Friday, October 31, 2014

A Poem - The Tasty Morsel

                                  (Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
                                                                         Psalm 81:10)

She gathers the thick white robe, yellowed
by time, repeated washings, and cheap detergent,
around her and feels the encircling warmth Mother’s arms.
She arranges herself in the overstuffed
caramel-colored leather chair.
At her right hand, on Mother’s table,
sits her morning cup of coffee,
on her lap the open Book.

The cells of her body remember.

Many mornings in seasons past have begun this way,
but not for a very long time.
She opens her mouth to pray familiar but long unspoken prayers,
and is surprised by a lump in her throat.
She hasn’t sat with God and Scripture for a long time,
but her mouth opens and she waits,
like a baby bird,
for the tasty morsel that has fed her so often in the past.

“God,” she prays,
“It’s been a long time.
I don’t know what to expect,
but I just want to be with you.”

Something inside her breaks open.
Her heart is warmed and made tender.
Tears fall making tracks on her cheeks.
Already the Lover draws near –
only waiting for her invitation,
and she, his.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Poem - Her One Regret

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes
And laid him in a cradle.
She wasn’t Mary.
He wasn’t Jesus.

Still, she suffers his pain in silence as his enemies:
Blame, Regret, Bitter Disappointment and Guilt
daily curse, rob, beat, then leave him for dead.

And all she can do is wait,
 weep, and feel each blow, each accusation
in her own bones.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

10/18/14 A Poem, SHADOW


(an area of darkness created
when a source of light is blocked)

Her back to the sun
light obscured,
shadow dances on the ground in front of her,
curiously connected to her feet,
leading her toward the unknown.
Always out in front, leading.

The sun moves across the sky.
Light now leads her way,
and shadow follows along like a puppy dog
nipping at her heels.

These types of shadows are easily discerned,
but there are other shadows not so easily seen.

She opens her hand wide and gives to a stranger in need.
Kindness is in the Light now,
leading her to the truth of who she wants to be,
but the Shadow of Unkindness nips at her heels.

Later that same day,
she speaks of loss and betrayal by a friend,
with anger shaking her voice,
and her fist raised,
then mutters
how unkind she is.
But the Shadow of Kindness lurks nearby,
unseen by Light.

She is both kind and unkind.
It all depends on where the Light is,
what’s visible at the moment,
and what’s hidden from view
lying in the shadows.

A Poem, I WANT

I Want

(I wanted
the past to go away, I wanted
to leave, it like another country…)

Except, I want the past to stay.
Not all of it, only snippits:
his warm, wet little body slipping out of the tub 
and into the big fluffy towel,
him giggling,
me rubbing him dry
until his skin almost shines.
His laughter as he peddles his little feet,
maneuvering his shiny red fire truck,
or fifth hot wheel bike,
up and down the sidewalk and around the block.
GI Joes, convoys, vampires at Halloween, and
Christmas morning glee.
Smores around the campfire.
Him burrowing down under the covers in his flannel pajamas,
his tiny arms flung around my neck
and his whispers, 
       “I love you Mommy”.
And there are grown up snippits of our past that I’d like to stay, too:
family dinners at Christmas time,
presents under the tree,
“Merry Christmas”,
“Happy birthday”,
his deep grown-up voice declaring without shame, 
       “I love you Mom”.
And his children laughing and playing games,
running in and out of the kitchen,
asking for fat buttered rolls, hot out of the oven,
sleep overs at Grandma's,
our special breakfast of cinnamon-sugar buenelos and milk.
Today there seems only to be a hole in my heart 
          where the past used to be.

(Also, I wanted
to be able to love. And we all know
how that one goes,
don’t we?)

That was my prayer too.
I asked to love without condition,
with no judgment or expectation.
The cost has been high.

(You don’t want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it.)

I’ve told it far too often.
What I’d like to leave behind for real this time
is the treasured loss,
the re-collecting of all those moments,
the stories that sit in the corners of my mind
like all that straw locked in the room with her.
She kept spinning that straw hoping it would turn into gold.
That only happens in fairy tales.

