Let It Be A Quiet Christmas

In the North the snow is falling
Soon it will be Christmas Day
But the news is so appalling
There’s only one thing I pray

Let it be a quiet Christmas
Let all the guns be still
Let it be a quiet Christmas
Lord, if it be Thy will
Please let it be Thy will

Frm the frozen streets of cities
To the deserts’ burning sands
Let hearts be moved with pity
For those who suffer in every land

Let it be a quiet Christmas
Bid the bombers all stand down
Let it be a quiet Christmas
In every village and town
In every village and town

In every camp and prison
At the borders all held fast
Bring an end to our divisions
Let the wars be done at last

Let it be a quiet Christmas
So the cries of pain may cease
Let it be a quiet Christmas
So the world may know some peace
Lord, let us know some peace

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Mystery Girl (Song for “Linda”)

So I log onto Facebook and what do I see
There‘s a “friend request” waiting there just for me
And I don’t know the face, she knows none of my friends
And I have strong suspicions of how this story ends
But for now she’s a Mystery Girl
For now just a Mystery Girl

She might be in Ghana, or maybe Tangiers
And I don’t really know her dreams or her fears
But she’s eager to chat, and her pictures seem nice
Still by now I have learned to always look twice
Especially at Mystery Girls
And so far she’s a Mystery Girl

Might not even be real, she might just be a bot
Just some poor guy’s attempt to get at what I got
But that’s what’s ironic, ‘cause I have nothing at all
So I can’t figure out why she gave me a call
This mysterious Mystery Girl
This faraway Mystery Girl

Or she just might be someone who is as real as me
Someone who feels lonely, who feels just like me
Someone reaching out to the rest of the world
For someone who will see that she’s not just some girl
That she’s not just some Mystery Girl
That she’s more than a Mystery Girl

 

America (Updated)

(It occurred to me at one point that the Simon & Garfunkel classic “America” could use some kind of revision – an updating, if you will. You may have wondered what happened to that pair of idealistic Midwestern lovers, who took a Greyhound bus from Pittsburgh to New York City… and the existential crisis that was just starting to form in the young man’s mind.

That whole story would be a good basis for a novel… but I had something more specific in mind. So, with all due respect and apologies to Mr. Simon…)

So we became lovers, we married our fortunes together
We took that Greyhound to NYC
Bought a house in Connecticut
Raised some kids, baked some pies
And that was our life in America…

“Kathy,” I said – we were at some convention in Pittsburgh –
“Our life has been such a dream so far…
“But inside I’m still just a poor kid from Saginaw
“There must be more to America…”

So we got back on the bus, went all sorts of places
Big cities, small towns, everywhere in between
Slowly we started to notice that something was missing…

“Hey man, got a cigarette, I’m six months laid off from the factory”
“I smoked my last one two decades ago”
But he thanked me anyway – I read Time Magazine
How the Dow rose over some increased yields

“Kathy,” I said – but she said, “Paul, just shut up and listen –
“You know what’s wrong here and so do I
“Count all the limos on the New Jersey Turnpike
“The rich ones are taking America
“Stealing the hopes of America
“Trying to kill the dream of America…”

#IAmSorry

OK guys. Time to “man up,” as they say.

You may have been drunk.  She may been drunk.
You might have gotten her drunk, or stoned, or whatever. Maybe deliberately, for one exact purpose.
You may have thought it was harmless fun, some kind of game.
You may have been trying to prove something to your buddies.
Or to yourself.
You might have had a plan, or it might have happened in a moment when you let your gonads overrule your brain.

You might not even be aware that what you did was hurtful.

Doesn’t matter.

You’re still on the hook.

Look back, and think carefully.

And look at how many of the women in your timelines are saying “#metoo.”

Own it, guys.

My name is Skip Mendler, and I owe some women an apology.

#IAmSorry

(And if you’re man enough to do it, take this text, replace my name with your own, and put it where everyone can see it.)

THE PEACE AND JUSTICE FILES: WAITING FOR THE NEXT SHOE

(“Peace and Justice Files” columnist Skip Mendler fled the United States on January 19, and has spent the last couple of months volunteering with a small refugee assistance group in Serbia.)

My time in Serbia is just about up – by the time you read these words I will be in Tuzla, Bosnia, getting ready to go back to Germany and resume some creative projects I was working on there. My experience here has been wonderful, traumatic, eye-opening, and heartbreaking. I hope I get a chance to return, or maybe even proceed further “upriver,” tracing the refugees’ path farther back, into Greece, Romania or maybe even Turkey.

But in the meantime… can I get something off my chest?

