Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I am holed up here in Clive, Iowa, where my car broke down yesterday, and I wake to read emails, eat my oatmeal, and try to enjoy the delay (and expense) in returning home to Minnesota....*chuckles* sigh*smile*
Part of my morning routine is perusing scripture and wondering about how God is talking to me each day.....Today's Gospel* features "the Magnificat," or "Song of Mary"-- a text that inspires a canticle I adore: "Holy is His Name."
Mary is speaking and rocking my world with her words about God, about child, about being blessed, about the power of Love. Spending time with the text this morning, I keep hearing Ann Shallbetter and Julie Strahan singing this at my wedding. I am standing, holed up in the Children's room at St. Philips, leaning into the speakers to hear my friends sing this song as prelude to walking down the aisle. Or: I am standing alongside my dad last Sunday, at St. Margaret Mary's in Omaha, where my brother in law, Chris Johnson sings this song with his church choir. And my heart is happy. It's such a beautiful tune, inspired by such a powerful text....
I wonder what words each of us might be inspired to utter in the face of faith, this season's experiences? I wonder what I might be inspired to say, given the miracles and blessings of God's love?
For all of you who may not know yet, I share this piece of news that has me feeling blessed this Christmas season:
Francois Kiemde and I are expecting a baby! It's so exciting, it's so fast, it feels like such an overwhelming miracle and mystery...ALL OF IT! Meeting him, connecting in our faith, and finding the blessed capacity to commit to communicating and loving each other the rest of our days, and then conceiving this baby....It's all so much larger than me. I feel a bit like Mary,
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; the Almighty has done great things for me, He has filled the hungry (me!) with good things --(a baker and baby!)
I invite each of you to celebrate with us at this good news, and to keep us and this growing child in your prayers. (We will be having an ultrasound in two short weeks, and simply ask for a healthy child to be born....Can you imagine Mary asking for a healthy ultrasound? It makes me laugh as I write this... ) By the way , we are due in late May.
I also invite each of you to celebrate in the spaces where you are "holed up" this season, and to see how any miracles are manifesting your midst.....God is good. I am grateful for all of you in my life.
Peace, Advent blessings,
Melissa, on behalf of Francois and child
"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever."
Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months
and then returned to her home.
Monday, December 21, 2009
What does it mean to lead? What is at the center of your beliefs and actions? What inspires nations and its citizens? What creates hope and optimism in your own home? What is possible in the face of great odds? What is trying to get born in you today, in your work, on your field, in your lab, in your mind, within your family or community? How are you called to respond? Do you see yourself as unconquerable? Do you know that beauty and the divine dwell within and all around? Do you recognize your own capacity to forgive, to transcend those who have caused you the greatest grief or injury?
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The wilderness way Moses tookwas pure need and desolation.Remember how you cried when you were a child?Joseph's path to the throne room of Egyptwhere he distributed grain to his brothersled through the pit his brothers left him in.Don't look for new waysto flee across the chessboard.Listen to hear the checkmatespoken directly to you.Mice nibble. That's what they needto be doing. What do you need?How will you impress the onewho gave you life?If all you can do is crawl,start crawling.You have a hundred cynical fantasiesabout God. Make them ninety-nine!If you can't pray a real prayer, prayhypocritically, full of doubtand dry-mouthed.God acceptscounterfeitmoneyas thoughit were real!- RumiTranslated by Coleman Barks in "The Illuminated Rumi"
Saturday, October 24, 2009
I'm posting the following as an act of support for the poet activists speaking out on behalf of dialogue on a complex issue of our time. How to address Israel? How to understand the US's role? How to unpack the many narratives told by Palestinians, Israelis, World Leaders, Military and Peace figures? I received a letter earlier in the week describing a truly sad and unfortunate censoring of these poet activists, Kevin Coval and Josh Healey, who were originally invited to come and speak at JStreet. I know Josh through his work at Madison's First Wave Spoken Word program, as well as meeting him at Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam. I encourage any and all who are able to tune in to this important dialogue, and participate on Sunday.
