poetry

POETRY: Calcutta To Cannon Beach, by Nathaniel Lee Hansen

I have His darkness—I have His pain—I have the terrible longing for God. (Mother Teresa) That at times this future saint could not sense her Lord while sweating words with pen read as a revelation to me, disclosed that she was human, too. God’s omnipresence still too far—boils, sores, and scars too near, so faith meant treading the waters of theology’s raw mystery, their paradox: belief is doubt that we can know with certainty. And so I cup the ocean with my hands, though fingers leak, dry, then crack. Yet for a moment, I can clutch the ocean with my makeshift bowl, taste the salt my everyday eyes cannot [...]

POETRY: And A Good Friday Was Had By All, by Bruce Dawe

You men there, keep those women back and God Almighty he laid down on the crossed timber and Old Silenus my offsider looked at me as if to say nice work for soldiers, your mind’s not your own once you sign that dotted line Ave Caesar and all that malarkey Imperator Rex well this Nazarene didn’t make it any easier really—not like the ones who kick up a fuss so you can do your block and take it out on them Silenus held the spikes steady and I let fly with the sledge-hammer, not looking on the downswing trying hard not to hear over the women’s wailing the bones give way the iron shocking the dumb wood. Orders is orders, I said after it was over nothing personal you understand—we had a drill-sergeant once thought he was [...]

POETRY: Catechism, by Brett Foster

What sort of belief would you say is yours? Porous. Calibrated to the times. The week. In what ways has superflux affected you? Too much esteem. Tuned finely to the body’s work. What do you fear has not been delivered? The disease of courage. Will it be required? No questions, please. Can you see yourself tested? I have never suffered for anything. In how many dimensions is your faith? One thin one, at least. [Aside] Was that a trick question? What is the single thing that sustains you? Abiding hope that being here’s made good. Care to clarify? Care to offer last words? I offer essentially nothing, but [...]

POETRY: The Ballad Of Mary’s Son, by Langston Hughes

It was in the Spring The Passover had come. There was feasting in the streets and joy. But an awful thing Happened in the Spring— Men who knew not what they did Killed Mary’s Boy. And the Son of God was He— Sent to bring the whole world joy. There were some who could not hear, And some were filled with fear— So they built a cross For Mary’s [...]

POETRY: My Prayers Must Meet A Brazen Heaven, by Gerard Manley Hopkins

My prayers must meet a brazen heaven And fail and scatter all away. Unclean and seeming unforgiven My prayers I scarcely call to pray. I cannot buoy my heart above; Above I cannot entrance win. I reckon precedents of love, But feel the long success of sin. My heaven is brass and iron my earth: Yea, iron is mingled with my clay, So harden’d is it in this dearth Which praying fails to do away. Nor tears, nor tears this clay uncouth Could mould, if any tears there were. A warfare of my lips in truth, Battling with God, is now my [...]

POETRY: I Have Stood At The Center Of The World, by Catherine McNiel

I have stood at the center of the world The primordial Tree, the innocent Beginning I have been rejected there, exiled So I wander Homeless, yet seeking Home Marked, yet seeking I have traveled so far in my wanderings That I have changed, the distance became a chasm And yet I have stayed so closely tied Lingering near with hope for Healing Longing I stand in the place of Anger and Accusation Watching the last box of bitterness carried out the door Alone now with the vast emptiness in its place There’s nothing left to do but this endless Wandering and lingering I have forgiven But you have forgotten Even a child casts her own shadow The past has built itself into my body and soul And there it is: The bruised and fallen apple is its [...]

POETRY: The Road To Damascus: 6, by Tania Runyan

I have sinned, I said. I want eternal life, I said. That was the moment. I wanted nothing but God. I wanted a cheeseburger. I wanted nothing at all. Finally, I wanted it all settled. I folded by hands and spoke To the carpet. I folded my hands and spoke to the Lord. I woke up and felt no different. I woke up and my life came to an [...]

POETRY: Jung’s Shadow And Matthew 4:16, by Marci Rae Johnson

Even in winter there was sun living in the green shoulders of the waves. I’d walk the beach alone with shadows: gulls in formation on the ground. Once the bones. Once a poem that wrote itself behind my eyes. When I’d come home he wouldn’t say how much he feared the way I’d carry words to the clouds and let them go. Everyone carries a shadow. Everyone breathes out fog in the cold. Even the living sun can’t melt the ice shelf that pushes up the sand, makes of this familiar scape a wild shape— a place that can’t be known. I walk the dunes above, misplace the old theologies. I suppose a light has dawned. The sun pushed high as it will get, tapping the tops of pines, my own shadow long among the others [...]

