Saturday, October 31, 2015

When life looms large

Not quite a haiku, but enough. Short, longer, short. A haiku in principle if not in exact syllables. I like to think it would be right if translated into Japanese.

When life looms large
Do the next thing and only then
Do the next one.

Friday, October 30, 2015


Halloween 2015. We don't buy the candy until it's almost time for trick or treat-ers. One neighbor only buys enough candy for two apiece, based on last year's number. She was gone one year, and her husband was left to hand out candy. He was not informed of the "rule." He gave out handfuls, then ran out. He laughed. She laughed. They have been married a bit longer than us. I notice no blow-up skeletons on their lawn. Children will still be guaranteed two pieces of candy. I expect she will be home this year.

The neighbors next door
Have a blow-up skeleton
With a removable head
On their lawn.
The front door
Is covered
By a green witch.
We have three pumpkins,
One in each planter
On the front walk.
Three pumpkins
Surrounded by purple petunias,
A box of Halloween decorations
Including a screaming spider
Hides somewhere
In the basement.
We have not seen the box
In years.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hello honey

My daughter. I love her. The kindness continues.

She learned early
To love the small ones
Even when she
Was small.
Hello honey,
She said,
Age 3 or 4.
She placed her arm
Around the shoulder
Of a two year old
Hello honey
With that smile,
Kindness in her eyes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Not in competition

This is today. It may change tomorrow. I am grateful for today... gray and rainy with a tinge of gold.

On a day such as this one,
I realize
I am not in competition
With any living soul.
Or dead soul
For that matter.
On a day like this
I have scheduled
Lunch with a friend,
One client this evening.
My writing
Is my writing.
I can rejoice
Fully rejoice in theirs.

I can pray for my friends
Facing surgery
Or recovery
Or whatever stage
They have entered
Or left,
While I realize
Whichever stage I am in
And pray for me
On a day like this
I am not in competition
With anyone
Today is lovely
Gray and rainy
With a tinge of gold.
I am not
In competition
With anyone.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Morning mosaic

I admire people who work on their writing. I don't. I place words in an order which seems right. Then I leave it. I am concerned about worrying something to death. So I don't. I figure tomorrow's mosaic, or collage will be different.

I approach writing
Like a morning mosaic
The words are colored glass
Maybe a rock
From the backyard
Maybe a leaf
From the redbud
Maybe more like a collage,
One picture among many.
I have no idea
Which ones are good
In anyone’s eyes.
I write in the morning,
A morning mosaic,
Write down the words
That come
Put them in place,
Leave them be.
Tomorrow will bring
Something else
Another mosaic
Another collage
Different colors or maybe
Another in a series.
I never know
What comes next.

Monday, October 26, 2015

In place

Moments like this come and go again.

Everyone is in place:
Daughter at school
Beloved eating breakfast
Kitten with milk ring
Cat in his hiding place
Me in the blue chair
I consider the day.
The sun
Angled just right;
The gold leaves;
The sky blue
Muted by intermittent clouds
Everything in place
For just this moment.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


More on change

Before we can change anything
We have to see it,
Listen to it: breathing;
Feel  its texture
Rough or smooth;
Smell it
Like a rose
Or a catbox
That needs cleaning;
Taste it
Like a cookie
Fresh from the oven
Or that vegetable
We hated as a child
And perhaps
We still do.

Before change
Comes the noticing
That something
Needs to change.
And then
Only then
Comes the how

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Overnight the redbud

Sometimes change feels immediate, even when we know it's been coming.

Overnight the redbud
Turned completely yellow
Even flung gold leaves
On the sidewalk
With last night’s rain.
The redbud
Sometimes change
Is like that
We miss the first leaf
Every leaf
Gets the message
The fall message,
Most at once.
Change is like that

Friday, October 23, 2015

On incremental change

Flying donkey image courtesy of the Mary Tyler Moore show. I don't remember who said it, but I do remember it was in relation to Ted, the rather buffoonish newscaster.

Someone behaves
In a completely uncharacteristic way.
For a split second
We believe
He has changed,
She has changed
May we note the behavior
Paint rings around it,
See the beginning
Of the Kingdom Come.
For a split second
May we see
The Second Coming
And give thanks.

When a donkey flies
We don’t blame him
For not staying in the air
Very long.

May we realize
We are all donkeys.
See the beginning
Of the Kingdom Come.
For a split second
May we see
The Second Coming
And give thanks.

When a donkey flies
We don’t blame him
For not staying in the air
Very long.

