THE FEAST OF ST. FRANCIS: leaving facebook, part I

It is right that on this day–

remembering his nakedness, his simplicity,

his begging bowl, the broken church,

the wolf and the birds, the peach–

I should separate my worldly self

from so much busyness, should turn

away from a virtual world.

The real one compels.

The last crickets.

Coyotes in the dark.

The moon rising as the sun sets.



Something happened back when I wasn’t

looking, or maybe I was looking and didn’t care.

Maybe it happens to everyone by a certain age,

or it doesn’t matter. Or it’s what is meant

by equanimity and it’s something to strive for

only I didn’t, or at least I don’t think I did,

and yet, maybe it’s the fruit of all that prayer,

the hours on the front step with my cup,

watching the sun come up, or set.



~Solstice 2017



The white plaster image

of crucified Jesus hangs

above the altar.  Its feet

are deep in potted Easter lilies.


I’ve always prefered Christus Victor

to dead Jesus, and I do not care

for potted lilies, sitting there

in their green-foil pots, trying


to represent Resurrection and Spring.

They smell like overheated rooms

full of unnecessary things. It’s odd—

the white lily is one symbol of Mary


who had no idea what she was getting into

when she said yes to the improbable task.

Look at those Renaissance paintings—

the poor girl looking up from her prayers


at that angel with its lily.

When I am an old lady

confined to my house or some other place,

I pray that no young minister will come


calling on the fifth Monday of Easter,

bearing a potted lily.

When I was a young minister,

I bore far too many,


though I suppose I meant well.

The old ladies, who knew a thing

or two about prayer, were,

for the most part, gracious.



. . . Surprise is a  name of God.

~Brother David Steindl-Rast


Who else would bring a pair of owls

to circle my head on New Year’s night?

Or a fox to the front step

just at sunset yesterday? Who

could have handed us a little child

with round cheeks, his mother’s mouth,

his daddy’s smiling eyes?

In the gray and icy drizzle of winter,

who else would have sent a foot of snow,

north wind to slice through our dismay?

Or gathered us together

and crowned us with roses,

taught us how to sing?

NOT ON ROCK: a poem for the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter


On this sand I build my church,

grit of barrier and beach,

shift and shape, tumbling jag

tossed in my whimsical wind.


On this clay, sticky with itself,

plow-breaker, seed-wrecker,

slip and slick, firing hard

to slice and slab and cup.



Out of flesh I build it,

bones, heart, blood, decay.

Out of bread I build it,

risen, broken, given away.


Tzadikim Nistarim

There is a tradition in mystical Judaism that there are 36 Hidden Righteous Ones on Earth. 

Because of them, God allows the world to continue. 

They do not know who they are, and according to tradition, if you think you are one, you most definitely are not.  

I have not written about anyone in, say, Ivory Coast, or Brazil, or Turkey,

only because the culture of the U.S. is the only one I know well.  


She is a clerk in a store that sells pet toys, tropical fish, little coats and boots for dogs, kitty litter and litter pans of various kinds, bird cages and dogfood and catfood by the can or bag or case lot.  She spends most of her working day standing at a cash register adding up purchases and calculating exchanges and returns. People tell her about the problems they have getting their elderly dogs to eat and about how their cats regurgitate all but one special food that’s hard to find. She always listens carefully and with deep sympathy. When she goes home at night, if her husband is home (he is a truck driver), they make supper together and usually they watch sports or animal programs on television, though sometimes they play cards.  On Saturday evenings, they get together with neighbors:  sometimes for a potluck and a video, sometimes for pizza and a movie in a theater. Their daughter, who is a nurse in a hosptial in Haiti, calls every Wednesday. Their son died when he was a baby, so Hospice relies on her to sit with people whose young children are terminally ill.


