One Cup More

By Chris Pluger

Once upon a morning dreary, as I stumbled, weak and bleary
Down the stairs of my apartment from the upper floor.
While I staggered, nearly tripping, suddenly there came a dripping,
As of something sliding, slipping, dripping down onto the floor.
“‘tis my faucet,” then I muttered, “dripping down onto the floor
only this and nothing more.”

Ah, and then began I fearing, that the sound that I was hearing
Was not merely water dripping out my sink onto the floor.
My eyes were open, heart was racing, fast into the kitchen pacing
Afraid of what I would be facing, facing once I crossed the door
Oh, disaster without measure, struck me as I crossed the door.
It was as I feared, and more!

Deep into the darkness sinking, now I stood there, wondering, thinking,
“Whence the coffee I’ll be drinking? Whence the coffee?” I implore.
I began to breathe much faster ― what mechanical disaster
Fain would try become my master as this myst’ry I explore?
Oh, let me find the pot unbroken as this myst’ry I explore!
Oh, be unplugged, and nothing more!

“Strange,” I said as I approached it, and although I oft reproached it,
this machine had served me well for time and time before.
But today it was not making; not a drop would I be taking
From this pot, which me forsaking, soon began to vex me sore.
This foul pot, which in its breaking, broke me as I begged and swore,
“Can’t you give me one cup more?”

Water from its cistern leaking, electric sparks around it leaping,
Every joint and member creaking, creaking yet to creak some more
First I begged and then I pleaded: it was coffee that I needed!
But my cries now went unheeded. It was deafened as before.
My despair with silence greeted; it ignored me as before
As I begged for one cup more.

Down into the basement running, oh, I tried with all my cunning
Now to fix this problem with a volume of forgotten lore.
But the manual was silent, in my mem’ry I defile it!
And at last I became violent, returning up the stairs once more,
Returning with an angry portent, running up the stairs once more ―
“Now I’ll give you one chance more!”

I pressed the switch, I flipped it madly, begging, whining, saying sadly,
“Can’t we work together, happy, as in saintly days of yore?”
Bowing not to my request it made no noises as I pressed it,
Sat silently as I redressed it, and my wrath I did outpour.
Choking on the dregs of anger ― oh, what wrath I did outpour!
“You must give me one cup more!”

I grabbed the pot’s black plastic handle, smashed it like and angry vandal
Smashed and crushed beneath my sandal, wreckage on the kitchen floor.
“Cursed thing,” at last I muttered, while the fuses popped and stuttered,
and the water slowly sputtered, dripping out onto the floor.
I laughed and taunted, taunting, laughing, mocked the glass upon the floor,
“Now you can’t give one cup more!”

Now I sit here, sadly weeping, now a vigil I am keeping
And in silence, still am sleeping, sleeping yet to wake no more.
Now I lay in silence, turning, and my soul within me burning,
Longing still to be returning, from this night’s Plutonian Shore.
But this veil of tears is on me, laying heavy as before,
And shall be lifted― nevermore!

With apologies to Edgar Allan Poe, and a nod to the various internet versions of “Abort, Retry, Ignore.”

Praying with Understanding

My four-year-old is starting to get interested in the liturgy. He generally stands up and sits down when he’s supposed to. He checks to see what page we’re on, and holds his hymnal accordingly. He looks to see what color the paraments are. Sometimes he hums along with the hymn melodies. He’s learned the ending bit of the Psalm, which goes, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit…” He also knows the Lord’s Prayer.

Yesterday, as we were standing together praying the prayer the Jesus taught us, along with everyone else in church and every other Christian on earth and throughout history, I started thinking. (Yes, I know. I should have been thinking about the prayer I was praying, but…)

Lots of people are down on memorized prayers. I actually had a student once that asked why I was teaching the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish, since, after all, don’t prayers only “count” if they’re spontaneous and from the heart? Worse yet, I’m guessing, would be the “vain repetition” of a four-year-old who was saying a bunch of words he doesn’t even understand. Trespasses? Hallowed?

But then it occurred to me, as it has probably occurred to many parents throughout history: what difference does that make? How much does it really matter that Sean doesn’t understand what he’s praying for? After all, how often do I pray for things I don’t really understand either?

Do I have some lofty and vaunted claim to having prayed a better prayer just because I can define all the words I used?

Do I really know what it means to pray “as we forgive those who trespass against us”? Do I have any idea what I’m saying when I pray “Thy will be done”?

Is the prayer of a 32-year-old prayed with any more real understanding than the prayer of a 4-year-old? Am I really that much closer to understanding the transcendent sovereign creator of the universe, just because of a paltry 28 more years on this spinning rock? Are my words any more “genuine” or “meaningful” than his just because I think I can understand what I’m saying?

I’m not saying that rote memory and verbatim regurgitation of set prayers is all that’s necessary for a healthy prayer life (because the Holy Spirit will just fill in the blanks, right?). I’m just urging caution, that before we look down on (or worse ― patronize) the “cute” little prayers of a small child, we come to grips with the fact that our own prayers are often said with the same lack of understanding and naïveté that we see in kids just learning to pray.

And that maybe that’s how God wants it, after all.