It is time to Repent

My Column for The Elgin Review was rejected this week by the paper. In fact, the opportunity to continue writing a column for The Elgin Review has been revoked. The editor wrote today saying,

“Rebecca, First, let me say thank you for your past column submissions. We have made a decision this week to go in a different direction. As a result, we will no longer be publishing your column.

Sincerely,

Dennis Morgan, Owner/Publisher”

I am publishing my column for this week here on my blog. I invite you to follow my blog, and share it widely as my voice is being silenced locally.

There was nothing of Jesus in what took place at the US Capitol on Epiphany. In amongst the “don’t tread on me” banners and Confederate and Trump flags, there were also crosses and banners and signs carrying Jesus’ name, but he was not there. Not with the zealots who stormed our Citadel of Democracy equipped with zip ties for restraining our elected representatives, not with the hooligans who smeared feces and peed in its historic hallways, not with the mob chanting to hang the Vice President and not with the deluded dopes who have been so brain-washed by years of Breitbart and Fox and church leaders who long ago climbed into bed with crooked politicians, that they mistakenly and naively believed they were being “patriots” promoting a righteous cause that day.

There is nothing of Jesus in the frenzied waving of flags bearing one man’s name. There is nothing of Jesus and nothing pro-life about a politician and his minions who whip-up a crowd in a rally and then point them in the direction of the Capitol where five people lost their lives in the violence, including a police officer. Do not be deceived, Jesus was not any part of that. His name has been desecrated just as clearly as our nation’s Capitol has been desecrated. Those who participated in Wednesday’s despicable debacle were called “special people” by our President who has curried the favor of racists and bigots and extremists throughout the four years of his term in office. He was wrong. He has been wrong all along. They are not special. They are wrong. They are certainly loved by God, but they are wrong, and what they did was sin. Those who continue to support President Trump after this are not special, either. They too, are wrong, they too—though loved by God, are sinning.  

The majority of voters in our state voted in November in support of President Trump. It is time for the scales to fall from the eyes of any among us who sincerely seek to follow Jesus. The direction in which the President and his people are going does not point the way to the reign of God. It misses the mark. Like the wise men from the east who turned their backs against Herod and went home by a different way after paying homage to the baby Jesus, it is past time for those who love Jesus to turn away from this madness and seek a more excellent way. It is past time for those who love God and have supported this president to repent. To repent means to make a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn. There is nothing of Jesus in what has become of this man’s presidency. Turn away.

“Not by might and not by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of Hosts”—Zechariah 4:6 (NRSV). Jesus was not part of the mob last Wednesday. Jesus’ law is love. Jesus’ gospel is peace.

**

I am the Pastor of Park Congregational United Church of Christ west of Elgin and First Congregational Church in Neligh. What I write in my columns, and what I preach from those pulpits may be views that are not fully shared by all the members of those congregations. I appreciate that they grant me freedom of the pulpit to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as I, through years of study and faithful service, understand it. 

Truth as a Guiding Light

Column The Elgin Review

1.6.2021

January 6th on the church calendar is the Feast of the Epiphany. It’s the day that brings the season of Christmas to a close. It’s a day that celebrates the visit by Wise Men to the Holy Family. It’s a day for enlightenment, a day for remembering the wisdom of following a star—for staying true to our guiding light.  It’s a day to be reminded that Herod’s words were not to be trusted. Though he was King, the Wise Men did not acquiesce to his request to return to him with news of the newborn-King Jesus’ whereabouts. Herod falsely proclaimed that he too wished to pay tribute to the baby, but the Magi, with the help of angels who visited them in their dreams understood clearly Herod’s motives and went home by a different way.

This January 6th is not only Epiphany, it is the day the Congress of the United States of America gathers to ratify the election of Joseph R. Biden as the 46th President of the United States. Since the election in November sixty-one lawsuits have been filed on behalf of President Trump challenging the results in different states. Sixty of the suits have failed in courts of law presided over by justices appointed by both Republicans and Democrats. There have been no instances, verified by evidence in any court of law, of voter fraud on a level that would change the results of November’s election. In recent days our President has called for protests in the streets of Washington D.C. and has cajoled and pressured and leaned on Republican leaders across the country to do something to overturn the results of the election.

