poetry

POETRY: For Advent by Christina Rossetti

December 16, 2018

Sweet sweet sound of distant waters, falling On a parched and thirsty plain; Sweet sweet song of soaring skylark, calling On the sun to shine again; Perfume of the rose, only the fresher For past fertilizing rain; Pearls amid the sea, a hidden treasure For some daring hand to gain; — Better, dearer than all these Is the earth beneath the trees: Of a much more priceless worth Is the old, brown, common earth. Little snow-white lamb, piteously bleating For thy mother far away; Saddest sweetest nightingale, retreating With thy sorrow from the day; Weary fawn whom night has overtaken, From the herd gone quite astray; Dove whose nest was rifled and forsaken In the budding month of May; — Roost upon the leafy trees; Lie on earth and take your [...]

POETRY: The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold by Madeleine L’Engle

December 15, 2018

The winter is cold, is cold. All’s spent in keeping warm. Has joy been frozen, too? I blow upon my hands Stiff from the biting wind. My heart beats slow, beats slow. What has become of joy? If joy’s gone from my heart Then it is closed to You Who made it, gave it life. If I protect myself I’m hiding, Lord, from you. How we defend ourselves In ancient suits of mail! Protected from the sword, Shrinking from the wound, We look for happiness, Small, safety-seeking, dulled, Selfish, exclusive, in-turned. Elusive, evasive, peace comes Only when it’s not sought. Help me forget the cold That grips the grasping world. Let me stretch out my hands To purifying fire, Clutching fingers uncurled. Look! Here is the melting joy. My heart beats [...]

POETRY: The Empty Church by R. S. Thomas

December 14, 2018

They laid this stone trap for him, enticing him with candles, as though he would come like some huge moth out of the darkness to beat there. Ah, he had burned himself before in the human flame and escaped, leaving the reason torn. He will not come any more to our lure. Why, then, do I kneel still striking my prayers on a stone heart? Is it in hope one of them will ignite yet and throw on its illuminated walls the shadow of someone greater than I can [...]

POETRY: On The Mystery Of The Incarnation by Denise Levertov

December 13, 2018

It’s when we face for a moment the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know the taint in our own selves, that awe cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart: not to a flower, not to a dolphin, to no innocent form but to this creature vainly sure it and no other is god-like, God (out of compassion for our ugly failure to evolve) entrusts, as guest, as brother, the [...]

POETRY: Magnificat by Mary F. C. Pratt

December 12, 2018

Under pine trees in the snow, the chickadees around my head, I wept for the will of God, this hungry woman fed. All the shadows shifted while my back was turned. Once and always on my finger one soft and small gray bird. Not a twisting due to prayer, but all its own, and mine together. And so I bear the gift, carry it through time— this deepest darkness, astonishing [...]

POETRY: Aprons Of Silence by Carl Sandburg

December 11, 2018

Many things I might have said today. And I kept my mouth shut. So many times I was asked To come and say the same things Everybody was saying, no end To the yes-yes, yes-yes, me-too, me-too. The aprons of silence covered me. A wire and hatch held my tongue. I spit nails into an abyss and listened. I shut off the gable of Jones, Johnson, Smith, All whose names take pages in the city directory. I fixed up a padded cell and lugged it around. I locked myself in and nobody knew it. Only the keeper and the kept in the hoosegow Knew it—on the streets, in the post office, On the cars, into the railroad station Where the caller was calling, “All a-board, All a-board for . . . Blaa-blaa . . . Blaa-blaa, Blaa-blaa . . . and all points [...]

POETRY: Later Life: A Double Sonnet Of Sonnets by Christina Rossetti

December 8, 2018

1. Before the mountains were brought forth, before Earth and the world were made, then God was God: And God will still be God, when flames shall roar Round earth and heaven dissolving at His nod: And this God is our God, even while His rod Of righteous wrath falls on us smiting sore: And this God is our God for evermore Through life, through death, while clod returns to clod. For though He slay us we will trust in Him; We will flock home to Him by divers ways: Yea, though He slay us we will vaunt His praise, Serving and loving with the Cherubim, Watching and loving with the Seraphim, Our very selves His praise through endless days. 2. Rend hearts and rend not garments for our sins; Gird sackcloth not on body but on soul; Grovel in dust [...]

