Friday, December 13, 2013



Father and mother unlock your doors 
On nights of summer. Bare
Feet gliding through hushed sighs. They love
Waiting for tomatoes crimson to climb and Magnolias grow
Larger than whales, white on the terrace
Spraying delicious scents around the homes 
Of hands, stirring quiet to lift quilts and escape 
Out the window and into the night.

In the damp heat, smallness is grand
Crashing  waves that wear the years away,
And I am bathing with the midnight birds
Black feathers wet and they sing
"The moon is a lamp
The stars are chandeliers
And you my dear are a moth
Trapped in an earthly body
Jailed by the summer night."

An Exerpt

In the unnamed begging hours,
In the remote blue, when the darkness of night has burned down
I loll in the barren belly of half sleep, revisiting our history. I can see you
Beneath the snow and streetlamp in that coat
That made me think you announced the weather. Winter had thrust forward
His granite knuckles, but we had swung wide, dodging the blow.
In his own way , he apologized for his bitterness, linking 
Each of your eyelashes in a string of pale white kaleidoscopes.

In my imaginings we are always more beautiful,
And the walkways where we stood are part
Of a city worthwhile. A metropolis considered 
From airplane windows, placed in good light, each street
Flawless, neighborhoods distinct,
Tiny squares 
Our very avenue admired upon landing.
My body remains together, though you have been subtracted.

You lifted off.

The city is removing 
A building from the ground near my new home. In these moments
Before the beginning, when the dog is breathing deep
Beside me, I listen
To the workers fire their steel voices through winter smoke.
Schoolboys, with wives for mothers
They Hold rounded thermoses close. One has a funny look, an unfocused sort of grin.
You would have pointed him out, yet only as one would notice
A strip of gold hiding in the crease of a grey morning.

Paper Kites

Paper Kites

The early evening always realizes 
My lack of resistance. It whispers to shadows,
Stirring them toward quiet rebellion. They grow
Taller than their masters, taller than me.
I move slowly through the house,
Drifting on the light of an over ripe peach,
It drips down the windows,
staining my table and papers , passing behind the eyes
Of the dog, changing him for a moment
Into a ghost. I share each room
With silence and the smell of hydrangeas. They love 
this light too. Outside my window they stand guard
Against the dust on the roadway. 

In the early evening there is also the Juniper
on the distant hillside
Where children lay
Their bodies flat against the earth, arms and legs
Stretched out, reaching 
and then rolling down, laughing and calling out
To one another. If I were with them I would speak
More like my mother and refer to jackets as parkas,
Feeling the importance that they zip them up, 
As not to catch cold. But it is summer
And I am not my mother, and nor was she hers. 

Its the modesty of growing old
That makes us realize we are all part
Of the same thing, soft and ripened,
Descending behind the trees with little struggle. 

Finding Leaves

         "Naked but safe, 2010"

Finding Leaves

I have found your mad ravings beautiful. The frantic
Running towards nothing and naming it
Love. The first leaf fell and I wish I could apologize
For its failure to hold on as the days grew cooler.
There was a time when I could think of little else, just the simple
Rebukes of lost letters and moments that time loosened. 
These have brought autumn quickly. 

A blackbird fell on the street today. I did not wake to see it, but I knew it 
was there. A time piece, an ancient bleeding, a solid ring of missing pieces.
I threw it a flower and slipped on my coat. 
We walk to recognize the movement, we kiss to recognize living. The cling
Of bodies or hands. 

I would like to join a cloudy day in winter, moving
Ever so slowly in the weathers uncertainty, unnoticed
In my drifting suit of smoke. I would hold the bird
Dressed in black, never letting her plummet. It is in the darkness of day that I remember
You, and I long to be a simple object
In your home, that I may always be near. 

In the lightness of evening I am just myself. Not alone,
But on the metro with a sandwich and you, headed 
Out to watch the clouds in a park on the industrial side of town.
A funny thing, there in in the center of factories, a patch of grass
Guarded by iron
Machines, a slope and a bench. It is just like the one we found
So many years ago. A space
Enough for two bodies. 

You would be a silly old man, and I a silly old woman. 
We never did anything spectacular, I never changed
The world like I said I would, but in the squeeze of your hand id remember
That it is rare for one to notice the movement 
Of clouds.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I have said many times I wish that I could be a famous author for one reason in particular.  That I might write the real story, the truth about myself and people would like me for it, instead of shy away.  Yes, I might change some names and circumstances, but I would still be able to say it, one way or another. The greatest movies, novels, biographies are all similar in that they expose the struggle of our human deficit, the inadequacies we all secretly share.  There is such relief to see  expressions of our lacking manifested in another. We are thrilled to see that we are not alone.  We attach to these characters…the heroes or heroines of failure.  We tie ourselves to their journey and hope to see  meaning, that the dark days of their own decisions or circumstance will carry on to see a break of light over the horizon. When they find this, in one way or another, we are somehow relieved. There is hope for us as well. 

