The Walking Fred

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : August 3, 2007

I’ve always been a dabbler in the arts. And, in the day, I wrote a lot of prose and poetry. These things were cast aside when I began to focus my life on my ministry. I didn’t know how to bring my artistic side into conversation with my “ministry” side. When I stumbled into the “emerging” scene, I found permission to explore the arts again. But I held back. I didn’t want to look like a hack or a poser. One of my recurring fears is not being taken seriously. Being harassed by such a fear makes you hold back, to self-repress.

Slowly, I’ve pushed against this repression. I’ve posted a couple poems on this blog. But I’ve got a lot in me. I’ve got stories and poems and songs trapped in my head. I’ve been afraid of letting them out. And there are images and pictures that need to be borne into the world as paintings, sketches, and sculptures. All things I once put aside. But now I want to bring them back. At this point, I don’t care if they pass muster. I want to create for the sake of creation. And I want to share what I create with my friends.

I just wrote this bit of prose poetry at Dunn Brothers coffee in South Minneapolis. It is a bit over-the-top/silly. I think it represents the sad repression of the religiously safe:

The Walking Fred

With somber gaze downcast, he looked up with a plastic rictus. His eyes told a tale of lonely repression, his mouth lied.
His eyes jostled, unable to gain purchase on my gaze. Casting them downward, he lifted his machiato to his lips, sipped deliberately and said: “Me and Jesus are just fine.”

You can’t wash away your sins with coffee my friend. Your toyota prius won’t transport you to utopia. Your blackberry cuts you off from the world and skype is a cruel task master. You die alone amidst the disaffected masses.

You cling to Jesus like a catchphrase. Your lips spring to his name in reflex, but your heart is far from him. You attend the saccharine assemblies. A shiny zombie feasting on the already dead. You are the walking Fred.

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5 Responses to “The Walking Fred”

  1. Duncan McFadzean on August 4th, 2007 7:57 am

    I like that poem, as a blackberry user I can sympathise, and yet the heart of me cries out that there must be something more. Looking forward to seeing more of this sort of writing.

  2. amy on August 6th, 2007 7:03 pm

    i can’t help but feel that you lack compassion for fred.

    on a much more positive tip, creative writing suits you. i think you have a beautiful way with words. even though the words themselves aren’t so beautiful sometimes…

    zombie… cling… fear…cruel…somber…

    i’d love to see more words of life and light. and i’d love to see another side of lost little fred.

    i hope you’ll keep writing…

  3. markvans on August 6th, 2007 7:48 pm


    I’m not really a dark person at all. But I do like dark humor. These poems are dark, but have a little bit of whimsy to them. I think it is just easier to write dark poetry than light poetry–it is easier to provoke emotions with harsh words. And, I think, writing these darker poems is a bit cathartic. Fred is, after all, part of me. By naming my own inner darkness, it loses power.

    I think it would be worthwhile to write lighter poetry, but I think it would be more of a challenge for me.

  4. amy on August 6th, 2007 8:59 pm

    it wasn’t clear to me that you are writing about part of yourself. but i understand it now to mean that you are attempting to “kill” off that part of yourself by shining the light on it. i can appreciate that.

    i agree, it is much easier to use words of darkness.

    whoever fred is, if his heart is far from God then he must be suffering and scared and sad and stuck. God bless fred.

    i’m not clear on the “art as catharsis” thing, though i’ve certianly invoked the use of it myself many times. i’ll have to pray on that.

    intense words provoke emotion. it’s true. but “profundity need not mean negativity.” (i read that somewhere. i can’t remember where now. it moved me, so i remembered it. remembering people’s names is another matter for another purpose all together)

    speaking of being moved… i’m very happy i stumbled by your blog. you are a deep, thought provoking, man of God. i can tell from your gentle responses to me that you have a sweet spirit. i love that.

    i also love this line in your prayer: “Forgive us. Help us to mourn. For it is is mourning over the state of things that justice is found. Amen.”

    i think that’s really beautiful.

    here is a prayer for you tonight…

    Thank you Heavenly Father for forgiving the Fred in all of us. Thank you for helping us transform ourselves into the beautiful loving people you intend us to be. Thank you for helping us learn how to mourn. Thank you for giving us insight into our works of art. Thank you for helping us to see the light and love in everything. And thank you for Mark and his blog. Thank you for giving him the faith and courage and patience it requires to keep up a blog like this. Thank you for continuing to bless him, for keeping Your hand on him, for delivering him from evil, and for expanding his territory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

  5. markvans on August 6th, 2007 9:36 pm

    Thank you, Amy.

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