POETRY: Freeman Creek Grove by Paul Willis

December 7, 2018

(Sequoia gigantea) Hiking down November snow, we saw the first one still below us, mounding up like a juniper in the Shasta fir and the sugar pine. Soon the trail entered its presence (with Thanksgiving a day behind), the trunk rising in dusky red, in fluted columns strangely soft to our curious touch. The first branches began at the tops of other trees and continued into familiar wonder, older perhaps than the Incarnation, and longer rooted, and while they are here, shedding for us new mercy of cones flung green and small on the white of our steps. We girdled the trunk with open arms, unable to circumference it, much less to find its center. In our random cries, in the things we said to our wandering children, I heard proclamation of [...]

POETRY: The Bright Field by R. S. Thomas

December 6, 2018

I have seen the sun break through to illuminate a small field for a while, and gone my way and forgotten it. But that was the pearl of great price, the one field that had treasure in it. I realize now that I must give all that I have to possess it. Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past. It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush, to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits [...]

POETRY: I Said To My Soul, Be Still, And Let The Dark Come Upon You by T. S. Eliot

December 5, 2018

(from Four Quartets) I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre, The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness, And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away— Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about; Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing— I said to my soul, be still, and wait [...]

POETRY: Into The Darkest Hour by Madeleine L’Engle

December 4, 2018

It was a time like this, War & tumult of war, a horror in the air. Hungry yawned the abyss— and yet there came the star and the child most wonderfully there. It was time like this of fear & lust for power, license & greed and blight— and yet the Prince of bliss came into the darkest hour in quiet & silent light. And in a time like this how celebrate his birth when all things fall apart? Ah! Wonderful it is with no room on the earth the stable is our [...]

POETRY: Conversion by Marci Johnson

December 3, 2018

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) How can word become flesh? Belly. Bone. Tongue—the feel in the mouth a word rolling around. Word, not a kiss not the thing itself—a name. The arch of a foot. Your face in my hands, just a name. Blue sky lolling beyond the window frame—eyes open. just a way of looking. begin with a [...]

POETRY: Advent by Christina Rossetti

December 2, 2018

This Advent moon shines cold and clear, These Advent nights are long; Our lamps have burned year after year, And still their flame is strong. “Watchman, what of the night?” we cry, Heart-sick with hope deferred: “No speaking signs are in the sky,” Is still the watchman’s word. The Porter watches at the gate, The servants watch within; The watch is long betimes and late, The prize is slow to win. “Watchman, what of the night?” but still His answer sounds the same: “No daybreak tops the utmost hill, Nor pale our lamps of flame.” One to another hear them speak, The patient virgins wise: “Surely He is not far to seek,”— “All night we watch and rise.” “The [...]

POETRY: The Four Candles Of Advent by Royston Allen

November 30, 2018

The candle of HOPE: Hope for the hopeless and hope for the lost. No matter the price, whatever the cost. Jesus has come and was willing to pay being born as a babe that first Christmas day. Hope that’s a certainty, hope that is sure. Though the Earth is shaken we are secure. Trusting in Jesus and safe in his care. Knowing that he’s with us and always there. The candle of PEACE: Peace, all other peace transcending. Peace so eternal and unending. Peace that passes all understanding. Peace so perfect and undemanding. Peace lovely peace floods into our soul. Peace of healing making us whole. Peace from God, peace from Heaven. Peace, Jesus whispers deep within. The candle of JOY: The candle is burning, its flame so bright and joy [...]

POETRY: Advent Credo by Allan Boesak

November 29, 2018

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss— This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction— This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly. It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever— This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace. It is not [...]

