Monday, January 15, 2018

Love is in the Struggle

                   God wrestling is part struggle
                    and part embrace.
                            —Naomi M. Hyman

It’s that way with families
sometimes you just need to argue
about who left the light on all night
or who left an empty milk container
in the refrigerator or who didn’t fill
the car with gas when you needed
 to get out at the crack of light
or who is the family favorite
or the black sheep 
or who is more attentive—
more responsible 
And then you laugh 
Plan next year’s family events
Share stories
But sometimes things break apart
and the stories clash—
remembered events differ 
and words are left unsaid
and what was open closes
Open close
Open close
Back and forth
a kaleidoscope
of changing pieces and scenes
The rift may hover—
 struggle, embrace
struggle, embrace
Or we may settle 
on one side
of that equation


Sunday, January 14, 2018

An Open Letter to a Bigot

My memories are not your memories 
even though we share years
It’s that way with time and place
The words you say may carry hard edges,
rhetoric honed on fabrications
We  carry our skin, our background,
the place we call home, into every dialogue
and unless you honor that lens your words
may turn into the bones and spittle of hate

Saturday, January 13, 2018


    “ open your mind by closing your eyes
       see the unseen world within you which lies.”
                      Munia Khan

Do you dream of castles and ogres—
construct scenarios from recollections
of remembered events
In that silence
write new endings,
eradicate mistakes
Be the director of an updated script
Redemption is your call 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Meteorologists Predict Possible Flooding

Rain pummels the snow covered ground
and spaces open for water rushing to a gathering place
Perhaps a puddle grows into a small pond
Perhaps a stream sees itself as a spirited river
We cannot judge these aspirations

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Open Road

     when we left the cafe the temperature outside read 102 degrees and that was in the shade so getting out of town and driving in an air conditioned car meant some cool temperatures but in our rush we forgot to buy a cooler for the water bottles
     we spotted a sign in the desert, jack’s ass, and since we hadn’t spotted a store for some time and we had hours to travel we stopped and asked about a styrofoam cooler and a bag of ice— jack  found a dusty cooler and then asked us if we intended to use the ice for drinks or for keeping something cold
     hours later we passed an isolated store where a tattooed woman sat on wood steps that led into the store—we stopped and bought something so we could use the bathroom but what I really wanted to do was take a photo of the woman who sat smoking and whose tattoos covered her arms and legs, but it seemed too intrusive— in hindsight i should have asked because it was one of those photos you see in black and white in photo books
     missing that photo is one of three things i missed on these road trips 
     once on the beach in california i found the largest pine cone—not as big as the twenty-two inch pine cone found in 2002 and memorialized in guinness – but my find was pretty big yet i left it because i was carrying a cache of small polished stones

     and places you miss on road trips even when you do your research  —i still wonder how i overlooked the giant’s shoes exhibited in a small museum in nova scotia 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Be Open and Listen

                                      ...generosity of listening...
                                                    Padraig O’Tuama

to listen—
for a pause
to offer a counter
argument, to engage
in a match where 
the net stands between
two sides 
instead listen
hard, refuse to order
your answer in response
sit back
and listen
don’t sit on the edge of your seat
ready to pounce 
it’s sometimes so hard 
especially when you disagree 

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

This is a Command

                          For the poor will never cease from the land ; 
                           therefore I command you, saying,‘ You shall
                          open your hand wide to your brother, to your
                          poor and your needy, in your land.’
                                 NKJV 15: 11

 It’s not a plea to open your hand
it’s a command
And it isn’t a half hearted
almost closed
No, splay your fingers
   spread them wide enough
to hold bread, to hold communion
squeezed from fruit in your cut glass bowl
And don’t forget  the first sown wheat
ground into flour, transformed 
into loaves of bread
Spread those hands wide enough to hold
sweet milk, cheese, and chickens
cooked on a spit revolving like the world
This is a command

