Playing Potter

Photo by Ricardo Mancía on Unsplash

i can’t see
you
can’t see me

trapped behind these
glass brick eyes
inside the lies we wear
like make-up
spread thick
slick, with a spackling knife
layer slapped
upon layer

we play Potter with counterfeit clay
covering lines
and carving new ones
making mud masks that
bury us alive, that
harden into barrel helms
heavy on our heads

necks bent beneath the
weight of myths
we can’t remember
shoulders hunched
around our hearts, a blockade
gazes fixed on fingers
we can’t even look each other
in the eye anymore

Would it matter if we did?

© Nichole Q. Perreault, July 2019

This poem was written in response to my poetry group’s July prompt “differences”. The first line popped into my head and inspired the rest of the poem. 

 

Ocean at Night

I listen to the sea
As it beats against the earth
My mind a soft resounding
No words
No words
No words

No words to make you hear
Unless you’ve heard before
Wide-mouthed waves devouring
The shore
The shore
The shore

The shore as mute as I
While the roaring ocean pens
Her prayer of ceaseless pounding
Amen
Amen
Amen

© Nichole Q. Perreault

‘Ocean at Night’ was written in response to a prompt in my poetry group, in which were to focus on onomatopoeia, which led me to thoughts like “How do you describe the sound of ocean waves crashing on the shore to people who’ve never heard it before? Is there any description that does it justice?” My answer was this poem. 

Sunset on Treasure Island, FL. Photo by Nichole Q Perreault

 

The Ruins of a Faith Built on Ideas*

I close my eyes and see my feet on stone, the landscape around me rocky, colorless, empty. Where is my love for You, Lord? I catch a glimpse. So thin, so fragile, this gold-leaf love. Floating away on a zephyr created by my own reaching hands. I cannot grasp it. Cannot feel it. This precious, flimsy love. I’m so hollow, I have become a question.

With eyes still closed, I explore this vision. Words of revelation come to me:

I am standing in the ruins of a faith built on ideas.

A faith built not on God, but on ideas of God.

I thought I knew Him, this God of Jacob. I was not a foolish girl. I had heard He was a God who could not be bought, a lion who would not be tamed. But I didn’t know Him until He dragged me into the wilderness and refused to answer when I called.

He tore down mountain after mountain, rearranging hills and valleys until the landscape was unrecognizable. Both my physical family, after the loss of my brother, and my spiritual family, after a challenging season, were shattered. And the greatest sting was not experiencing God’s absence. The greatest sting was knowing that the all-powerful God of the universe was right there, witnessing everything, and doing nothing to stop it.

I think I understand the disciples better now. How they might have felt as they watched Jesus submit to death on a cross. As they pried His bloody hands from the nails and carried His lifeless body to the tomb. As they laid him there and said good-bye, turned their backs and walked away. And He, their Messiah, their conquering King, Israel’s Salvation and Deliverer, did absolutely nothing to stop it. (Matthew 27:57-60)

They thought they knew Him, this son of David. Thought they’d built their faith on Him. But they’d built their faith on ideas of Him instead.

We, too, can build our faith on ideas of God. Like the disciples, we can fashion scripture into formulas and platitudes that fit our own understanding, if that helps us sleep better at night. Like the disciples, we can lean on teaching that reduces our walk to a step-by-step method for successful living, if that helps us feel more in control.

Or we can persevere like David, wide-eyed, wide-hearted, refusing anything but the true, untamed heart of God. We can hold on fiercely to God like Jacob, wrestling with Him in the midst of our trials, until we get to the good stuff…the real stuff…blessings that change us, alter our journey, even if that means we walk with a limp. We can reject platitudes and shallow teaching like Job, and brave the whirlwind of God’s mighty presence, that we might also say, “

I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand – from my own eyes and ears!” (Job 42:5 MSG)

I stand in the ruins of a faith built on ideas. But beneath my feet lies the Foundation that will not be shaken, the Promise that will not be removed.

