Russell and Duenes

Archive for the ‘Russell’ Category

Mark Strand (1934-2014)

with one comment

m-strand

The “Clint Eastwood” of poetry has died.  Mark Strand, former U.S. Poet Laureate left behind a body of poetry that has moved me ever since I was introduced to him as a young 20 year old. You would be enriched to explore his work.

The Coming of Light

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.

-R

Advertisements

Written by Michael Duenes

December 14, 2014 at 11:47 am

Posted in Poetry, Russell

Here Today, Tomorrow in the Oven

leave a comment »

“Yet I tell you Solomon in all his splendor was not arrayed like one of these”

I was about town the other day and chanced to stop by the rose garden here in town, and decided to pull in and look around for a few minutes before the roses die in the summer heat. The varieties were stunning: Orange, yellow, purple, bright red, dark red, and other hues in between.

And my mind went to Jesus’ words of reassurance: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you Solomon in all his splendor was not arrayed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

I’ve been trying to bank on this promise lately, what with being in the midst of a big job search. I often wish my heart responded with more confidence and peace, for if Jesus’ promise is true, there’s not much that could be more comforting than His words here. But I’ve been in this place before, and Jesus has indeed not failed me. Rather, He has generously given me far more than I need or deserve.

So consider, consider, consider. If the flowers are so beautifully bloomed in God’s good providence, will He not much more take care of us?

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

June 13, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Posted in Duenes, Russell

Misreading Our Lives

with one comment

Misreading Our Lives

The story of which we speak is, perhaps,
not even a story, rather it is
a semblance of a story, just a smudged
invitation to help you pass the time
as you travel quickly from paragraph
to paragraph, mispunctuating as
you go, taking meanings and contorting
them into strange lumps that lie heavy in
your hand. Fix these images before your
mind, so if you should ever find yourself

on a street corner, say, in hard light, you
will remember, that was it-a picture
for their suffering. But in other times-
there will be others-completely forget
the plot, that it is barely linear,
hardly contained by margins, that even
the gutters run with words. You will find, then,
the story is really an old story,
worn with tears and stains and brittle pages
that shudder as your hands pass over them,

so that you wish it were someone else’s
story, that you could inscribe the flyleaf
with a stranger’s name, or conceal the depths
of your ownership in boxes. Give it
away, this anxiety-the words are
hardly there. They are somewhere else, obscured
by the absence of light where the words are
no darker than the page. Don’t be afraid
to pull the covers higher in that moment,
to imagine a burning light when it happens.

-Shawn Sturgeon

Written by Michael Duenes

June 4, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Poetry, Russell

All in Los Angeles are Dead: Reflections on Memorial Day

leave a comment »

This piece was originally written by my colleague, Curt Russell, for Memorial Day, 2009.

I learned about Memorial Day, or as it was called years ago Decoration Day, as many American kids have.  My Grandfather, a World War II Navy veteran, would celebrate it by going to the local Navy Memorial in Cincinnati to remember the somberness of service to our country.  My Mom and Dad would take us to the local morning parade and then to the graves of our lost family members in the afternoon.  My teachers would tell me that Memorial Day is the day we celebrate the men (they often didn’t mention the women and children) who died so that we can be “free.”  In other words I was taught that Memorial Day actually means something.  And not just a day off of work and a day without junk mail.  I learned that it is a day to reflect on what American military servicemen (and servicewomen) have sacrificed so that I can raise my children in liberty.

In 1884, Oliver Wendell Holmes gave a speech about the significance of Memorial Day. He laid bare a stark sense of awe when he said: “But as surely as this day comes round we are in the presence of the dead… their ghosts sit at a table more numerous than the living, and on this day when we decorate their graves–the dead come back and live with us.”  This is what strikes me heavily on Memorial Day; The sheer number of those who “come back and live with us.”  It may sound odd that I will now mention the current population of Los Angeles: 4 million people.  Surprisingly, this is also the approximate number of men, women and children who have died in service to America as a result of all U.S. Wars fought and the aftermath of its destruction.   What would happen if Los Angeles would simply lose its entire population to war or even to natural disaster?  What if one day we woke up and people were simply not there.  Would we grieve?  Would we remember those who lived there, both those we had known and those we did not?  If December 7th and September 11th taught us anything, it is that “when one falls, we all fall.”

