Street Poetry & Divine Intervention
This past week I decided to take a detour as I drove home to Austin from Florida, and spend a couple of nights in New Orleans--a city I'd never visited before.
As I wandered through historic and picturesque Jackson Square, I decided to check out the dozen or so art vendors that were selling their works on one of the streets of the square.
It was then that I walked past a solitary young man, who was sitting alone at a tiny desk with an old-fashioned typewriter in front of him. The sign hanging from the desk read: Poetry. Stories. Therapy.
I walked a few steps past him and then stopped in my tracks where I stood for a few seconds, debating whether to turn around or not. "Just say yes," a voice in my head seemed to say, so I walked back.
"You got my attention," I told the young man once I was standing in front of him. "What do you do, exactly?" He went on to say that he would write me a poem on any topic that I chose right then and there.
"That's cool," I told him. "Okay, I'm in. Any topic...hmmm."
I stood there not knowing what to say at first, but then it came to me in a flash... I stared at the ground for a few beats, and then finally spoke the words that I didn't really want to say out loud for some reason: "Divine Intervention."
Now it was his turn to stare at the ground. "That's a good one," he said softly. "Okay, here goes." And with that, he began typing on his old typewriter, the keys clicking and clacking, followed by a return here and there.
As he typed, I thought about why those particular words had come to me--out of all of the words I could have chosen.
I realized then that they had come from the same place as the prayers I've been praying lately... a place deep inside that desperately wants to know that God is somewhere in the middle of this crazy world...
When he finished, he pulled out the piece of paper, and read it silently. "Do you want to hear it?" he asked me at last. I told him that I did, and this is what he read to me:
"That's perfect," I whispered. And it was.
The poem was a prayer. The poem was also an answer to a prayer. The poem said what I'd wordlessly been praying when I felt like I had no words.
It was in its essence the very thing that it was about--a divine intervention.
The poet Padraig O' Tuama recently wrote:
Prayer, like poetry--like breath, like our own names--has a fundamental rhythm in our bodies. it changes, it adapts, it varies from the canon, it sings, it sears, it is syncopated by the rhythm underneath the rhythm, the love underneath the love, the rhyme underneath the rhyme, the name underneath the name, the welcome underneath the welcome, the prayer beneath the prayer.
I would add this to O' Tuama's beautiful description: God is the ground... the event... the happening... the cause and effect underneath all of everything... underneath our prayers, our wordless cries, and the desires we feel to simply know.
May you experience divine intervention today. May you discover the ground of your being in God's surprising presence. May it be so. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.