He is a retired farmer who enjoys training young horses to work in the woods. He takes long walks in the morning on the country road where he lives with his wife who works as a school secretary. He waves at every car that passes whether he knows the driver or not, and he speaks with everyone who is walking or bicycling on the road. He has leased his land and his big barn to a young couple who have a small herd of goats and who hope eventually to buy the property. He helps them, sometimes, when they ask for help. He still sings in the choir of the Reformed Church he has attended since he was a child. His own children, three girls and two boys, are not interested in farming or religion, and have moved away to nearby cities. He is very proud of them and when they come home to visit, he always enjoys his time with them.


She has taught kindergarten for thirty-five years. Some of her current students are the children of some of her first students. She knits mittens and hats and keeps them in a box in her classroom for children who need them. In the winter, she has a basket of little tangerines on her desk for the children to take whenever they’d like. She lives alone in a small house near the school, and in the summer she enjoys seeing the children walking past to play in the school playground. In her yard are five bird feeders and three bird baths, one of which is heated in the winter. She also feeds a possum, five gray squirrels and, she thinks, a skunk, though she has never seen it. She grows flowers in a small patch of ground behind her house and brings bunches of them to the old people who live on her street. Although she was raised Catholic, she considers herself a pagan. When the moon is full, she stands in her backyard in her bare feet (in the summer; in winter she wears her boots) and whispers an old Irish prayer she learned when she was a girl.


He is a barrista in a small-town coffee shop. He is large and tattooed and takes medicine for anxiety. He lives in a two room apartment over a bookshop. He does not sleep well. He remembers his customers and what they like to drink. He is not sure if he believes in a god, but he prays over the drinks as he makes them, one by one, with great care. People tell him he makes the best espresso in town. People tell him their troubles and he listens. He often gives coffee and muffins to homeless people and subtracts the cost from his salary.


She is a retired English professor. Her husband has dementia and she is still able to care for him at home. Since she can’t often go out, people visit her, and she serves them homemade cookies and tea. A book group meets at her house once a month. There are six people in the group. They are rereading the classics. Three times each week, when the respite care-giver comes for two hours, she usually goes for a long walk and has coffee in a coffee shop she likes before she buys groceries or runs other errands.  Her two sons did not approve of this second marriage, and do not call, but she writes to them every week, simply describing the weather and the books she has read.  She has always had a green thumb, but now has no garden. Her houseplants are astonishingly beautiful, and she shares cuttings with everyone who asks.


He is an artist. He paints single colors on large canvases because he loves colors. No one has ever bought one of his paintings, so he stacks them in a room in the large house where he lives with his husband and their six cats. He teaches art in a high school and two elementary schools. Three of his former students are now well known. Since his husband is a doctor who works long hours, he is also the primary house-keeper. He enjoys hosting dinners for the neighbors, all of them, even the ones who didn’t approve. Now they do.



What do you call someone who has memorized the Bible?

Be that person.




In the beginning, I thought I’d learn

a verse from each chapter.

But, mercy! how to choose?

Everyone knows the sweet bits,

good shepherds and lilies and such,


But I could not resist the obscure:


Of the children of Zebulun,

by their generations, after their families,

by the house of their fathers,

according to the number of the names,

from twenty years old and upward,

all that were able to go forth to war; 

And Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little;

and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it.


or the erroneous:


And God made the firmament, and divided the waters

which were under the firmament 

from the waters which were above the firmament: 

and it was so.  And infamously:

These are they which ye shall have in abomination

among the fowls;  they shall not be eaten, they are

an abomination; the eagle, and the ossifrage,

and the osprey. . . And the stork, the heron after her kind,

and the lapwing, and the bat. 

or embarrassing bits the songs leave out:


So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: 

and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, 

and the people shouted with a great shout, 

that the wall fell down flat, 

so that the people went up into the city, 

every man straight before him, and they took the city. 

And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, 

both man and woman, young and old, 

and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.


Choosing has never been my forté.


Your favorite song?—food?—

movie?—lover? —string quartet?


So many, and different reasons.

It’s always simpler to do it all.