Tag Archives: Marriage

Courage at Twilight: Recommended to the Temple

Salt Lake Temple

On a Sunday afternoon, I took Mom and Dad to see their church leaders to renew their temple recommends. This document allows them admittance to the temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The Church has 265 temples worldwide in operation or at some stage of construction.  They are magnificent buildings, and we consider them a House of God on earth.  Temples are not for regular weekly worship services, but for ceremonies in which we covenant with God to obey his commandments, to be moral and chaste, to contribute our time and means to the Church, and to love and serve one another.  We are instructed on the purpose of existence and the nature of God and his Son.  And couples are married and families sealed together not just until death but for eternity.   We change into white clothing as an aspirational symbol of purity and cleanliness, and of having left the world outside.  Mom and Dad do not visit the temples anymore due to age and infirmity, but visited temples monthly during the previous decades.  Even not attending, to them it is important to be worthy to attend.  So, they cheerfully waited in the church meetinghouse foyer for their interviews, making pleasant small talk with the other temple-goers.  I waited for them as they each had their turn, knowing the questions they would be asked, including: Do you have faith in God the Eternal Father and in his Son Jesus Christ?  Do you believe in Jesus and his role as your Savior and Redeemer?  Do you strive for moral cleanliness, and are you chaste?  Are you a tithe payer?  Do you abstain from consuming harmful substances?  Do you believe in the truthfulness of the Church, and support its Prophet and Apostles?  Are you honest in all that you do?  Mom and Dad each emerged from their brief interview with humble smiles, the smiles of peace from living lives of faith and good works.

 

Pictured above: Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah (where I live), dedicated in 1898.

Some Church temples around the world:

Washington D.C. Temple

Washington, D.C.

 

Laie Hawaii Temple

Hawaii, Laie

 

Hong Kong China Temple

Hong Kong

 

Accra Ghana Temple

Ghana, Accra

 

Lisbon Portugal Temple

Portugal, Lisbon

 

Oakland California Temple

California, Oakland

 

Sao Paulo Brazil Temple

Brazil, Sao Paulo

Courage at Twilight: The Doorbell

From my home office window, I saw the USPS mail truck drive by.  A few minutes later the doorbell rang.  I ran down the stairs and opened the front door to find no one there and no packages on the porch and no mail on the javelina snout.  Huh, I wondered and literally scratched my bald head.  Mom was sitting calmly at the kitchen table.  “Mom, I heard the doorbell ring, but nobody’s there.”  She allowed a sheepish grin and told me it was she that had rung the bell.  At my quizzical look, she confided that the doorbell is a kind of intercom message from her to help Dad get up and get moving into the day.

Grooves

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I have just learned that another friend–a lovely, talented woman–has suffered decades of control and disdain from her husband.  Is it simply human nature to be boorish?  I don’t buy it. Life need not be such a slog.  Every man, woman, and child on this planet can learn to be more kind and caring, more loving and forgiving, more outward viewing.  Sure, it takes a little effort, a little discipline.  The ultimate means of assuring our own success is to contribute to the success of those around us, not to tear them down.  What will I (and you) do today to build another up? What connection do you see between this note and my poem “Grooves” below?

GROOVES

Our two lives
have worn two grooves
in our sagging mattress,
two trenches
where we have lain
side by side
through the battles.
I would that there were
no grooves at all,
or only one.
So much that
a new, level mattress
could not erase or replace.
As moonbeams glow
on the frozen snow,
I lay and listen
to the woman
in the sunken space
next to mine.

Color Me

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How does one write a poem about domestic violence without slipping into shallow prose, or, more importantly, without trivializing a horrifying trauma.  As a municipal attorney, I have helped hold DV perpetrators accountable for 23 years.  I have spoken with the women, seen their fear, heard their terror.  I have seen the photographs of bruises, heard the sobbing screams in 911 recordings, and watched the abused tremble on the witness stand.  I have watched the “bad guys” smirk and win acquittals from ignorant or misogynist juries.  How I admire the courage victims have to become survivors, to stand tall and to say “Never again!”  I wrote this poem for victims of domestic violence, though the poem is by no means a celebration or victory song.  The poem attempts to express both the horror and the hope of someone caught, for now, in the twisted power and control dynamics of domestic violence.  To all of them, I say: have courage; have hope.

COLOR ME

blue—royal
blue—navy
purple almost to black
witness
Van Gogh starry nights:
beautiful
but
not here
where pale skin
should be

red lightning bolts
in white orb

two weeks
maybe three
until
I can pretend
it did not happen
no one knows

dark pigments
you paint on pale canvass
private studio
still life model undressed

would you plied
with greens and yellows,
orange and sky-blue

pinpoint pupils
in a Saint-Rémy sky

A Perfect Match

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“Such a cute couple!”  “They are so good together!”  I have heard these and other phrases so often about couples, young and old.  But what does it take to make a perfect match?  “Opposites attract,” says the cliche, though I’m not sure I believe it.  It is that we admire in our partners what we lack, or do we feel more comfortable with someone similar to us in personality and demeanor?  In this poem I explore two sides of a relationship that differ and yet complement.  I admit to tending more toward the second half of each couplet, though the poem is not (necessarily) autobiographical.  What are your opinions about what makes the perfect match?  Let me know by leaving your comment!

