Thursday, December 12, 2013

Me and My Collar

You may run into me on a Friday, in my neighborhood, so it's time I let you know what you might see.

When I was doing my required unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), my supervisor suggested that any of us who came from traditions where a clerical collar was an option, take one "collar week," to see how we were treated, as opposed to wearing regular professional clothes.

After a couple of days, I joked to the Catholic priest, "How do you manage the power?"

In regular clothes, I would walk into a patient's room, and it would take about 5 or so minutes of introductions and pleasantries before we could really get down to talking about their feelings, their fears, the deep stuff.

With most people, as soon as that clerical collar walked in the room, with me attached, they began pouring out all the heavy stuff they were carrying.

I was riding the bus back and forth every day, and though not quite so dramatic, the collar effect was alive there, too. More people would chat with me, and they'd get "real" faster. Rarely was "How's it going?" answered with a polite, "Fine," as normally happened. People spoke about having a stressful time at work, or how they couldn't find their cat, or their joy because someone special was coming in town.

It was great ... and it was exhausting. At the end of the week, I confided to my CPE team that I was glad to take off the collar. As long as it was on, I was "on."

I never expected to wear one as a Unitarian Universalist minister, unless I was doing social witness.

That's the norm. We wear it in those situations because it's important to give a message that religious professionals are there, especially when so many times, (LGBTQ issues, reproductive health), the impression is that religion is only on the conservative side.

A few of my colleagues wear it, though, especially my good friend Rev. Ron Robinson, who wears it around Turley, where he runs a missional community. And the Humiliati wore it as part of their practice.

It Started As an Experiment.

There's a lot of "conventional wisdom" about the collar, among UU ministers. One that I heard many times is that it will turn people off, it will be a barrier. So after I was ordained, I decided to experiment. I would wear it out in my neighborhood, and keep a log of my interactions. I was just curious.

The first two or three times, I noticed some small things -- it seemed that people, especially among the more economically or otherwise marginalized communities -- were a little friendlier, a little more open to talking. But the collar has its effect on me, too, and perhaps I was just being friendlier myself?

The more definable result were the conversations I had with other women -- especially younger women -- about the collar. Was I a priest? No, a minister? A woman ... how did that work? What did people call me?

Well, I do live in the Bible Belt.

And Became An Act of Social Witness.

I wasn't doing it on any regular basis, I must admit. In regular clothes, I have the privilege of being invisible. But these questions, about being a women and a minister, prompted me to occasionally go out in my collar, in the community.

One day, I had to run several errands, including a trip to the post office. I kicked my rear (not literally, I'm not that flexible), put on the collar, and went about them.

At the post office, I futzed around awkwardly, looking for the right size box. The clerk at the counter waved me over, asked if he could assist me. He advised me on a cheaper way to ship, and helped me assemble the package. His co-worker joked, asking if I could give him holy water. The clerk said, “I don’t need that, but would you pray for me?” I smiled and said, Yes, and asked his name. His co-worker said to pray for her, too. I asked her name. When I left, I said, “Thank you, Ray.” And came home and prayed for Ray and Naomi.

So, It Developed Into A Spiritual Practice.

The spirit was willing, but the self-consciousness made me weak. It's just so much easier to be invisible. I'd go out sporadically,  have an experience that made me mentally promise to be more regular about it ... but life just keeps happening, busy schedules, things to make happen, ministry to do ...

And then I heard about a teen in my area, who was gradually coming out as gay, exploring trans*. Hadn't told their parents, don't know how they'll react. Someone told this teen about Unitarian Universalism - they went online, read about it, and were blown away that not all faiths are anti-gay.

In some places, this is still a shockingly new idea that people have never heard of.

There is a Starbucks across the street from my kids' high school, where they often congregate after school. I decided I'd collar up with a rainbow flag pin on my shirt. I didn't expect any teen would talk to me -- I'm still an adult, after all. But I figured I could sit by the door, just taking care of some work on my computer, and maybe, just maybe, the juxtaposition of the collar and the pin might introduce the idea into some teen's head that "Hey, maybe religion and gay aren't enemies." Maybe even, "Hey. Maybe God doesn't hate me."

So, I didn't expect any confirmation. But sometimes we do things, even aware we'll never know if it made a difference. That's faith, I guess.