In the midst of this, we would do well to follow the lead of the Magi who made their way to visit baby Jesus; the one whom scriptures affirm is the way and the truth and the life. Truth matters. When they could tell that King Herod was not truthful with them, the Magi found a better way. It’s time for us, as a nation, no matter our political affiliations, no matter how we’ve voted in recent elections, to reclaim truthfulness as a guiding light. It’s time for us to find a better way. For those of us who are Christian, it’s time for us to reclaim what the eighth of our Ten Commandments teaches us, “Do not Bear False Witness.” It’s time for us to refuse to support the machinations of those whose methods and motives play loose with the truth.

Politicians and pundits lie freely on all sides of the political aisle in the press and in the media where there is no cost to them for misleading the public. Lies uttered to save one’s hide and to further one’s causes carry little cost in our culture. So, how do we know what’s true and what isn’t?

In our country one way to gauge the truth is in our courts of law. Lawyers and witnesses certainly lie in court, but if it is proven they have lied, they are held accountable—sentenced to prison, or stiff fines, or both. Lawyers proven to have lied in court lose their licenses to practice law in the future. And in sixty out of sixty-one cases, lawyers representing the President have failed to make their case, because there have been no cases to be made without perjuring themselves.

My prayer is that on January 6th our nation will not descend into violence because some of us have been misled by politicians who put their self-interest above the best interests of our nation. My prayer is that people from across the political spectrum will choose to follow the way of our Savior, which is the way of truth and that by doing so we might have life.

Inhospitality is the new Hospitality

My column for The Antelope County News November 18,2020.

Five years ago, Mike and I bought a new table. Moving to Neligh, we were concerned if the table would fit in the parsonage. Without its leaves it seats eight but with leaves it expands and expands again to seat twenty. We love being hospitable. We love having our whole big family, our six brilliant, funny kids and their significant others and friends gathered around the table eating delicious food. We love having guests. Our guest book, currently sitting unused and lonely in the entryway after all these COVID-19 months, is filled with the names of exchange students, refugees, friends passing through town, church members and neighbors who’ve given us the great gift of their time and good company around our table over the years.

When I think of Jesus, I think of all the meals he shared. He ate with his friends, with tax collectors and “sinners,” he oversaw the feeding of 5,000 people and 4,000 people in the first-ever church “pot-luck” suppers. Jesus cooked breakfast on the lakeshore for his friends and gathered them together around the table in a meal we still remember in worship when we take communion.

Gathering for meals is holy. Gathering for meals is important. Hospitality is part of living life to its fullest.

This year, Mike’s birthday falls on Thanksgiving. Any other year, we would be gathering the whole crew, in-laws and out-laws and stragglers without somewhere else to be and we’d be hosting a whole house-full for a feast around our big table. Instead, because of how much we love all those we’d ordinarily invite to join us and all their co-workers and neighbors with whom they’ll be in contact in the days and weeks after Thanksgiving, we won’t be hosting anyone at the parsonage for dinner.  COVID-19 is running amok in Nebraska. So, Mike and I will be sitting across from each other, just the two of us at our big table, feasting on the goodness of God’s love and giving thanks for faith and friends and family far away.

Gathering for meals is holy. So is not gathering in order to preserve each other’s health. Gathering for meals is important. So is knowing it is not the season to gather. Hospitality is part of living life to its fullest. So is foregoing the parties this year so those we love are alive to be with us next year.

Jesus, out of love, gave his life for us. Sad as it will be, we too, can give, really just a little, we can give up our Thanksgiving traditions this year. This one time, the most hospitable thing we can do is to be inhospitable, limiting who sits at our feast tables even as we celebrate the unlimited goodness of God.

Another Way to Look at It

Willie Green was driving as we headed toward the truck-stop for dinner after church. It was my first Sunday back at my Student Pastorate in rural Kentucky after being away for my wedding and honeymoon in 1983. Seeing a political poster stapled to a telephone pole, I asked Willie,

“who won the election for Governor while I was away?”

In her tobacco-thickened bluegrass drawl she grumbled, “Oh, that Martha Layne Collins, did.”

“You don’t sound happy about it.” I replied.

“I just don’t think it’s right, her being a woman and all.”

It was quiet in the car for a little while. Then Willie said,

“But then, I didn’t think it was right having you be our pastor, either.”

A little nervous, I asked, “So how’s that working out?” She laughed and said,

“It’s working out great! I guess maybe that Martha Layne won’t be too bad a Governor after all.” 

Five years or so later, I was sitting at the kitchen table back home in Omaha visiting my parents. My Dad, who had always been my champion, encouraging me every step along the way in my education and preparation for ministry was reading the World Herald and said something about “that’s the problem with the economy these days, all these women going to work.”