These fictional people are given much credit for their awareness of their own shortcomings.  In these  stories, each bit of misfortune or lack of loyalty to their deepest conscience is actually what makes the book worth reading, the movie worth watching. It is the fist fight with themselves in the mud that changes them, and connects them to us.  Without these inner and outer conflicts, there could be no story at all. Without contention, there is no growth, no journey, no resolve.

And so, I wonder at why we cannot expose these pieces of ourselves in our own lives?  I speak of the untidy, confused inner person that makes mistake after mistake. The one whose mind often wonders if it is the darkest of them all, the greediest and most perverse, lacking any true faith. The one that overthrows a foe only to turn back to it and kneel, again and again. I speak of me, and you, and all of us, if we were to be honest.  Why not write out the story for everyone to read?  In short, to freely proclaim our own humanness. It seems the camaraderie of our deficiencies  would stretch out, a safe and endless shelter for everyone who is lacking.  Instead we present the best of ourselves so to speak.  The meticulously clothed and manicured versions. And yet we wonder why we leave fellowship so dissatisfied?  

I read once that it is perfectly good for everyone at some point to strip down to nothing and pray in a mirror.  To have a good look at yourself,  skin prickling at the thought of its own nakedness. There, eye to eye with your own, you realize that you are and always have been right there inside of you.  No matter what you are wearing, showing the world, you really are just this.  Nothing can be purchased or accomplished that takes this nakedness away.

The journey changes the flesh. We stand and look to see sagging breasts or too much or too little where things used to be smooth and hard. My stomach is a place where other human bodies were formed and then released, leaving me not as I once was.  Age, scars, life changes our nakedness, and yet who could call these changes ugly? Bodies that bring life, tell stories. The pain and stretching is the very way we all continue.  The act of really looking at yourself  somehow makes wordly worries a lot less significant, less brutal.  Being naked has a way of reminding me.  

So I wonder this....  What if we were to all undress?  What if we let ourselves realize, that under these outfits and beneath the makeup and layers we are all just skin and bones, tissue and blood.  What if we stood close to one another's struggles as mirrors, with complete compassion and the joy that we are all as one? One endless stretch of body. The story marked in the crevices of skin may differ,  yet we are somehow all the same.

I have always wondered how I might love my neighbor as myself. And I think the answer is equally simple and one that comes with the greatest price. We can indeed love our neighbors as ourselves, if we are willing to stand out in our own yards, naked to the world. The wet grass around our ankles, with nothing to cover us but air and light. If we expose ourselves, the opportunity for others to connect occurs.  If I willingly expose all my glorious imperfections, and am honest with what I am (especially to myself), then loving others is natural, because we finally see each other clearly. We see ourselves, eye to eye, body to body.

This is the great longing, one that we try to fulfill through stories, that we hear in lyrics and read between bindings. The problem is that these  brave and bruised strangers are safe and distant. I love a good movie, or to hold the pages of a persons story in my hands, but I'd rather see and hear it from the breathing, the tangible. And it is there surely...hidden is the mud splattered bodies of my community, my neighbors, me, fresh out of the dirt, scarred and bloodied. And what greater love is this? That God created a way for our deepest pains and shortcomings to be the bond.  Imperfection the link to hold us together, pushing ever towards freedom and joy.  

Its all in our story…..

Saturday, January 21, 2012


    She stood over her island in a flour dusted apron, the light made everything look like it had been brushed in butter.   She barely looked at me, shook her head as she bent and pushed the wood over dough, rolled it out and cut it through into long thin strips. "It's dead of winter Sarah." She turned from my mud soaked body to drop the white ribbons into boiling water. 

    We lived by a creek and the creek lived by a mud hole my father had dug out to make into a pond.  My friend Emily and I were fascinated equally by both.  My father walked us around the long circle of brown muck shaking his head and telling us he thought it would never fill. He had a way of making things out for the worst, just in case. Once I overheard someone say "That man is the most positive human alive when it comes to things of the spirit, but boy is he a pessimist about everything else." I didn't know what half those words meant at the time, but I was pretty sure he was suggesting my father thought God would likely raise up a dead man before the water in a pond.  Even still I believed every word my father said, and I would worry over it with him. I'd stick branches in the dirt a few inches above the waterline and wait for the two to meet, just to be sure he hadn't dug that hole for nothing. 