I was waiting for my lime refresher when the girl standing next to me said, "I like your flag pin."

She said it, but her face looked doubtful. It was one of those rare times when I'm pretty sure I could read her thoughts. Does she know what that pin she's wearing actually means?

I smiled at her. "I think it's important, especially in this area, to send a message."

I watched her eyes bounce back and forth between the pin and my collar.

"Are you a priest?"

"I'm a minister, a Unitarian minister. We're an LGBT-friendly church." I rethought the words. "Mmm, LGBT-welcoming?"

"LGBT-friendly is a good term," she said. She squinted at me. "You mean, your church is okay with gay people?"

"Mmm-hmm. Some of our ministers are gay, too."

She blinked and it seemed apparent this was a brand new idea. We had a conversation of a couple of minutes as she clarified that yes, I really meant it, it was fine to be gay at a Unitarian Universalist church.

"What's the name of your church? My mom has been wanting to go to a church."

I told her, and mentioned another in the area.

She repeated that her mom wanted to find a church. "We've been to a couple of churches ... but the kids were mean to me. Because I'm gay."

Deep breath.

I told her that I was so sorry. That that should never happen at a church. That it would not be tolerated at one of our churches. Not at my church, I emphasized, conscious of the collar I wore, conscious that it represented, to her, an authority far beyond me.

She asked if I could write down the name of my church. I handed her a business card. She read it slowly, standing there.

"I'm Joanna," I said, shaking her hand.

"I'm ----," she said, shaking my hand, looking me straight in the eyes.

That's When it Became a Discipline. 

Every Friday afternoon, that's where I am. I take my ipad, catch up on emails and whatnot.

What makes that a spiritual discipline? my mentor asked.



As I mentioned, when I started my St. Arbucks ministry, my only thought was about presence. And I still think that's important. It's not about me being there. I am merely representing something -- church, God, religion, spirit. With a message of inclusion.

But my experiences have taught me that it's not just enough for my body to be present, I have to be fully aware. Which frankly, is not always one of my strengths, especially if I'm working on something else. I can have deep conversations with someone and after they leave, if you ask me whether they were wearing glasses, or wearing a red shirt, I'll look at you blankly. Not very observant.

It's like an exercise in spiritual peripheral vision. Being casual, certainly not staring at people as they walk in ... yet being aware, so that if someone wants to begin a conversation, I'm open and willing. It's not easy. My own teen was sitting near me one Friday and hissed, "MOM! That guy just said he liked your pin!"

I missed it.

And that's usually how the conversation begins. "I like your pin," they say. Sometimes, that's the end of the conversation. Sometimes not. "I like your pin," said a boy the other day. "Thank you," I said. He turned to a girl sitting by him. "She's a minister, but she likes gays." The girl smiled at me, and with a British accent told me that in her country, gay marriage was legal now. We talked a bit, the three of us.

I often wear the pin on regular clothes. I get smiles, but it's not the same.

It's the collar and the pin. Religion and inclusiveness. God and gay.

See you Friday.

Monday, November 11, 2013

"Our Community" vs. "The Community"

Does your church take care of "their" community or "the" community?

I drive through a neighborhood that has a little park with a playground. They have a prominent sign warning that the park is for the residents' use only. 

It's for their community, not the community.

I was having coffee with my Red Pill brother, Tony Lorenzen, and we talked about this in terms of churches. About how "community" can mean such different things. "Our community" has boundaries, it has gated access and the teeth of guard dogs.

The community is boundless.

Tony pointed out that the history of Unitarian Universalism is one of "The Community," not "Our Community." This isn't just fuzzy theoretical musings. It's why we got the buildings, the membership rolls, and the communion silver. (Even if it took a while to collect the latter.)

In 1818, the community of Dedham, Massachusetts called a liberal (what would soon to be known as “Unitarian”) minister to their church. The people who were the members of the Dedham Church wanted an orthodox minister so they said, “See ya,” and left with the valuables. A judge decided that the church was for the benefit of the community (parish), not just the church members, so the community had the right to the assets of the church.

I know, I know. A little detail in this is that the parish was paying a tax to support the church. So is that what we come down to, now? Only those paying members of a church should be served by it?

