Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : May 29, 2008

The following is a poem I’m working on in the spirit of the Beatitudes. It was birthed out of this week’s focus in the Missio Dei Breviary. Let me know what you think. I’m actually going to perform it “Beat” style at our Sunday Missio Dei gathering (by the way, the name “beat” actually comes from the Beatitudes):


Good pauper, happy pauper
Others pay top dollar to look the way you look
When you roll out of bed
Simple, shabby, and unadorned.
Thrift-store necessity not thrift-store chic
Working with your hands to build today
No hope to purchase the future
Caught on the wrong side of the white picket fence

Good pauper, happy pauper
The Landlord of Heaven has been temporarily evicted
Making his home in your part of town
Walking your cracked sidewalks
And eating at your White Castle
He’s come to clean up the neighborhood
And has a place for you in his mansion
Which is yours for the taking

Good mourner, happy mourner
Seeing the world as-is
Your belly aches for all the misery
Your throat catches for all the beauty
The King Mourner comes
Calling the tax-man to account
Wooing the whore to be his lover
Receiving the treasure of the poor

Good mourner, happy mourner
Your feet are sore from wandering
Your eyes swell shut to close out the lies
Your fists clench against injustice
The Chief Cynic twists the plot
Naming your enemies as his beloved
His feet glistening with smutty tears
The stranger becomes host

Good gentle-soul, happy gentle-soul
You don’t want to stick it to the man
You don’t want to step on the woman
You want them to be happy
Seeing no difference between plumber and prince
You humbly bumble through this vicious world
Confused by oppression and pride
Your tender heart is bruised by inequity

Good gentle-soul, happy gentle-soul
Your mouth curls up to giggle
Your ears embrace the word made flesh
Your fingers tap a song of ascent
Dancing in the retinue of the King of Fools
He knocks over the cash registers of the Christian bookseller
He puts the town slut on the deacon board
He gives the poor his crown

Good famished, happy famished
Your stomach growls for justice
Your throat scratches for righteousness
But the amber waves of grain are a desert
And the Mississippi has dried up
As your children die for oil and sand
As the breadbasket becomes a dust-bowl
And the Church makes dirt-pies

Good famished, happy famished
The Spirit is God’s sous-chef
Marinating the days
Sautéing the bitter herbs
To create a culinary masterpiece
Soon you will eat yourself sleepy
And take a nap at Abraham’s bosom
As darkness scratches at the window

Good merciful, happy merciful
You’ve broken the gavel
Tossed aside the stone
Dropped your lawsuit
And torn up your shit-list
Your own shame is still wet
How can you paint guilt on another?
So you stencil the courthouse with doves instead

Good merciful, happy merciful
Your anger has dropped to a whisper
And your wrath has ebbed
Like the tides of God’s justice
That carved you into a smooth stone
That skips across the deep
And sinks to the bottom
Where you rest in the cool calm

Good pureheart, happy pureheart,
You don’t leave an aftertaste
Like tap water from the white house
Which tastes like steel and rot
And only good for flushing
God uses you to water his orchard
And to make lemonade
Which he serves at fancy dinner parties

Good pureheart, happy pureheart
You see God for who he is
You can see him without your face-melting
Like the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark
You aren’t enslaved to power or greed or sex
You don’t hoard stuff of whore self
Or treat God like a vendor or pimp
So you’re invited to the next dinner party!

Good peacemaker, happy peacemaker
You weld machine-guns into bicycles
And sabers into garden hoes
You grow vegetables in rich soil
And load them into your bike trailer
Where you make vegetarian chili
Share it with your neighbor
And season it with love

Good peacemaker, happy peacemaker
You don’t hide away from violence
But lay down in front of it
Calling soldiers to become farmers
And turning tanks into turnip trucks
You dance with your enemy, cheek to cheek
The divine tango of the transformed
A sacred salsa of salvation

Good persecuted, happy persecuted
You’ve upset the wrong people
For all the right reasons
Some write bad theology against you
While others plot murder
But the roads of the Kingdom of God
Are paved with the bones of the prophets
And are edged with the skulls of the saints

Good persecuted, happy persecuted
You will be roasted, crushed, and French pressed
An earthy-sweet beverage in the mouth of God
But bitter in the mouths of your enemies
They offer you a death sentence
As you offer them your prayers
They are building an Empire
But you dwell in the Kingdom of God

Mark Van Steenwyk is the general editor of Jesus Manifesto. He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.

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Viewing 4 Comments

    • ^
    • v
    This is fantastic. There are too many good lines to start picking them out, but "sacred salsa of salvation" sticks out to me, and anytime you can put "shit-list" and "French pressed" in the same poem, there's something good going on there.
    • ^
    • v
    "A sacred salsa of salvation" - love it.
    Plus the reference to the Raiders of the Lost Ark is well-placed.
    • ^
    • v
    Mark, that's stunning. I wish I could come to the performance.
    • ^
    • v
    Hey-ya, I wrote a poem titled "beat" yesterday. Next time I preach at my local church I plan to utilize the stylings of the late-20th century beatnick poets. we should all collaborate sometime a la Ginsberg-Kerouac


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  • Beat: A Poetic Homage to the Beatitudes «

    June 4, 2008 at 11:36 am

    [...] In case you’re interested, the lyrics can be found here. [...]

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