May we realize
We are all donkeys.


My daughter is writing a paper on God's covenant with Hagar. I like it. A lot. Got me thinking. That'll preach.

God has a covenant
With each and every one of us
He has never limited it
She has never limited it
To one person
To one people
To one place
On earth,
Even most probably
To the Universe.
God has a covenant
With every thing
I will never leave you
I will always love you
How can I not?
How can I not?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

This itself is different

Gotta love those grackles!

Sometimes I get hung up
On someone
Who has never understood me
In the past,
Not understanding me
Sometimes I think
It should be different.

This itself
Is different
Than not believing
People can change.
This itself
Is different
Than hopelessness.
This is different.

Sometimes I am able
To unhook myself
From that particular person,
Hear the grackles
Getting ready to fly south,
And prepare to fly
With them.


Autumn and Spring seem to bring forth the poet. This poet has always had a preference for Autumn.

Is this the poet’s
Favorite season: Autumn
Or is it Spring?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Where God works.

I like paying attention
To the places
To the niches
To the people
To the birds
To the kitten
Where God works.
Today the kitten
Shreds napkins
With her tiny kitten
Claws and teeth.
The dining room floor
Is a sea of white.
I imagine breakers
On the ocean.

Monday, October 19, 2015

I went to bed early

Time to play with the kitten. First things first.

I went to bed early,
Slept twelve hours,
Woke to sun and grackles,
A kitten.
She attacked my ankles.
She said
Oh now you’re up
It’s time to wrestle
I think
I wrestled in my dreams
By the Jabbok.
What scars shall I live with?
What life
Shall I claim?
Where shall I speak?
Where shall I be silent?
What voice will I listen to?
What angel is worth
The wrestle?
Next to which river?
The kitten says
Wake up
I am worth your time
Let’s wrestle.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

I listen

This morning I opened my email and found an interview with Mary Oliver. At eighty, she has moved from Provincetown to South Florida. She talked about her writing process. She eschews the computer. I write almost exclusively on the computer. My handwriting is atrocious. Tomorrow I preach on prayer. I hardly feel qualified. Yet preach I will.

I listen
To Mary Oliver and recognize
A kindred spirit,
She who writes with pencil and pad
In the woods.
At eighty
She writes
In the mangroves.
I write from this blue chair
Catch the sounds
Of massing grackles.
Of course God has ordered each of us
In different ways
Yet oh so similar.
Tomorrow I preach
On prayer:
What every Christian
Should know.
Who am I to say?
Mine is a snippet.
Who am I to say?
Mine is a snapshot.
Who am I
To offer how others
Might pray?
Tomorrow I preach
On prayer.
There’s no right way
There’s no wrong way
Everything counts.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Two days

Hooray. I think this is the first time in years I've finished a Sunday sermon on Thursday. Of course it may help that I'm not preaching these days. Of course it may help that I get to preach on prayer... What every Christian should know about prayer.  Of course mine is not the definitive word.  It is my word. 

I finished two days early.
This means I can trim branches
In the back yard,
Pull the grapevine
Out of the crab apple,
Enjoy the massing grackles,
Take an endless walk,
Finish reading that book,
Think of things beyond
The sermon.
So many other ways
To offer my time
To God
So many ways to pray.
So many
So many
What options we have
When we’re not stuck
Putting everything
On paper.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

You're not done yet

More words. Sometimes I would like to hear clear directives. Of course, being me, I might not listen then. 

You’re not done yet
What odd words to hear
Driving to therapy
Amongst changing trees
Green to gold
Set against blue cloudless sky.
You’re not done yet.
Wouldn’t this apply
To everyone
And everything
Yet somehow
This is different.
Of course it applies
To everything
Living and breathing.
It also applies to me
The words seem written
In the spaces
Between tree branches,
In the lines between
The telephone wires,
Punctuated by birds
Lined up
Ready to take flight
You’re not done yet.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

This dizziness

I am learning to chart particular kinds of dizziness. Today's dizziness seems caused by weather. It is a doozy. But still, it does not portend a seizure. Keep your feet on the floor is probably good advice in general.

Now that I know
This dizziness
While working out
This dizziness
Most likely caused
By weather change,
This dizziness.
Now that I know
This dizziness:
It tipped me over
While moving from one machine
To the next
The trainer caught me
Moved me to a machine
It held me feet in place.
Now that I know
This dizziness
Will not kill me
Keep your feet on the floor
The trainer says
Keep your feet on the floor.
How does she know
This one thing
So recently discovered?
Keep your feet on the floor.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sermon on prayer

It's been awhile since I preached a sermon. There was a time I preached almost every week.