WE WILL NOT BE SILENT: POETRY ON PALESTINE AND ISRAEL
with Kevin Coval and Josh Healey
Sunday, October 25
Busboys and Poets, Langston Room
2021 14th St, NW (near U Street Metro station)
This past week, Kevin Coval and Josh Healey were censored and un-invited from this weekend's J Street conference in D.C. as a result of attacks in various right-wing blogs and online magazines. In defiance of these McCarthyist attacks, and J Street's subsequent accommodation, Coval and Healey have decided to proceed with the original event.
They will share their poems and dialogue about Israel/Palestine, identity and justice, and (especially now) free speech. No longer part of the J Street gathering, this event is open to the whole community: conference attendees, artists, activists, youth, elders, Jews, Palestinians, gentiles, and anyone down to build.
Free event. All-ages, all are welcome.
For background on the situation, see:
For more info, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
* * * * *
Friday, October 16, 2009
by Harvey Ellis
my ancestors surround me
like walls of a canyon
their ideas drift over me
like breezes at sunset
we gather sticks
and make settlements
what we do is only partly
and partly continuation
down through the chromosomes
my baby sleeps behind me
stirring in the night
for the touch
that lets him continue
he is arranging
in his small form the furniture
and windows of his home
it will be a lot like mine
it will be a lot like theirs
"ancestors" by Harvey Ellis from Sleep Not Sleep. © Wolf Ridge Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
This website inspires me. I got turned onto this work when my friend Ibe Kaba posted a link to the "ONE" organization during the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, on his facebook page. The idea of this summit being hosted somewhere on the continent of Africa is being proposed. This notion excites me. Check out the mural. Check out the website. Sit with these basic questions:
What is the fight against global poverty?
What does this mean for me?
What does it require of you?
What must each of us get conscious of?
How is each and everyone of us an agent of change?
Peace, Love, Contemplation, ACTION!
Friday, September 18, 2009
In the coming weeks, I will have the privilege of helping facilitate "Listening Sessions" at the Church of St. Philip in North Minneapolis. As part of our Social Justice committee work, we have discerned a call to hold two evening sessions inviting people who have left the church to return and share their stories. We are creating space for former parishioners to gather and reflect. We are asking those who choose to come to respond to three simple questions:
- What called you to the St. Philip Community initially?
- Where are you now and what do you like about it?
- What would you like to share with us about the circumstances that have caused you to change churches or stay away?
Our goal in having these sessions is to do the work of story-telling: of truth-telling, sharing, hearing, acknowledging, and reconciling. Our goal is to tune in, not unlike the poet, to the heart of matters, to details, to the Divine at work and in our midst. As I ready myself, I'm re-reading poems. I'm struck time and again by Mary Oliver, Rainer Maria Rilke, William Stafford. Today, I tune to an old favorite by William Stafford, and realize that his poem holds lessons around why I am called to do any of this work of listening, sharing stories, responding. I invite each and everyone of you into this poem - into reading it as an act of prayer and meditation. And I ask that you please keep these "Listening Sessions" in your heart.
A Ritual to Read to Each Other
by William Stafford (1960)
If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park.
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give --yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Critical response questions follow. Read on.
by Julie Kane
They say two photons fired through a slit
stay paired together to the end of time;
if one is polarized to change its spin,
the other does a U-turn on a dime,
although they fly apart at speeds of light
and never cross each other's paths again,
like us, a couple in the seventies,
divorced for almost thirty years since then.
Tonight a Red Sox batter homered twice
to beat the Yankees in their playoff match,
and, sure as I was born in Boston, when
that second ball deflected off the bat,
I knew your thoughts were flying back to me,
though your location was a mystery.
"Particle Physics" by Julie Kane from Jazzy Funeral. © Story Line Press, 2009. Reprinted with permission. Information about the WCU Poetry Center.
What would it mean to be fired through a slit together?
You and me?
Have you ever wondered what makes one polarized?
What gives you a charge?
Know anyone to turn on a dime?
Can you fathom the speed of light?
How would it feel to never lay eyes on her again? Or him?
Would you ache?
How are baseball and physics and love all connected?
(Have you seen "Bull Durham"? I wonder if Susan Sarandon reads such poems or blogs?) What is your location?
Who do you love?
What have you lost?
How can we win home runs in love?
What do particles do when they divorce?
