Three Urban Psalms

three urban psalms final

Urban Psalm 23

The Lord is my mentor—I want him to teach.
He tells me to lie down with headphones unplugged.
He leads me into anonymous streets.
He eats when I eat.
Even though I walk the hardened streets, I have no fear.
I don’t even carry a rod for comfort.
He likes my cap, that I wear it a little sideways on my head.

Darkness stays late in the valley of the buildings,
comes early. The drunk after dinner I pick up at dawn.
Surely my friends he will make a blessing for me
and be kind, and I will be squatting in the projects
with him, dropping off his grace, dealing out mercy.


Urban Psalm 1

How great they are who don’t live
in the shadows with dark-minded people
or block entrances or hang around
and insult other people,
but follow you, talk like you,
spend their time on how we’re blessed
day and night, positive and ready,
like athletes who give a steady performance
day after day and deliver victories,
no matter if it’s an up day or a down day.
If the day’s a grind, I am surrounded
by spinners of the negative.
They crowd, are hard to get by,
though they can vanish like shamed dogs
when goodness appears.
But you are with me every day,
talking it up, making it work,
keeping me walking on the sidewalk
of safety and sunshine,
away from the shadows and cynics.


Urban Psalm 5

I hope you understand what I say
even though all is sigh and breathing.
It’s how I cry every morning
and then wait, just wait for you.

During the day I see
I pass it. I pass through it.
I pass even though evil surrounds me
because I know evil can’t live where you live.
I hear the news and I know those ego-driven profiteers
and prophets can’t live where you live,
that you want the truth to liberate
like ripping the shades from a window
and the sunlight pours through.

It’s hard to walk a straight line here
when the safe way home is crooked
but it’s always the cane-shaped question—
can I trust only what I tap,
can I trust what they say,
can I trust their words when they are cheap
and can be measured in the cup
between deceit and hyperbole.

Why must I live where they live?
I asked to get them out of my sight
and you seem to have made me blind.
I’m stuck on this cement and pavement
so cover me, cover for me,
lock the door when I enter your house
and padlock with your love’s protection.


(Photo Credit: Freedom II Andres)

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About the Contributor

Jeff Burt

Jeff Burt
Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California and works in manufacturing. He has published poems in Rhino, Red River Review, Dandelion Farm Review, Verse Wisconsin, and others. 

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