Today, on Memorial Day, I also reflect on the “what could have been.”  What if America had not lost those in war we celebrate?  What would our nation be like?  I think it would be safe to guess that we would be one of the most populated countries on earth, if not the most populated.  Our American landscape would be drastically different.  Our ingenuity and resources altered for a vastly far removed America: one billion, two billion, or maybe three billion more people?  Memorial Day should also be a day when we remember them as well; those that never had a chance to be.  So today, let us reflect on Los Angeles and its 4 million strong-as a living remembrance of “the dead that come back and live with us” and let us also remember those that never had a chance to be.

-R

Written by Michael Duenes

May 26, 2014 at 8:12 am

Posted in Duenes, Reflections, Russell

You Have to Look

leave a comment »

Something in me, dark and sticky, all the time it’s getting strong.  ~ Peter Gabriel

If you want to love, you have to look. One thing I’ve found in my study of the law is that, if you want to know what the law says, you have to look and look and look. As my Oil and Gas law professor says, sometimes you need to read a case twenty times to really get it. But not only will you get it, you might come to love it. There are cases that I will look at again and again, simply because I love the issue at hand, and so I look. Loving anything requires intentional, sustained looking. What do pro athletes spend gobs of time doing? Looking. Looking at their swing, looking at other people’s swings, looking at pitchers, looking at game film, looking at plays, looking for any little tendency or tic that might give them an edge. What do scientists who love their work do? They look and look, looking for some microbe, some bacteria, some chemical combination that might unlock the cure.

But the hardest thing to love is people. Perhaps that sounds wrong; yet it may only sound that way because perhaps we’ve done so little loving. Sure, we like lots of people, and we enjoy hanging around with them, but loving requires something more, something antithetical to our natures, something derailed by that “dark and sticky” thing called sin. I see that if I want to love my wife, really love her as Jesus commanded, namely, deny myself, take up my cross and love her, I must do something that, in theory I want to do, but in practice waxes and wanes. For I am not inclined to “look outward,” but rather, to my own selfish desires.

Yet as with all loves, what is required is intentional, sustained looking. I must look at my wife, study her. I must look at her face (not hard to do, as beautiful as she is) and see what it tells me. I must listen carefully to her words, to what she is telling me and not telling me. I must look and hear the tone in her voice, the subtle hints of joy, contentment, surprise, anger, despondency and pain. I must see what runs her down and what lifts her up. I must observe, observe, observe. I must never assume, “Well, I’ve got her now, she’s my wife, so I’ll just go about my own business.” I must see what occupies her time, what she gives herself to. Perhaps I will encourage it, or perhaps I will lovingly challenge it insofar as it may tend away from the glory of our Lord. I must look at how she relates to me, to other family members, to friends and colleagues. But the looking must be intentional, and it must be sustained over long years.

Is this an obsession? Would I be stalking my own wife? No. It does not mean that I will do nothing but watch her every move, but if I rarely look, I cannot love. What we pay no careful, sustained attention to, is what we are indifferent about, even if we protest and say otherwise. But this “looking” in order to love is a supernatural thing. It requires utter lack of self-concern. It requires a God-entranced life. It’s like the story that John Piper once told about his old mentor, Daniel Fuller. In the office where Fuller worked, there hung a picture of Fuller himself. One day, Fuller walked in and asked, “Who is that a picture of? Reinhold Niebuhr?” (They look similar). To which his secretary replied, “No, that’s you!” Fuller had essentially forgotten his own image, because he was always looking elsewhere. And yet, this supernatural looking is one of life’s greatest rewards, for only then will we be able to move in wise and godly ways in the life of those we claim to love.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

August 17, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Duenes, Russell