What do particles do when they love?
What are you and I made up of?
What does our matter say to these queries?
To this poem?
Can we ever put our finger on mystery?
Happy Questions and Contemplation!
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Chris, the father of two sons, Christopher Jr. (3) and Sincere (1), was an active member of St. Nebo Missionary Baptist Church and a graduate of North High School (2004). He also attended Dicker College in Louisville, Kentucky & Barber College (2006-2007). His family says that he was a loving son and brother—a true family man—who will be remembered for his big smile and his creative designs.
The PEACE Vigil will be held on Sunday, September 6th at 2:00 p.m. next to 1416 11th Ave North.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
This was in my inbox. I post it as a way to remind myself of this simple truth uttered below by Dutch Priest and Psychologist, Fr. Henri Nouwen: "words have the power to create life."
This makes me ask, "What do I want to create? What do you? What do you want to speak into existence? What do you want to let go of? What role do our words play in the creation of love, life, peace? What role do they play in forgiving another?"
Questions that inform my prayer today. Here's Nouwen's pithy reflection. I hope it finds you well.
Speaking Words of Love
Often we remain silent when we need to speak. Without words, it is hard to love well. When we say to our parents, children, lovers, or friends: "I love you very much" or "I care for you" or "I think of you often" or "You are my greatest gift," we choose to give life. It is not always easy to express our love directly in words. But whenever we do, we discover we have offered a blessing that will be long remembered. When a son can say to his father, "Dad, I love you," and when a mother can say to her daughter, "Child, I love you," a whole new blessed place can be opened up, a space where it is good to dwell. Indeed, words have the power to create life.
-Fr. Henri Nouwen
Monday, September 07, 2009
Do I know you? Near Madison, Wisconsin? A fan, friend, some-day acquaintance of Melissa Borgmann? Blessed be! It'd be lovely to get a note from you, as a curious, returning visitor to
QueenMab Contemplates. Maybe you don't have my direct email address? I just keep getting reports that you are returning, and it inspires a desire to know you. Drop me a line at email@example.com.
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The last time this happened, my cousin Jennie reappeared in my life. Are you another cousin? Maybe a classmate? A former collaborator? A friend of a friend? Certainly: a human curious about me.
I hope this finds you well!
Happy Labor Day!
I am here in Uganda, reading emails, and have learned of this news about a former student of mine dying from the use of a police taser.
Quincy DeShawn Smith, 24, was killed this Tuesday after a struggle with the police in which he was tased. Quincy, once a North High School star football player, was also known as 'Q the Blacksmith,' a beloved DJ on KMOJ radio for almost two years. Although he had thousands of caring fans, none loved him more than the children he worked to nurture throughout the community.
As a teacher's assistant at Harvest Prep in North Minneapolis, students and teachers remember him as a tremendous role model with a caring heart and loving smile. Quincy will be greatly missed by his family and friends, as well as the entire community. He touched everyone.
(Vigil: 3:00pm @ 1000 block of Knox Ave. N)
Sunday, September 06, 2009
On the Death of Toua Xiong
August 8, 2006
I don't watch the news. I listen to MPR. I don't watch television news though, unless it's focused on global or national events. These local reports depress me.
So tonight, I am clicking the channel to find something as I wind down, and happen to hear the words "Arrest of a 20 year old in the murder of a North Minneapolis Pizza Delivery boy."
Next thing I know: a photo of Toua Xiong, the most sweet, innocent boy I may have ever taught at Minneapolis North Community High School, is being flashed up on the screen. He was the Pizza Hut delivery person killed on Sunday night.
And my god! This is the second former student of mine murdered --in what? A month? That I knew!! That is dead. Innocent young person. Marcus White. Now Toua Xiong.
And breathing is hard, you know.....?
This kid was so quiet. So sweet. Mid-height. Thin. So thin. So squeaky, squirmy, sitting next to this pack of Hmong boys in the back of my classroom with all their notebooks filled with car drawings; he was always drawing pictures and asking questions....Quiet questions. Needing to be near my elbow when he whispered them.
....When we were doing that Midsummer Night's Dream Unit, he played Mustardseed, or some such precious, few-lined character...And to ensure he got a good grade, submitted all of these drawings of the characters as he had envisioned them....
