Saturday, November 15, 2014


One day, in the deepening dark and cold of the year,
I stood stiff, like a deer alert, in the wind and the twirling leaves,
bits of death and change that battered me and settled on my back, unwanted.

One day, in the deepening dark and cold of the year,
I stood broken, and soft, like a bird, in the wind and the twirling leaves,
bits of death and change dancing in a pattern, settling on me in a mosaic, providence.

photo credit: Marylynne Wrye

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Like a leaf still green
falling to the ground unseen,
you, my sweet, unfinished,

Like water, fresh and sweet
rising away, lost in the heat,
you, my child, never held,

Like a note full and mellow
swept from the strings of a cello,
you, my Ellie, untouched,
live on.

Monday, August 18, 2014


I sit with you, alone, in a dark, mercilessly exact-angled room.
There are no windows, no doors; I know,
because I have felt every square inch with fevered swipes.
I know all the pock-marks in the walls and the undulations of the floor.
I sit now, cross-legged; I have remembered to stop
searching for that tempting hole,
the one that is, in truth, only big enough for a rat to squeeze through
and would require me to shrink.

You, Lord, are Other, and I feel no comfort.
But because You are sitting, I feel you have invited me
to sit.
So, I have stopped running in circles and the silence
of the room, Your silence, fills me up.
You don't tell me what is the purpose of this entrapment,
this prison of pain,
but You are here, too, You have been there
and this has to be enough.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Mary’s eyes were open.
She saw not as a shopkeeper sees his wares or customers;
she saw the shining reflection under created things: 
the stones she swept were jewels uncovered,
the dust particles whirling in the gentle air
were tiny birds with luminous wings.

Her life was a coming together of polarities.
Silence and sound,
the sounds of life, of birth and death, she did not avoid:
she heard the converging of silence and sound
which did not make a static and sterile prayer,
but rather a transcendent song.

She sang a song
that drew the light.
In the recess of her soul,
Being sang to her,
and her heart sang back.

In her silence
on the swaying of the donkey, covered by the glinting dust,
under the winter sun, she saw the shining silver reeds--
but she still awaited Light
as the edges of the world began to curl toward Bethlehem.

paintings 1) Le divin apprenti 2) Alma mater, by Virginie Demont-Breton

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dido in Hell

Dido, once me, believed 
love-vows could be witnessed by the storm:
Breaking surf, unbroken, whipping wind
raising a rain shower—
the will of the gods an encircling wave
bringing the torch that the bridegroom gave.

Steeled Aeneas countered 
gods live both in men and in the storm:
Burning Cupid doused by Neptune swell
balancing blood's fervor—
his piety became the force to fire,
reflect, and drown my funeral pyre.

I, shade, then existed
so weather had nothing to do with me:
Waning sliver-moon, airless, dead night
cloaking a soul inured—
the love of One God now a flaming turn,
straining my flint-will twixt bend or burn.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014


Zechariah was the chosen priest that year,
that year, like so many before it, in the turn of the land and the flight of birds,
the wet and the green, the dry and the brown:
but now the holy, third lot fell upon him, the lot of incense.
It was the first time for this old man.

Amidst the tonal minor of supplication
his bare feet slid across the marble;
he felt the cracks between stones pass under his poor and bare feet,
under his thick robes stiff with the eight layers of linen and coat,
under the turban that was like the bud of a flower,
under the finely woven byssus, under the weight of the nation,
like Moses going before the bush of fire.

He tended the fire in the Holy of Holies,
the sound of singing from the Temple steps muffled,
keening sounds creeping in like weak smoke up the folds of the heavy curtain.
Zechariah turned back to the silence and the fire,
and his thoughts,
the thoughts of his heart were like boulders, rocks falling on the immaculate floor,
rattling and cracking in that deep silence.

He wanted to weep,
because he could not
be silent enough inside.
He made an effort again and attended to the laying of the incense and again to the fire.
He then lay prostrate before the altar.

He felt silence entering him at last
like a gift not earned,
the rattling, falling stones in him swept away by another's power;
he no longer noticed the jewels of the ephod pressing against his chest;
the sounds of the singing ceased,
and he lay for a minute in the silence,
the silence of an ancient pine forest.

He lifted his head
and immediately put it down again.
This was not in the rubrics and the books.
The silence became too heavy, beyond him,
the fire and lamps too strong.
He tried not to see the color
that was more like the color of sunrise,
like the sun peeking, rippling through tree branches,
or the light on the water,

"Zechariah. Do not be afraid. Your prayer has been answered..."

"How can I be sure of this?" He had thrown it, like a rock, from the center of his heart.

The light contracted, went still: "I am shall be silent."

Zechariah stumbled out of the Holy of Holies,
and as he entered the outer courtyard,
He saw their frightened faces,
their fervent faces,
their waiting,
ever waiting,
but he could not give the benediction.

His shame also made his tongue lay useless,
before the great mystery which grew inside Elizabeth.
Slowly, as the months went on,
slowly as he could only hear and see,
within him embers of humility were lit by the daily evidence
of an old woman swelling with child, like a ship long docked, stretching and groaning
against the fullness of a wind on an unexpected sail.
As he watched her bloom again,
his son growing strong inside her gave him the courage
to speak the language of the heart with the angel, instead of against him:

"Our prayers have been answered."

He began, in the voiceless days, to see the shame of childlessness
was the impotence of Israel;
that he had been, in his barrenness, as the priest chosen by lot,
the one God had chosen from before time,
in his weakness, to be Israel.
And the silence grew white-hot, deep in the recesses of his house.

Oh Israel, hard like the smooth, stone floor which his priest-feet had passed over;
but now God was coming, coming to walk over those brittle stones in bare, human feet,
but first, His herald must come
to clear the rubble.
Zechariah began to crack.
The new fire in his heart, the swelling sound of a burgeoning blaze, poured forth:

"His name is John."

Saturday, June 21, 2014


Petros is driving.
Away from Athena, east to the Aegean
chortling a bazouki beat
past olive, cypress, past angulated, geometricized
confections in marbled cement invaded by
tokens of human existence:
shirts pinned in positions of helplessness,
soggy towels, potted plants, plastics.

My hand is grasping the grab-handle.
Hanging on in a filling highway wind my heart
ripples loose; I see Iris in the front
Germanically calculating the chances of death
as Petros sends horn-sounds around
the right side of a dwarf-Peugeot.

Roadside, a tiny church on a pedastal, a kandylakia, winks by.

I see inside for an instant.
Like the ember eyes of a young Greek priest
who passed me along Athinas Street, I see
behind miniature windows
smoky saint-eyes, watching, remembering
the world, and the long-ago accident that
pushed a soul through his gateway-iconastasis,
that soul-sized door.

I am still too composite for that door.
rocking and flapping past the candle-lit eyes,
the sea-soil-olive air fills me still
like a lover's breath.

But-- how, if Petros flicks a finger wrong and we die?

If you could only confect a kandylakia,
rooted in Greek soil, Agios Nicholas to watch
for us, to beg for mercy, then
you could believe I went through that tiny gateway
like a lover's breath.