By the time we sat in the room
where life turned

from what was, to what would be
I had barely begun to believe

there was a game, and
we were players

there was a strategy, and
you intended to win

you’d been making already so many moves
it was all I could do, to decide the sorrow

I could swallow, and survive
the waves I could take

without staying under
too long – we like to believe

there is perpetually some perfect
calculus, a thing called right, and wrong

we will know when the time comes
but the right choice does not always arrive without regret

even Moses marched
toward the Red Sea, in liberation

even he could not stop wanting the land he had known
or the quiet of the past

not long after his freedom was declared
he grew weary of justice

loud, and plague-filled, whiny, and the sea
refused to release its threats of drownings, or hypothermia

and the walls of water, majestic, still failed to disclose
the way of dreams, or comfort

after we have walked so long and left behind
so many, carrying with us the voices of the unbelievers

sometimes wrathful, just as often wanting
I still have an idea of the promised land

and an aim past this impossible choosing
where there is no pass, only play

a willingness to have been the one to respond, to see
past the lighthouse, and the whales, and the oceans

rising, our daughters becoming mothers
uncoerced, ready to clear the board, and begin again


About Rev. Gretchen Haley

Gretchen Haley is relentlessly curious about most things, especially the big stuff of theology, the beauty of creation, the magic of collaboration, and the great joy of pop culture (reflected in this blog by random posts on Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Scandal, Orphan Black, or the latest Marvel movie). She has an audacious ambition for the liberal church, believing in its capacity to transform lives and our world by way of hyper-local relationships and partnerships that inspire the unleashing of courageous love. She's all in on adrienne maree brown's emergent strategy, and finds solace in the trails in and around Fort Collins Colorado where she serves with the brilliant Rev. Sean Neil-Barron as one of the ministers of the Foothills Unitarian Church. She and her amazing partner of over 20 years, Carri, have 2 children, Gracie (14) and Josef (12) who both relish and resent being PKs, and who keep her grounded, frustrated, inspired, and humbled, everyday. She is basically obsessed with her puppy, a large sized mutt, Charlie.
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2 Responses to Zugzwang

  1. Lola sorensen says:

    I don’t know what the title means, but your lines hit me full on. “We like to believe there is perpetually some perfect calculus…” and “the right choice does not always arrive without regret…” and “I still have an idea of the promised land…”. Glad you are writing a Gretchen. Thank you. With love and faith.


    • Rev. Gretchen Haley says:

      Thanks Lola – it’s an awesome term from Chess – google it. I heard it on a podcast and couldn’t stop thinking about it – I’ll have to write a sermon about it I think.


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