I want to be free
to live and laugh and love
what I have today,
at this very moment.

At the same time,
I want my kids
and my kids’ kids to come home
– just for a moment –
to play.

(The lines in parens are from Mary Oliver’s “Dogfish”, from Dreamwork.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Leave it Behind

Treasured loss
Leave them all behind
Press forward
Hands and heart empty
No expectations; instead, the “clean slate”.

(Prayer response to The Troubadours, Etc., by Mary Szybist and Confessions in the Key of Kenosis, by David Wright)

Monday, October 13, 2014



the wind has shifted


Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Battlefield

The Battlefield

It’s on the battlefield that crows gather and are heard most often.
Like the great booming of cannons
and the repeated staccato of the automatic rifle,
the singular Crow sounds its familiar incessant cawing
Over and over and over again.
Nothing stops it.
No amount of focused attention or controlled breath,
not even the familiar mantra with its sweet rhythm
silences Crow’s voice

until Kingfisher swoops in.

Dressed in a robe of royal blue,
his sword of peace tucked beneath his belt,
he plants his finger firmly on Crow’s forehead -
right between the eyes, and
leaves his signature mark, sanctifying
and baptizing Crow with holy water.

For a moment now, as Kingfisher tarries,

all is still and silent.

Our last assignment of this weekend retreat was to write an ekphrastic poem, a poem based on a piece of art. This work, Kingfisher and Crow, is a collage/painting done by an artist friend of Richard's, Robert Jensen. Richard gave us a few poems to read and to meditate on, then I came home and "slept on it".  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Poetry Assignment from Hell

Well, what started out as delightful time to sit by the sea and write a poem turned into the poetry assignment from hell yesterday. That's what tends to happen when the same facilitator comes year after year.Each year Richard has taken us deeper and deeper into our hearts and souls to get the poems. This year, he's pulling out our toenails.

"The times we are way out of our comfort zone! The times we become cut off from ourselves and others! Sheer awkwardness. Can we find God or ourselves in that moment?

"Could we dare write about the 'other' who seems so outside our experience and worse, our compassion? Can we find our own rejected self in the ones we want to reject? Our neediness? Not our fullness. In our ability to get along, to fit in to be 'smart' do we lose something only those we bypass on the other side of the street could give us...

"Write your own poem about something, an incident in your own life, that opened your eyes to your own deeper humanity. To your own need to be held; to kneel and touch the hem of 'his' garment.."

It took me the whole afternoon to get to the broken heart of the matter and to answer the questions, "Where had love failed me? Where had love broken me open? What in my own life had taught me the most about love?"

This is the rough draft of my poem. I feel very vulnerable sharing it here - for the first time in a long time, I'm hoping no one reads my blog.


Generous and sincere prayer
bubbles up from beneath the stone walls of her heart,
“God, I want to love the unlovely.”

You know, touch the leper, feed the poor,
sit in solidarity with the Aids victim,
something along the lines of Mother Theresa
or Dorothy Day.

Instead, she hears the still small Voice,
“Learn to love your own children,
with no judgment,
no expectations,
no conditions.”

“But God, I do.”

Then the shit hit the fan.
The mountains trembled and fell into the sea.
The smoke poured out of Vesuvius.
The earth shook, and soon there was nothing left at all.

You tell me, “Give it a container, so we can drink small sips.”

How the heck do you wipe this mess up off the floor,
And wring the mop back out into a tiny little juice glass?
That’s my question.

Fairy tales don’t come true.
They don’t end happily ever after.
“Raise your kids in the way they should go, and they’ll not soon depart from it.”

HA! That’s a joke.
Except no one’s laughing.

There is another love story in Scripture,
The story of Naomi and Ruth.
“Where you go, I will go; your people will be my people,
your God, my God. Even death won’t part us,”
said the daughter-in-law to the mother-in-law.