It's easy, today, to feel the need for "our community," for a safe place to seek sanctuary for a culture that often feels so foreign, with its emphasis on consumerism, celebrity, and, depending on where you live, fundamentalism.

But it's not enough for us to make a safe place for "our community." Our parish goes beyond our walls and we're called to make that entire parish more loving, more tolerant, more whole.

Those other folks out there ... they are residents in the Beloved Community, too.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Church With Heart

The Poor Lazarus at the Rich Man's Door,
James Tissot, Wikimedia Commons
The Church With Heart has a heart full of love for not only its members, but for the people outside its doors. Because this is what Unitarian Universalism is all about -- it's about having faith that love is infinite, undying, and there's plenty to go around for all of us, so we need to love one another within the church, and then take that love outside the church because Lazarus is right outside our gate, starving for our crumbs, and even our crumbs are valuable because the Lazaruses outside our gate are starving for acceptance, for nourishing food for their minds and souls, for a listening ear, for relationship, for purpose.

Yes, purpose. Another word for that is mission. And here's the thing - a church doesn't have a mission. Do you hear me? A church does not have a mission, a mission has a church. The Church With Heart is willing to go out and track that mission down so that they can attach themselves to it and be claimed by it. It's scary stuff, mission, because once that mission has adopted you, once you both have realized you are the church for it, and it is the mission for you, it begins guiding you in all sorts of directions, maybe even strange and dark alleys. Mission takes you on adventure, and adventure is wild and joyous and thrilling, but the one thing adventure is not is "comfortable." Mission shoves us out of our comfort zone because there's something bigger, another place we need to get to, and Mission understands that life will be better for all of us once we get there, so just hang on to your hat and enjoy the ride.

Time is precious, and fleeting, and running out, right now. Don't be a church content with maintaining a community of like-minded people where everyone gets along, because there is a fierce urgency that comes with our call, our commission, to experience and create that holy and wholeness-filled Beloved Community, right now.

Lazarus is waiting.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It's about MISSION. Period. OR ... "Why is your church better than sleep?"

Please forgive me.

I'm just not feeling in the mood to be polite or compromising or parsing my words. Blame the heat. It is insanely hot in Houston, Tx. It's the kind of heat that makes things like going and buying a kiddie pool, just to fill it up with 17 bags of ice from Buc-ee's and lay down in it, seem perfectly reasonable. Our Southern politeness just tends to melt, y'all.

There's all these articles that have been coming out. "Millenials are leaving your church!" "What people want in a church!" Oh, the list goes on and on.

And ultimately, what it comes down to is MISSION.

I'm going to take it one step further ... you know all those studies showing that evangelical churches are growing, and liberal ones aren't? I don't think it's because of conservative vs. liberal.

It's like that recent study that showed that the problems crack babies experienced weren't because they were crack babies, it's because they were raised in poverty, and most babies raised in poverty had those problems.

The more conservative an evangelical church is, the easier it is to define its mission. Right? Right! Liberalism, whether you're talking political, religious, social, or what-have-you, is always broader, always more inclusive.

The problem is when we allow that inclusivity to also mean that the MISSION is broad, not specific, attempting to encompass every possible thing that a person might feel strongly about.

That's kind.

It's also unfocused.

People want focus.

What is your focus? What is your mission? Why the heck do you think that people should wake up early on a Sunday, a SUNDAY for goodness sakes,  and come to your church?

It's not about competing with the church down the road. And so, consequently, trumpeting that you are most definitely not the church down the road ... is going to get you a "Meh?" response.

Your competition is the cheap brunch and Sunday morning shows and THE HARDEST COMPETITOR .... SLEEP.

Why is your church better than sleep? What is the whole reason it exists?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Too Many Reasons to Kill

Along with discussing racism and common sense gun regulation, perhaps we should consider
Cain Killing Abel, Daniele Crespi, Wikimedia
something more basic - why, in the United States, do we have so many legal reasons to kill another person?

My dad and I were talking about this whole Zimmerman thing, and some other cases that have come up. He recalled a conversation with a colleague from Germany.

His colleague was an engineering contractor, here in Houston for a few weeks. They were at Guido's, enjoying seafood and beer, and his colleague was astounded at the long list of killings in the newspaper. He said that Houston alone had more killings than all of Germany. Yes, they have regulations about weapons in his country, he said, but more than that, "we do not have all those legal reasons for a person to kill another."

