
Hands are limp, lifeless limbs that hang like dead lilies or straight, sure scepters that shoot into
the sky with sanguine triumph.
Hand are the difference between a woman’s cold, hard glance and soft, knowing gaze.
Hands are prim sheets of paper resting on one another in amiable acknowledgement of their
Hands are quaking birds that flap wildly at the slightest disturbance.
Hands are storytellers and story makers.
Hands are the grim collectors of memory, soiled with tears, blood, sweat, grit and disease.
Hands are the resilient companions of a mother who has reared one child too many; They are the
abiding friends of a man who has built his life out of dust.
Hands are the patient tools of a carpenter who smears mud over the eyes of a blind man.
They are the dirty bloodstained servants of a king pegged to a tree, raised in perpetual worship
Hand are potential and anticipation and waiting.
There are no events but thoughts and the heart’s hard turning, the heart’s slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times. Annie Dillard
Just before my freshman year in high school my rock solid fundamentalist grandparents drove me and Doug (my, at the time, slightly uncontrollable cousin) from Phoenix, Arizona to Branson, Missouri – 1,800 miles and 3 days in the back of a brown Cadillac Seville. To this day, I haven’t the foggiest idea how I passed the time. I do remember Doug trying to sneak out of a hotel to find cigars. (It will surprise no one that he is now a successful CEO). Our goal was Kanakuk, a Christian sports camp, tucked away in the dark green hills of Missouri. We arrived to 98% humidity, lots of testosterone, mosquitos the size of humming birds and the promise of horrific sunburns. The heart of the camp took place every evening after sunset when we were hustled into a brightly lit multi-purpose room with an air of great expectancy. Each presentation revolved around one storyline: the end was near and some would be ‘raptured’ (taken up, in the blink of an eye) while others would remain to suffer with those ‘left behind.’ Where did we want to be?
Most of this was new to me and seemed eminently plausible, in fact likely. I was shaken and wanted to avoid the cataclysmic events sure to come soon – and certainly didn’t want to be left with all the losers. So one night I prayed that Jesus would come into my heart, and I waited. Antsy and apprehensive by temperament, I couldn’t be sure something had happened and this troubled me. So I asked my counselor who reassured me that, in fact, I had been saved. I wonder if all conversion stories are so fraught with muddled understanding and self-serving expectations. Maybe not all, but perhaps many. And yet it would be easy and juvenile to remember only through cynical eyes or, worse, smirk at the simplicity of my fundamentalist forbears. Their forgotten genius is the belief that we are somehow lost and desperately need help ‘coming to ourselves.’ And so, at Kanakuk, I was told there was light and dark, and I was asked if I wanted to be part of the light. And in response I moved – infinitesimally, gropingly and fearfully – toward God. Continue reading “On Gettin Low”