“Um. Dad,” I ventured. “I thought you are really proud of me and the work I do.”

Dad put down the paper. I could see the cogs turning in his brain.

“Maybe the problem,” I said, “isn’t that women are working, maybe the problem is that the economy isn’t.”

“Well, that is another way to look at it.” Said Dad.

Last week I was at the county jail where I meet with some of the women for Bible study and discussion a couple times each week. “Any results yet on the election?” someone asked. It was Friday afternoon. I told them it was still not called for either candidate, but it looked like Biden and Harris were pulling ahead. The reaction among the women was mixed. What surprised me was two of the women, one young, one older, both said they didn’t want Biden and Harris because Harris is a woman, and “women shouldn’t be doing jobs like that.” I checked my watch, hoping it would tell me what year it is.  When it didn’t, I told the women the story of me and Willie Green and the election of Martha Layne Collins in Kentucky thirty-five years ago.

It turns out the women had discussed it with a man who did some other ministry in the jail, and decided they agreed with him that women aren’t fit for leadership, that women need to know their place and stay in it. Why? Maybe because they, like so many of the women I meet at the jail, have known nothing but abuse from men for most of their lives. Instead of having the gift of parents, teachers, pastors and professors, male and female alike, who cheered them on and encouraged them to aim higher, these women have been put down and pushed around and told they don’t count. But they do. I told them they do. I told them being a woman in no way makes them less than a man, and, in my opinion, Senator Harris being a woman in no way disqualifies her from office.

Women, like men, can and should do all that God has given them the gifts to do. God created all of us in God’s image, and God said, “that’s good.”

The day after I was at the jail, on Saturday, the election was called for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I wasn’t particularly a Harris fan through the primaries, but when she spoke on Saturday as the Vice-President elect of our nation I broke down and sobbed great big, racking unexpected sobs. I think it’s right. I think it’s just right, her being a woman and all. And I suspect on Saturday afternoon God said something like, “it’s about time!” before saying, “now that’s really, really good.”

Doing Old Good Things New Good Ways

My column for The Elgin Review November 4, 2020

The smell of turkey roasting wafted up from the basement as I ran from there up the three flights of stairs to the top floor on the far end of my sprawling dorm, Clay Hall. My room was the only place I had access to a telephone in those dark ages before limitless long distance and phones that weren’t wired into the walls. It was on three south. Breathlessly, I dialed the number I’d memorized before heading to kindergarten, (402) 453-2384. Mother answered and when I said, “Mom,” she called out, “Marshall, it’s Becky again, get on the extension.” (In the dark ages there were no speaker phones). Daddy picked up the phone in their bedroom. They both laughed when I gasped and then asked my question, gave me a quick answer, told me they loved me and I flew back down the stairs.

When I learned I was the Resident Assistant with dorm duty for the Thanksgiving weekend, I was sad. I’d never missed a Thanksgiving Dinner with my family. The tv tuned to football, grandpa breaking dried bread into pieces in the big stainless bowl that only came out for stuffing, Mother sautéing celery and onion, perfect pumpkin pies baking in the oven upstairs, while the turkey roasted in Grandma’s old apartment downstairs, and me preparing a relish tray and setting the table with a pretty lace cloth, the once-a-year china and silverware I’d polished the week before.

Here I was, twenty-one years old, in Oklahoma, far away from Omaha preparing Thanksgiving Dinner in the little apartment of the Dorm Mother who’d gotten to go home. The guests would be the stragglers; foreign students and those who had no way to get home or no friends to go home with for the holiday. And I, whose prior culinary skills were mostly mac-n-cheese, beanie-weenies and chocolate chip cookies was cooking the kind of dinner my mother, an exquisite cook, always prepared for Thanksgiving. Two weeks earlier her letter arrived along with recipe cards for dressing, cranberry ice and pumpkin pie. In it she detailed, “Becky dear, for the dressing you will want to start two days ahead by setting the bread out to dry…”

My father laughed so hard he cried when on one of my forty-eleven breathless phone calls home I asked what to do with that weird little bag of stuff I pulled out of the turkey along with the dressing. “What? Mother asked, giggling. “You were supposed to take that out before you stuffed and roasted the turkey!” “What do I do with it?” I insisted. They told me to throw it out and promised never to tell anyone what I’d done.

