the second coming of easter (I Corinthians 15)

For over 20 years, Jim Perkinson has been riffing on lectionary selections in spoken word mode and often presenting the same at worship services of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church just outside downtown Detroit. This is the third in a series of collaborations between Jim and Tim Nafziger putting this poetry in video form with text below.

the second coming of easter (I Corinthians 15)

jim perkinson
4-12-20

empty churches preaching empty tombs
to empty pews, a vision of gloom, 
the doom of the poor now creeping close 
in corona-spoor knocking even at the door 
of the rich and who would have thought 
it all could upend in a single dash of air-splash, invisible, carrying not quite living code 
from animal to our abode everywhere, 
leading all but rash, bible-brash evangelical hubris
to hunker in shelter, or fear-trembled,
in hovels or dense-packed streets 
of homeless retreats or refugee tents
a world of babel towers and fake news showers 
and glowering, bulge-veined purveyors of cover 
for the bankers and oil exec wankers to push profit-margins to the edge of the cliff . . .

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the gospel (John 18:1-19:42)

For over 20 years, Jim Perkinson has been riffing on lectionary selections in spoken word mode and often presenting the same at worship services of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church just outside downtown Detroit. This is the second in a series of collaborations between Jim and Tim Nafziger putting this poetry in video form.

the gospel (John 18:1-19:42)

jim perkinson
9/30/99

god weeping 
broken bottle slivers 
on the cheek of time
blood cheek dripping 
in roses of divinity
under the fallen street lamp
god is a broken light-shard 
of shattered moon 
in the midnight of neon
a swallowed sun
giving birth 
to black burnt words
and charcoals of ghost 
sucked like a water pipe 
of lost manhoods
god is smoke ring solitude
the profile of dead factory pipes
incinerator ash falling 
on pale skin
the dream of stars 
shrouded 
in the orange night 
of city
and the eyes 
of sleeping mothers
hearing moccasins 
on the path

the wail is low
the howl is heard only under the skin
the groan is your own
the taste is flesh
the touch is bone
the shiver is red
the wind is hawk
the owl is waiting
the rib is broken
the treaty is gone
the father is underground
the finger is cold
the ear is dried channel
the tongue is choked with nothing
the head is cracked
the arm is slack
the leg is bent
the back is supine and down

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if the donkey could talk (Matthew 21: 1-11)

For over 20 years, Jim Perkinson has been riffing on lectionary selections in spoken word mode and often presenting the same at worship services of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church just outside downtown Detroit. This is the first in a series of collaborations between Jim and Tim Nafziger putting this poetry in video form and adding commentary and footnotes flowing from their conversations.

if the donkey could talk (matt. 21: 1-11)

jim perkinson
original: 3/27/99
updated: 3/30/22

so what do you think
mister flop-eared ferry-back
carting the precious cargo across
palm-covered dust and
peasant boys shouting
messianic manifestos
in the ears of pilate’s guard
shouting terror in the tone-deaf ears

of old-men-arrogance
the priestly pomposity
the scribal-orthodox heresy of

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Of Mountain Watches and Dread Help

By Jim Perkinson, a sermon on Transfiguration, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Detroit, MI, February 27, 2022

I have developed a late life habit.  When the snow falls around our house, these days, the bird seed comes out.  I am a bit loath to invite too much wild dependence on human provision, so I normally don’t lay out food that way. But given our urban Detroit encampment on the habitat of so many wild creatures, I figure snow may interrupt some of the other foraging possibilities and so sprinkle some seed. The local sparrows and chickadees are quick to spy out the offer and just as quick to spread the word, sparrow style.  But it is especially the cardinal pair whose territory we occupy that I delight in.  For two winters now, when my gift-giving begins, they are adept at the uptake and 2-3 times per day, beginning around noon, will summon me by cavorting in the front bushes outside my second-story study-window.  Once I see, I get up, go down to the front door while they vigil in a front-row, top-of-the-bush seat.  I give a little throw onto the sidewalk from the open door; they hop down and feast.

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Courting and Romancing and Widows and Dams

Jim Perkinson, among water warriors in Detroit

By James W. Perkinson

The clear untouched pool accepts me into its emerald depths like a big drop of water . . . I dive down again and again, feel the water-fingers softly caressing my hot face, tracing my underarms, my neck and breasts—nipples raised hard against the cold . . . and though the water is not going anywhere, it seems to move against me still, even as I lie immobile on its surface.  I flip and turn, purring to the sensual caress.  I have dipped into a private treasure and am wrapped in the arms of the True Gods (Lee, 132, description of Glen Canyon pothole only fifteen feet wide, whose smooth sloping sides refuse her efforts to climb out wet and nearly kill her over the next hour).