And then when I lead the Teen Group at St. Phillips - he delivered our pizza one random Monday night. I remember this whole awkward struggle I had leaving him a tip....(I didn't add right, and he returned to the church basement to have me recalculate the amount I'd written in...I was so embarrassed...)
And now he's dead.
I just ask for your thoughts. Prayers...We need peace. We need to be in relationship...
I suppose I need to ask some question...But I'm tired..And so angry.....And so sad...
So: please pose them out there....and have kind thoughts.....And hold this......It's not okay to have this happen.
Sunday, June 16, 2006
Friends, I am devastated. And writing as a way through this...as prayer...request for prayer and community...
I have logged onto my email from my friend Suzann's home in Pleasant View, Utah. (After a morning of watching CNN, learning more of the sitaution in Lebanon and the war being waged there with Israel, the Hezbollah, Hamas, and calling for the world's response... That news, followed by the "Secret State"report depicting the assissinations of three people who worked to cross the border of North Korea in the name of freedom, democracy, education...)
And now this. The Peace Foundation e-lert informing me of the latest Vigil: for Marcus White, 19 year old young man who was shot and killed Friday.
Marcus White, former student of mine at North High, with this beautiful smile and desire to always have the "right answers" when it came to class work...I amseeing him ask about his mid-term, Spring Semester, when he had to memorize and perform a scene from Mid-Summer Night's Dream. He was either Lysander or Demetrius, one of the young lovers.....One of the
.....The last time I saw him, I was walking into the Visitation Sisters' house on Girard, and he shouted a "Hey Ms. Borgmann" from across the street, just kitty-corner from the North High football field...When was that?.....
And I have photos of him on my hard drive at home - wearing a Peace Games T-shirt and a funny crown on his head...We were in the Sculpture Garden at the Walker...there for the Peace Games...Teens Rock the Mic poets were performing.. and our friends from South Africa....
I'm in shock. Sad. Devastated.....
I didn't know if this was one and same "Marcus-White-my-student" - until I found this Star
Tribune Article, and looked up his age....
I just wrote Michelle and Sondra at the Peace Foundation to confirm this, but now I know this is
What's going on in our world? Where are we pointing our eyes, our hearts, our minds? What are we focusing on? How are we called into this? How do I sit here, north of Ogden, and do anything?
Sas, (my dear girlfriend from Sacred Heart and Norfolk Catholic, whose home with Brook, her husband, and son Ben - that I'm at now) ---She and I were up late last night, discussing so many of the issues present on the planet...(You know, those delicious deep,
philopophical, spiritual conversations I relish..) And we are asking ourselves what we are up to...
What are our gifts?
What does God, Creator, Love call us to do?
We are ear deep in stories, reflecting on the
tragedies and celebrations of our lives, and we both know how lucky we are really...how privileged we are...and considering what that means...
What are we called to do or be?
You know me, I just want to love...get married and have some kids and love them the best I can....Do my part to be an agent of change, a radical force of Love on the planet, working to impact evolution, helping create a space of healing and peace...in my own home...
I tried for years in my classroom at North to do these things.....through my work with these beautiful poets and emerging teaching artists...
And Sas, here, with her beautiful son Benjamin, who she and Brook conceived and carried through 9-11....
What am I saying? What am I writing? I don't know...But....there is a little blond boy downstairs who giggles and kisses and plays with trains and who came onto the earth (with perhaps the
miraculous help of St. Therese: "She's the one who held me when I was trying to be a baby" --said the almost 3-year old Ben, pointing at a statue of the saint, who his mom prayed to during the time they were working to conceive him.....)
IS this too much information? Too much processing? I don't know, but I must cling to these stories, this little boy's voice and smile and image (he's now saying: "Ms. Melissa, do want to see me crabwalk?" aha!)
And I hold this moment, this child - as that representing Love...of the greater goodness, the more powerful Life and Spirit orce that permeates our hearts...casts out the darkness and sorrow....
Hopefully...yes...Ben doesn't replace Marcus White. But he gives me hope....
As does the Peace Foundation. As does Prayer. As does knowing each and every one of you. As does this act of processing via email...
