religion died and we kids
the heirs rummage through the attic
examining old photos reading
the love letters they wrote
at the beginning hoping to find
the original framework
the meaning of life
our place in the cosmos
a working concept of god

what were they thinking down
in the trenches in the minutiae
seeking to ensure salvation
dog-whistle rules of culture
morality trite and unexamined
that leave happiness unmaximized

they hid wisdom in skinny
principles which twisted in the wind
and turn out to be fragile subject to change
transposing in light then fading
love being vulnerable
while conflicted and contingent

holding in tension mutually
exclusive principles both
containing truth pondered in koans
spawning debate suspending practical
judgement subject to continual change

a wobbly framework though
we know goodness when we see it
and yearn for permanent absolute truth
but what we see is flow
even our own nature evolving


James T. Stemmle is an old man, currently living in Riderwood, a senior village in Silver Spring MD with his wife of 58 years. He writes poetry in his third floor apartment with a good view of the parking lot frequently decorated with red flashing lights of ambulances.