    The pond had been built like a giant measuring bowl with a wooded slope forming the lip on one side and the other a narrow rim that abruptly dropped  and disappeared into woods at the bottom of a steep hill.  This worked as the dam.   It was covered in zebra grass which grew so tall it blocked from view a footpath that followed a small stream to the mouth of the creek.  Emily and I would abandon our bikes in the grass and sneak down, leaving but a trail of socks and shoes.  

    The water was just wide enough that one could half heartedly cast a fishing pole without catching the bank on the other end.  It was freckled with large smooth rocks, connected by smaller stones that formed capricious trails from one side to the other. We would take off most of our clothes and drape them from low hung branches then pass the time leaping across the constellations of brown stones, made black with water. It did not matter the weather, as children have a  keen way of not feeling the cold.

    When we would become tired of not so accidentally slipping into the water, we'd spread out our bodies on the larger flattened rocks, finding Jacob pillows in the curves of stone and let our skin dry out.  The conversation always seemed to turn to that of God. Heaven and hell and what happened in the air between. I'd recall to her times my father had laid hands on men who turned strange when their tormented insides were exposed.  We'd shiver at the thought and whisper low about what might be happening all around us if only we could catch a glimpse.  

      On one such occasion, as we spoke of the greater things in hushed voices I told her I had asked God to one day see. Id like to witness the furious light of angels and even the darker parts of shadows, just to be sure I was really here with Him.  My skin prickled at the thought, unsure if what I had asked for was really such a good idea. We had both become quiet, reverently contemplating these things, when I saw a movement in my peripheral.  I glanced to the side, and slipping out of two stacked rocks was the face of a red brown snake. Its smooth angular head lifted to looked me square in the eyes, about a foot from my nose.  

    Now satan himself couldn't have startled me more than that serpent, and come to think of it, it was satan I thought I was looking right at. I was always told to become very still when seeing an animal you had no business being near, but after all our spirit world talk I was thoroughly convinced I wasn't  looking at just any old snake.  I leapt clean off the rock, grabbing Emily by her elbow and screaming the name of the good Lord Jesus as water splashed up our bare legs. The snake reared  and struck forward just where my cheek had been.  

    If someone had been watching they would have thought we were walking on water the way we moved across the creek and up the embankment.  Emily's eyes were as big as moons and her bottom lip was trembling. We grabbed our clothes off the branches  and ran towards the dam. I felt like there were snakes everywhere, sliding under foot and creeping through the legs of the pants slung over my shoulder. We found ourselves  bare-skinned and heaving, doubled over in the slanted grass.

    I stared at Emily, a reflection of my own awe and terror in her pale eyes.  "I saw the devil in that snake, and I don't want the devil inside, so I suppose you ought to baptize me."  

    "Well you'd better baptize me too then," she whispered, her bottom lip still fluttering.  


     Memories have a sly way of shrinking and deflating with time. They collide against the hardness of age, and the impact reshapes the way we remember.  My adult mind would like to suggest to my younger self that it was merely a snake sandwiched between two stones, but that  wouldn't be fair. The fledgling me that dwelled within a gangly, tangled haired girl witnessed something else all together.  I am beginning to think these robust, untouched memories of our youth might hold more truth after all,  depending on the kind of  truth you are searching for.  

    And so, this is what shall be remembered.....
     The bank that dropped into the pond was steep. We half ran, half slid down its side, powdery skin against black of dirt and roots. Our feet sunk into the mud, surfacing plums of brown mist that wrapped around our waists.  The sky was an ashen dome, its edges bowing to meet the contours of a watery nest. The heavens, all seated in a silent circle, watched  two tiny flecks of white move against the darkness.  

      If words were spoken, voiced prayers to consummate our intent I don't recall them. I can only see the pale yellow of her hair become translucent in the water as she lowered, my hands clinging to her body tilted. She disappeared and then returned, each strand fanned out around her like a crown of wheat.   Tiny rivets of muddy water slid down her face and caught in a pool beneath her neck. Shivering, she turned to me and placed a hand on my back, the other wrapped around my forearm.

    For that briefest moment I was nothing more than the stones underfoot, the silver branches grazing heaven. I did not deserve the breath I held, and yet I still received because that is all I could really ever do. I just hadn't known. God poured out the seas He contained in jars, and the pond stretched endless. Hands and feet and belly all there to accept the well inside the water, the life found only in drowning.   I can still close my eyes and feel the cold wet cloth that held me, forever giving back what was His to keep.  I am baptized again and again, filth washed from feathers, left at the bottom of a half full pond. 


