First Steps

Looking into my eyes,
they could speak no more,
except to say, “Speak no more.”

But how can I keep from speaking what I have seen and heard?

Debate cannot convince.
Threats do not cajole.
Controversy will not be contained.

You know whose friend I am.

Even now,
the hand is stretching out:
your healing is stalking you.

This gathering place will be shaken.


For the feast of St. Joseph

I ask for what remains:
torn, tattered
leftovers of power’s playtime,
the broken-open
body of a mouse
after the cat has had her fun.

I ask for what no one wants:
dashed hopes,
the possum
who never made it
to the other side.

I ask for what offends:
fragrance of death,
the skunk who stank
for three days
after being run down.

I ask for these things:
What harm could it do?
You have no use for them anymore.
Let me unburden you of
this nuisance.

This stumbling block,
which the builders rejected,
will be the head of the corner
in an altar of undressed stones.

I know what power
lies under the earth.
I have seen the heart of heaven
in the bowels of hell.

This is the secret
I carried with me
from Arimathea to Glastonbury.

Learn it
and you too
will hear the harrowing.

A Midwestern Thunderstorm

I did not know
when I arrived
that the nothing
surrounding everything
would be my favorite part
of the landscape

the pressure lifts
the sky
coming alive
giving life

a traumatic birth
groaning in expectation

water wind fire
all at once
sacred symbols

open font

I dip my finger
sign of the cross
enter into silence

open heart
spirit fills

I am dipped
some said it thundered


Image by Taka. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Life gave
what I took
for my own.

I learned
how to seize
with the hands,
how to tear
with the teeth.

I learned
what it felt like
to touch with the lips,
to press with the tongue,
to be surprised by how much
came out
when I broke the surface,
to be covered with sweetness
all over my body.

Now I know.
It’s complicated.


What I took
is mine.

I’m learning
how to build
with the hands,
how to hold nails
with the teeth.

Cleaning up
is never
as much fun
as messing up.

is never
as cathartic
as demolition.

Nails and wood
are not the same thing
as a tree.

They have no power
to give life.

I’m learning
what it feels like
to be covered with sweat
all over my body.


What I made
gave life.

It was an accident.
Nobody meant for it to happen
this way.
It just seemed like a good idea
at the time.

The hands that learned
to seize and build.
The teeth that learned
to tear and hold.
The facsimile of a tree.

I wasn’t expecting it
to be alive
when I broke the surface.

I was surprised by how much
came out
and covered me with blood
all over my body.

More forgetting
than learning
this time.

Not taken
for my own,
but given
by another.

A Psalm of Lament

Oxbow Bend outlook in Grand Teton National Park. Image by Michael Gäbler. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

To love is to live

with an open heart,

a broken heart.

To give of oneself until empty.

To not grasp equality.

To devalue oneself.

To give to what only knows how to take.

To be the apple tree picked clean.

To be swallowed by darkness.

To be spent but not touched.

To play the whore and the virgin at the same time.


He did it.

Don’t mythologize.

Don’t romanticize.

Don’t let him be dismissed so easily.

He is the cheap trick,

the unfulfilled desire,

the itch you can’t scratch,

the pain that passeth understanding,

the walk like blues.

He is dead,

and gone,

and never coming back.



Is that what you think?

Son, you talk an awful lot,

but maybe you should listen:


An unfamiliar voice.

A deer crossing the road in front of me.

A chipmunk on his way to do something (apparently) very important.

A bee otherwise occupied.





Hot breath, 93 million miles old.

Cold fingers brushing past my cheek and through my hair.

A passion play:



in motion.

Seeds of new life:

Sarah’s laughter knocked loose after 90 years or more.

The atmosphere is full of it.

What is it called?

Where is it from?

I don’t even know,

except to say



All of this is not an answer,

except to a question

I have not yet learned to ask.

It is neither an ending nor a beginning.

It is only a moment.

Untitled Winter Poem

Image by Helen Filatova. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

Covetous crystals cover my pane,
needling out like evergreen branches,
longing to be what their brothers cover.
Melting heat of inward flame:
anything but this,
anywhere but here.
Not realizing,
to lose longing,
they would not be happy
(they will never be happy),
but they would be.
Yet, this they are.
Otherwise is no option.
Anything is everything.
Anywhere is everywhere.
With heat comes light:
essence of flame in crystal.
Begin again.

Disturbed With the Joy of Elevated Thoughts

Rätikon mountain range in Austria. Image by Böhringer Friedrich

I must confess that I have been hitherto unfamiliar with the poetry of William Wordsworth, but my mind was blown this morning as I came across this passage of his, quoted by Karen Armstrong in The Case for God.  It quite simply set my heart on fire.  I would point to poetry like this if someone asked me to give my definition of the term “God”:

…I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.


Taughannock Falls, near Cayuga Lake. Image by Fred Fredrickson.

Fractured shale

broken earth

a path that is no path

Discarded detritus of forgotten function

used to be something

used to mean something


Where the living waters no longer flow

we return to the roots of rhythm in cut-time

we can almost recognize the tune

We stumble upon clipped wings

only the beauty

without the bug

Untouchable jewels explode

in more ways than one

on both sides of baptism

I remember why I wanted

to be close

to you


But this time

as you walk away

from me

For the first time

I know

I am

I Am Life

Tarantula Nebula

I am that great and fiery force sparkling in everything that lives;
in shining of the river’s course, in greening grass that glory gives.

I shine in glitter on the seas, in burning sun, in moon and stars.
In unseen wind, in verdant trees I breathe within, both near and far.

And where I breathe there is no death, and meadows glow with beauties rife.
I am in all, the spirit’s breath, the thundered word, for I am Life.

-Hildegard of Bingen

Ten Thousand Places

I don’t have a reason for posting this picture.  I just found online somewhere in recent months and I like it.  It speaks to me of the presence of the divine (Matthew Fox might say “Cosmic Christ”) in all corners of the universe, even in the deepest parts of the Earth.  I see it as a blessing.  May it be so.

As the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins once said, “Christ plays in ten thousand places”.

Aw, what the heck, I’ll just go ahead and post the whole poem:

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.
I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
Retrieved from on June 3, 2012.