What to say
In a sermon on prayer
So much
So little
I am not a history buff
I am not a theologian
At least
No more than anyone,
At most
No less than anyone.
What to say
In a sermon on prayer:
God is here
I am here
You are here
We’re all in this together.
Let’s talk
Let’s walk
Let’s have a cup of coffee
Let’s begin.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Background grackles

I would have slept in this morning, but it was important to attend church. 

Tonight I have chosen not to attend the renewal of ordination vows. I feel ordained enough to last the year. 

The fall light filters through trees, still green; the grackles are massing. I claim this spot, this particular spot, filled with background grackles.

Some moments are defined
By the choice we make
To be absent to one thing,
So we can be present
To another,
Even present to ourselves
On a late afternoon
In mid-October
Fall light with background grackles,
My beloved at work
In the other room
And me
In this one.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Make good decisions

May we all listen to our own wise words.

Of the five events
Scheduled for today
I may do two,
If I can be truly present
For two.
If not
It’s down to one.
My schedule
Is no longer color-coded.
I learn to make
Good decisions.
I remember the parent advice
I gave to my children
As they headed out the door
Make good decisions
I would say
I will
They would say.
Make good decisions
I tell myself.
Good advice
I think.

Friday, October 9, 2015


I prefer to make my own remarks. Sharpies should be outlawed, particularly when one is reading poetry and certainly, definitely, when one is planning to re-sell the book.

I found a book of poetry
On the shelf.
I must have ordered it
When I was saving money.
I bought it used,
In good condition
The previous owner
Used a Sharpie
To make notes
In the margin.
He must not have been able
To find a pencil.
So now
Every time I read
One particular poem
It comes with
Next to its
Particularly poignant
Final line.
While I appreciate the sentiment:
It is not mine.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

On a day off

On a day off
Like this one
Blue and breezy and exactly
The right temperature,
Cool enough to think
As the vertigo
Calms down;
On a day off
Such as this
The kitten practices her leaps
And pounces.
I am home to watch her.
I practice paying attention
To smaller things.
On a day off
Like this
I can think.
I can feel.
I can practice
Being myself.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


In thinking of the sequoias, I remember Tolkien's Ents. I imagine sequoias speaking slowly, maybe one word every ten years. If I listen long enough, sit with them long enough, maybe I will hear a word or two.

In California the sequoias
Are stressed
By four years of drought
Even as South Carolina floods
And floods
And floods again.
Stress arrives
In so many forms.
Today brings with it
Its own stress.
It is not the rain
Or lack of it.
The sequoias live
Thousands of years.
I would like to sit
With sequoias
Hold their branches
Touch their roots
Tell them
This too will pass.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What's next

I am not exactly sure
What’s next,
Even less
What may come
After that.
The phone rings
This morning
Reminds me about lunch.
Oh yes
Lunch usually comes
After breakfast.
I get up
Into this spinny day
To start the morning routine.
Sometimes it helps
To begin.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


One haiku for my daughter. I wave pom poms on the side of the field. My oyster is here, in the backyard, on the street, in the office under the altar, cheerleading.

This world: her oyster
This whole world beckons her on
Me: one cheerleader

Friday, October 2, 2015

Vacuum cleaner

More kitten. She and I, we frenzy about different things. But when the vacuum cleaner, or whatever counts as a vacuum cleaner, goes home, we settle down together, to hum and purr, respectively. 

The kitten
At the sound and fury
Of the vacuum cleaner.
So much more
Ends up on the floor
In its wake.
When the vacuum cleaner
Goes home
The kitten will eventually
Go sound asleep
On my shoulder
As I hum lullabies.
I remember these times
With my own small ones.
Now it is a kitten
On my shoulder

Thursday, October 1, 2015

At the pastors' prayer breakfast

Good company this morning at the Wheaton College Pastors' Prayer Breakfast. I knew the liturgy from past experience. 

I made my way
Through the breakfast line
Found a table
With the glorious
Acappella trio:
They opened and closed the prayer
In voices which blended
Beyond any needed words.
In their first hymn
I decided to treat the gathering
As a silent meeting.
Others would offer long lists
Of prayers
Telling God
Who He was,
What He might do.
I was moved to speak
At the end.
Sometimes I wonder if God
Can hear our hearts
Over all the ways
We fill the air.