Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Glory

by Madeline L'Engle

Without any rhyme
without any reason
my heart lifts to light
in this bleak season

Believer and wanderer
caught by salvation
stumbler and blunderer
into Creation

In this cold blight
where marrow is frozen
it is God's time
my heart has chosen

In paradox and story
parable and laughter
find I the glory
here in hereafter

Thursday, October 8, 2009


by Blaise Pascal

This day of grace 1654;
from about half past ten at night, to half after midnight,

God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,
not of the philosophers and of the learned.
Security, security. Feeling, joy, peace.
God of Jesus Christ
Thy God shall be my God.
Forgetfulness of the world and all save God.
He can be found only in the ways taught in the Gospel.
Greatness of the human soul.
O righteous Father the world hath not known Thee,
but I have known Thee.
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.

I have separated myself from Him.
My God, why has Thou forsaken me?...
That I be not separated from Thee eternally.
This is life eternal: That they might know Thee
the only true God, and Him who Thou has sent, Jesus Christ,
Jesus Christ,
Jesus Christ.
I have separated myself from Him; I have fled, renounced, crucified Him.
May I never be separated from Him.
He maintains Himself in me only in the way taught in the Gospel.
Renunciation total and sweet.
Complete submission to Jesus Christ.
Eternally in joy for a day's exercise on the earth.
May I never forget your words. Amen.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Too much to ask

by Luci Shaw

it seemed too much to ask
of one small virgin
that she should stake shame
against the will of God.
all she had to hold to
were those soft, inward
and the remembered sting
of a brief junction--spirit
with flesh.
who would think it
more than a dream wish?
an implausible, laughable

and it seems much
too much to ask me
to be part of the
different thing--
God's shocking, unorthodox,
unheard of Thing
to further heaven's hopes
and summon God's glory.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thou dost not fall

by Alistair Maclean

As the rain hides the stars,
as the autumn mist hides the hills,
happenings of my lot
hide the shining of Thy face from me.
Yet, if I may hold Thy hand
in the darkness,
it is enough;
since I know that,
though I may stumble in my going,
Thou dost not fall.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


A poem, after all, renders an experience that is more than mere opinion, idea, or doctrine.  And it is as experience that a poem stands or falls, inviting the reader not to debate or argue but to respond with both heart and mind.

Kathleen Norris, The Virgin of Bennington, p. 248

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Alone with none but Thee

 by St. Columba

Alone with none but Thee, my God,
I journeyed on my way:
What need I fear, when Thou art near
O King of night and day?
More safe am I within Thy hand 
than if a host did round me stand.

The child of God can fear no ill,
His chosen dread no foe:
we leave our fate to Thee, and wait
Thy bidding when to go.
'Tis not from chance our comfort springs,
Thou art our trust, O King of kings.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


by John Updike

It looks easy from a distance,
easy and lazy, even,
until you stand up to the plate 
and see the fastball sailing inside,
an inch from your chin,
or circle in the outfield
straining to get a bead
on a small black dot
a city block or more high,
a dark star that could fall
on your head like a leaden meteor.

The grass, the dirt, the deadly hops
between your feet and overeager glove:
football can be learned,
and basketball finessed, but
there is no hiding from baseball
the fact that some are chosen
and some are not -- those whose mitts
feel too left-handed,
who are scared at third base
of the pulled line drive,
and at first base are scared
of the shortstop's wild throw
that stretches you out like a gutted deer.

There is nowhere to hide when the ball's 
spotlight swivels your way,
and the chatter around you falls still,
and the mothers on the sidelines, 
your own among them, hold their breaths,
and you whiff on a terrible pitch
or in the infield achieve 
something with the ball so
ridiculous you blush for years.
It's easy to do.  Baseball was
invented in America, where beneath
the good cheer and sly jazz the chance
of failure is everybody's right,
beginning with baseball.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sonnets from the Porguguese, XIV

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only.  Do not say
'I love her for her smile... her look... her way
Of speaking gently... for a trick of thought
That fall in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day' --
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,
                                          -- and love so wrought,
May be unwrought so.  Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby.
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on through love's eternity.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sonnets from the Portuguese, X