I begin in the unlikely place of a quote from raconteur Katie Lee—author, musicologist, folk singer, storyteller, Hollywood actress, song writer, filmmaker, photographer, poet, and river runner (in the words of her bio, Lee, 273).  She is not indigenous.  But she is a “grit” person, as Terry Turner Tempest offers in the Foreword—a woman “not afraid to laugh and tease, cajole, and flirt, cuss, rant, howl, sing and cry.”  “Katie Lee,” says she, is “the desert’s lover, her voice is a torch in the wilderness” (Lee, ix).   I begin here, away from the subject, because that is where I begin, where most of us today begin, in this land of the less-than-free, home of the most-often-cowardly.   We who are not indigenous, not native, pretend to own the land, but we are not of the land.  Rather than belong to it, we belong mostly nowhere, counting strip malls and car interiors and I-Phone screens our domiciles of greatest comfort. 

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the brow of nazareth

by jim perkinson, ps 71: 1-6, lk 4:21-30, performed at st. peter’s episcopal church (detroit, mi), 1-30-22

“they lead him to the brow of the hill
that they might throw him off”
says the lectionary text for the
4th week-take on epiphanies and magi
and comet-streaked skies of the season
but they failed to catch the snatch—
the orator at nazareth was a rock-kvetched
match for their outraged snit, hatched
like a birthed-again chic from rugged
outcrop, spirit-born and dove-mourned
just back from a 40-day stretch

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What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Facing Apocalypse with Eloquence

By Jim Perkinson, a sermon for Detroit Unitarian Universalist Church (9-26-21)

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Climate Catastrophe Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Voter Suppression Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Collapse Health Care with Cavalier

COVID Response Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Right Wing Authoritarianism Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Billionaire On-the-Take Booty Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Flee to Mars If You Are Elon Musk

 Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: You Fill In the Blank—What Time Is

It For You!

This title question was a favorite litmus test query any time someone met with the late great Eastside Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs over the last ten years of her extraordinary life.  In vernacular counterpoint to Boggs’ more philosophical probe, garbage-art impresario Tyree Guyton of Heidelberg Project fame—also on the Eastside—festoons many of the trees of his bright throbbing block with clocks whose hands salute the hours every which way.  Each asks outside the politesse of our typical interactions, what hour do you think it is—really?  

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Part of a Long Line of Prophetic Perishing

An excerpt from Dr. James Perkinson’s 2001 essay “Theology and the City: Learning to Cry, Struggling to See.”

The Christian tradition that underwrites the theology elaborated here offers — as its primary icon of “how” and “where “God is present in the world and “who” God is in the world — an image of a human being hanging on an instrument of state torture, crying out to God, against God (Mark 15:34). That God is not ripped down miraculously from that piece of wood (Mark 15:29-30). That God does not make it into comfy old age. While still alive “in the flesh,” that God did not always have a full belly (Matt. 12:1-4), did not live in the posh quarters of the city (Luke 9:58), was not greeted with acclaim by the movers and shakers of his day (John 7:45-52), did not have a good retirement policy. “He” regularly angered the foundations like the Sanhedrin or the Herodian Temple Corporation that would otherwise have funded his ministry (Mark 3:11-6). He publicly blessed the welfare queens, hookers, day laborers and beggars, and other assorted “rabble” who had been downsized out of legitimate livelihoods (Luke 6:20-23). He publicly cursed the banquet-givers (Luke 6:24-26), and conference-goers, and upright, uptight stalwart citizens, who, as the pillars of their community, continuously expropriated land from the “people” by means of the debt-code in order to reemploy them as tenant farmers on their own lands (Matt. 20:1-16; see Herzog, 1994, 79-97). He loudly and loquaciously denounced the lifestyle supported by such exploitative practices and labeled “abomination” what the elites claimed as “God’s blessing” (Herzog, 1994, 53-73; 2000, 90-108; Myers, 1997, 125). He openly charged the scribal ideologues and their judicial patrons with privately wrestling widows’ last pennies away from them (Mark 12:38-44) even as they were publicly encouraging the sons to give their mothers’ estates away “to God” through the Temple apparatus called “corban” (that, in effect, transferred such endowments from the marginalized elderly to the Temple’s rapacious high-priestly high-livers) (Mark 7:5-13).

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did the psalm get it wrong?

by jim perkinson, on psalm 19 and john 2:13-22

what is this language the psalmist,
in fervor, trumpets forth like a meteor?
it is loud today, and harsh as silence,
reverberating, pounding, whispering,
like a flame going up a pine, or a wave
on a city street in flood, as unseen as
a virus, or potent as a blizzard in texas
indeed, these have no words
they have no need of words
they have no need of bombast and advertising

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