Saturday, September 14, 2019


My Mother's Secret

Shared with Trembling Love

A swift hit of nicotine hidden
     in a small can unlabeled snuff
          may be Garret Sweet
Unrevealed to curious eyes in a
     coin purse tucked
          in her handbag
Kept her secret
     and nobody knew
          nobody
I tell it now fearful of her chastising
     from beyond the chasm
I honor her memory but
     cannot resist the primordial
          urge to tell story
Between a chuckle and
     a tear I tell what I
          know is true
Remnant bit of nicotine
     potent still perhaps
Transparent love for her
     children always

     Mother was scrupulously clean and morally straitlaced yet tender and gracious in the moments that counted and she was guided by gentle humor. Although quite vocal about her politics with which I almost always totally disagreed, she was a very private person. She would not have found it funny to learn that I knew and shared news about her surreptitious use of snuff, a minor moral indiscretion, if you will. But this is such a good story that I had to tell it. I will pray for forgiveness if I have to.



Thursday, August 29, 2019

We Must Not Go Back©
            Max
                                                                                          
I gave a ride to
     a student of color
The Mayor said why don't
     you go back where you came from
          I was closer home than he was
               so I reminded him
Half a century later xenophobia
     fans the flames still
          shreds human dignity
               incites the worst
Fed by incipient racism
     metastasized in culture
          all are victims
Relentlessly searching
     for an antidote
Racism our national debt
     pay it with justice                                           
          underwrite our future
It costs too much                                                                 
     to go back
    

When I had my Dad's old 1964 Volkswagen truck restored, I replaced the small outside rear view mirror with a much larger one. I knew that if I was going to drive it with its fifty horsepower engine I needed to have a clear view of what was behind me. That old truck became a treasure trove of stories but more than that, it became a metaphor. It is enough for me to say here that as important as the past is, if we don't learn and move forward we lose our way. There's nothing new in today's blood-letting racism and bone-chilling attacks on all those who differ from the perpetrators who themselves have lost their way. Except that we are gradually but surely accepting it as normal. It's enough to make one cry-- or look for a way out. We see our past clearly. Here's to new dimensions.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Give Away the Guns


Life Support©
by Max Hale

Take away the guns
so simple
until it's not
Breath slowly
center
compose
Mine to keep or
give away
Choice be the neighbor
welcome everyone
who welcomes everyone
Culturally multi-task
punish perpetrators and
sponsors take guns
succor survivors
This day's bloodletting worse
than the day before and
so it is every day
Shattered trembling we go
not gentle into
dark violence
Unmask offenders
shapeshifters
enablers
Rip off the mask of political
sycophants
Apply tourniquet
stop the victim's bleeding
spring the trap of
vengeance
Growth allowed on common
ground respect fills
open spaces
security
Live together in peace
shrivel in despair
Give up the guns
safer without them
freedom



Thursday, July 4, 2019

I Pledge©


there was a war
     it's always the case
I decided to go
     wore khaki and saluted
          a reluctant warrior
               carried a gun
     people went crazy shooting an M-1
a past unredeemed
     present dishonored
          thoughtless patriotism
               unshackled prejudice
                   gorging greed
     defend against all such enemies
engage in search for an antidote
     dance with the stranger
         respect the unloved
              challenge the unloving
honor the veterans
     of war
honor the veterans 
     of peace
the pledge
       revised and extended 

     I joined the National Guard my senior year in high school and thus began a life-long oft-time
troublesome relationship with the military and, at one time, I considered becoming a conscientious objector. I served in the Infantry in Korea during the so-called "Forgotten War" and later surrendered my M-1 in return for a Chaplain's Cross and retired from the US Naval Reserve after twenty years of service. During the Vietnam War I was also a full-time Campus  Minister.
     I honor the decision of those who serve in the military to defend democracy and protect the values of this country. I also honor those who conscientiously resist serving in the military to follow a higher calling as they understand it.
     I am disturbed at the too narrowly defined patriotism and jingoist diatribe that is all too often on display in our Independence Day observances. 
     I wrote the above poem this afternoon but it reflects a life time of rethinking. I offer it not to agitate but to encourage reflection.
                               Max
     

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Life less on the Border©


While the coffee is still hot

     evidence incontrovertible
          unrelenting anguish
Little lives rubbished
     caring capability paralyzed
Blanket hot wet
     covers my head
          breathing restricting
               nausea
I cry because I may get over it
Time to dismiss blue devils
Quicksand wisdom
     move sideways
          toward reliable compassion
Refabricate my life
     to fit God's dream


I must center myself before I open myself to the morning news. Otherwise I'm sick the whole day. Families ripped apart, children in cages, decent people turning savage: we're losing our grip on humanity. I know it doesn't have to be this way. I also know it is possible to lose my compassion. That frightens me. I have been told that if one is ever in quicksand the secret is not to panic and move deliberately slowly sideways to solid ground. I can, I will control my rage, dismiss the blue devils of depression, wipe the tears and look for an opening for compassionate action.
                                                                                               Max
                                 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Canyon Reflection

Slot Canyon©

Earth surrenders
        Crevice slices deep
       Light shaft pierces
Dark
         Holy Space
     Slow down the mind
Relax into awe
Be still
Be
Soul-ride the light
              Out of the hidden canyon
                                        Max

   Nearly twenty years ago I took these pictures in Antelope Canyon. Alluvial erosion and fast-flowing flash floods have, over millennia, sculpted natural corridors through the soft sandstone. Even on an overcast day, shards of light manage their way down to illuminate the dark. I found the scene fascinating then.
  Today, I've come to see the light in the canyon as a metaphor for life and most helpful in the darkest days. The first century mystic reminds us, "...The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness: the darkness couldn't put it out."
(John 1:5 The Message)  

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Gees Bend, Alabama 1968©
Purdue University students experience soul rich hospitality from economically poor hosts as they spend the night in an isolated African-American community.