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Yet, love, mere love, is beautiful indeed
And worthy of acceptation.  Fire is bright,
Let temple burn, or flax!  An equal light
Leaps in the flame from cedar-plank or weed.
And love is fire:  and when I say at need
I love thee... mark!... I love thee!... in thy sight
I stand transfigured, glorified aright,
With conscience of the new rays that proceed
Out of my face toward thine.  There's nothing low
In love, when love the lowest:  meanest creatures
Who love God, God accepts while loving so.
And what I feel, across the inferior features
Of what I am, doth flash itself, and show
How that great work of Love enhances Nature's.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

pretty pictures AND words!

I just found this on the Design*Sponge website.  Selected poems from some great authors, with newly-designed beautiful covers!  They were created to celebrate publishing house Faber & Faber's 80 years!  I haven't figured out where I can actually purchase them, but go take a gander at the pretties!

EDIT:  Faber & Faber is a UK publishing house...  the books are 8pounds apiece and that, combined with international shipping, would be a bit out of my price range!  Oh well...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Down by the Salley Gardens

by W. B. Yeats

(Also a traditional Irish folk song.  Have a listen here and here.)

Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.
In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs,
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vernal Solo

by Sarah Bailey

The trees,
like dancing eyed girls,
have dressed themselves
in white and pink.

In the lawn
a seedling forest grows --
maple samara spun and sprouted.
A runner of green expectation 
blankets the sidewalk.

Once again, I
wield a broom
sweeping seeds from the
barren cement.

some will stick to my shoe.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My hands still smell like soil

by Erin Tuttle

My hands still smell like soil
             only because today,
I planted Swiss chard
and beets
and others in the spinach family.

I scattered composites:

And I learned that longday onions
(family:  Amaryllis)
grow in cooler climates, so
if you want a Vidalia, better settle
for a Walla Walla.

Then there's Brassicaceae,
kohlrabi and kale and
Chinese cabbage.
But you wouldn't know

because you only helped me the first season,
          (back when I knew nothing)
when the landlord wouldn't let us dig, so
we gathered buckets and dresser drawers from the alleys,
filled them with soil and seeds.

The neighbor woman watched us from her window and wrote poems
because she wanted to fall in love
like us, with earth lines on her knuckles, and rain
warm and misty,
setting seeds to bed better than any fancy hose-head.

But what I had to learn (and this was harder

than remembering that tomatoes
are a member of the nightshade family, or
that a potato is a stem, or that a pumpkin handle
is called a peduncle)

            what I had to learn
was that healing hides in years
of filing the pea packets in the folder marked Fabeaceae,
and in February afternoons spent bent over 
trays of earth, breathing peat 'til I sneeze, 
feeling lonely and complete all at once.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

High Flight

by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee
No 412 Squadron RCAF
killed 11 December 1941

Oh!  I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds -- and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of -- wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence.  Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew --
And while, with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Lanyard

by Billy Collins

found here:

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send me into the past more suddenly--
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips 
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim, 
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I repliked,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones, and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now
is a smaller gift--not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ode on Dictionaries

