All those days
you felt like dust,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners
or swept away
by the smallest breath
did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?
This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.
This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.
This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.
So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are
but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
Is this a Fast, to keep
The Larder lean? And clean
From fat of veals and sheep?
Is it to quit the dish
Of flesh, yet still
The platter high with fish?
Is it to fast an hour,
Or ragg’d go,
A down-cast look and sour?
No: ’tis a Fast to dole
Thy sheaf of wheat
Unto the hungry soul.
It is to fast from strife
And old debate,
To circumcise thy life.
To show a heart grief-rent;
To starve thy sin,
And that’s to keep thy Lent.
Robert Herrick, 1648
from spiralling ecstatically this
from spiralling ecstatically this
proud nowhere of earth’s most prodigious night
blossoms a newborn babe: around him, eyes
–gifted with every keener appetite
than mere unmiracle can quite appease–
humbly in their imagined bodies kneel
(over time space doom dream while floats the whole
perhapsless mystery of paradise)
mind without soul may blast some universe
to might have been, and stop ten thousand stars
but not one heartbeat of this child; nor shall
even prevail a million questionings against the silence of his mother’s
smile- whose only secret all creation sings.
e e cummings
can be an Easter
another happy ending
and a new beginning
that he loves us.
In the quiet
garden of our waking
from guilty nightmares
of the ways we work
and to fill
of the world
and we believe
it must be good
can call it good.
Along the road
if we can fall in step
we hear his words
and where it took him
and where it may take us—
and like sunrise
in the afternoon
mysteriously we perceive
and the glory
of his love.
Or in a hidden room
against our fears
and other enemies
while hugging our griefs
and fairer memories
in sad embrace
his laser light
punctures our partitions
Or in the place
where we have earned
through nights of toil
a breakfast break
and those hurt hands
sacrament of love.
Is it always
and never our
or can we hear
as Simon Peter did
the cardinal question
Do you love me
And love me more
than all your other
If we are honest
Of course I don’t
I think I do;
Of course I can’t
being the one I am
to casual denial
and cozy naps
when all the time
is most needed—
How can you
count on much
Of course I want to
Why do you
if I love you?
What can I say
when what I do
of my love?
why do you keep
that I might?
What do you mean
when you persist
that the way
I show my love
must be translated
in terms of feeding
lambs and sheep?
Are you implying
it is only
as I incarnate
by doing what I can
that I crown
you Lord of me
Lord of all?
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
The catalpa tree flowered while we were not looking,
Possibly spurred on by the blossoms already on the lilac tree nearby,
But with no help at all from us, owing to us only
That years ago now I planted this tree from a wild shoot in the yard
And still pay for the water it needs during the dry days of August heat.
The blossoms seemingly sprang overnight into spring
And just days after the last of its annoying dried pods
Fell upon the lawn to be picked up, raked, or mowed over,
The picker, raker, and mower wondering if the tree is worth it.
Butterflies will flit among its flowered branches and its neighbors,
Cone flowers from the arboretum and butterfly bushes from Karen
Planted near last year’s mallow now spreading and the zinnias Nancy nurtured
From seed bed to planting, along with the bright marigold we place
To guard our tomato plants from the rabbits we won’t begrudge
But do not intend to feed with the later summer’s feast.
Do you garden, someone asks? No, we say, but we do reap!
June 7, 2016
Philosophers have measured mountains,
Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with a staff to heaven, and traced fountains
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sin and Love.
Who would know Sin, let him repair
Unto Mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man, so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skin, his garments, bloody be.
Sin is that Press and Vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruel food through every vein.
Who knows not Love, let him assay,
And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.
– George Herbert 1593-1633
The walk back, more loss. When I open the door
it’s over, so I set to piddling: tidy
end tables, check the mail, draw a bath.
The restless energy finally settles
as I pass the mirror. I peer into it.
My nose touches glass. Not much left,
already effaced, not even a cross
to speak of. A smudge. A few black soot stains
like pin points on the forehead. The rest
of the blessed ash has vanished to a grey
amorphousness, to symbolize… not much.
Except a wish for those hallowed moments
to be followed by sustaining confidence.
Except spirit, which means to shun its listless
weight for yearning, awkward if not more earnest
prayer and fasting in the clear face of dust.
With thanks to http://www.journeywithjesus.net, taken from Jay Hopler and Kimberly Johnson, editors, Before the Door of God; An Anthology of Devotional Poetry (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 425pp.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the start in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.
– Howard Thurman
(with thanks to Fr. Chuck Peek)
Nancy Brown and the Recovery Commission of the Diocese of Nebraska submitted this beautiful poem by the Rev. Sam Shoemaker as a reminder to keep our doors open and warmly welcome all our brothers and sisters into our lives and our churches in the Christmas season just ahead.
Note: Rev. Sam Shoemaker was a co-founder of A.A.
For more information on Rev. Shoemaker, see this link http://aa-history.com/samshoemaker.html