With love and blessings to each of you...
From Pleasant View, Utah,
Minneapolis' latest victim of violence had worked on peace games
Terry Collins and David Chanen, Star Tribune
Around this time a year ago, Marcus White persuaded
PEACE Games organizers not to end a semifinal game on
a north Minneapolis basketball court after police
found a gun.
"I've worked hard to make this happen," White pleaded
during the anti-crime event. "Please let us finish
what we started. We need something positive."
On Thursday, the 19-year-old from Minneapolis was shot
and killed near a busy intersection in broad daylight,
becoming the city's 34th homicide victim this year.
Nobody had been arrested Friday. Police believe the
shooting was gang-related, and Capt. Rich Stanek said
that White had a "gang association."
But White's relatives who gathered at a vigil Friday
night! rejected that idea, and his cousin Steven
Smith said White had a college scholarship for the
A crowd of about 100 people converged at the corner of
W. Broadway and Dupont Avenue N., near the shooting
scene, singing gospel songs that reached into the
neighborhood over a loud speaker.
Another vigil is planned for 4 p.m. Sunday at the
site. As soon as Monday, Council Member Don Samuels
said, he intends to conduct his Fifth Ward business
from a tent in a parking lot on Broadway -- directly
across from where White was shot in the busy business
district that city leaders have vowed to revitalize.
Police were already working to address the crime
problem in the area with plans to open a safety center
there next week. Staff will include a Minneapolis
police crime prevention specialist and a West Broadway
Business Association representative, said mayoral
spokesman Jeremy Hanson.
"This will be a hub for the Police Department," he
said. "Once! it opens, the city will work with
community and neighborhood ! groups to figure how the
center can best fulfill everybody's needs."
Interim Police Chief Tim Dolan said Friday that
although there are beat officers assigned to the area,
additional officers will be on patrol in the wake of
He joined family and friends of White who gathered
earlier Friday around a makeshift memorial at W.
Broadway and Dupont.
Dolan also said there were gang members who were
"making a show" at the scene Friday.
The scene was a far cry from the one where White
worked a year ago as a youth worker for the inaugural
youth-oriented PEACE Games.
"He said, 'All we want to do is show you that we can
do this without anybody getting shot. Please,' " said
former coordinator Jimmy Stanback, who hired White.
Stanback said he'd known White since he was a kid and
last spoke to him Wednesday on W. Broadway. White
asked him about this year's PEACE Games, which begin
"All I'm thinking about now i! s how he was trying to
prevent violence," Stanback said. "And now he's a
victim to violence."
An argument apparently led to Thursday's shooting,
Moments before, White and two other people were in a
car. White and the woman were shot outside the car, he
said. Her injuries aren't life threatening.
The shooter fled on foot, Stanek said, adding that
police received several tips from those at the scene
who are "sick and tired" of the violence. In March,
Stanek stood over the body of Melvin Paul, 28, who
also was killed in broad daylight in his car about 20
feet from where White lay.
"We still need the community to come forward with
information to keep this a safe place and curtail the
violence," Stanek said.
The Rev. Jerry McAfee organized Friday night's vigil
and called on the community to trust in God and be
more spiritually focused as the way to prevent further
White's mother showed up briefly and! came forward
when McAfee identified her, but then she passed ! out.
A relative took her away in a car.
The minister called on the community to stand behind
"If you're not going to be with this family for the
long haul, I'd rather you leave now," he said. People
Staff writer Myron P. Medcalf contributed to this
Friday, September 04, 2009
The Historic Hotel in Mid-town Manhattan, known for Dorothy Parker and her crew of literary, artistic, political peeps...AND THE ROUND TABLE!
Where we are warmly received.
(From Left to Right: Francois, Eduard, Fred, Carmela all raising a glass.
There's so much to toast this weekend!)
This meal will be my favorite all weekend. Love to Carmela's multicultural cooking skills, this menu honoring her Italian heritage.
Who knew this would be the first Broadway Musical Francois would ever see?
An LA love story set to 1980's Rock and Love ballads? The Humor of it all!
Psychic Reading on Francois' 40th Year:
Yes, I'm your soul mate, and you will be wildly successful in your next bakery business!