by Barbara Hambly

A-bomb is how it begins with a big bang on page
     one, a calculator of sorts whose centrifuge
begets bedouin, bamboozle, breakdance, and berserk,
    one of my mother's favorite words, hard knock
clerk of cliches that she is, at the moment going ape
    the current rave in the fundamentalist landscape
disguised as her brain, a rococo lexicon
    of Deuteronomy, Job, gossip, spritz, and neocon
ephemera all wrapped up in a pop burrito
    of movie star shenanigans, like a stray Cheeto
found in your pocket the day after you finish the bag,
    tastier than any oyster and champagne fueled fugue
gastronomique you have been pursuing in France
    for the past four months.  This 82-year-old's rants
have taken their place with the dictionary I bought
    in the fourth grade, with so many gorgeous words I thought
I'd never plumb its depths.  Right the first time, little girl,
    yet here I am still at it, trolling for pearls,
Japanese words vying with Bantu in a goulash
    I eat daily, sometimes gagging, sometimes with relish,
kleptomaniac in the candy store of language,
    slipping words in my pockets like a non-smudge
lipstick that smears with the first kiss.  I'm the demented
    lady with sixteen cats.  Sure, the house stinks, but those damned 
mice have skedaddled, though I kind of miss them, their cute
    little faces, the whiskers, those adorable gray suits.
No, all beasts are welcome in my menagerie, ark
    of inconsolable barks and meows, sharp-toothed shark,
OED of the deep ocean, sweet compendium
    of candy bars--Butterfingers, Mounds, and M&Ms--
packed next to the tripe and gizzards, trim and tackle
    of butchers and bakers, the painter's brush and spackle,
quarks and black holes of physicists' theory.  I'm building 
    my own book as a mason makes a wall or a gelding
runs round the track--brick by brick, step by step, word by word,
    jonquil by gerrymander, syllabub by greensward
swordplay by snapdragon, a never-ending parade
    with clowns and funambulists in my own mouth, homemade
treasure chest of tongue and teeth, the brain's roustabout, rough
    unfurler of tents and trapezes, off-the-cuff
unruly troublemaker in the high church museum
    of the world.  O mouth--boondoggle, auditorium,
viper, gulag, gumbo pot on a steamy August
    afternoon--what have you not given me?  How I must
wear on you, my Samuel Johnson in a frock coat,
    lexicographer of silly thoughts, billy goat,
X-rated pornographic smut factory, scarfer
    of snacks, prissy smirker, late-night barfly,
you are the megaphone by which I bewitch the world
    or don't as the case may be.  O chittering squirrel,
ziplock sandwich bag, sound off, shut up, gather your words
    into bouquets, folios, flocks of black and flaming birds.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Evening Concert, Sainte-Chapelle

by John Updike

The celebrated windows flamed with light
directly pouring north across the Seine;
we rustled into place.  Then violins
vaunting Vivaldi's strident strength, then Brahms,
seemed to suck with their passionate sweetness,
bit by bit, the vigor from the red,
the blazing blue, so that the listening eye
saw suddenly the thick black lines, in shapes
of shield and cross and strut and brace, that held
the holy glowing fantasy together.
The music surged; the glow became a milk,
a whisper to the eye, a glimmer ebbed
until our beating hearts, our violins
were cased in thin but solid sheets of lead.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Better Resurrection

by Christina Rosetti

I have no wit, no words, no tears;
    My heart within me like a stone
Is numbed too much for hopes or fears;
    Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimmed with grief
    No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
    O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
    My harvest dwindled to a husk;
Truly my life is void and brief
    And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
    No bud or greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall--the sap of Spring;
    O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
    A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
    Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perished thing,
    Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him my King:
    O Jesus, drink of me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Time Does Not Bring Relief

by Edna St. Vincent Milay

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountainside,
And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year's bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go -- so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, "There is no memory of him here!"
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Gospel According to Helena

(c) 2007, Linford Detweiler, Over the Rhine

She loves to sing
She knows she may not even be that good
What does it mean when somebody
Loves to do something
So much
Doesn't care
Whether or not
It makes any sense to the world

What does it mean when somebody
Does something just because
It makes her feel more alive
Opens her eyes

What does it when somebody
Does something just because 
She's missing God
And wonders if she always will

She must know that all good songs
Are a form of prayer

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Wife's Tale

by Seamus Heaney

When I had spread it all on linen cloth
Under the hedge, I called them over.
The hum and gulp of the thresher ran down
And the big belt slewed to a standstill, straw
Hanging undelivered in the jaws.
There was such quiet that I heard their boots
Crunching the stubble twenty yards away.

He lay down and said, 'Give these fellows theirs,
I'm in no hurry,' plucking grass in handfuls
And tossing it in the air.  'That looks well.'
(He nodded at my white cloth on the grass.)
'I declare a woman could lay out a field
Though boys like us have little call for cloths.'
He winked, then watched me as I poured a cup
And buttered the thick slices that he likes.
'It's threshing better than I thought, and mid
It's good clean seed.  Away over there and look.'
Always this inspection has to be made
Even when I don't know what to look for.