POETRY: Soft Place to Fall by Sandra Weiss

November 28, 2018

Evening approaches, to call an end to the day. Shadows surround the last bit of light. The sounds that were, fade away. A stillness descends to blend into the night. The early darkness, a night without end, is what I dread, but I have to face. Dusk to dawn, empty hours to spend in my world which is nothing but space. I look for anything, to pass the time, restless, I walk from room to room. Hoping to distract this pattern of mine, to disappear into the increasing gloom. The need inside of me, makes itself known. My heart and soul hears it’s silent call. I have searched in vain, though I am alone. I yearn for that soft place to [...]

POETRY: The Other by R. S. Thomas

November 27, 2018

There are nights that are so still that I can hear the small owl calling far off and a fox barking miles away. It is then that I lie in the lean hours awake listening to the swell born somewhere in the Atlantic rising and falling, rising and falling wave on wave on the long shore by the village, that is without light and companionless. And the thought comes of that other being who is awake, too, letting our prayers break on him, not like this for a few hours, but for days, years, for [...]

POETRY: Hope by John Bowring

November 26, 2018

Watchman tell us of the night, what its signs of promise are. Traveler, o’er yon mountain’s height, see that glory-beaming star. Watchman, does its beauteous ray aught of joy or hope foretell? Traveler, yes; it brings the day, promised day of [...]

PRAYER AND POETRY: Advent Collect

November 26, 2018

From Book of Common Prayer Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and for ever.  Amen. The Advent Collect (paraphrased as a sonnet) Almighty Lord and everlasting God, Come in the silence of our human night And give us grace that we may cast away The works of darkness; from eternal day Now send to us the armor of your light; In this brief mortal life protect and [...]

POETRY: Black Rook In Rainy Weather by Sylvia Plath

November 25, 2018

On the stiff twig up there Hunches a wet black rook Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain. I do not expect a miracle Or an accident To set the sight on fire In my eye, nor seek Any more in the desultory weather some design, But let spotted leaves fall as they fall, Without ceremony or portent. Although, I admit, I desire, Occasionally, some backtalk From the mute sky, I can’t honestly complain: A certain minor light may still Lean incandescent Out of kitchen table or chair As if a celestial burning took Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then— Thus hallowing an interval Otherwise inconsequent By bestowing largesse, honor, One might say love. At any rate, I now walk Wary (for it could happen Even in this dull, [...]

POETRY: Message From Inland by Maura Eichner

November 21, 2018

I am clothed in the seamless garment of fog. No gulls cry. No nervous horn sounds another ship. No fragrance of kelp stirs, no wind of sea-change. Red mud slips like a secret beneath my feet. I know what happens to seamless garments. I have lashed a riding light to my [...]

POETRY: Seeing The Eclipse In Maine by Robert Bly

November 17, 2018

It started about noon. On top of Mount Batte, We were all exclaiming. Someone had a cardboard And a pin, and we all cried out when the sun Appeared in tiny form on the notebook cover. It was hard to believe. The high school teacher We’d met called it a pinhole camera, People in the Renaissance loved to do that. And when the moon had passed partly through We saw on a rock underneath a fir tree, Dozens of crescents—made the same way— Thousands! Even our straw hats produced A few as we moved them over the bare granite. We shared chocolate, and one man from Maine Told a joke. Suns were everywhere—at our [...]

POETRY: A Dubious Night by Richard Wilbur

November 14, 2018

A bell diphthonging in an atmosphere Of shying night air summons some to prayer Down in the town, two deep lone miles from here, Yet wallows faint or sudden everywhere, In every ear, as if the twist wind wrung Some ten years’ tangled echoes from the air. What kyries it says are mauled among The queer elisions of the mist and murk, Of lights and shapes; the senses were unstrung, Except that one star’s synecdochic smirk Burns steadily to me, that nothing’s odd And firm as ever is the masterwork. I weary of the confidence of [...]

POETRY: A Month Of Happiness by Robert Bly

November 9, 2018

A blind horse stands among cherry trees. And bones shine from cool earth. The heart leaps Almost up to the sky! But laments And filaments pull us back into the dark. Night takes us. But A paw Comes out of the dark To light the road. I’ll be all right. I follow my own fiery traces through the [...]