Except Ruth never said to Boaz,
“I may be bi-sexual; let’s ‘swing’ and see.”
Naomi never had to figure out what the hell polyamory meant,
and never watched a house meant for a small family
fill to the brim with “an experiment”.

Prior to this, Naomi had only known “respectable church folks”,
but now family dinners included the ungodly and the wicked,
adulterers, fornicators, swingers,
shoot, even pagans and druids sitting at the table,
drinking from the cup.

The party got so messy it split the family in two.
The prodigal son left,
but so did the good one.
“He became angry, and refused to go in.”

“Love your children with no judgments,
no expectations,
and no conditions.”

What would Jesus do?
I knows what Paul says,
“God will give them up to degrading passions.”

But Naomi looks at Jesus,
With her eyes down, and her trembling heart.

“What would you do? What would you have me do?”

And he opened wide his arms,
and died.

Frankly I’d rather be in a room full of retarded folks*
or next to some poor poverty stricken bum on the side of the road.
Smart bombs aren’t the only weapons that can be aimed
straight into someone’s kitchen exploding shards into the delicate jelly of eyes.*

Dreams are broken.
Hearts are shattered.
Relationships are –

Still, there’s only the Voice that keeps repeating,
“Love, even as I have loved you – love them.
Love until it hurts.
Love with all your heart.
Stay soft.
Stay open.
Love never fails.”

(from He Sits Down on the Floor of a School for the Retarded, by Alden Nowlen and May Our Right Hands Lose Their Cunning, by Denise Levertov)

So, I watched the skies unfold this morning.

And I read this prayer from Tagore...

God of my broken heart, of leave-taking and
loss, of the gray silence of the dayfall, my greetings
of the ruined house to You.

Then the sky broke open with promise:

Light of the newborn morning, sun of the 
everlasting day, my greetings of undying hope to 

(My Greetings from Prayers of Rabindranth Tagore)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Barefoot Beginnings

Our theme this weekend at our 6th Annual Poetry Writing Retreat is "Step Into The Barefoot Prayer". Richard gave us our theme a few weeks ago, and I've pondered it for several days now. The image of "barefoot prayer" grabs me.

Moses at the burning bush
and me, practicing yoga
both of us stepping into barefoot prayer.

Barefoot - stepping onto holy ground, coming innocent and carefree as a child, nothing between me and the holy place, wherever that is, whatever it looks like. I've always enjoyed going barefoot, but for a number of years, due to some issues with my feet, I wasn't able to walk with no shoes. Thanks to time and yoga, I'm tentatively back to my favorite mode of walking, and so grateful.

Coming to prayer - writing poetry or practicing yoga - with no shoes on...that's what I think of. Nothing between the Beloved and me, and all around me is Divine. I can't go barefoot and pretend. Going barefoot requires me to be "real", child like, innocent, sincere.

Last night Richard encouraged us to "put flesh" on our poems - stay out of the abstract big thoughts and "sing to the quick of our nails*" as we write. And he encouraged us to look for clues in our poems: where are we going, what are we thinking, what is life bringing us, what are we bringing to life? What does what I write tell me about who I am?

And I woke up this morning at 5:30 with this poem waiting to be written:

                             (…this isn’t a contest but the doorway

Standing at the doorway,
looking across another threshold,
I pause and remove my shoes
before crossing barefoot
into this new chapter.

Life isn’t a contest.
Neither is writing poetry or breathing prayer.

I tend to be an abstract thinker - to think big and broad. It's also the way I tend to see. It has its advantages, but I also tend to miss the little things. So I look forward to putting skin on my words, to "singing with my throat full of earth*", and to writing barefoot over the next few days. Just a little aside: I also tend to get wordy, so I really like this idea of a 7-line poem. Simple, short, concise, down and dirty.

*lines taken from "A New Song" by Michael Symmons Roberts

One Week of Paying Attention (continued)

Our preparation assignment for this year's poetry writing retreat has been to write a 7-lined poem each day for 7 days, and since prayer and poetry are both "focused attention", to write those poems about something that caught our attention this day.

