Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I find the baby Jesus
Stuck to His plastic manger
On the floor by the toy bins,
Squashed down between the couch cushions,
Next to an empty purple sippy cup,
inside a shoe.
His face doesn't change --
Uncanny perfect peace on a newborn--
Though He is far from His stable
And His little plastic mother,
Found this time stranded on the third stair
Behind the gate.
I guess this is the Savior's reality
Since taking flesh to dwell among us--
Spending time in our deep, hidden places,
Lost amid our messes,
Forgotten in the middle of all our busy lives.
And His face shining grace always
Never changes toward us.

Once again I put Him back where He belongs.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Truer gifts

Truer gifts
by Lisa Leafstrand
from A Widening Light, Regent College Publishing, 1984

The whole world (it seems)
is soaring into Christmas
meeting the cold with such proper spirit
hanging up pines with bulbs and best wishes,
meaningless to minds set in tradition
and premature weariness for celebrating routine.
(I never understood it either):

Being fond of dolls then
I got a new one every year
packaged in paper and parent-love.
I ripped away wrappings
and months of anticipation
to touch my own just born babies,
more real than any mangered child
mysteriously coming in the very olden days.
They cried faucet water tears
(not salty but still strong)
I laughed at their damp faces
No one ever told me that santa made money
by stuffing himself in a red rented suit
or that the cookies I left hot for him
were munched by the dog
as I buried my head in a pillow
white with dreams.

It always ended too soon:
hopes flickered away as colored lights blinked
into black
brittle needles left trails behind the retreating tree
and the nativity surrendered the TV top to magazines.
Songs fled the streets and people forgot to smile
snow melted
and dolls lay broken on a closet shelf.

I shall make no neat list this year
(carefully itemized from Sears' catalog);
needing nothing in the way of plastic infants
I ask for truer gifts:
that I might glow sharper than any tinselled star
showing God's good love to every inkeeper
and all astonished shepherds.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The risk of birth

The risk of birth
by Madeline L'Engle
from A Widening Light, Regent College Publishing, 1984

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a nova lighting the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn--
Yet here did the Savior make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by greed & pride the sky is torn--
Yet love still takes the risk of birth.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


by Elizabeth Rooney
from A Widening Light, Regent College Publishing, 1984

This is my little town,
My Bethlehem,
And here, if anywhere,
My Christ Child
Will be born.

I must begin
To go about my day--
Sweep out the inn,
Get fresh hay for the manger
And be sure
To leave my heart ajar
In case there may be travelers
From afar.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Shine in the dark

Shine in the dark
by Luci Shaw
from A Widening Light, Regent College Publishing, 1984

I From a dark dust of stars
kindled one, a prick of light.
Burn! small candle star,
burn in the black night.
In the still hushed heart
(dark as black night)
shine! Savior newly born,
shine, till the heart's light!

II Into blackness breached with white
the star shivers like a bell.
God of birth and brightness
bless the cool carillion
singing into sight!
Plot its poised pointing flight!
Dark has its victories
tonight, in David's town.
But the star bell's tongue
trembles silver still
in your felicity.

III The stars look out on
roofs of snow.
They see the night,
a velvet glow
with amber lanterns
shining so.
God searches through
the sweep of night.
Is there a heart that burns
warm and bright
to warm God's own heart
at the sight?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rilke - 11.2

by Rainer Maria Rilke
from Rilke's Book of Hours, 2005

I am a city by the sea
sinking into a toxic tide.
I am strange to myself, as though someone unknown
had poisoned my mother as she carried me.

It's here in all the pieces of my shame
that I now find myself again.
I yearn to belong to something, to be contained
in an all-embracing mind that sees me
as a single thing.
I yearn to be held
in the great hands of your heart --
oh let them take me now.

Into them I place these fragments, my life,
and you, God -- spend them however you want.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


by Walt Whitman

(from a talk I had lately with a German spiritualist)

Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form--no object of the world.
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space--ample the fields of Nature.
The body, sluggish, aged, cold--the embers left from earlier fires,
The light in the eyes grown dim, shall duly flame again;
The sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual;
To frozen clods ever the spring's invisible law returns,
With grass and flowers and summer fruits and corn.

Monday, November 22, 2010


by Susan Minot
from Poems, 4 a.m., 2002

Even in the dead of winter
he is talking about bulbs.

Walking after dinner with my father.

There is snow, moonlight everywhere.
Cold. The loop is short.
We pass where he planted a hill
in the fall.
Above us stars

in the dark seed sky.
Their scattered pattern is something
we might discuss--
something he knows
from navigating boats.

I look up. It's like breathing ice.