POETRY: The Man Who Couldn’t Believe by David Citino

November 7, 2018

He was the sort who entertained doubts. Even in early childhood when his mother would call out “Your daddy’s home,” he’d look up from toys that were nothing more than toys and, with a smile both knowing and superior, shake his head from side to side. When Sister Mary Appassionata asked “Why did God make you?” he looked her straight in the eye. “Damned if I know,” he answered. Even love was out of the question, a series of motions out and in, crescendo, diminuendo. “You’re no worse than the last one, and I need it,” he’d calmly plead. “I do. I do.” It rained or shined on his parades for meteorological reasons only. Stars were there because they were. Forget charmed quarks and neutrinos, though he admitted that [...]

POETRY: Covers the Ground by Gary Snyder

November 3, 2018

When California was wild, it was one sweet bee-garden…. (John Muir) Down the Great Central valley’s blossoming almond orchard acres lines of tree-trunks shoot a glance through as the rows flash by— And the ground is covered with cement culverts standing on end, house-high & six feet wide culvert after culvert far as you can see covered with mobile homes, pint size portable housing, johnny-on-the-spots, concrete freeway, overpass, underpass, exit floreals, entrance curtsies, railroad bridge, long straight miles of divider oleanders; scrappy ratty grass and thistle, tumbled barn, another age, yards of tractors, combines lined up— new bright-painted units down at one end, old stuff broke and smashed down at the other, [...]

POETRY: The Resemblance Between Your Life And A Dog by Robert Bly

November 2, 2018

I never intended to have this life, believe me— It just happened. You know how dogs turn up At a farm, and they wag but can’t explain. It’s good if you can accept your life—you’ll notice Your face has become deranged trying to adjust To it. Your face thought your life would look Like your bedroom mirror when you were ten. That was a clear river touched by mountain wind. Even your parents can’t believe how much you’ve changed. Sparrows in winter, if you’ve ever held one, all feathers, Burst out of your hand with a fiery glee. You see them later in hedges. Teachers praise you, But you can’t quite get back to the winter sparrow. Your life is a dog. He’s been hungry for miles, Doesn’t [...]

POETRY: New Year’s Eve In Bismarck, North Dakota by Kathleen Norris

October 31, 2018

Flying in Before snow closed the airport, Waiting For a way out, Drinking at the Patterson, Peppermint schnapps For the season, The town, The storm. The bartender joins in. He’s old, and wears a black String tie. A cowboy, drunk, says “You’re lookin’ good. Got a figure like a bombshell. Like an angel. An angel from outer space. Some guys’d up n’ say, ‘C’mon, you’re gonna have some.’ I believe in God. I’d never say that to a girl.” It’s ten below in Bismarck. They say it’s colder In outer space. The Ecclesiastes In my hotel room Is uncharacteristically hopeful. “Better is the end of a thing,” He says, loosening his loincloth, “Than the beginning [...]

POETRY: After The Last Words by Scott Cairns

October 24, 2018

By now I’m dead. Make what you will of that. But granted you are alive, you will need to be making something more as well. Prayers have been made, for instance, but (trust me) the dead are oblivious to such sessions. Settle instead for food, nice meals (thick soup); invite your friends. Make lively conversation among steaming bowls, lifting heavy spoons. If there is bread (there really should be bread), tear it coarsely and hand each guest his share for intinction in the soup. Something to say? Say it now. Let the napkins fall and stay. Kiss each guest when time comes for leaving. They may be embarrassed, caught without wit or custom. (See them shifting from foot to foot at the open door?) Could be you will repeat your farewells a time [...]

POETRY: Tasting Heaven by Robert Bly

October 19, 2018

Some people say that every poem should have God in it somewhere. But of course Wallace Stevens Wasn’t one of those. We live, he said, “in a world Without heaven to follow.” Shall we agree That we taste heaven only once, when we see Her at fifteen walking among falling leaves? It’s possible. And yet as Stevens lay dying He invited the priest in. There, I’ve said it. The priest is not an argument, only an instance. But our gusty emotions say to me that we have Tasted heaven many times: these delicacies Are left over from some larger [...]