These are the last two poems I wrote during this past week.

Day 5, October 7, 2014, Poem 6

Darkening skies
Distant rumble
Swelling breeze
Concentric circles
spatter the creek

Sweet smell of rain

Holy water above and below.

Day 6, October 8, 2014, Poem 7

Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat
All around me, patterns repeat.

“Behold I make all things new…”
Yet, I observe familiar patterns even in the new.

The concentric ripples on the surface waters of the creek,
the riff of the mockingbird’s song,
even the carefully measured, cut, and placed rails
that stand at attention in solidarity around the edges of our deck

speak with a voice.

I've heard it said, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

Not today. Today it brings peace and comfort.
Today is a Liturgy.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

One Week of Paying Attention October 5 - The Anointing

The Anointing*

Ker-splash, ker-splash, ker-splash, ker-splash
single, slippery sliver of silver jumps high into the air
then crashes back into the water
leaving four circles of concentric rings.

Friendly Fr. Flying Fish salutes Fall
and blesses Oyster Creek with holy water.

(*appropriate on this Holy Feast of St. Francis)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

One Week of Paying Attention, October 4

Snuggled in her thick white robe
With her crimson throw tucked in around my toes
Morning’s cup of hot brew warming my hands and my heart,
Her memory and I welcome Autumn’s first 60-degree morning kiss.

Swooping in from the West, Great Blue Heron (her favorite bird) 
     loudly croaks his arrival on the Creek.

All around me Mother smiles.

Friday, October 3, 2014

One Week of Paying Attention, Day 1 October 2

Next week we meet again for our sixth annual poetry writing retreat at Surfside Beach.  Who know when we first met in 2008 that we would be so blessed to have Richard Osler flying down every Fall, like a faithful Canadian goose.Some of us seldom write poetry, except at this time of the year, but somehow Richard manages to turn all of us into really good poets for a few days. It's magic!

So Wednesday Richard issued us a poetry writing challenge to get our juices flowing. Writing poetry (like yoga and prayer) is “unmixed attention”. Richard has given us an assignment to write a 7 line poem a day for 7 days…and to write about something that calls our attention.

DAY 1 (October 2, 2014)

I didn’t sleep again last night and spent hours thinking about my kids and the holidays and how, even if I gave a party, no one would come. I finally got up feeling lonely, tired, depressed. Who wants me to write a poem today? OMG, if I write about what I’m paying attention to, we’ll all fall in a deep dark hole.

“You try to register in the poem as much of the life you've lived as you can.” So, faithful to the call, I write about what I'm paying attention to.

Life Turns on a Dime

They drop from above my left shoulder, seemingly from no where
And drift to – or from – seemingly no place in particular.
Their job done, life spent.
Dead leaves and dragonflies floating down the creek.
Is this all there is?

The buzz attack: three of them dive bomb each other, with two more racing for the feeder.
Hummers are my gift this morning. They make me laugh again.

Week of Paying Attention, Day 2, October 3

Faithful Place

Again, leftward and out of sight, a chorus of mockingbirds trill their hundredth song while
ahead of me murky waters languish,
dusted with soft yellow Yankee pollen transported on last night’s wild north winds
from as far away as Waco.
Overhead thunders the Great Mosquito Duster, sending Tom skittering toward me from
 across the damp, planked walkway.
A solitary Hungry Hummer chatters, hovers, darts, then dips into liquid bacon and eggs served up
at Red Saucer Diner.

On my lap, Tara French’s Faithful Place holds a day’s worth of suspense, murder and intrigue
 While before and all around me offers up quite another tale -

This is my Faithful Place.

(well, it's more than 7 line, but it's only 5 thoughts).

And I couldn't help it, a second poem (7 lines!) just bubbled up. 

What’s the Story?

Nothing tells the tale
of a wild and stormy night
quite like a soaked kitty
come in from his prowl,
downed and spent palm fronds scattered across the yard,
languishing pollen-laden waters,

and my damp chaise lounge.