Category: MAX NIX

The Chorus at Vespers

A poem for April (National Poetry Month)

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Coming home
one cruel April afternoon,

the red sun hit
a robin’s red chest
through the red buds of an awakening tree’s
red crest
during the peak
of the golden hour.

Though frigid as any day in February
thanks to the bitter wind,
my eyes were blessed
with every bit of May’s glow.

The chorus was so loud that it seemed less like song
and more like chatter.

Who do they sing to?
These multiple denominations
of robins
and grackles,
red-winged black birds,
and swallows?

Each congregation louder than their neighbors.

Do they sing to the Lord,
or to the setting sun,
or to me
or to each other?

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All my plants have names

A Poem on Christmas Day

Christmas Day the sky is white with fog
Christmas Eve layered snow
upon every hill and slope

and every bough
of every tree
tangled branches

of each bare ash and elm
and on every limb
on every juniper and fir and spruce

but instead of basking in
the tranquil scene
steeped in peace and hope and joy

I’m disappointed
that there’s no cardinal
hiding here within

Hagia Sophia; The Immaterial, Sentient Intelligence

Hagia Sophia; The Immaterial, Sentient Intelligence 
…or: “A Ghost Story”
A very messy poem based on Proverbs 9 and on Merrium and Webster’s dictionary:

Russian icon depicting Sophia, the Holy Wisdom I am guessing the 3 women are her daughters: Faith, Hope, and "Love"

Russian icon depicting Sophia, the Holy Wisdom I am guessing the 3 women are her daughters: Faith, Hope, and “Love”

Darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God and breathed into man’s nostrils the Breath of life.

The animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms has built Her house

She has hewn her seven pillars

The enthusiastic loyalty has slaughtered beasts; She has mixed her wine; She has set Her table

The supernatural being or essence has sent out Her young women to call from the highest places in the town,

“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”

To he who lacks sense, the general intent or real meaning of God’s Law says,

“Come, eat of My bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and live and walk in the way of insight.”

The  temper or disposition of God’s mind, His outlook Herself says, “whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse.”

The prevailing tone or tendency, not of this age, but of the Lord of the ages says, “he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury, do not reprove a scoffer or he will hate you.”

God’s activating or essential principle, His every inclination and impulse says to us, “Reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser;”

Heaven’s firm disposition reminds us, “teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning.”

Christ’s character teaches us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,”

The Mind of God says that ” the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

I will pour Her out on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants,
both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skill

Breath on me, Breath of Heaven.

a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth,

for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

God is spirit,

and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.

But when S/He,

the Spirit of truth, comes,

S/He will guide you into all the truth.

And it is the Spirit who testifies,

because the Spirit is the Truth.

Her fruit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.

The Advocate and Comforter proceeds from the Father and testifies to the Son.

I ask,

“Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from Your presence?”

And deep answers unto deep,

“My Spirit remains among you.

Do not fear.”

And I humbly stutter back,

“Um, Okay, I’ll try,

but I can’t promise,

I’m not very good at not fearing.

But, You know that, right?

I believe,

help my unbelief.”



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I promise that tomorrow I will rejoin society
tomorrow I will teach
and enter grades
and discuss pedagogy, lessons and curricula

I promise that tomorrow I will lecture about the judicial branch
give instructions about content theme and genre
tomorrow I will coach and advise
about code and syntax and hypertext markup language

But today I am a painter
today I am a poet
today I am a theologian
a philosopher, a maladjusted malcontent

Today I am possessed by Jackson Pollack., Willem de Kooning, Claude Monet,
Arshile Gorky
and maybe Achille-Claude Debussy too.

No drugs,
no alcohol,
maybe too much coffee
maybe the holy spirit
or some spirit-animal
maybe just automatism

Or maybe, I’ve been possesed by the spirits of
Marcel Duchamp,
Wassily Kandinsky,
and Hugo Ball
all having a ball with my basal ganglia

What rhymes with ganglia?

Galling gangly genitalia?

Damn. That was a lot of alliteration without actual profane explication!
Perhaps I am ready to return to convention, conformity and community already.

But the smell of turpentine
and the layers of oil, acrylic and gouache
that I extricated today
from my palette
like a paleontologist with a trowel
are so intoxicating.