My father's attention, though,
is on the knotty
wooden claws he's pressed in.
He knows where they are
below a packed layer of earth,
then all that snow above.
The tree shadows crisscross
and humps push up more sparkling white

and all he can think of,
walking with his daughter,
is bulbs.
Daffodils? I ask.
Yes, he says, this father of seven.
I planted them in clusers.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On a Tuesday Leaving

On a Tuesday Leaving
by L.L. Barkat
from here: Seedlings in Stone: The Color of Things

You think you know
the color of things-- a maple
in the back yard is gray rivers
where gray squirrels go boating
towards a blue bay...

then the world turns,

you want to run into the house,
pull somebody off the couch,
drag him (her) to see that the maple
isn't gray at all, and red squirrels
are racing to tips of bright arteries,
bleeding towards the end of day.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Clearing

The Clearing
by Annie Dillard
from Tickets for a Prayer Wheel, 1974

They came to the forest and made a clearing,
blasted the stumps, split the wood,
and built the woodshed.
Too tired
to build the house, they bought a roller,
white paint, some asphalt,
and made a tennis court in the clearing.

They forgot the fence. They played tennis
that summer till all the balls were lost
in the forest;
and when the woodshed
caught fire, it was almost as pretty
as the blaze the sparkler factory made
when it burned outside of Wheeling, West Virginia.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Evaporation Poems

Evaporation Poems
by Kathleen Norris
from Journey, 2001

I would like to be as mobile as my mind
I had a religious aunt who was
(she flew out a window
into the Ideal).

So much noise:
the water in stems,
the workings of teeth,
intestines. Such
foolishness, she said,
wanting to be free
of breath's rise and fall,
wanting to be
no body.

has is price.
Do not dare to say that the water's need
is a simple one,
or that we shall all be changed.

All summer I have watched the water
take whatever shape it can,
whispering "there is the past,
and the future, and between the two of them
you must be careful not to disappear."

Now I see so clearly on the days
when rain turns to snow,
how wind passes quickly
along the surfaces of things,
how calmly it probes this chilly place
where I have moved
with everything I own.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Farmer's Daughter

Farmer's Daughter
by Annie Dillard
from Tickets for a Prayer Wheel, 1974

There's always unseasonable weather.
Remember the flood that killed father:
when the water went down, the chickens
lay muddy and drowned. Oh we watch
the weather here on earth; we don't forget
the winter days when girls wear cotton dresses,
the Aprils when the bushes sag with snow.
We were cutting the apple trees back
when he said, "Look, it's snowing";
but I'd seen a winter of snow
and knew that more were coming.
Still, what do we know of a season?
Only father could say
when the rain would stop at the mountain
or ruin the hay. I'd try to watch
the hawks or lick a finger,
and the crops were still a failure;
there was frost all over the valley,
south as far as Twin Hills.
He kissed me when the shadows were long
on the path to the orchard; he promised
to meet me again when the apples were in;
now when the wind parts the curtains,
now in the city when the cat won't come,
I sleep with only one eye shut,
keeping a weather eye out.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

To Autumn

by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, --
While barred clouds bloom the soft-tying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

To Autumn

by William Blake

O Autumn, lade with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou mayst rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

"The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust'ring Summer breaks forth in singing,
And feather'd clouds strew flowers round her head.

"The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees."
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
The rose, girded himself, and o'er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What I Believe

by Michael Blumenthal

I believe there is no justice,
but that cottongrass and bunchberry
grow on the mountain.

I believe that a scorpion's sting
will kill a man,
but that his wife will remarry.

I believe that, the older we get,
the weaker the body,
but the stronger the soul.

I believe that if you roll over at night
in an empty bed,
the air consoles you.

I believe that no one is spared
the darkness,
and no one gets all of it.

I believe we all drown eventually
in a sea of our making,
but that the land belongs to someone else.

I believe in destiny.
And I believe in free will.

I believe that, when all
the clocks break,
time goes on without them.

And I believe that whatever
pulls us under,
will do so gently,

so as not to disturb anyone,
so as not to interfere
with what we believe in.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


by L.L. Barkat
posted by the author here.

This is the golden hour,
when I can play out my life
in hot pink,
cherry red,
and instead of giving me
that look, you will
love me for it, ache
for tomorrow, ask me
to do it all over

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Sowing of Meanings

by Thomas Merton

See the high birds! Is theirs the song
That flies among the wood-light
Wounding the listener with such bright arrows?
Or do they play in wheeling silences
Defining in the perfect sky
The bounds of (here below) our solitude,

Where spring has generated lights of green
To glow in clouds upon the sombre branches?
Ponds full of sky and stillness
What heavy summer songs still sleep
Under the tawny rushes at your brim?