Around the U.S., it's hard to make the case that we value human life, we have so many reasons to kill. If you feel threatened, if you're protecting your house (or anything you own, really), to retrieve stolen property, "to stop rape, arson, burglary, robbery, theft at night and criminal mischief at night."

We have interesting euphemisms for it:

Stand Your Ground
Castle Doctrine
Make My Day

All summed up as "justifiable homicide."

“We all have contempt for whatever there’s too many of. Out here it’s sheep, but in the city it’s people.” -- The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Beloved Community: The Now and Not Yet

Rev. Christine Robinson has a great little post up about the phrase "beloved community" and why it's problematic to use that to describe a church. Like her mom, I can get cranky about the whole thing, but my crankiness lies in the misuse of what is, to me, such a breathtaking and profound concept.

Martin Luther King, Jr., someone whose words I study in great detail, is the one we often think of as originating the term, but he learned about it through the writings of Josiah Royce.

Josiah Royce (right) with close friend William James. 
Royce was a philosopher, studying Kant, Hegel. I imagine he would have enjoyed Koestler's theory of the holon, because he saw humanity as being both individuals and part of a greater "organism" that was community. As King's belief about Beloved Community would be rooted in agape, Royce's philosophy stemmed from what he called loyalty, and by that he meant, "the practically devoted love of an individual for a community.” (The Problem of Christianity, Royce, 1913)

For Royce, Beloved Community was a goal. It was the best of everyone, working for the best of all humanity, and encompassing all of humanity. It starts with a community loyally working toward that end, ever expanding -- "the enlargement of the ideal community of the loyal in the direction of identifying that community with all mankind." 

Missional Christians will often talk about the Kingdom of God as being "The Now and Not Yet." On the more theologically conservative side, the "not yet" refers to another world happening after this one; for those more liberal, "not yet" is the dream of what our earthly civilization has the potential to be.

Beloved Community was both the now and not yet for Royce. It is something that we can make real in our own lives, in our current world, even as we accept that the work will not be complete in our lifetime. But even as we acknowledge the idealism of the world we yearn for, we still take concrete steps to create it, analyzing what we do and promote for how it will further the vision. “Every proposed reform, every moral deed, is to be tested by whether and to what extent it contributes to the realization of the Beloved Community…When one cannot find the ‘beloved community,’ she needs to take steps to create it and if there is not evidence of the existence of such a community then the rule to live by is To Act So As To Hasten Its Coming.” (Royce)

For Martin Luther King, Jr., Beloved Community was the result of agapic love lived. Even on this, you can see the interweaving of Royce's view that ultimately, humanity is one organism.
"Agape means understanding, redeeming good will for all men. It is an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative. It is not set in motion by any quality or function of its object. It is the love of God operating in the human heart. 
Agape is disinterested love. It is a love by which the individual seeks not his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people, or any qualities people possess. It begins by loving others for their sakes...Agape makes no distinction between friends and enemy; it is directed toward both... 
Agape is not a weak, passive love. It is love in action. Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community. It is insistence on community even when one seeks to break it. ….In the final analysis, agape means a recognition of the fact that all life is interrelated. All humanity is involved in a single process, and all men are brothers." (An Experiment in Love, MLK, 1958)
Beloved Community is not held within our church walls. As soon as you begin to think like that, you have moved into the exact opposite of beloved community, because in creating that definition of community, you have necessarily created otherness. There is the community inside our walls, the people who think like us, act like us, look like us. And there are the people who are not part of that community, the "others." This is not Beloved Community. Royce distinguished between small "communities of grace" that were loyal to the greater cause of the universal Beloved Community and those who were insular, often "predatory," in their loyalty to their own.