My parents and I laughed through that day. Though I wasn’t home, it is one of my all-time favorite holiday memories. I still have the letter my mother wrote to me, the recipe cards she sent, and my notes from those phone calls home scrawled on little lime-green squares of paper from a note cube that sat on my dormitory desk. I’ll be pulling out the recipes and age-stained instructions in Mother’s beautiful script three weeks from now as I prepare a meal this year for Mike and me.

This year loving our families and our neighbors at Thanksgiving means not getting together unless we can all quarantine for two full weeks before and then for another two weeks after Thanksgiving. It feels terrible thinking about it.

We’re not traveling to share the holiday in Minneapolis with cousins and our Minnesota kids. Our Lincoln, NYC and Pittsburgh offspring aren’t heading here, either. Instead, we’ll be calling each other on the phone or “Zooming,” comparing cooking notes, laughing and giving thanks for the technology that allows us to be together even as this pandemic keeps us apart. We’ll share cooking tips, and laugh at cooking disasters, rejoice in our good fortune, and look forward to being together next year when COVID-19 has run its course and scientists have had time to develop a vaccine. If it’s warm enough to eat outside, who knows? Maybe local friends can safely join us for a feast on our patio.

I hope you are beginning to make your plans for how you will keep each other and our community safe this Thanksgiving. God will certainly be happy to receive our gratitude whether we’re together or apart. Who knows? Years from now, our memories of the year the pandemic upended our holiday traditions may be among our fondest.

**

You are always welcome to join us for worship at Park Congregational United Church of Christ, ten miles west of Elgin on HWY 70 and ½ mile south. Worship is at 9:15 am and available on Zoom. I love to hear from you. beckyzmcneil@gmail.com.

Traveling the World with a Mug of Tea

My Column for the Antelope County News 10.14.2020

While I was on vacation for two weeks, I sat with a black minister as he preached a gut-wrenching sermon to white America.  I traveled on a transport ship with a poor young woman from England as she was sent away to imprisonment in Australia for a crime she didn’t commit. I wandered rural Sweden with two men whose lives diverged and converged again in heartbreak and happiness. I stretched and dreamed and danced along with a middle-aged reporter who convinced a professional ballet company to let her perform in their production of the holiday classic, The Nutcracker.

While on vacation I saw the ghost of Emmet Till and ghosts of myriad other young, murdered, black children standing witness and inspiring courage to end their slaughter. And, on the same vacation, in Shaker Heights, Ohio, I watched as two family’s lives entwined for better and for worse. In the evenings Billy Crystal regaled me and Mike with his too true, righteously funny tales of aging. In the mornings I sat with an ancient song-writer singing of God’s faithfulness.

All these experiences took place from the comfort of the guest house where we stayed in the Black Hills of South Dakota. With a book on my lap and a mug of tea at hand, I traveled the world, thinking deeply, laughing, crying, empathizing, learning.  

Books open us to the whole world of ideas and experiences. Books allow us to travel places we will never get to go and to visit times we have never lived. Books help us to walk in the steps of, and live in the hearts and minds of people we otherwise might never understand. Books help us be more humane, as through them, we open ourselves to new ways of understanding our neighbors.

For the Good Book, and for all sorts of good books please join me in giving thanks.

A Lot to Learn

My Column for The Elgin Review October 14, 2020

A girl in my high school had a crush on me. I didn’t get it. It was just six years after Stonewall. It was six years before the first known case of AIDS. In my insular little world homosexuality wasn’t something I was aware of. “Coming out” was something I read about on the society page of the Omaha paper when daughters of the wealthy were formally introduced as debutantes, ready to take their places in high society. Coming out back then had nothing to do with telling someone you were gay. My classmate wasn’t “out.” I just knew that being her friend felt complicated so I found ways to stay too busy to invest much in our friendship. Years passed before I understood why she seemed so hurt by me. I had a lot to learn.

My boys grew up in a different world after the worst of the AIDS crisis. Once, three years after Matthew Shepherd was brutally killed for being gay, when my boys were middle-school aged, I was putting laundry away in the linen closet outside their bed room when one of them was with a couple friends from school. I heard the boys say, “Oh! That’s so gay!” and they laughed and threw the term around loosely. This was “gay” and that was “gay” and it was clear that “gay” was decidedly un-cool.

After his friends went home, I asked my son about it.

“It’s just something we say.” He claimed.

“We don’t mean anything by it.”

I asked, “Would you say it around someone who’s gay?”

“No, Mom!” he insisted. “But I don’t know anyone who’s gay.”