Monday, January 08, 2018

Two Sides

open and shut case
open to constructive criticism
open book
open road
open open open
as if close doesn’t have validity
close your mouth when you eat
or when what you have to say denigrates
or makes fun, or just plain is a slur
close your eyes and day dream
or close your eyes and sleep
open and close
not opposites
two sides 

you can’t rely on only one

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Open Up to The Spirit

                                    Hope is the condition 
                                           of your soul...
                                                Vaclav Havel

some folks got troubles
deep down got an itch troubles
that just irritate and spread
until one trouble begats more
 filling a wheelbarrow of aches and pains—
it seems that the sun can’t find them
and other folks get along fine
they just move along that conveyer belt
not bothered by bumps and spills
funny thing is that some of those folks
with a knapsack of troubles on their back
got music in their bones, while some on
that conveyer belt keep looking around
for the just perfect melody 

Saturday, January 06, 2018

An Open P.O. Box

      once, a long time ago— not eras or eons, but many decades—i, like many others, opted to open a post office box in another town not because i received material in brown paper envelopes or magazines with titillating photos or information from left leaning groups
      no, i received letters— letters from friends, sometimes they came two or three times a week and instead of a one page note they were written on different pieces of paper not fine watermarked paper, but lined paper and notebook paper and occasionally on scraps of paper
penned in ink, written with a fountain pen with a smudge here and there
     books read, walks taken, thoughts, theology, politics all spun out over many pages
     as soon as I stared into the maw of my open postbox and spotted a letter, or letters, i knew that i’d stop at the town bakery order a raspberry twist and a coffee and settle in to read 
     I kept a notebook with the date a letter was read and wait a week before responding unlike the rapid response of an email
    some letters required time to mull over a response and a few were a spontaneous spilling over with words and ideas
    one winter i read all of melville’s books and exchanged long letters about his writings and then there was my introduction to flannnery  o’connor’s writings and her thoughts on grace and redemption and i became immersed in southern literature
     a friend opened up a women’s bookstore and wrote of  writers who wrote books that didn’t appear on the bookshelves of mainstream stores and i sought out those books and read words that spoke my story
     two quotations marked that time:  Tolkien’s line from The Hobbit, “ It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him. ”and Joel 2:25, “And I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten...”


Friday, January 05, 2018

Below Zero

         Look at the situation from all angles,
         and you will become more open.
          —Dali Lama

meteorologists predicted cold temperatures, bruising wind, and temperatures in the single digits while the real feel fell into that zone where they add the word below and we are in that zone—
the cold muscles into any open space, any crack, insisting on wrestling with every bit of warmth until the cold air takes over and you add more layers
and what about those without, the homeless who live on the streets wrapped in layers of blankets, a jacket, newspapers for insulation and hope that frostbite doesn’t rob them of fingers and toes 
and what about those who live at the mercy of a landlord who doesn’t respond to complaints about poor heating, walls that allow the cold to creep in—
tonight some homeless people won’t go to a shelter, they will look for a grate or a train station, or anyplace that is open
tonight the city will send vans around looking for those who are outside 
tonight the wind will holler and howl

Thursday, January 04, 2018

A Strong Woman

              Tamar... wrapped herself, and sat in
                     an open place..
                                  Genesis 38:14  KJV

Seated at that open place, that entry point— 
keeping an eye on who passes by 
Tamar rejects the script 
and writes her own lines 
When the role you’re handed doesn’t fit
and places bulge and you look shapeless— 
discard it, throw it away, write your own plot—
You don’t need some man telling you what to do,
just figure out what part you want— 
pass out the script, read your lines
and direct your own story

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Sometimes a Name is Superfluous

            ...and fowl that may fly above
            the earth in the open firmament
            of heaven.
                 Genesis 1:20 KJV

we stood on a dune’s edge
and stared out into the face of the sky
waiting for migratory birds to stop,
 pause before moving on
but first to preen in front of bird lovers
or even those who don’t know names,
flight patterns or identifying marks—
a group gathered with their tripods
and long necked binoculars—
they waited, paged through bird books,
checking, scanning the sky, 
then, as if on schedule, the sky filled
with white— snow geese the birder
offered to the uninitiated, to those who
lacked a name for the white plumed birds—
we didn’t write the day and time of the sighting,
nor did we record their loud and raucous honking