Universalism is naturally woven into Beloved Community. Universalism is universal salvation; salvation for everyone, unconditional. Those who strive for Beloved Community want a realized eschatology where everyone is saved from poverty, from disease, from injustice.  As Rev. King said in a speech honoring Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois,
Let us be dissatisfied until every man can have food and material necessities for his body, culture and education for his mind, freedom and human dignity for his spirit. Let us be dissatisfied until rat-infested, vermin-filled slums will be a thing of a dark past and every family will have a decent, sanitary house in which to live. Let us be dissatisfied until the empty stomachs of Mississippi are filled and the idle industries of Appalachia are revitalized...Let us be dissatisfied until our brother of the Third World Asia, Africa, and Latin America-will no longer be the victim of imperialist exploitation, but will be lifted from the long night of poverty, illiteracy, and disease.  (Honoring Dr. Du Bois, MLK, 1968)
Let us be dissatisfied. Let us strengthen our church communities so that they may be communities of grace, outward-facing, living in the Beloved Community of now, creating the Beloved Community of not yet.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

West, TX: If There is No Face of the Tragedy, is it Still a Tragedy?

There have been different theories as to why the tragedy in West, TX, has not engendered the same attention as did the tragedy in Boston, MA this week.

Some say it's because one was an attack, the other an industrial accident. Others say it's because one was in a large city, the other in a small rural town.

I think it was something far more basic: we are visual people, and we viscerally connect with pictures of other people. Quick, think of a picture of the Boston marathon bombing. The man with half a leg missing, being pushed in a wheelchair? The 78 year old runner knocked to the ground? The police, running toward the explosion?

Now, think of a picture of the West, TX explosion. The fireball? The cloud? The stripped-out apartments?

The lack of faces defining the explosion are, actually, perhaps the saddest part. Because when the fertilizer plant exploded, homes nearby were leveled. We simply don't know how many people died. We can count the bodies that are found. But for many, we will know of their deaths only by their absence.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bloody Nails, Hung-up Harps

It was the nails that broke me.

I had already cried. Cried when I watched the reports of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Then dried the tears, and began working fast, earnestly, with Meg, Lynn, Lara, and Tim to put together a prayer service so that Monday night, we would all have an online place to gather, to be in religious community. Bless you, musicians, for your songs. Bless you, the community that showed up, to bare our pain together. Bare. Not bear, as Ric Masten corrected.

Tuesday came, and more details. Pressure cookers, filled with shards of metal, ball bearings, nails.

Those nails pierced my grief, taking me to that place of just total incomprehension.

What did it feel like, holding those nails in your hand? Did you touch them, or just open the cardboard box and drop them in? Perhaps you thought if you didn't touch them, they would leave no blood on your hands?

But you chose them. You chose them, because you didn't just want attention, you wanted those nails to explode, to drive into flesh, to maim, to kill. 

There are some who already, or from the very beginning, had hearts of compassion not only for those hurt, but for the person(s) behind this. They prayed that the killer might find a way to the love ethic that they themselves feel. They felt sorrow that anyone might hurt so much they were willing to do this.

I am not so spiritually advanced.

I don't want vengeance, but yes, I want justice. I want a court of law, and a jury of peers, all of that. I want answers.

And yes, I am angry. I am angry that this type of evil exists. The type of cold, calculated evil that allows someone to drop nails and ball bearings into a pressure cooker, a pressure cooker that goddammit should be used for putting up peach preserves to give to all the people you love, and then figuring out where to put that pressure cooker for maximum impact, maximum pain. Nails tearing the flesh of children, of friends and family.

I am an angry person and I sing so that I may remain a gentle person. I sing so that this incomprehensibility will always remain that, that I will never understand the feeling that would allow this evil to invade my soul.

Perhaps Psalm 137 is a warning. They were so hurt, so wrecked, that they hung their harps upon the willows. They couldn't, or wouldn't, sing. And they became a people who fantasized about dashing the babies of their enemies upon the rocks.

Perhaps we should sing for our lives.

Monday, March 4, 2013

My Tribe

I have concerns about community, about shibboleths, about only wanting to be around "people like us."

But there is also something visceral, something that looks at a picture, reads a blog post, hears a conversation during coffee hour, and breathes in, "This is my tribe."

It was a picture of a friend's mom that reminded me of this. Joy on her face, love on her shirt, a friend at her side, clutching a banner of her belief ... deeply and reverentially, I inhaled, held the breath, and thought, "I have never met her, but I know her. For we are related. She is my tribe."

If she and I were to speak, we would already be speaking the same language. We might argue about the accent, but we could understand each other, even if we did not agree.