POETRY: Lent, by George Herbert

Welcome dear feast of Lent: who loves not thee, He loves not Temperance, or Authority, But is composed of passion. The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church says, now: Give to your Mother, what you would allow To every Corporation. It ‘s true, we cannot reach Christ’s fortieth day; Yet to go part of that religious way, Is better than to rest: We cannot reach our Savior’s purity; Yet are bid, Be holy ev’n as he. In both let’s do our best. Who goes in the way which Christ has gone, Is much more sure to meet with him, than one Who travels the by-ways: Perhaps my God, though he be far before, May turn, and take me by the hand, and more May strengthen my decays. Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast By starving sin [...]

POETRY: E Tenebris, by Oscar Wilde

Come down, O Christ, and help me! reach thy hand, For I am drowning in a stormier sea Than Simon on thy lake of Galilee: The wine of life is spilt upon the sand, My heart is as some famine-murdered land, Whence all good things have perished utterly, And well I know my soul in Hell must lie If I this night before God’s throne should stand. “He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase, Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name From morn to noon on Carmel’s smitten height.” Nay, peace, I shall behold before the night, The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame, The wounded hands, the weary human [...]

POETRY: Seventeens — Acoustics, by Amit Majmudar

A hand must pass the strings for them to sound. The absence of the touch is what resounds. Axon for axon, we are strung, we are A kind of neurological guitar A star has strummed to music. Our musician Has touched us once, gone quiet now to listen— Is this mind flat or sharp? How well’s it tuned? The absence of his hand is opportune, His famous silence proof we have his ear. Reverberation needs the aisles clear, And rumination needs some room to roam. If he were here, these rhymes would stay at home, And all that’s hard and hardest-won in us Be obviated by the obvious. Have your hosannah, I prefer the hush. Check the acoustics in this empty hall. Not the faintest echo when you [...]

POETRY: New Mexico, 1992, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

We learned to make the sign of the cross, Dipping earth stained hands in Catholic Waters. We’ve filled the desert with our altars We prayed our rosaries, played them, Rubbed them, clutched them– rattles in the wind Swaying back and forth—our Playground swings, we rode them toward God, Now hang them on walls or rear view Mirrors of fixed-up ’57 trucks. Comenzamos el Padre Nuestro en espanol but we finish the prayer in a North American tongue. De vez en cuando we gather ourselves together to baptize a child in the name of the Father, the Son, and our ancestors who command us from the grave. We have made our way in the world, worked hard, worked hard. Now, we toss money at the feet of my parent’s grandchildren like [...]

POETRY: Blood In The Snow, by Gregory Spencer

I have yet to see a crimson cardinal, though Virginia boasts he’s there waiting on some blossomed branch whistling. Perhaps a blood-red bird will soon appear against this winter-white ash that floats down graceful from God’s chimney. Our children have fallen—we all have— and bear hot bruises from these ice slips. Undeterred, they surf the slopes this March, calculating pace and angles for success. I sent them out today in striped shirts to crunch and slide near the Holocaust museum. Just yesterday a man was murdered there. I remember the news said he did nothing wrong; but I let the children go anyway, to walk that path where winter’s white ash falls from God’s chimney and I’ve yet to see a [...]

POETRY: A Prayer, by Thomas More

Grant I thee pray such heat into mine heart, That to this love of thine may be equal; God grant me from Satan’s service to astart, With whom me rueth so long to have be thrall; Grant me good Lord and creator of all, The flame to quench of all sinful desire, And in thy love set all mine heart afire. That when the journey of this deadly life My silly ghost hath finished, and thence Departed must without his fleshly wife;* Alone into his lord’s high presence, He may thee find: O well of indulgence, In thy lordship not as a lord: but rather As a very tender, loving father. Amen. [*silly ghost: the soul; fleshly wife: the [...]

POETRY: Ash Wednesday, by T. S. Eliot

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden, Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still Even among these rocks, Our peace in His will And even among these rocks Sister, mother And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea, Suffer me not to be separated And let my cry come unto [...]