A beloved member of our extended family, a member of the choir at church, his grandparent’s pastor, his own school principal who helped him adjust to life in his new school were all gay. I could see the cogs turning in his head as I “outed” people he loved to him.

“Is there anything un-cool about these people?”

“No. They’re all really kind to me.” He looked crushed. “I’ll never use ‘gay’ again to describe something bad.” 

“Good,” I said. “I’m glad.”

This past Sunday was “National Coming Out Day.” I’m thinking about the incredible people I know who are gay and “out.” I’m thinking about how much poorer my life would be without them. I’m thinking about their contributions to the churches I’ve served and the neighborhoods I’ve lived in. I’m thinking about the heartache many of them have faced, the cruelty many of them have been subjected to. I’m thinking about the ways the church, through bad scholarship and selective application of scripture has perpetuated the silencing and sidelining of beautiful children of God solely because of who they are attracted to, who they love.

I’m thinking we’ve come a long way since I was in high school. We’ve come a long way since my sons were in school. But we still have a long way to go. I’m “coming out” to say, we still have a lot to learn.

**

No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome at Park Congregational United Church of Christ. Ten miles west of Elgin on HWY 70 and ½ mile south. Worship is at 9:15 on Sunday mornings.  I love to hear from you. My email is beckyzmcneil@gmail.com

The Power of One

My Column for The Elgin Review 10.7.2020

Sometimes all it takes is one person to restore another person’s belief in humanity.

Mike and I are just back from a two-week vacation in the Black Hills. Our plan was to hang out in a beautiful place and keep away from other people as much as possible to avoid the risk of COVID-19. It mostly worked except when we took the 1880’s train from Hill City to Keystone round trip.

Mike’s a train buff. His dad worked on the Union Pacific when Mike was little. Mac died when Mike was fourteen so early memories of riding the rails with him are especially fond. We stopped by the station where signs were posted to stay six feet apart. Sanitizer stations marked the entrances. Plexiglass shields protected souvenir buyers from sales folk and vice-verse.  Comfortable that precautions were in place, Mike ordered our tickets.

Before the conductor yelled, “all aboard” and the engine let out its’ distinctive first “whoosh” of steam, I was already steamed. We were surrounded by people without masks, standing too close to each other on the platform. When we boarded the train, the windows were closed against the chill of the day. On our car every seat was full and only two other couples wore masks. Grandma and grandson wore theirs onto the train, but when they sat down two feet in front of us, they took them off.

The scenery was breathtaking, but I was holding mine (well, trying to) that whole first hour. When we stepped onto the platform in Keystone while the engine switched to the other end of the train to make the return trip, once we were finally socially distant from others, my first words to Mike were,

“I hate people.”

“Oh, Becky. That’s not true. You, of all people, do not hate people.”

I assured my beloved, “Oh, indeed I do.”

“How hard is it to err on the side of caution and wear a mask?” I snapped.

“I hate people.”

Back on the train for the return trip, I was by the window and I opened it despite the chill. With air whooshing in I felt safer.

At the first crossing out of the Keystone station, a lanky young man with a buck-toothed grin in a floppy hat stood outside a white van and waved with great enthusiasm as the train passed. I and others waved back. Surprisingly, the same man stood waving at the next crossing and the next. The older man, at the wheel inside the van, waved too. Fourteen crossings, more than an hour of driving and stopping for the same train. Fourteen times, the young man with the grin and special needs, waved and shared his grin with us. The older man (his dad?) had the route down pat. Perfectly timed. They’d done this routine a gazillion times before. The old man racing the train, stopping and parking again and again and again so the young man could wave and grin as we rode by. 

I wept a little and whispered to Mike,

“I don’t hate people anymore.”

**

If you’ve soured on your fellow humans, if you find yourself wondering where’s the good in this world, I hope you’ll find your way to worship with us at Park Congregational Church ten miles west of Elgin on Highway 70 and ½ mile south where God has never failed to show up to show us self-giving love every time we gather. Worship is at 9:15.

I love hearing from you. My email is beckyzmcneil@gmail.com

Gifts to Each Other

My Column for The Elgin Review July 29, 2020

We were in the same work-group, side by side on our knees pulling weeds from a flower bed in front of Child Saving Institute in Omaha during a regional church meeting years ago. I was living in Lincoln and chose the Child Saving Institute project because I was adopted through the agency as a baby. My ties to the place were deeper than the roots of the weeds we were pulling. He was from one of the Omaha churches. As we worked in the hot sun, we got acquainted. He was gregarious and funny. He wore kindness like cologne and had a smile that lit his face, spontaneously lifting my spirit.

