cat on the fence

June 29, 2008

cat on the fence
scanning up and down the alley
dusk turns to night
lines of plastic trash boxes
weeds and leaves
squirrels, rats, and lizards sleep
still there must be something to find
owners kicked him out of the house.

fathers’ day

June 17, 2008

What does it mean to be a father?
Before the baby is born:

accepting the fact that your wife wants to get pregnant.

fearing with her that it may be harder to get pregnant than you think (I mean, don’t I know the birds and the bees pretty well by now?)

letting her tell you some great news that she’s about to explode with.

ignoring the fact that your life will change, pretending you can be the same person.

noticing a bump grow in your wife’s tummy.

hearing a heartbeat that sounds like a roaring train but you know it’s smaller than your thumb.

realizing that a heartbeat has started, but won’t stop beating for the next 80 years.

fearing the unknown about how you will provide for someone else you’ve never seen before, and don’t know what he/she/it will be like.

creating a space in your life, your heart, and your home for someone that is yet a phantom.

getting so excited to see any new picture, any new ultrasound, and hoping that the nurse accidentally slips up and says the baby’s gender, even though you’ve reluctantly decided to honor your wife’s wishes not to know.

going to awkward birthing classes with “normal” people who seem thrust into this with a teacher who seems abnormally into babies and the birthing process.

feeling like you’re running from a monster, but the monster doesn’t run, he only has a steady stride that’s dead set on hunting you down. You know it’s coming but you can’t ever relax.

being totally blindsided and relieved at the same time once the rollercoaster decides to depart…… six weeks early.

finding the strength to be strong for your wife as the baby pushes its way through her…. with no medicine.

After the baby comes:

being confronted with total joy every time you look at your baby.

having to learn quickly to do things like hold the baby, change diapers, and feed him.

checking to see if the baby is breathing every thirty minutes when he’s sleeping.

waking up early on a Saturday and not being able to sleep in like you could just six months ago.

taking as many pictures as you can, putting them online, and assuming everyone else thinks your baby is as cute as you think he is.

looking back at those same pictures six months later and realizing that your baby looked like a wrinkled old man, just like every other newborn.

watching him grow and do new things every day, week, and month.

seeing him transform from a newborn to a baby, and a baby to a little boy.

assuming you know how stressed your wife feels being a mother, but actually having no clue at all.

learning to listen to your wife in a whole new way and not act like you know anything.

working harder than you ever have before to make sure you can provide for this fledgling little family.

forgetting there ever was a time where you thought you were invincible and had the world figured out.

experiencing fears you never knew existed in you.

finding that the only way to deal with your fears is to step blindly into the arms of God more often and more completely than you ever have before.

having a heart that’s bigger and feels more deeply, and opening up in a new way to other people.

sharing someone you love with other people who want to love him, too.

being completely awestruck and thankful to God.

Rilke on God

June 9, 2008

“When I saw others straining toward God, I did not understand it, for though I may have had him less than they did, there was no one blocking the way between him and me, and I could reach his heart easily. It is up to him, after all, to have us, our part consists of almost solely in letting him grasp us.”

Rilke and Benvenuta: an Intimate Correspondence

day in autumn

June 5, 2008

The middle stanza of this poem is amazing. I couldn’t wait until fall to post it. Rilke’s such a wonderful writer. No wonder Steven Mitchell learned German to translate his poems.

Day in Autumn

by Rainer Maria Rilke

After the summer’s yield, Lord, it is time
to let your shadow lengthen on the sundials
and in the pastures let the rough winds fly.
As for the final fruits, coax them to roundness.
Direct on them two days of warmer light
to hale them golden toward their term, and harry
the last few drops of sweetness through the wine.
Whoever’s homeless now, will build no shelter;
who lives alone will live indefinitely so,
waking up to read a little, draft long letters,
and, along the city’s avenues,
fitfully wander, when the wild leaves loosen.

that dark afternoon

May 31, 2008

That dark afternoon
her only sister passed
into the abyss –the opaque
expanse where ocean meets sky.
In the dark fog of her last breath
she exhaled.
I called that evening
when she had already left.
Grief was bending the tone
of her sister’s voice.
Yet above and beneath
the sorrow was a steady candor,
the echo of a deep well — a life
surrendered long ago
to the beyond.

the charred tree

May 31, 2008

Blackened ash, charred
to the stump, the branches
the cracked splinters
now bear witness
to the new green vibrant
covering on the hillside.
Incapable of life as a stone,
yet subject to decay.

dry bones

May 31, 2008

Dry bones —
warm heat draws
life away,
live marrow unknown in the core.
Sinews, tendons, vessels, veins –
years ago moved in ways
unaware of the floating,
hovering edge of death.
I once heard that the skull
is not a symbol of fatality
in most cultures,
but the most permanent sign
of the human face,
anonymous individual shapes
lasting beyond ages.
Do these bones wait for life beyond?
or are they spent
and done?

the second look

May 31, 2008


The Second Look
Make my face not twitch,
my lips not tense.
Cause my eyes to find a
steady place to meet.
Make my voice strong and sure.
Banish the fear of being accused
of what I’m not sure I’ve done.
Or at least making every effort
not to do again…

a better resurrection

May 29, 2008

by Christina Rossetti
I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb’d too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.
My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.
My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

i want to learn welsh

May 19, 2008

……just to be able to read this poem in the original:

What does it mean to be human?

by Waldo Williams
What is staying alive? To possess
A great hall inside of a cell.
What is it to know? The same root
Underneath the branches.
What is it to believe? Being a carer
Until relief takes over.
And to forgive? On fours through thorns
To keep company to an old enemy.
What is it to sing? To receive breath
From the genius of creation.
What’s work but humming a song
From wood and wheat.
What are state affairs? A craft
That’s still only crawling?
And armaments? Thrust a knife
In a baby’s fist.
Being a nation? What can it be? A gift
In the swell of the heart.
And to love a country? Keeping house
In a cloud of witnesses.
What’s the world to the all powerful?
A circle spinning.
And to the children of the earth?
A cradle rocking.
Translated from the Welsh by Menna Elfyn