But I ran my hand in the half-filled bags
Hooked to the slots.  It was hard as shot,
Innumerable and cool.  The bags gaped
Where the chutes ran back to the stilled drum
And forks were stuck at angles in the ground
As javelins might mark lost battlefields.
I moved between them back across the stubble.

They lay in the ring of their own crusts and dregs,
Smoking and saying nothing.  'There's good yield,
Isn't there?' --as proud as if he were the land itself--
'Enough for crushing and sowing both.'
And that was it.  I'd come and he had shown me,
So I belonged no further to the work.
I gathered cups and folded up the cloth
And went.  But they still kept their ease,
Spread out, unbuttoned, grateful, under the trees.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


by Luci Shaw

Doubt padlocked one door and
Memory put her back to the other.
Still the damp draught seeped in
though Fear chinked all the cracks and 
Blindness boarded up the window.
In the darkness that was left
Defeat crouched in his cold corner.

Then Jesus came
(all the doors being shut)
and stood among them.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter magic

by Leslie Leyland Fields

Had we crucified the rabbit--

yanked him from his fields of grass
and staked him out by paws and tender feet
to quiver, twitch and die in agony
of innocence, 
and then, in three days' time,
had seen him hop from the tomb
but for the wounded paws and feet we felt--

then maybe now we'd talk of Christ,
pass his story down from child to child
and only faintly hint at silly myths of
wicker baskets,
chocolate eggs,
treasures hidden in the field
and some trick hare who died

then somehow disappeared.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


by Scott Cairns

The thing to remember is how
tentative all of this really is.
You could wake up dead.

Or the woman you love
could decide you're ugly.
Maybe she'll finally give up
trying to ignore the way
you floss your teeth as you
watch television.  All I'm saying
is that there are no sure things here.

I mean, you'll probably wake up alive,
and she'll probably keep putting off 
any actual decision about your looks.
Could be she'll be glad your teeth
are so clean.  The morning might be 
full of all the love and kindness
you need.  Just don't go thinking
you deserve any of it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I, 4

by Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

We must not portray you in king's robes,
you drifting mist that brought forth the morning.

Once again from the old paintboxes
we take the same gold for scepter and crown
that has disguised you through the ages.

Piously we produce our images of you
till they stand around you like a thousand walls.
And when our hearts would simply open,
our fervent hands hide you.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Psalm of Life

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers, 
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real - life is earnest - 
And the grave is not its goal:
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destin'd end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle,
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act - act in the glorious Present!
Heart within, and God o'er head!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.

Footprints, that, perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwreck'd brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Sonnet 29

by William Shakespeare

When, in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, 
Haply I think on thee, and then my state
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.


by Mary Oliver

Salt shining behind its glass cylinder.
Milk in a blue bowl.  The yellow linoleum.
The cat stretching her black body from the pillow.
The way she makes her curvaceous response to the small, kind gesture.
Then laps the bowl clean.
Then wants to go out into the world
where she leaps lightly and for no apparent reason across the lawn,
then sits, perfectly still, in the grass.
I watch her a little while, thinking:
what more could I do with wild words?
I stand in the cold kitchen, bowing down to her.
I stand in the cold kitchen, everything wonderful around me.


(c) 2007, Linford Detweiler, Over the Rhine

I have to leave the city now, she said,
Or dash my soul against my will instead.

I do not wish to have the quiet part of me
That once could rest (the part
That could just be) tossed
Aside and left somewhere
For dead.

Tonight it seems to me
That what some friends call energy
Is nothing more than a phenomenon of nature known as
"Incurable Whirling Disease."

Please, take me far from here, she said,
The buildings sting and echo
With the fumy cries of yellowjacket cars.

I took her hand in mine and said,
I'm thinking of a place now
Where I used to have to tell myself
Those are not clouds,
They're stars.


by Seamus Heaney, Irish poet, author, and Nobel Laureate

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging.  I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper.  He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf.  Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.