Thursday, January 12, 2012

A little story.....

When I was a child my legs grew up before the rest of me did. I was tall and straight with a tangle of mud water hair, dirty fingernails and black high tops that I thought made my brother proud.  My family and I lived on a farm with no animals, apart from a collection of stray dogs and some rabbits held in a pin behind the work shed. There wasn't a lock on the chicken wire hut, just a twig shoved through like a crooked finger. The stray dogs would circle the rabbit house til one of them could reach up their muzzle and wiggle out the branch.  Next thing you knew there would be nothing left but soft grey fur, catching in the taller grasses like dandelions when the wind blew. I'd cry over those rabbits until my father threatened to shoot the dog that killed them. I loved the mutts more. 

We didn't have the money or inclination to get the dogs neutered. They came and went so quickly, with a new one showing up just as soon as another disappeared.  On occasion one would end up pregnant with puppies. My father would tell me it was so by nudging the dog on its back, pointing at a long double row of transparent pink glands pressed outward.  One particular time, he told me I could come see the mother deliver. I watched that dog fervently, waiting for signs that she was going to have her pups.  When it came close, her stomach would sway like a boat, hanging so low I worried she might hurt herself on the wooden steps that led up to the house.  

It was mid February and still dark out when my father came into my room, the light from the hall a piece of pie stretching out towards my face. "Wake up Sarah, there's something for you to see."  

I followed him down the stairs to our small storage room. The space was dark, apart from the orange glow of a  kerosine heater. He pulled at the single bulb string and when light came I saw the dog, laying on its side on a bed of old towels. She was panting and her eyes were nearly closed.  I was nervous she was dying, but my father just nodded and whispered  "watch."  We knelt together and soon after she pushed out the first two of what would be seven puppies.  They were wrapped in a slick purple skin that looked as if it had been dunked in oil. I knew from conversations with my father that she was supposed to eat off this casing so that the puppies could breath. Instead she pushed them to the side with her nose.  Panicked I grabbed them and tore through the skin. Their wet fur matted around their mole like faces, and they hung limp in my hands, without a breath of life. 

Before my father could say as much as a word, I cradled them both against me and ran. Still in my pajamas, feet bare, I did not stop till I had made my way across the lawn towards the garden.  There was frost on the mounds of dirt and the strips of cloth that held up the vines of the pole beans were hardened with ice.  I stopped somewhere in the center of the rows and crouched, looking down at the dead puppies so small in my hands.  I closed my eyes and prayed. 

My father was a preacher, and I had read all kinds of books I found in his study.  When most kids were telling ghost stories, my brother and I were scaring each other reading books about demons and deliverance. I had read many things, but my favorites were always stories about miracles.  Traveling preachers of the past kicking dead babies back to life, or people in faith trying on shoes when they had no feet just to watch them be filled with flesh and bone.  

I prayed and I prayed some more. I whispered over their two little bodies. I stroked their backs, drying them with the cuff of my shirt. I prayed with all the faith in the world. I pictured them in my mind, breathing, and would look down, for a moment thinking I might have seen them move. I held them against my face and begged God to bring them back to life. I am not sure how long I was out there, but the sky had turned from black to grey with approaching morning and I never stopped, even as I heard my fathers boots cracking through the thin skin of ice over the dirt.

He said nothing, but reached out his hand, and in the other he held a small shoe box.  We walked through the garden together, my numb feet sinking into the cold earth. We passed the work shed and the empty rabbit hut with its wire door hanging limp until we reached the woods.  The two puppies were still tucked into the crescent of my arm, and I watched as my father squatted low, brushing aside the deadened leaves.  He began digging until he was able to slide the box deep into the earth.   He looked up at me, staring into my stubborn eyes, and reached out his two mud streaked hands.  

We shaped two little pebble crosses over the wet circle of soil, and we sat together, side by side amongst the trees until the sky lightened to milk between the black branches.  

I remember many things about that morning. But nothing over powers sitting with my father in the silence as the sky turned.  I have wondered since what would have happened had the miracle occurred?  I'm sure the story would have been told many more times, and yet I see another miracle, an act of love that might be even greater. My father coming out to help me put away what death had taken. Perhaps in faith the greatest leap of all is to  simply trust your Father.To let Him lead you out into the woods to bury what is gone, and to sit with Him, head against His chest until the light comes.

 He knelt in the cold of winter and dug with His bare hands a hole and  covered it over again.  His gentleness moved me to bend and place what had passed into the box. He knew it was time to bury that we might go and see what is living. Then He led me into the house and we sat, letting the heat thaw our bodies and witnessed the new life before us.