Like the disciples, I carved myself a God of my own design. But now, as the dust settles and rumbling quiets, I see Him and I hear Him saying “Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will rebuild you.” (Isaiah 54:11)

I am so empty I have become a question. But like the vacant tomb, I am a question of freedom and of hope. A witness to the Truth. And I, like Mary Magdalene battle-worn and broken, run crying in the streets, “I have seen the Lord.” (John 20:16-18)

© Nichole Q Perreault

*The above post was written for Wintonbury Church as part of the Stations of the Cross 2019 booklet.
**Digital photographs of original charcoal drawings by Kate Tortland. These two drawings are part of her 14-piece Stations of the Cross collection which depicts Jesus’ journey from the Garden of Gethsemane to His resurrection. The collection is on display each year for Good Friday at Wintonbury Church; and an accompanying booklet with photos of the artwork, scripture, and meditations written by church members is provided for guests.

You Are Enough (God Says So)

I’ve seen this quote popping up in my feed a lot lately and I’m not feeling it.

A few years ago, I probably would have adored this quote. But now….not so much.

Here’s why: Much about the way this is worded implies that “she” (a symbolic “she” with which all Christian women are invited to identify) “she” is not lovable, is not worthy of forgiveness, and is not good enough to be a child of God. And people…especially women…often accept that as truth.

There was a time when I would have agreed with this quote and not without good reason. God created us, loves us, and forgives us because of who He is. There is nothing we can do to secure our right to exist, earn His love, or deserve His forgiveness. We are a people who found ourselves separated from God by our sin and without any means to close that distance between us, except for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Everything we are and have is because of Him. That is true.

Along the way, however, that truth often becomes twisted:
‘I can’t earn God’s love’  becomes  ‘I’m unlovable.’
‘I am a sinner saved by grace’  turns into  ‘I’m not good enough.’
‘I can’t earn love or forgiveness’  becomes  ‘I am not worthy of love or forgiveness.’

See how that works? Take the truth, twist it just a little, and you’ve got yourself a powerful lie. Typical, and oh so very destructive. That’s how the enemy rolls.

Over the last several months, God’s been speaking to me a lot on this subject. Here’s what I believe He has to say:
You are enough.
You are good.
You are worthy.
You belong here.

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Perhaps the Heart

Sunset in Big Sur. Photo Credit: Christina Perreault (used with permission)

How do you capture the sky
a sunset over the ocean?
Is there some enchanted glass
I can hold in my hand
whisper and watch
as the satin tapestry
of seascape
hanging before me,
gilded blue and molten
shimmering
rippling,
gathers at the hem
and slips
like a cool drink
past that vial’s lip,
the bottle’s neck
funneling
fabric into
folds of sunlight
wave upon wave
pooling
rising
until the last frayed corner
bends
the last thread
dips
below the rim,
filling the crystal flask
with fireball pink
coppers and golds
luster and light
of the night’s first star?
How do you capture the longing
vast
infinite
wonder
fear that tingles in the toes
something like worship?
Is there a vessel
glazed
in magic
for what these hands
can never hold?

© Nichole Q. Perreault

this Christmas whispers

this Christmas
whispers
from behind a midnight sky
trembling
on crystallized air
a wrinkle in the starlight
like the tinkling of tiny bells

we fell
once upon a time
now we fall
and fall
blazing, burning out across
that inky wall
still Christmas whispers

among the glaring of
the screens
the clanging songs
that drag their feet along the hall
tradition on repeat
the dead-eyed throng

into the silence of my heart
empty as the space
between the stars
this Christmas
whispers

wordless whispers
like snowflakes
lay a blanket down
upon barren ground
a heartsong
a homesong
love letters without ink

this Christmas whispers
breath that flickers flame
pats the chair
says come sit
beside a fire you didn’t build
warm
like cinnamon
and mugs of tea

this Christmas whispers
rest
be
wonder
breathe
this is enough
you
and Me

©️ Nichole Q. Perreault

so my newest pastime is writing on the walls…

Bound & Chained, Yet Somehow Free

The Lady of Shalott by William Holman Hunt inspired the following poem, written in response to my poetry group’s December prompt: “Write a poem about a picture or photo that speaks to you.” I fell in love with Hunt’s The Lady of Shalott when I first saw it at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, CT, where it is on permanent display. During a little pre-writing research I learned that this painting was inspired by Tennyson’s ballad of the same name.

