Once I Was a Child (A Poem)

Once I was a Child

Have you ever read The Little Prince?
Or Catcher in the Rye? Or just Jesus’ admonition,
“Blessed are these little ones.”
There’s a purity in joy and hope that only children know.
Crave that peaceful chaos.

I grew older, though, and outgrew those things.
I’ve grown old enough already to yearn for those lost things.
I cast aside the unassailable might of childhood, but cling, day by day, to all its weaknesses.

I feel, still, like a little child,
Confused, scared, unprepared,
And dropped into a great big world.

Now I’m chasing, every day, after learning, after answers,
After all the things I’ll need when I’m grown up….
Then I recall, my heart all gripped in terror, that the time has come and passed.

Oh, I am grown.
I’ve stepped into my life, put on adulthood like a costume.
It’s a role I’m always playing, now.
I tremble, and worry someone will notice, will see through my disguise.

I’m just a child, guessing at my world.
I stumble and I fall, I burn my hand and scrape my knees, every single day.
I hide, from what I am, and from what I am not.

When does that end?
Will I outgrow this, too, or go on faking ’til that role is second-nature?
Will I die a fraud, or someday, old and grey, discover that it’s true,
Now, at last, with no one left to listen, that I can truly say,
I am all grown up.

What truly makes me shudder, when I stop and think,
Is all the precious things that I have broken, in the course of this deceit.
Clumsy child, foolish acts, and Mom’s fine vase in pieces on the floor.
I do that still, but this is my real life.
I am already there, surrounded by responsibilities my heart can’t comprehend.

Though I pretend,
I play the part,
And I’m afraid.

The King, to the Poet (A Poem)

The King, to the Poet

Something happened, when no one was looking.
Quietly, politely, we tore it all down–
Ages old, majestic and mighty, we tore it down to build something new.

Shiny and new.

It was a tapestry once, that told a story around which we built our lives.
It was a mighty whole, a single fabric, built of myriad mysterious pieces.

With the blessing of all (or all but the fringe) we took it apart.

We took the shiny pieces and the pretty pieces and the useful pieces
And put them to work,
Doing our bidding (we once did its), and serving us in strength.

We marvel then at what our lives have become,
All built of artificial fibers and synthetic materials.
Appropriated. Misused.

And what of that old rag, that ancient tapestry?
It’s tatters now, of course, torn to shreds and threadbare
All that’s left behind.

And those same who plundered it now mock it for all the things it lacks.
For all the holes, for all the inconsistencies and flaws–
For gaps, that they had made.

There are gaps, and holes. Places where things once were,
Where things shiny and things pretty and things useful used to be.
It’s not the rag that’s torn, though.

The single piece is shattered, scattered, but its fragments still as strong.
Alas, they no longer grow as one.

You see, it was a living thing. It breathed the life of man.
We killed it, for our own ends — butchered it, for our wealth.
We took its intellect, to make us wise.
We took its heart, to learn some sort of kindness.
We took its soul, to give us more than life.
We took its might, its powers, its strength to change the world, and we made the world we wanted.

We still have all the pieces, and look how much they change our lives.
We killed the thing to get them, though.

We could start anew, of course. Some have tried.
We could make a new fabric, and start the ages-long process of giving it life,
Weave in the first of many threads, and make a gift to our descendants.
We’re a world of scavengers, though.
We’ve made our lives out of plundered parts now, and we’re not about to stop.

Start another if you want. It can be done.
But I’ll tell you this, my prophecy and sigh:
They’ll watch,
And they’ll point and laugh,
They’ll criticize everything that is not what the old thing was.

Then they’ll take everything that’s good, and mock you all the more.

God: A Poem

He looked me in the eye, and said,
“If I’m going to Hell anyway, I might as well do it.”

And none of us has seen him since.



I never realized I had written so many poems, or how much they said. I could put you guys through a month of Poetry Interpretation 101, and still not be done with my own stuff.

I should be a professor, just to inflict this stuff on my students.

Actually, I’ll probably save them up and use them as illustrative comments on my articles. Most of the really good ones are about religion (although I have one about the tension between Myth and Science called “I’ll Drag You Back,” of which I’m pretty proud).

The main one on my mind right now is “We Call Worship.” It’s…fascinating.

Refined Understanding (A Poem)

Okay, back to business. This is a poem, not so much proposing my ideas about Social Constructionism, but assuming them and describing their ultimate effects. If you don’t see it at first, by all means ask. I’d love to discuss this one. I think of it as one of my most fun poems.

Refined Understanding
They say the trick to making something beautiful—
To making an elephant from a block of ivory—
Is just to carve away whatever
look like an elephant.

Take away the corners, sharpened edges
Until you’re left with just the thing
staring back at critical eyes.

It works, you see. It can’t help but work.
You take away what doesn’t match, and everything that’s left
must necessarily serve its purpose.
So if function is your only goal, you’re guaranteed success.

The catch, though—there is a catch—
is that it may always be a little more like an elephant.
There’s always more to carve, to peel away,
and your little figurine gets better…and littler.

The thing is—in all your accuracy—
The thing is—with every little bit you peel away—
The thing is, as you progress and shrink
You seem to forget what got your attention in the first place:
Elephants are big.

I Feel Alive (A Poem)

This is a poem I’m thinking of submitting to the Writer’s Digest competition this year. Let me know what you think.

And, yeah, I know you’ll all be wondering, so I’ll just tell you now to keep you from having to ask. It’s Chris O’Donnell.

I Feel Alive….
I feel alive…
Like, what it means to feel alive–
Not just surviving, simply pressing on….
I feel alive, all full of life:
Vibrant, virulent, vital.

In a storm, a terrible storm all raging,
I am become the lightning strike.
Flare, fire, discharge.
Explosive and blinding and impossible to ignore.
I feel alive….

At midnight,
all the world asleep,
And the clouds conceal the paltry silver lights
and the wind’s a whisper, nothing more….
I am become the huntingbird’s shriek
The wolf’s sharp howl
The piercing cry of a predator, so mighty in his element.
I feel alive….

In the desert,
I’m the rain, cold as ice on burning skin.

In a blizzard,
I’m a fire, pop and crackle and warmth that almost hurts.

In your dreams,
I’m the moment that wakes you screaming, or smiling, or panting for breath.

I feel all full of life:
The biting of a bluster wind,
The whipcrack of a breaking limb,
The shattering of fine stained glass–
or of expensive crystal–
The bitter taste of blood,
The thunder of your heartbeat
when you’ve run too hard,
The pang of hunger, want, or need.
I am become loneliness and violence and pain…
And beauty, sweetly whispered or crashing down in waves.
I am become all the shining, pounding, loud sensations
that make a man alive.

I feel alive…
because of you.

In Loving Memory of God (A Poem)

In Loving Memory of God
The last time that I tore my clothes to shreds
And dressed in sacks, with ashes on my head
And fell upon my knees at Mercy Seat,
I thought of you, my God, and you seemed real.

The last time I placed lamb upon the stone—
A lamb that I had raised by my own hand
And tearfully I slit its precious throat—
I drowned beneath the power of your love.

The last time Holy Wrath made justice real
Before my eyes, condemning sin with fire,
I knew your truth could defeat temptation,
And whispered, “God forgive my vicious heart.”

The last time Heaven bent the world for man
And sickness melted from a broken heart
I watched a friend I’d loved rise from the dead
And felt your awesome name upon my lips.

Where is the Ghost so fiery in our texts?
Where is your magic in the world today?
Where have you gone, or from you where have we?
Or have we killed you at last?