Perhaps a few more minutes
in this other world
the one where I enjoy some espresso
with Vincent and Theo
and Frida and Diego

I promise, I’ll be me again

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Cold Flight

Why would anyone fly on a day like this?

I thought when I heard the drone of an airplane engine though my bedroom window.

It’s 0°F with a -12°F windchill.

As they banked into a turn and flew around above our town.

Then I saw what a bright, blue, sunny day it was…

once I got up and came downstairs.

The Power of Words

Here is a poem I wrote back in 2007. One person told me it wasn’t a poem, it was a Civics lesson. So be it. I wrote it after teaching a Civics class one day. Another person said that it was too preachy, that in fact, it wasn’t so much a poem as just me sermonizing. So be it. I’ve always felt that Doctor King’s sermons were very poetic, and since its my own poem, I reserve the prerogative to preach from it.


The Power of Words 

Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior wrote that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” in 1963.

Just last week Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan said that “A terrorist attack on any of us is an attack on all of us.”

I shared both quotes with my Civics class, but one eighth grader wrote on the board under Dr. King’s words that  “no one gets this.” I asked if they’d like me to discuss it with them and the same student said, “no, we don’t care either.”

That made me thing of Jimmy Buffett’s famous line, “Is it ignorance, or apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care.”

I care, God knows I care, but God only knows how I’m supposed to teach eighth graders how to care.

So I took King’s words,

Injustice ANYWHERE is a threat to Justice EVERYWHERE

and I paired them with James Madison’s words-

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

[Disunity] ANYWHERE is a threat to [Unity] EVERYWHERE
[Turmoil] ANYWHERE is a threat to [Tranquility] EVERYWHERE
[Insecurity] ANYWHERE is a threat to [Security] EVERYWHERE
Or would that have sounded better with [Offense] ANYWHERE is a threat to [Defense] EVERYWHERE?
[Suffering] ANYWHERE is a threat to [the General Welfare] EVERYWHERE!
Now THERE’S one that probably makes “rugged individualists” absolutely cringe, but AREN’T I my brother’s keeper?
And of course,
[Tyranny] ANYWHERE is a threat to [Liberty] EVERYWHERE
So isn’t it true?
Don’t you CARE?
Don’t you realize? Don’t you know?
That “Injustice ANYWHERE is a threat to Justice EVERYWHERE!”
Is justice really blind?
Have you ever heard, “No Justice, No Peace!”?
Did you know, what Cornell West says?
He says that “Justice is what love looks like in public.”
Merrium and Webster say that “public” means 
“exposed to general view : 
open, well-known, prominentc : 
perceptible, material…”
“of, relating to, or affecting ALL the people.”
Did you know?
Do you care?
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” 

Amos 5:24

POEM; About the Sky

I once read a koan that said something about seeing the world through the eyes of painters.
While I didn’t write it down and forgot who the bodhisattva who wrote it was,
the lesson stuck with me

so that now when I go for a walk
I cannot help but look at the sky and see above me El Greco’s view over Toledo in the East
and Gainsborough’s billowing clouds to the North,
Winslow Homer in the South
and Turner in the West

and along the trail I walk through Constable’s English woods
or look out over Wood’s rolling prairies of Iowa
or across at Monet’s haystacks
or down at his colors reflected in any water

I had an Art professor who painted with the lush, subtropical glories of Laguna. He told us that we all contain internal palettes derived from our surroundings in childhood.
He made me realize that I grew up in a world created by Ed Mell and Maynard Dixon but vandalized by David Hockney.

They say O’Keefe destroyed most of her own works when she realized that she painted like dead European men. She wanted her own voice,
but after all, aren’t these two koans also true?
That what has once been seen can never be unseen and
We don’t see things as they are, but as we are.

There are worse problems

I have a brand new pen
& a crisp, blank sheet of paper
but no picture comes to my imagination

My fingers are poised
over the keyboard
but I have no story to tell

Ah, but the sweet West breeze
whispers through the leaves of the trees
and gives me a tease gently on this porch

Across town, the clarion rings
an old hymn from the bell tower
it sings in my mind like a choir

So I let them both bathe me
and settle for living in a poem
instead of writing one