More than a season will be born here, nature,
In your world of gravid mirrors!
The quiet air awaits one note,
One light, one ray and it will be the angels' spring:
One flash, one glance upon the shiny pond, and then
Asperges me! sweet wilderness, and lo! we are redeemed!

For, like a grain of fire
Smouldering in the heart of every living essence
God plants His undivided power--
Buries His thoughts too vast for worlds
In seed and root and blade and flower.

Until, in the amazing light of April,
Surcharging the religious silence of the spring,
Creation finds the pressure of His everlasting secret
Too terrible to bear.

Then every way we look, lo! rocks and trees
Pastures and hills and streams and birds and firmament
And our own souls within us flash, and shower us with light,
While the wild countryside, unknown, unvisited of men,
Bears sheaves of clean, transforming fire.

And then, oh then the written image, schooled in sacrifice,
The deep united threeness printed in our being,
Shot by the brilliant syllable of such an institution, turns within,
And plants that light far down into the heart of darkness and oblivion,
Dives after, and discovers flame.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Peace of Wild Things

by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Thought of Something Else

by Wendell Berry

A spring wind blowing
the smell of the ground
through the intersections of traffic,
the mind turn, seeks a new
nativity--another place,
simpler, less weighted
by what has already been.

Another place!
it's enough to grieve me--
that old dream of going,
of becoming a better man
just by getting up and going to a better place.

The mystery. The old
unaccountable folding.
The iron trees in the park
suddenly remember forests.
It becomes possible to think of going.

--a place where thought
can take its shape
as quietly in the mind
as water in a pitcher,

or a man can be
safely without thought
--see the day begin
and lean back,
a simple wakefulness filling
the spaces among the leaves.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


by Luci Shaw

God dug his seed
into dry dark earth.
After a pushing up
in hopeful birth
and healing bloom
and garland grace
he buried it again
in a darker place

Twice rudely-planted seed,
root, rise in me
and grow your green again,
your fruited tree

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bread and Butter

by Billy Collins

You could hear the ocean from my room
in the guesthouse where I often stayed,
that constant, distant, washy rumbling under the world.

I would sometimes slide back the glass door
and stand on the deck in a thin robe
just to be under the stars again under the clouds

and to hear more clearly the dogs
on the property barking--the brave mother and her pups,
all white, bearded, and low to the ground.

And now something tells me I should make
more out of all that,
moving down and inward where a poem is meant to go.

But this time I want to leave it be,
the sea, the stars, the dogs, and the clouds--
just written down, folded in fours, and handed to my host.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

To Go By Singing

by Wendell Berry

He comes along the street, singing,
a rag of a man, with his game foot and bum's clothes.
He's asking for nothing--his hands
aren't even help out. His song
is the gift of singing, to him
and to all who will listen.

To hear him, you'd think the engines
would all stop, and the flower vendor would stand
with her hands full of flowers and not move.
You'd think somebody would have hired him
and provided him a clean quiet stage to sing on.

But there's no special occasion or place
for his singing--that's why it needs
to be strong. His song doesn't impede the morning
or change it, except by freely adding itself.

Monday, January 25, 2010


by Thomas Merton

Now, in the middle of the limpid evening,
The moon speaks clearly to the hill,
The wheatfields make their simple music,
Praise the quiet sky.

And down the road, the way the stars come home,
The cries of children
Play on the empty air, a mile or more,
and fall on our deserted hearing,
Clear as water.

They say the sky is made of glass,
They say the smiling moon's a bride.
They say they love the orchards and apple trees,
The trees, their innocent sisters, dressed in blossoms,
Still wearing, in the blurring dusk,
White dresses them from that morning's first communion.

And where blue heaven's fading fire last shines
They name the new come planets
With words that flower
On little voices, light as stems of lilies.

And where blue heaven's fading fire last shines,
Reflected in the poplar's ripple,
One little, wakeful bird
Sings like a shower.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I would like to say something

about the images of buildings lying
flat on top of people, of survivors
sleeping in the streets because
roofs no longer symbolize safety;

about those who sit snugly in
studios and speak for God with
ungodly arrogance and ignorance,
and those who are helping quietly;

about the helplessness that haunts
my heart on nights like this, when
the best I can do is write and wonder
why that’s the best I can do.

the party

by nAncY, via High Calling Blogs

brought an
brought a pear
a bagpipe
and walrus
brought a chair
the party started
right at noon
began at three
dancing came
along with the moon
then camel
read poetry