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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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.

Thank You!

Thank you all so much for your kind words of encouragement and overflowing support for Pilgrims I Have Been these past few months.

My greatest hope was that by sharing these words, they would be a spark, a point of connection in someone else’s life. I’m so grateful to hear that it has met you where you are, and connected to your own experience in some way.

I’m also excited to announce that several of the poems in Pilgrims have been selected by the Oregon Poetry Association to appear in their next anthology! I look forward to sharing several other places these poems will go in the coming months.

As we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States, my prayer for us are these lines from “Table in the Wilderness”:

Let us keep our distance

From the castle-building and the silent stage.

Let us be the ones to watch

The two trees swaying in a cold wind,

To never number what we have been given.

Let us be the ones to open a table in our hearts

And say, “Welcome,”

And say, “Enough.”

On Writing, Risking, and Giving It Away

At some point last year, I found myself surrounded by piles of finished and half-finished poems, sitting at a crossroads of sorts.

It was rare for me to be squeezing in this much writing on the edges of my other paid writing work, and I felt lucky. One by one I was harvesting a windfall of autumn fruit, and it was slowly piling up into baskets.

Not all of it was beautiful; some had worm holes right through them, others had grown into odd-looking shapes. But it was all there, mostly edible, piled up around me. And I felt at that moment confronted with a choice: do I simply let it sit here, and risk the chance of it going rancid? Or do I take the risk to give it away?

There is an inherent tension in art – and I’ll speak particularly to writing since it is what I know best. Continue reading

IT’S HERE! Now available in paperback and digital editions.

Launch

I’m so thrilled to announce that Pilgrims I Have Been is now available in Paperback and Kindle editions! My friend Mary Gowen did an incredible job with the artwork and cover design, didn’t she?

And now for the even more exciting announcement: 

To celebrate its launch, 100% of the proceeds this month will be donated to two of my favorite organizations leveraging the transformative power of writing: Street Roots and Write Around Portland. (Even if you don’t buy a book, check them out!)

It’s been a joy to put this collection together over the past 16 months. If you do pick up a copy, I hope it is a gift to you as well. Thanks so much for being with me on this journey.

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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