POETRY: The Centaur, by May Swenson

The summer that I was ten— Can it be there was only one summer that I was ten? It must have been a long one then— each day I’d go out to choose a fresh horse from my stable which was a willow grove down by the old canal. I’d go on my two bare feet. But when, with my brother’s jackknife, I had cut me a long limber horse with a good thick knob for a head, and peeled him slick and clean except a few leaves for the tail, and cinched my brother’s belt around his head for a rein, I’d straddle and canter him fast up the grass bank to the path trot along in the lovely dust that talcumed over his hoofs, hiding my toes, and turning his feet to swift half-moons. The willow knob with the strap jouncing between my [...]

POETRY: The Beautiful, Striped Sparrow, by Mary Oliver

In the afternoons, in the almost empty fields, I hum the hymns I used to sing in church. They could not tame me, so they would not keep me, alas, and how that feels, the weight of it, I will not tell any of you, not ever. Still, as they promised, God, once he is in your heart, is everywhere— so even here among the weeds and the brisk trees. How long does it take to hum a hymn? Strolling one or two acres of the sweetness or the world, not counting a lapse, now and again, of sheer emptiness. Once a deer stood quietly at my side. And sometimes the wind has touched my cheek like a spirit. Am I lonely? The beautiful, striped sparrow, serenely, on the tallest weed in his kingdom, also sings without [...]

POETRY: Non-Disparagement Agreement, by Mary F. C. Pratt

After David Weinstock If you won’t tell how I cried, I won’t tell how you left. You won’t tell my raging, either, how I blamed you for everything: my sister’s dying, the terrorists, war, cancer and pain, blindness, stupidity. So  you won’t tell how I slammed doors, broke goblets, made a fool of myself every time I remembered. And I won’t tell how quiet you were, how you wouldn’t turn back when I called. I won’t tell of the blank, the emptiness of the faceless winter sky with its perfect stillness of stars, the hollowness of the laughter at feasts, the blandness of Rilke and Bach. You mocked me with happinesses, with sunrises and hymns, but I won’t tell. You won’t tell how I [...]

POETRY: The Search, by George Herbert

Whither, O whither art Thou fled, My Lord, my Love ? My searches are my daily bread, Yet never prove. My knees pierce the earth, mine eyes the sky; And yet the sphere And center both to me deny That Thou art there. Yet can I mark how herbs below Grow green and gay, As if to meet Thee they did know, While I decay. Yet can I mark how stars above Simper and shine, As having keys unto Thy love, While poor I pine. I sent a sigh to seek Thee out, Deep drawn in pain, Winged like an arrow; but my scout Returns in vain. I turned another (having store) Into a groan, Because the search was dumb before; But all was one. Lord, dost Thou some new fabric mold Which favor wins, And keeps Thee present; leaving the old Unto their sins? Where is my God ? [...]

POETRY: The Ten Lepers, by Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon

’Neath the olives of Samaria, in far-famed Galilee, Where dark green vines are mirrored in a placid silver sea, ’Mid scenes of tranquil beauty, glowing sun-sets, rosy dawn, The Master and disciples to the city journeyed on. And, as they neared a valley where a sheltered hamlet lay, A strange, portentous wailing made them pause upon their way— Voices fraught with anguish, telling of aching heart and brow, Which kept moaning: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us now!” Softly raised the gentle Saviour His eyes like midnight star, And His mournful gaze soon rested on ten lepers, who, afar, Stood motionless and suppliant, in sackcloth rudely clothed, Poor Pariahs! by their nearest, their dearest, shunned and loathed. Not unto Him prayed [...]

POETRY: The Edges Of Time, by Kay Ryan

It is at the edges that time thins. Time which had been dense and viscous as amber suspending intentions like bees unseizes them. A humming begins, apparently coming from stacks of put-off things or just in back. A racket of claims now, as time flattens. A glittering fan of things competing to happen, brilliant and urgent as fish when seas [...]

POETRY: The Widow’s Mites—A Poem, by Brother Roy

From: New Hope International Ministries  Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44) During the last days that Jesus walked upon this earth as a man, He went up to the temple to see if anyone truly understood God’s plan. A nameless, faceless widow passed by Jesus as He rested against the temple wall, But He did [...]

POETRY: The Widow’s Lament In Springtime, by William Carlos Williams

Sorrow is my own yard where the new grass flames as it has flamed often before, but not with the cold fire that closes round me this year. Thirty-five years I lived with my husband. The plum tree is white today with masses of flowers. Masses of flowers load the cherry branches and color some bushes yellow and some red, but the grief in my heart is stronger than they, for though they were my joy formerly, today I notice them and turn away forgetting. Today my son told me that in the meadows, at the edge of the heavy woods in the distance, he saw trees of white flowers. I feel that I would like to go there and fall into those flowers and sink into the marsh near [...]

