The Fire and the Rose


The end is where we start from. – T.S. Eliot

I.

Red

The light breaks in

To the grey stone 

Chapel

Dappled gems of light

Upon the crucifix

The fire

And the rose

And the offering

Of the world’s heart.

Here 

It is no ending

And no beginning

But the hovering

Of a white gull

On a white draft

And for a moment,

The stillness

Of waiting for nothing

At all; all has happened

Or will happen

The beginning

And the ending

Are come

And will come

But in the stillness,

The flight. 

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Let Everything Happen To You

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,

then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,

go to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.

Flare up like a flame

and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.

You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

Ranier Maria Rilke, Book of Hours, I 59

Translated by Joanna Macy

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Easter Poem

Through the arched colonnade

Of brick and glass

The sky draped, a cotton sheet

Of Easter blue

Forgotten on some larger being’s

Laundry line

Shuddering in the silent breeze.

The light ran down the glass

In golden waterfalls

Pooled into a thick, caustic shadow

Beneath the greying elms

Hunched into their years 

Of watchkeeping

And whispering to their knees.

And where were you, reader,

When the first fingers of their minds

Crept up out of the wound of earth

And drank it in?

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Candlemas

Candlemas is a church feast with a long history whose roots at a later point tangle with both Groundhog Day and the feast of St. Brigid. Officially it is called the Feast of the Presentation, commemorating Christ’s presentation in the temple with both Anna and Simeon as witness.

The guiding image of Candlemas, as Simeon so beautifully sings, is Light – Christ’s “light to lighten the nations.” My recent book contains two poems centered around Candlemas, and I though in honor of the feast today I would share the second one with you.

Candlemas II

Flame-thrown light tells you

      what to do with this,

a labyrinth of interiority.

It will guide you out of 

      the sharp edged shadows

the rotten boards hidden 

      under the rug of strangeness

the creeping vine of doubts.

You throw salt over the side 

     of a crumbling wall

and you allow your eyes to become two 

    clear bells in the dark.

And candlelight reaches up 

    towards the night

as instinct tells you to raise your eyes 

    as the evening dusks

as a wisp of sparrows curl like smoke 

above the trees.

Flight to Egypt

Here in my home state of Oregon, wildfires have become enormously destructive the past few weeks and caused many to flee their homes. I’ve been meditating this week on two related images: the burning bush (which in traditional iconography is seen as a symbol of Mary) and the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt. This poem is written on behalf of, and mostly from the perspective of, all those who must flee home – whether because of war, wildfire, or any other danger.

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A Year of Pilgrimage

“My deepest vocation is to be a witness to the glimpses of God I have been allowed to catch.”

Henri Nouwen

When I began this poetry challenge in Summer 2019, the subtitle I had in mind was “A sacred journey through an ordinary year.” In many ways, this year was indeed filled with the ordinary stuff of life – like many of you, I worked two jobs to make ends meet, worried and schemed about the future, struggled with a mental health diagnosis, made new friends.

In other ways, however, it turned out to be a landmark year, including of course a worldwide pandemic, the largest civil rights movement in decades, and the complete reorganizing of our collective lives. I never could have expected the way that poetry would become, rather than an escape, a way to fully live through and experience all that this year would bring. 

One year later, the Nouwen quote above still feels like the most appropriate way to describe how I view myself as an artist. I’m incredibly grateful for the gifts I have been given in this past year, and I hope in some small way these poems can be a gift to you as well. There are SO many I haven’t shared with you yet, and I’m extremely excited to be compiling them into a book that will be available by October 1st!

Even though this poetry challenge has come to a close, none of the opportunities presented to me each day have changed. Every moment is still transparent with possibility. Each person I meet is still a fellow-traveler with a story to tell.

The question remains: Can I remain open to being changed?

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Pause

Pause now
and give names
to all that
encircles you
this day.
Sit
at the feet
of your own
promises.
Do not give
your life
a hollow
greeting
or forget
to bow
in that keen
threshold
between the thing
that is you
and the
sharp slant
of silk-web
binding
to it all.

 

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