How important is that! In this world, where we not only don't agree, but often times, we can't even understand each other. We speak the same language, we think, yet my words go whizzing past his right  ear, as his fall into ashes under my left ear. "I ... what?  ... you mean? "

The thought is unfinished. We look at each other blankly.

Blink. Blink.

She reaches out to me, from the picture. We hum Spirit of Life together, we exchange stories. Perhaps, like my parents' friends, she argues with me, heatedly, but yet with love. "But you don't understand!" she glares. "No, YOU don't understand!" I whine.

The chasm between us seems large, but then she looks over her shoulder; I look over mine. The chasm is here, on our beautiful island. We are separated from the rest of the world by hundreds of ocean miles.

The chasm seems small, suddenly. We reach out, at the same time. Our hands touch, and we follow them with our feet, wading out to the cool middle.

"Kind of cold for this time of year," she says.

"Eh, I think it's a bit warm."

We smile. We are in the same water. No matter what we call it. The water runs over the rocks, past our ankles, on to a future we can't yet know.

Our future.

Our tribe.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Where is your church? How do you minister there?

Take a moment with me, would you?

Imagine your church. No, not the place you go to on Sunday. It's not a place, it's people. But I'm not talking about your formal congregation.

Think about your life, your day to day going and doing. Work. Home. Grocery Store. Gym. School. Soccer Practice.

Imagine all the people whose paths you'll cross. Some you know, some you don't.

Now imagine that they are your church, and you are their minister.

We all do ministry, whether we call it that or not.

Yesterday, I was in the subway system of another city, and I got off at the wrong stop. I stepped off at the next one, to head back. A young man was there on the platform. He had a welcoming face, and so I explained where I was trying to go and asked his advice. He gave it, along with some reassurance, and kind chitchat.

I had stepped into his church, and he ministered to me.

Where is your church?

Monday, February 18, 2013


"I remember that day."

God looks at me, unsmiling yet neutral, waiting to hear.

"You called me. You called me out of my happy life that I was leading."

God nods slightly. Yes.

"It seemed impossible, then. Impossible, but inevitable. Almost like I didn't have a choice."

I did have a choice...

A call is not a demand. Never a demand. You have to want it as much as it wants you. I know that now.

"But I could never have imagined how hard it would be."

My eyes blur. I can't help it. Life intervened, for me. And yet, in a million different ways, life intervenes for everyone. No way is easy. The burden is light but the way is narrow.

God has dropped down, next to me, so close no one can tell where I end, where God begins. Which is fine. The boundary is only an illusion, after all.

I look up, unseeing, into Its Eyes.

(As if sight, fleeting, were so important.)

"It took a million years. 8, at least. A million years in that eight."

God is closer still, a quarter-inch shadow, if that, outside me.

We breathe together, remembering.

I stand up at my desk, pull on the robe, adjust the shoulder pads, run the lapel mike through the pocket, up the middle, across the zipper. Touch and grab the stole, the yoke. Look at the neck, a tag embroidered from ones I love, who love me, who embody Great Mystery.  Bring it toward me and kiss it, my lips a prayer of thanksgiving, of gratitude, for this hard, painful, beautiful journey. This call.

As always, I whisper a thank you ...

Drape it over my shoulders, the weight heavy and substantial, desired, and chosen.

Down the steps we go.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A bird calls from outside.
No, no, I bury myself deeper
Wanting the comfort of warmth from the cold
The comfort of barely moving
In my comfortable, familiar bed

"It is warm outside," she sings.
The seasons change, with you or not.

Grudging, I get up. Clothes, shoes,
Take a walk.

My path curves around fenced backyards.
I smell it ...
White honeysuckle.
The unmistakeable olfactory harbinger of spring.

The trees are leafless, the grass dead, but
From behind one of those gray wooden fences
It wafts out.

I peek through, seeing nothing.
But it's there.

I'm not ready, I explain.
I walk on.
I need more winter.
We need more winter, I try to persuade.


At the cross, of this street to that,
I see the back of a bird.
It's black, but I suspect ...

The bird doesn't move, so I walk on.
I turn my head and look back.
Yes, a red breast.

I consider running at it,
Shooing it away. As if it knows,
It looks me in the eye.
"Really?" it seems to say, a slight sardonic lift of its head.