Remember Orwell’s NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR? You may recall how the omnipresent “telescreens” would periodically blare out news of some victory or other, followed by a breathless pronouncement along the lines of, “This brings the war within measurable distance of its end!”

(If you haven’t read NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR yet, please stop what you are doing now and go read it. You will understand what is happening now much better. Trust me on this.)

Well, all these little leaks and suggestions and rumors and possibilities that keep showing up in my newsfeeds these days are starting to sound very much like Orwell’s tantalizing telescreen, except now the message is more like “The end of the Trump Nightmare is in sight!” Indictments and impeachment resolutions are just around the corner! Mueller is about to make an earth-shattering announcement!

It’s driving me nuts, I tell you.

It’s not surprising, of course. There is probably nothing, not even the final season of GAME OF THRONES, that engenders greater feelings of anticipation than the idea of Trump and his crew being cast out of power. And so of course anything that suggests the coming breaking of dawn will garner retweets and sharings.

But this anticipation is itself dangerous. It can distract us from continuing to apply the necessary daily pressure on our elected officials. It can give us a sense of false hope that, when let down often enough, exhausts us and leads to frustration and despair.  And it can be used as bait.

At the same time, we are held in thrall by similarly phrased intimations of Apocalypse from a dozen different directions. When will the other shoe drop, and where? North Korea? Iran? Venezuela? All three at once?

So I am trying my best to ignore the “Sources say…” and “According to some…” stories. I am trying to focus on the immediate tragedies and successes in whose reality I can have some confidence.

Until I see the full-page photo of Donald Trump being led out of the White House in handcuffs.

Then I might start thinking more seriously about return tickets.

 

THE TORCH

(This poem, and its accompanying mime piece, were commissioned sometime in the 1980s, I believe for a discussion about what was happening in Central America at the time… I remember exactly where I was when the metaphor came to me, at the corner of Glenwood and Blue Ridge near Crabtree Mall.)

It came to us suddenly from above
Bright and powerful
And it only burned us
Until we learned how not to touch it directly

And the wise ones considered this thing
And decided that its use should be no secret
But that it should be given to all
That its uses should be taught
That it should be kept alive
For if it should ever be lost
Who knew when it would come again

Through winds of malice
And rains of doom
There have been those who kept it alive
And moving through the world
Whatever the costs

For there were always those who could not understand
This thing that was not darkness
And they would lay in waiting…
They would try to extinguish it
To erase it from the world
But somehow it would always be discovered again
Still smouldering…

Sometime it could be abused
What was intended to illuminate
Could be used to make others blind
What was intended to warm and empower
Could be used to destroy instead

But still the torch lives on
Its light is wisdom
Its warmth is love
Its fuel is your very heart and soul
Today the winds gather,and the rains grow strong
But the torch still burns in each of you
And with such keepers…
It will never fade away

A hosteler’s prayer

A hosteler’s prayer

I would speak to the One Who Listens
I would speak the Ones Who Bring Things About
I would speak to those who have brought me here

In the quiet moments of this morning
I have awakened in this room full of strangers
Whose tongues I do not know
Whose stories I have not heard
Whose hearts I have not seen

I ask that we may become friends
I ask that we may help each other
I ask that we may learn from each other
I ask that we may delight in our differences
And hold fast to our common bondsYy–YYYy

Like me, they are all on a journey
Some of them are fleeing great pain and unspeakable loss
I ask that they find comfort
I ask that their wounds be healed

Some of them are seeking adventure and discovery
I ask that they be safe
I ask that they find joy and awe and wonder
In the world you have set before us

Some of them are in search of knowledge and wisdom
I ask that they find what feeds their minds
I ask that their souls be nourished

Some of them are here… just to be here
I ask that this place will enrich their spirits
And that their spirits will enrich this place

Some of them are here because they are tired and worn
From the weight of their work in the world
I ask that they be refreshed, that they should find new strength
I ask that their burdens be lightened

Some are looking for work
To find their calling, their way in the world
To support their families, to make their contributions
That only they can make
I ask that they find the doors of opportunity open
I ask that they find their paths clear
I ask that they find satisfaction and fulfillment in their labors

Some are searching for love or companionship
To fill that gap in their lives, the hole in their hearts
I ask that their loneliness should end
Whether by the touch of another caring heart
Or the discovery of the strength of solitude

Whatever our journeys may be
I ask we may have the health and the strength
The wisdom, the vision, and the courage
To take each next step

I thank you for this place where I have slept
Bless those who have made it possible
Bless those who keep it running
Bless those who keep it clean

Bless the next head that rests upon this pillow
Bless the next heart that finds its rest here
Bless the next body that walks through these do