POETRY: Matins, by George Herbert

I cannot ope mine eyes, But thou art ready there to catch My morning-soul and sacrifice: Then we must needs for that day make a match. My God, what is a heart? Silver, or gold, or precious stone, Or star, or rainbow, or a part Of all these things or all of them in one? My God, what is a heart? That thou shouldst it so eye, and woo, Pouring upon it all thy art, As if that thou hadst nothing else to do? Indeed man’s whole estate Amounts (and richly) to serve thee: He did not heav’n and earth create, Yet studies them, not him by whom they be. Teach me thy love to know; That this new light, which now I see, May both the work and workman show: Then by a sunbeam I will climb to [...]

POETRY: Dawn Walks In Blue And Diamonds, by Franz Wright

Dawn walks in blue and diamonds in robes of darkest grain wind-parted ☆ Sleeping she looked like a river Like a river at dawn, silver sliver of moon, wind in poplars, flickering of a candle that grows imperceptibly taller as it burns Manacled girl naked surrounded by flames, gigantic rose of painless fire— ☆ Now I have passed through voice and fire could I be cleansed of all desire, I don’t think so Icon: cold gold telepathic eyes ☆ Sacrament of metaphor, sacrament of matter ☆ Aren’t stars almost in your vicinity It was only the barest beginning starward- bound, only the March branches, only the first gifts of the first awakening waiting forever to be born… ☆ Dawn walked in blue and diamonds. [...]

POETRY: Snowfall, by Sarah Arthur

When the snow falls it falls like death in slow layers and keeps falling till nothing we have known is known. We stand silent in the woods awaiting the wide white twilight. They say when you die of cold you fall asleep first. And so I wonder: If you die of snow like a princess do you dream for a hundred years while a blanket of white mounds over your chest and pines stand silent in the trackless deep and not even the mice know you’re there? If a tree falls in the snow does it sleep for a hundred years? And if you prick your finger and a drop of red blood falls on the silent snow do the woods shudder with strange violence; does the snow rot with dark undergrowth; do the dead leaves bleed? Does the woodsman then awake, shoulder his ax, [...]

POETRY: By The Water Of Babylon, by Eloise Blanchard

The journey took forever, it seemed, over wide valleys, smooth with wear, over high hills, the occasional mountain, carefully, across bridges over chasms with various ugly creatures in them. When I got to the river, it bubbled, swaying its way to the ocean— a rhythmic flow— and I lay down in the deep fine grass hands outspread and thought I was in the promised land. But, like Moses, I was on the other side the wrong side. I looked over and knew it instantly; knew the irrevocable nature of location, humanity, physical being had put me there after long journeys, with people following blindly and I could not get to the right side. And folks on the other side were dancing— a celebration of their river and their views. The river flows [...]

POETRY: Cemetery, by Benjamin Alire Saenz

I walk these grassless grounds Cracked, withering in weeds. My eyes move From one monument to the next: a star For the hour of their births, a cross For the hour of their deaths. Grave after Grave, row after crooked row like fields Of rotting corn. My eyes fall On words: Para mi querido hijo, a mother’s Final letter to her war-dead son. The foreigner Has found a place, died for a flag that knows only How to wave adios in English. A broken angel, Wingless, protects the grave of an infant Whose name the wind has stolen. A cloud Covers the sun. It will not rain. I stand In this noonday darkness somewhere between A cross and a star, strip off my clothes, rags That hide my bones. Bones. Bones fighting to bare Their blankness to open air. [...]

POETRY: Aaron, by George Herbert

Holiness on the head, Light and perfections on the breast, Harmonious bells below, raising the dead To lead them unto life and rest: Thus are true Aarons dressed. Profaneness in my head, Defects and darkness in my breast, A noise of passions ringing me for dead Unto a place where is no rest: Poor priest, thus am I dressed. Only another head I have, another heart and breast, Another music, making live, not dead, Without whom I could have no rest: In him I am well dressed. Christ is my only head, My alone-only heart and breast, My only music, striking me ev’n dead, That to the old man I may rest, And be in him new-dressed. So, holy in my head, Perfect and light in my dear breast, My doctrine tun’d by Christ (who is not dead, But [...]