Unencumbered

you began your life
unencumbered
breaking into the world
naked and needy
fully dependent

as you grew
you developed a curious mix
of freedom and dependence
you welcomed
creativity and exploration
emotions too
young children express
feelings unmasked

eventually
someone gave you a suitcase
you radiated excitement
because you felt
grown up

they told you
there was plenty of space
to put your anger
your shame
your curiosity
your creativity
so you began packing

as you grew
you kept your case with you
filling it with
dashed hopes
and relational wounds

year by year
your suitcase grew so heavy
that a child could no more move it
than she could lift a boulder
but over time you adapted
because that is what grown ups do

perhaps you will be one of the lucky few
who finally recognizes
that your suitcase
was not an invitation
to greater freedom
but a millstone
shackling you

toss it into the ocean
and step once again
into yourself

Birdsong

I leave my window open
just a crack
just enough to hear
the birds singing in the day.

Their chorus begins in the dark.
Like me,
the sun loves their song
and rises to listen.

Too soon, their melodies
will be silenced
by discordant tones
as the rest of the world gets up
beginning not in song,
but getting their daily briefing
on what to be mad about
who to fear and
who’s to blame.

The birds’ midday silence
makes me sad.
It seems they know my sadness;
they feel it too.

At dusk, as another day closes
the gay melodies
that woke the sun
are quiet.
I hear only
a lone dove mourning
yet another day
when fear and hate prevailed.

Tomorrow
Tomorrow we will do it again,
for we choose not to live
as those who have no hope.

Awakening to Wholeness

I put this together for the #SpinePoemChallenge.

The heart aroused
grace awakening
here and now
catching fire
becoming flame.

Now what?
Be still, my soul.

Finding quiet, aware…
silence
…silence and beauty
the sacrament of the present moment.

Contented soul
everything belongs
becoming human…whole.

All shall be well.

Still our hearts, Lord

God of hope,
our world seems hopeless.
An unseen enemy assaults us,
emptying our streets,
yet filling us with anxiety.

We have no mooring, no anchor.
We ride white-capped waves
in small vessels
that were never meant
to weather these storms.

Our stockpiles dwindle,
but we cannot see the shore.
We lash ourselves to the mast
and pray we do not capsize.

Our prayers are groans
and tears
and tumbling thoughts.

Many of us hope for the light to break through,
but all we see is darkness.
We don’t even know where to look.
Our darting eyes betray our anxious hearts.

Still our hearts, O Lord,
Still our hearts.

At First Light

A reflection on Psalm 65 from my book Soil of the Divine.

Birds at first light

tune their voices

offering melodious praise,

not one holding back.

They loudly welcome the dawn,

in awe of God‘s handiwork.

“‘Tis just instinct,”

you say,

“pre-programmed

animal behavior.

Nothing more.”

But perhaps

they do not suppress

their instinct to worship

in the same way

that so many people do.

The meadows clothed themselves with flocks, the valleys decked themselves with grain, they shout and saying together for joy. Psalm 65:13

A Prescription for Wholeness

Spread kindness like wildfire. Ask questions. Cross bridges. Pick up a piece of trash. Say hello. Say thank you, to God and others. Go for a walk. Make eye contact. Consider the lilies. Mend fences. Plant wildflowers. Sit in the grass and watch a bumblebee—it will teach you there is no need to rush. Pay for someone’s coffee. Bake two loaves of bread. Give one away. Pray for those who belittle you. Be kind to yourself. Shed tears when you are sad. Sing show tunes, preferably with someone else. Draw a tree; even a stick tree will do. Savor an orange. When you are angry, breathe deeply and exhale mercy. Listen to “the gift of a thistle” by James Horner. Visit somewhere new. Light a candle; in fact, light three, or a hundred. Play with a toddler. Drink a cup of tea. Read a poem by Mary Oliver, or perhaps Rumi. Write a letter to someone, with real paper and ink. Send it through the mail. Look for goodness. Celebrate beauty—it is everywhere. Listen with curiosity. Sing loudly in your car. Hold someone’s hand. Pet a dog. Bike to work. Buy original art, anyone local will do. Always stop at a lemonade stand and always overpay. Breathe. Do it again. Do you realize what a miracle it is that you are alive?

Paper Love

Love sounds good
on paper
but paper love
is too easily
crumpled, torn, and burned.

True love
comes from
a more primitive place
not bright white smoothness
eight point five by eleven,
but from an ancient seed
blown to the ground
and buried in death
that transforms into
something greater
Always reaching for the light,
though daily assailed
by gales
or scorching sun
Perhaps not comforting,
but necessary.

Snow Scrawl

Racing fast
leaving crimson marks
upon white expanse
tracing cursive lines
perfectly written
by the teacher
scribbles becoming legible.

“I’ve got the hang of this”
I tell myself
flowing effortlessly
as I maneuver to and fro
upon a wide tableau
quicker we go
heart and machine
accelerating.

I watch him
make a sweeping arc
poetry in motion
I follow suit
trying to execute
the loop with grace.

But I colored outside the lines
uncertain what happened
illegible marks
tell the tale.

I study the lines
my ego bruised
to a deep crimson
knowing that
I got ahead of myself.

“Mistakes are great teachers”
I say
as I hold my ribs
take a breath
and begin again.