A PERFECT MATCH

impulsive
deliberate

spontaneous
self-conscious

hopeful
fearful

self-possessed
over-shoulder-watching

free-thinking
conforming

curious
contemplative

ebullient
restrained

giggling
steady now

disciplined
falling off the wagon

fun-loving
nose to the grindstone

inclined toward cheerfulness
tending to be sad

star-gazing
spot-scrubbing

bibber
tee-totaler

go to hell
I’m sorry

let’s go!
we’re late

bratwurst
sauerkraut

pedal to the floor
foot on the break

effusive
reserved:

beautifully broken

secretly afraid:

a perfect match

I Waited for You

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Some of us wait silently to be loved, wait expectantly for our needs to be met.  Others of us demand to be loved with stomping feet and a sharp tongue.  The fortunate among us have learned to express their needs in ways that the listener understands, respects, and responds.  We are all different in how we approach life and love, yet we all want and deserve love.  My hope is that, rather than waiting for love or demanding love, we will learn to seek love in healthy, positive ways.  Beyond this, my prayer is that we will first offer love and kindness to others, thus inviting love and kindness to come back to us.

This poem personalizes one seemingly ill-fated approach to finding love.  What do you think the poem’s speaker could have done differently?  Should the speaker have done anything differently?  Was the speaker’s approach unreasonable?  Consider posting your answer in the comment section below.

I WAITED FOR YOU

I waited for you:
Waited for you to come to me.
But you did not.
I waited for you
Like the crimson clouds after the tired sun drops behind the mountains.
When you came to me at last,
I had faded and gone.

I waited for you:
Waited for you to touch me.
But you did not.
I waited for you
Like a dry, dusty leaf under a charcoal sky when the soothing rain won’t fall.
When you reached for me at last,
I had withered and gone.

I waited for you:
Waited for you to smile at me.
But you did not.
I waited for you
Like a famished infant yearning to suck from her mother’s ripe, fragrant breast.
When you smiled at me at last,
I had drifted and gone.

Chapter 41: Of Marriage, Lies, and Promises

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–Marriage is a long, clumsy dance, with frequent stepping on toes.–

I sat on the couch next to Angie while she held baby Hyrum over her shoulder.  Feeling romantic, I put my arm around her neck and shoulders.  My hand alighted upon a cold, wet spot of vomited breast-milk on the burp cloth draped over her shoulder.  She laughed at how “romantic” it was.  I joined in the chuckle after a momentary shiver of “ew.” Continue reading

Sorting Socks

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My wife and children and I crammed ourselves into a small hotel room in southern Utah where I was attending a legal conference for a few days.  At three months pregnant, my wife should not have been having contractions, but she was having contractions–bad ones.  Soon they became unbearable.  We knew what it was and headed for the rural hospital, leaving the children in the care of their oldest sibling.  This poem weaves together that horrific experience with others to address our attempts to deal with physical and emotional pain.

SORTING SOCKS

You bend with a wince and whisper that
the pain has come again,
the pain in your side above your left hip,
the pain that halts your thoughts and your speech and your steps,
makes you breathe in short and sharp.
That pain again.

The pain began after your last child’s birth,
two years and eleven months ago.
It comes and it goes with caprice,
making a shouting arms-flung-wide appearance,
interrupting your reading and your cooking and your puzzle-piece placing
until it steps off its box and fades into the conquered crowd for awhile.

She did the ultrasound from inside.
I’m glad I wasn’t there.
“It wasn’t so bad,” you said, but
I’m glad I wasn’t there.

The technician warned she could see a shadow,
a shadow on the organ that wombed seven children,
and several more that came early or deformed
or not at all, like when in that tourist town clinic
you screamed for pain killers; you,
steadfast as a hundred-year oak in a hurricane; you,
determined as a heifer facing a driving snow; you,
who pushed out seven babies with not a pill or a shot;
you begged and moaned on the gurney
for something to make the pain go away.
The nice doctor made you babble and moan, and said to me,
“Don’t worry, I’ve done this once before.”
He brought you the baby that wasn’t, in a bottle,
and you sobbed and shook when he took it away.

After a gray week of waiting they said
you were fine: no growth, no shadow of a growth.
No reason for that pain.
You called me and cried, you felt stupid:
all that for nothing. If you had to go through all that,
at least it could be something instead of nothing.
I offered to cheer you, and told you that,
with my Trasks on my desk, I discovered
I had on one blue sock and one black.
You mumbled, “. . . stupid. I sort the socks.”
I meant to be cheery
but made you feel dumb.
That pain again.
I didn’t care how the socks were sorted—they were clean.
Next day I wore one black sock and one blue,
but thought it best not to mention it.

Chapter 19: Porn

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–The Sego Lily is the most delicate and elegant of chalices, a veritable grail.–

The state highway traverses the valley three-quarters of a mile away, perpendicular to Church Road as I approach Rabbit Lane.  In the dark morning, a long line of white headlights travels north toward the Great Salt Lake, becoming red taillights as I pan from south to north.

Where do they all go? Continue reading