A great mystic and dear friend of mine passed away a few days ago. He was not feeling well and laid down on his wife’s lap. He didn’t get up.
Steve Malakowsky, or Steve M as most people knew him, was a poet, mystic, a Jeremiah-type prophet, a father and a builder.
He was an unique mix of humanity, at odds with the church and passionate about lifting street kids out of destructive lifestyles and onto the path of Jesus. Steve dressed hippie, acted punk, wrote goth and expressed himself with post-industrial urban grunge. His more recent work mixing street art with words seemed to bring those disparate elements together. His early poetry was dark, often ink-black but always punctuated with the hope of a God who was waiting to heal what was broken and restore outcasts to Himself.
I met Steve in the late 90’s when we were both trying to reach throwaway kids on the streets of USA. He in Phoenix and I in San Francisco. With the support of Dr E.B. Brooks and the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and Tim Andrews of SomeKids Lunch we produced a small movie that explored the plight of the broken generation in Atlanta. That movie touched a nerve and opened doors for ministry all over USA.
Steve M was the author of Tattoo, the founder of Beauty for Ashes, Outcast Press, Hope Thru Art (Facebook) and the co-founder of the Underground Railroad, one of the very first networks of ministries among the alternative scene. I have often referred to it as one of the earliest emerging church networks in USA and possibly the first to go international. By the time I hooked up with trevor M and Steve M at the Underground Railroad Roundtable at Cornerstone Festival in the late 90’s, there was already strong links to similar movements in Europe and beyond. The idea of roundtables inside festivals was something that our ministry has used extensively and successfully over the past decade.
Steve M wrote poetry that explored the deep brokenness of a generation unacknowledged by the mainstream world and unwanted by a church that he felt was more interested in carpet than kids. Dozens, possibly hundreds, of these incredibly insightful and penetrating poems were printed as “street sheets” and distributed in inner cities around the world. They were profound. They connected with people on a deep level. They brought tears and understanding and a small glimmering light at the end of a dark tunnel.
I have read a few of his poems aloud inside churches, but there is one that will always stay with me. Its called “Therapy“.
can i take my addictions into your church
can i sit on your padded pews
can i bleed on your carpet or do you want
me when i’m clean and not now.
can i take my addictions into your theology
is it big enough to face my pain
or will i stain your glass with street smells
where can i go
where can i go when i’m addicted . . .
Both photos by Alexa Gibbon