It was the colors
And the hair
The wildness
That made me stare

The way the canvas
Still, but moves
Lady bound
In chaos loosed

How flaming shadows
Crown her head
While feet dance
In light instead

I’ll write a poem
Then, I thought,
Remembering
Her of Shalott

But as Hunt creates
A window
To a room
Inside a window

Where a mirror cursed
With magic
Reflects that
Window tragic

So my words devise
A poem
Of a picture
Of a poem

Enduring art, a
Clumsy rhyme,
Both by Tennyson
Inspired

Until today, I
Knew her not
The Lord’s Lady
of Shalott

Now, knowing what I
Know of both
I still like
The painting most

To gaze upon her
Fiery hair
Tangle in
Her web-like lair

To let his pallete
Color me
Bound and chained
Yet somehow free

©️ Nichole Q Perreault

Dark Night of the Soul

Dark night of the soul
Cold
And alone
You whisper
To the blackness
You speak
To the abyss
You shout
You scream

And watch
No
Feel
Your words
Vanish
Into the void
You listen
To the silence

You stand
Still
feet in cold sand
Nothing in your hand
But the wind
The world pulls away
Like a wave receding
Into the never-ending night
Ever receding
Only receding
Further
And further
Away
from you

You exhale
All the breath
You’ve ever breathed
Molecules of memories
Particles of pain and joy
Drift
Into the ether

You watch
You stand
You breathe

You are

Emptied
of expectation

You are

Free

You are

©️Nichole Q Perreault

Photo by Kyle Johnson, https://unsplash.com/@kylejeffreys

Before We Speak

This started out as one thing and became another. I anticipate follow up posts but I never really know what God has planned for my writing. 

I have spent the last several decades as part of America’s evangelical Christian subculture. It’s nice here. The people are nice. The message is nice. The coffee is nice. We keep it neat and tidy – from the clothes we deem acceptable, to the music we say we listen to, to the shows we admit we watch, to the language we use to whitewash our sin. Stop by and if you don’t look too closely you’ll see that everything is really, really nice.

It’s like nice is our unspoken brand. We mean well. We think if we make everything nice we’ll be able to convince everyone that Jesus is nice and if we convince everyone that Jesus is nice, then maybe they’ll choose to follow Jesus. And we really, truly do want everyone to know Jesus like we know Jesus.

But Jesus was more than nice. Jesus was Real. Jesus was kind and compassionate and brave but he was also sad and angry and afraid. He was quiet and he was loud. He fasted and he feasted. He laughed and he wept. He was the Prince of Peace and he flipped tables.

People, can we please start being more than just “nice”? Can we be Real, too?

I know a lot of you are going to say YES! but have you considered what it means to be really Real? I don’t just mean honest about our feelings Real. I mean:

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Hollow

Insides carved out
Walls scraped bare
I am just a shell
Brittle and broken

I must be broken
because nothing fills me
Rains fall but never gather
rushing away in streams beneath me

Dust blows in
on sandpaper wind
gritty in the eyes, the throat
then blows away again

Leaves and flower petals flutter
down down down
only to dissolve
pixel by pixel before my eyes

Emptiness becomes anxiety
the urge to fill me up
to scavenge
for berries
for blood
for dirt and leaves
crab apples
mud
Bits of glass
and shrapnel
Things that hurt
work best
At least the pain is
Something

Familiar
I know pain
Thoughts that slash and burn
the same worn paths
Searing scars
deep into the folds of
my aching brain

Until I’m sick
and I lie here
wondering which is worse
emptiness or pain

What would happen
If I sat still in the
hollow
heavy
empty
void

If I unclenched my fists
and let the falling rain flush
the shards from my flesh

If I let myself
Bleed
Would I remember
how to breathe?

© Nichole Q. Perreault