פָּנֶה   face— " used in a great variety of applications ( literal and figurative)" Strongs Concordance
     in the KJV translated as open


Tuesday, January 02, 2018

A Warning

open up to what’s out there
you can’t loiter on a street corner 
afraid to step into new shoes
and walk like you know the way
cause if you hang back the world
will just spin away from you—
you’ll get stuck in yesterday,
a rocking chair your pulpit


Monday, January 01, 2018

Word for a Year

i like the randomness, the stars spread out on a wood floor in the church and people walking up , selecting a star and then turning it over to discover their word—and either smiling or wondering how that particular word fits them or perhaps it doesn’t fit but you grow into the word as if it’s a piece of clothing that needs a hem, a tuck, a shortening before it feels comfortable, belongs to you
as i walked to the front of the church and looked at the array of stars one seemed to draw me nearer until i stood in front of this four inch star, bent down, picked it up and walked back to my place, the seat i sit in since the pews were taken out to create a circular space, the space that requires a shift in thinking about the structure of a church
just the way i needed to rethink my way around, readjust perceptions, i wanted to approach my word with that same sense of being in the presence of something new, a word to explore, to turn inside out, to feel its texture, to taste the saltiness, the tart edges, to listen to its sound when whispered, when sung, when spoken in sacred places, in profane places, in alleyways, while walking, spoken to a lover, to a friend
i turned the star over to find the word that will follow me or lead me for the year—open— my word is open and we will dance together, taking turns leading, looking back and looking ahead


Sunday, December 24, 2017

More than Words

Just before the year moves on I read through all the notes, quotations, and marginalia that I copied into notebooks, fly leafs, and book margins. 

“ Every memoirist is with Proust, in search of lost time.”
“ The memoirist writes, above all else, to redeem experience, to reawaken the past, and to find its pattern, better yet, he writes to discover behind bygone events, a dramatic explanatory narrative.”
       Sven Birkerts

...on listening to Dylan Thomas reading in his passionate voice—
“ Not a conspiracy of silence, but a participatory silence, a community collaboration in letting him let the word loose aloud.”
“ The world is blue at its edges and in its depths.”
       Rebecca Solnit

“A frontier has two sides. it is an interface, a threshold, a luminal site, with all the danger and promise of liminality.”
       Ursula K.Le Guin

Water flows over these hands
May I use them skillfully
as I construct and shape the day
      Thich Nhat Hanh 

“If a writer is any good, what he makes will have its source in a realm larger than that which his conscious mind can encompass and will always be a greater surprise to him than it can be to his reader.”
      Flannery. O’Connor

“At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then—only then—is it handed to you.”
     Annie Dillard

“Lying is done with words, but also with silence.”
     Adrienne Rich

“Faith is God’s call to see His trace in the face of another.”
      Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

“ Gaelic there is explicit recognition that the divine is present in others. This presence is recognized in an old saying  —The hand of the stranger is the hand of God.”

“Poets are people who become utterly dedicated to the threshold where silence and language meet.”

“ All words come out of silence. The language of poetry issues from and returns to silence.”
       John O’Donohue

“For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river.”
      18th century Urdu poet Ghalib

“I look at whomever is nearest me so that I may see in that person, for the moment, Christ.”
    Madeline L’Engle

“I balance the wind on the stem of my canoe...”
       Erik Reese

“If you want to build a ship...don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
      Antoine de Saint Exupery

“ Nothing factual that I write or say will be as truthful as my fiction.”
      Nadine Gordimer

“No story begins where it seems to begin; the roots of the tree are hidden from the eye, but they reach down to the waters.”
       Stefan Heym

“ Writing is a form of prayer—writing is to bear witness.”

And I’ll end off transcribing with this Jerry Garcia quote... “What a long strange trip it has been.”