Mantis

Reflection on one of God’s creatures, or two.

MANTIS

Coming in from shopping one day, I encountered a mantis on the stucco by the front door. I think mantises are the oddest and most fascinating little creatures. You may have noticed that I haven’t written “praying” mantis. That is because I am not sure how to spell it.

I think “praying” is correct because the little guys are holding their green arms in front of them as if folded in prayer. In their contemplative stillness, they seem to be the most devout of the insect kingdom.

However, I have also heard tell that mantises are killers—of other insects. They prey on aphids, beetles, and other pesky crawlers. So, in my mind’s eye, I see the word spelled “preying” mantis.

Maybe the paradox of the praying mantis adds to its appeal. A still, sculptural, devout green insect waiting patiently, perhaps reciting an inner mantra, and then POUNCING on an unsuspecting aphid to devour it pitilessly.

How many of my fellow church-goers, so pure and holy as they kneel in confession, leave the church parking lot only to cut someone off on the freeway, flipping the bird as they race toward the casino, the bar, or the secret tryst with an illicit lover.

We advanced human life forms tend to think of insects as low, simple creatures. But, like us, the praying mantis is more than meets the eye.

CREATION’S PRAISE

Deep calls to deep
Day speaks to day
Night to night declares,
And what is it they say?

Chorus:
We are God’s handiwork
We share in his glory
Worshiping wordlessly
We send out his story.
Come in answer to our call:
Help us praise the Lord of all.

Tree sighs to tree
Bird sings to bird
Flower tells flower
And never speaks a word.

Chorus, repeat.

Bridge:
God, our voices join the tune
With Brother Sun and Sister Moon;
Your whole Creation praises you!

Chorus, repeat.

© 2015

STILL WORKING

Intro:
When you think the whole world’s gone to hell,
Remember what the Scriptures have to tell:

Chorus:
The Father is still working.
His Son is working, too.
The Spirit is still working,
Inside of me and you.

Verse 1:
We are working to save the world.
We are working to share the truth.
We are working to heal the broken hearts.
We are working to spread the news.

Chorus, repeat

Verse 2:
We are working to stop the greed.
We are working to stop the wars.
We are working to reach the lost.
We are working to feed the poor.

Chorus, repeat

Verse 3:
We are working for understanding.
We are working for love’s increase.
We are working for social justice.
We are working —for peace.

Bridge:
God, please keep us working
Side by side with you
Your hands and feet are working
To make your dream come true.

Chorus, repeat.

© 2015 Pamella Bowen

ORANGE CAKE

Of all the people in our family, my mother was one of the least competitive. She loved to talk, but she seldom bragged or tried to one-up her friends.

It seems ironic to look back and realize that my mom was the only one of the family to win a blue ribbon at the LA County Fair.

She won it for her orange cake. The recipe came from the side panel of a Swan’s Down Cake Flour box, and the grease-stained, faded piece of cardboard was tucked into the broken-backed green American Woman’s Cookbook she always used.

I remember two things that made the cake special. The first was the cake flour. This was the only cake my mom made with cake flour. The rest of the time she used a mix. I never knew there was such a thing as cake flour until I helped Mama make this cake.

The other thing was the number of oranges the recipe took. Some of the juice and peel went into the cake, but LOTS of peel went into the frosting. I helped my mom grate the rind off of at least six oranges, using the pyramidal grater that stood up by itself. Mama kept an eye on me, making sure I got all the rind off but didn’t grate the white pulpy stuff too. It wouldn’t help the flavor of the frosting.

The winning cake stood three layers tall, a pleasant orange tint, with the fluffy speckled frosting between the layers and standing in peaks on the top.

We saw it on display in the glass case of the Home Arts building, with its blue ribbon, First Place, showing proudly. The judges had cut one slice to taste, but the cake still stood tall and beautiful for the world to see.

How to Insult a Songwriter: Call Her a Poet

HOW TO INSULT A SONGWRITER: CALL HER A POET

Across the desk, music publisher Rick Shelton smiled brightly at me and said, “You’re a poet.”

Why did I feel like I’d just been slapped? Because I’m a would-be songwriter, not a poet. I don’t want to be a poet. Nobody wants poetry anymore, if they ever did.

To say “you’re a poet” means you sit in your ivory tower and torture the English language to make obscure points people don’t care about. A poet is like a painter of portrait miniatures. It takes painstaking skill, but nobody wants it. Why would you carry a painted miniature of your loved one in your pocket when you could carry a photograph—on your smart phone?

Poets are obsolete. They’ve all turned into bloggers, novelists, or songwriters.

Songwriters, on the other hand, are down-to-earth, singing about universals that EVERYBODY cares about: love, sex, beer, and the past. Their language is colloquial. You probably said most of those lyrics yesterday in conversation with your ex- or your dog. And the rhymes? Well, we forgive the songwriters for that—it helps us learn the chorus so we can sing along. Songwriters are just alright. They get us and we get them.

In fact, the majority of us say we LOVE music, and we don’t mean that weird jazz or boring Beethoven stuff. We love country, pop, rock-and-roll, blues and R&B. We love music, so we LOVE songwriters.

We don’t love poets. Never did. Our old-maid English teachers tried to make us like poems, but it never took. Why can’t poets say what they mean? Poets suck.

And that’s why I wasn’t pleased to be labeled “poet” in the song-publisher’s office. It was the kiss of death.

Does anybody know if Poet’s Market is still in print?

“Abba, Here I Am”, Song 15 for Fifty-Ninety, 2014

ABBA, HERE I AM

Abba, here I am

Lying in the dark

Lost in dead despair,

Fearing you’re not there.

Abba, here I am

Kneeling by my bed,

Crying in the blanket,

Feeling so abandoned.

Abba, here I am

Silent in my room,

Listening for your voice

Floating past the noise.

Abba, here I am

Empty hands wide open,

Ready to receive

The grace you send to me.

Abba, here I am

Standing in your love,

Shining like a star

Reflecting who you are.

Abba, here I am

In you as you in me.

Lord, I’m ready to

Do what you’d have me do.

© 2014 Pamella Bowen (BMI)

pam@bowen2.com

Song #13 for the 2014 Fifty-Ninety

CRACKED VESSEL

Verse 1:

A cracked vessel is the mind

What goes in leaks out in time:

People’s names and people’s faces,

What took place in certain places,

All the science, all the math,

Memories of the distant past.

CHORUS:

YOU CAN’T ADD MORE TO A FILLED-UP CUP,

YOU NEED TO LET SOME OUT.

THAT CRACK IS A BLESSING

YOU CAN BE GLAD ABOUT.

Verse 2:

A cracked vessel is the heart:

Passions, fashions all depart,

Tastes change, love grows cold,

Old obsessions lose their hold.

Why cling to the overrated?

What you treasured gets donated.

CHORUS, REPEAT

Verse 3:

But when God’s love rains, it pours.

If some seeps out, there’s always more.

Mind and heart and soul fill up;

A holy torrent floods your cup.

Overflowing, leaking too,

That’s how much your God loves you.

CHORUS:

YOU CAN’T FIT GOD IN A FILLED-UP HEART;

YOU NEED TO LET SIN OUT.

THAT CRACK IS A BLESSING

YOU CAN BE GLAD ABOUT.

© 2014 Pamella Bowen (BMI)

pam@bowen2.com