Monday, February 23, 2015

The Baptism

I walked down from Nazareth with the crowd, 
nudged on by their excited chatter
and rumors of a crazy man by the river
shouting God at sinners,
thrusting them into the Jordan
like so much dirty laundry
to be rinsed clean and pure.

These are my people, 
hungry people
seeking new wine and
new bread, lepers
yearning to be cured,

But deep within me
silence grows,
and somehow I know 
that I am closer to Home,
though so far away 
from my father's workshop
and my mother's kitchen.

When John sees me
he takes my hands and gently 
pushes my face into the stream
befouled with the sins 
of the people...

I cannot see.

I struggle 
to rise and breathe,
from this watery death 
I want to be free,
and as I break through
I see His fire, I hear
His voice like a flash of wings
falling down on me,
calling me His Beloved Son,
telling the stunned crowd
to listen to everything
I will say,

in silence, 
I hurry away, 
into the empty desert 
I stray.

(7 Jan 2012)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Seaward

"Grace does not destroy nature, but elevates it and consecrates it to God." Thomas Merton

Seaward waits, poised,
gently rising and falling,
by the concrete pier
ready for our cruise;
the polished bowsprite,
jutting in defiance,
fills my heart 
with an undefined dread.

Underway at last on the calm Sausalito channel
we strike sail, ropes winching
mainsail tight, foresail stretched
catching breezes pushing up
from the foggy Golden Gate

but I see only
watery desolation:
no familiar, solid road
no bright guiding line,
no golden prize
as we speed across
the dark, green desert.

The wind, no longer a breeze,
becomes a cold gale, flailing our faces,
making us hurry into windbreakers and hoods,
and when I turn my tingling cheeks
towards the shrouded city, suddenly
out far and in deep, I see

pelicans soaring and plunging to the kill,
ducks skimming low over like fighter squadrons,
and sea-lions spying on us at water level,
their dog-sly eyes following our every move.

Warfare fills this place
as species battle species, and
Darwin writes all the rules.

On this voyage of discovery
we are like school-children gaping in wonder
at colorful plastic buckets of bay water
revealing sea-worms, and spider-crabs,
preying on tiny krill delicately inching
over fronds of firm sea lettuce.

So the bay is not a desert;
life pours over it,
on it, and under it,
claiming at every level
of this moist, roiling world
its birthright,

and we are unwitting participants in this struggle
tossed high and low in our powerful, winged schooner,
gliding lightly, scooning swiftly on our voyage
through turbid, turbulent waters,
through the violent,
living bay.

(22 July 2010)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

He Does Not Need Your Sacrifice


"He does not need our sacrifices, 
He asks for our selves."  
Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island

Your sacrifice is like
the breath
of the sparrow
in the roiling storm.

It is not needed
but pleasing in its
simplicity. 

When you peel away
your small, feathered
soul, when
you stretch your thin
lungs to sing
your hymn of self-
immolation,

remember that
it is not necessary,
no, not at all, 

but still pleasing is
the purity of
your song.

(25 Feb 2012)

Beautiful Cellars


‘No clock: only the Heart’s blood. Only the word.”


“I think poetry must,

I think it must,

Stay open all night
In beautiful cellars”    Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours
          ***

High round windows
over wide glass doors
fill with night;

The world’s gone to black,
to void,
to nothing.

Can you hear your whispering blood?
- surge of surf, wind in dark trees
alive - alive -

so arise now and go
down the noisy steps
to the beautiful cellar,

to the poetry.

(18 March 2013)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ordinary Time


Counting 
numbering days and nights
calculating the length
and breadth of
our alloted
breaths
we live
by the numbers.

It starts in a split second
of passion
in the darkness
plunging headlong
to a date certain
when savage lights assault
our tender eyes
and we see
how it will be
in this clock-
work world.

Time orders All.

Class bells 
church bells
the grandfather clock
in the hallway
heavily chimes 
as our lives sway 
in the diurnal dance, 
we wake and sleep
laugh and weep
and it is all very ordinary
until it is not;

then the chain breaks
and heavy weights 
crush our vision's
persistence 
and at last we subside
into inordinate
existence.

(1 March 2012)

Iwama Market



It looms, huge on Rockville Road
between swaying eucalyptus
and darkening fields,

unexpected hulk
of a ruined past.

In better days
girls danced and liquor poured
through its open doors
free as the western wind.

“Hold on tight, boy,
or it’ll knock you over!”

Back then it was “Bandana Lou’s”
disreputable,
speak-
easy,
fun.

When the wind drops
you can still hear them laughing
through the easy chatter
of honky-tonk.

(23 July 2011)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Kentucky



Summer steam
washes us clean
like a warm bath

as we wade through young fields, 
new corn waist high 
to where blue sky 
meets the rustling green sea.

We navigate by dead-
reckoning to the red barn. 

Wary of snakes, 
with flailing stick you flush 
out the tall, quick hares.

Feathers flashing, quail
burst heavenward at 
our clumsy approach, 

but in the dark barn 
we find 
forgiveness.

God's own light streams down 
into fragrant stalls
as wise eyes
regard us.

We reach out to touch.

They nod, 
first in warning,
then with bright approval.

(6 Feb 2012)