In the way conversations have of traveling from one subject to another, as we moved from weeding to mulching our conversation came around to my youngest son’s Asperger’s Syndrome. Ben was in middle school then. Middle school was better for Ben than grade school, but there were still challenges. I was concerned about the possibilities for Ben’s adult life. I don’t remember the details of our mulching conversation. What I remember is Merlin listened with kindness and then joyfully told me he had Asperger’s Syndrome, too.

Earlier, with glee, Merlin told me his love story about meeting and marrying Tami.  He told me about his Ph.D. and his work. Here, in the flower beds in front of the agency that had been my first home, the orphanage where I was gifted with my family, was an embodiment of hope that my youngest son might one day live a rich and full adult life—might marry, could have a meaningful career, could be a beloved, contributing member of his community.  Merlin was the first adult “Aspie” I ever met. Generously, he offered to talk with me any time. He was eager to meet Benjamin, and promised me to be of whatever help Ben might need mapping out his future.

Merlin was a gift to me from God. Merlin and Tami moved away from Omaha years before Mike and I moved back to the city so my friendship with him has been mostly through Facebook. If you’re a parent, you know the deep appreciation I feel for this man who took keen interest in my son. When Ben graduated from High School, Merlin was one of his cheerleaders from afar. When Ben graduated from college, I didn’t have to see Merlin’s smile to feel him beaming from hundreds of miles away.

Last week, Merlin posted a picture of himself beaming from inside what looked like a clear plastic robot head. He was in the hospital in California where he worked as a speech therapist in a nursing home. The funny looking contraption on his head was an Italian invention being used to keep Merlin off a ventilator. He had COVID-19. Merlin joked about the sounds his robot head made. They sounded like flatulence and it made him laugh. I laughed when I read his post.

Yesterday afternoon I received word Merlin died. The Italian flatulent robot-head apparently was no match for this dread-disease. I’m not laughing today.

Until now, other than John Prine, whom I’ve heard live in concert, those who’ve died from COVID-19 have been far-away strangers to me. I’ve been fortunate and thankful it hasn’t been as bad as I feared it might be.

Ben’s brother, my middle son, is awaiting the results of the COVID test he took last week. He’s been under the weather for days in Pittsburgh, PA where he lives. This morning COVID-19 is not far away, it’s close to home even though we don’t have many cases here in Antelope County. Will you pray with me for a vaccine, for effective treatment, for Dan and all who await test results, for those who are ill right now, for Tami and all those who’ve lost someone they love?

Thank you for doing everything in your power to be safe and to keep each other safe. We are God’s gift to each other. Just like Merlin was to me.

**

Park Church is going back indoors for August as long as Antelope County doesn’t have a spike in COVID-19 cases this week. You are welcome to join us for worship 10 miles west of Elgin on HWY 70 and ½ mile south or via Zoom at 9:15 every Sunday morning. I am always interested in hearing from you. Beckyzmcneil@gmail.com.

 

Pressing Matters

My new spiritual discipline is ironing.

Mother ironed a lot.

She was ironing when the news announcer

broke into the afternoon programming

on our black and white Zenith portable tv

to say that J.F.K. had been shot.

I was three years old.

I remember the familiar, cozy-like smell

of sheets and shirts freshly pressed and hot–

steam rising in front of mother’s sad, sweet face.

 

The basement of the parsonage is cool.

It’s quiet and roomy and smells of years of clean laundry.

I set up Mike’s mother’s ironing board to use when sewing

but in recent weeks I’ve started ironing many things:

his handkerchiefs I used to simply smooth with my hand,

pillowcases, our COVID masks, the top part of top sheets

determined to fold over in odd little bits, our worn cloth napkins.

Under the iron, fibers fall in line

a quick spritz of water flattens the fate of recalcitrant wrinkles.

The hot, crisp smell promises all will be well.

 

As if I could iron out the wrinkles in my heart,

the folded over places in my mind.

As if the assassination of reason, the crumpling of decency,

the handkerchiefs heavy with sobs and snot from

demonstrators demeaned and detained by dictatorial bullies

could be spritzed and sprayed and fixed

with a hot iron and steam rising indignant off of sweet faces.

I am sad. I miss my mother.

Turn off the news.

Keep ironing, keep pressing on.