Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Prayer by Candlelight

Let the talkative self be stilled.
Enter your heart's church, head bowed low.
Receive the Light that purifies, that pacifies,
That silences those nagging little voices.

Dim the room to an evening hush.
Stop trying to control, to force, to push.
Rest beyond reasons, beyond what can be told.
Let now be now.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

And Maybe, Just Maybe

Woman of kind heart and of tear-tired eyes,
fifty years old and more, of honest speech,
compassionate soul by many trials grown wise,
I want to learn all that you have to teach.
I'd like to help you, brave amid distress,
I'd soothe your nettled brow, I'd kneel beside
those beautiful and weary feet, to bless
the ground made holy by your gentle tread.
I long to be the one who binds your wounds,
who mitigates your pain, eases your hurt,
who listens to you as the day's toil ends,
and evening comes at last to heal the heart.
And maybe, just maybe, once in a while,
I'd even be the one who makes you smile.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Katie would listen
to sparrow-chatter,
would swim in shimmering
heat with seagulls,
would gather pebbles
of many shapes and colors,
she’d puff away the seeds
of the bobbly dandelion.

Katie would laugh
at screwball comedies,
she’d pray to Jesus
in the old Italian church,
she’d walk barefoot
in damp June grass,
she’d speak French to kittens,
write poems to Chicago,
she’d scrutinize the ladybug
and bless the drenching rain.

Katie would sing
and play and breathe:
she’d hum and croon
with Joni Mitchell,
would lazily sway
through Carolina fields,
would let the wind
whip her long hair wild,
she'd joke with saints,
hold hands with sinners,
she’d banter with butterflies.
But that was before.

Katie was a grace.
A parcel of wonder,
a bundle of surprise.
But she married a man
with a heart like a fist
and that was the end
of the Katie I knew.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

This Is Your Space

This is your space,
your querencia, your retreat,
this is your safe spot:
the nook formed by three walls
(two walls and the doorway)
in the entry to your apartment,
wallspace plastered with countless pictures --
a chaotic choirloft of holy saints,
laminated photos of six recent popes,
tens of images of Our Lady,
cards with pious verses --
the area spotted all round with thumbtacks
from each of which hangs
a rosary, a chaplet.

This is where you go each morning
an hour or two before dawn
to address some hallowed words
(from the Psalmist, St Paul, George Herbert)
to the Light that shines
in what Dylan Thomas called
"the close and holy darkness."

This is where you go each night
asking the Heart of Heaven
to keep safe guard over those who wake
or work or weep,
kith and kin, friends and strangers,
precious souls both far and near.

This is your domestic oratory,
your prayer corner,
your peninsula of peace.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Woman of Fifty

Woman of fifty,
I love you like those cool
October mornings
before the sun becomes
rude in its insistence.

I love you like the reddening leaves
of the open-armed trees which I call
by the names of the churches
they stand next to:
the St Agnes tree, the Unitarian tree.

I love you as tired bones love rest
at the end of a long hard day.
I love you like pizza and pasta.
I love you like cheese ravioli.
I love you like Sunday dinner
with cheap red wine.

I love you like Van Morrison's
phantabulous "Moondance."
I love you like those hopeful yesterdays
in which tomorrow was always better.

I love you like coffee in pajamas
on the porch at First Frost.
I love you like breakfast
at the Sunny Mug Diner,
blueberry pancakes,
english muffins.

I love you like the sweet surprise
of that first snowfall
in late November.
I love you like the clamor of the city
that hushes to something like awe
every Christmas Eve.

I love you like suffering.
I love you like Dylan Thomas.
I love you like Cistercian monasteries.

Receive me into your heart.
Make room for me in your soul.
I'll be a good and gentle-tempered guest.
I'll help with the housework.
I'll do the dishes.
I'll make you a cup of hot chocolate.
And most of all, I'll listen.

Unable to Forward

Friend, the letter I sent you
three weeks ago came back.
Unable to forward.  A computer
blurred the last four digits
of your printed-out ZIP code.

Apparently, the mailman
couldn't be troubled to read
my unblurred penmanship,
and take the letter to where
it was supposed to go.


Benvenuto, little spider,
wee rust-bellied spinner!
Stay awhile! I made coffee!

Did you come in because
it's getting cold outside?
No matter! Find a corner

and we'll each do our work.


September, you come in
like a beach-blanket
in the blaze of sun,
you come in like the raucous shouts
of schoolkids, you come in
like lemonade and bumblebees.

September, you go out
like melancholy, like mulled cider,
like woodsmoke drifting
skyward, like tenacious starlight
blessing our hemisphere
as it turns toward dark and cold.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Paraphrase of Verlaine

(Il pleure dans mon coeur)

There's crying in my heart
As it rains on the town;
What is this dull dead smart
That penetrates my heart?

O soft noise of the rain
On the ground and on the roof:
For a heart whose cares are vain,
The plainsong of the rain.

There's weeping without reason
In this heart that wastes itself --
What, has there been no treason?
My mourning has no reason.

Indeed, it's the worst pain
Not knowing why or how,
Without love or disdain,
My heart has so much pain!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Spencer Impressions

fresh-baked bread
served midmorning
by old Fr Simon
with soulwarming coffee
in a small silver bowl


dandruff snow
a rabbit scampers
up the abbey hill


in the refectory
awkward silence
at my blurted gaffe
about presidential


raking last fall's leaves
five truckloads worth
with veteran Fr James
and sunny novice Jay


working the slow
conveyor belt
in Trappist Preserves
I still fell behind


Brother Alphonsus
let me tug the rope
to ring the bell
for prayer at Terce


may I help
I asked Br Ephrem
who answered yes
you're one of us


and Fr Luke
with his beard
and guitar

singing the Salve
in Latin
at Compline


thought for sure
i'd be back there
in less than a year