As Pharaoh





As Pharaoh 
Of my own life
I make treasure
Of false gold
And enslave
True treasure

I harden my heart
I turn my gaze on others
Demanding their service

I hold myself mighty
I rest in comfort
On my enveloping couch

Ah, Lady Wisdom
Hear my prayer
Save me from myself
Disturb my comfort
Lower me
While loving me

Turn my gaze inward
That I might see myself clearly
But with your compassion

Soften my heart
Please Lady Wisdom
Soften my heart

Again and again

Do not look away
Watch for the first
Brittle hardening
Like frost across the windowpane
That will hardened my heart into ice

Please, Lady Wisdom
Do not look away
Only breathe, breathe
Your soft holy mother breath
Onto my hard freezing heart

When the frost of anger 
threatens
To harden my heart
Exhale your soft holiness
Into my soul
And soften my heart





Centering

Saturday
The first day of my virtual
Online zoomed
Oh so very post-pandemic
Centering prayer retreat
Was interrupted for me
From noon to five
When I played bridge
With my mother
And two friends
Our weekly gift
To a 98 year old
Who is still as keen
If not still quite as sharp

Bridge and wine
Beef stew and a thanksgiving prayer
Family and friends
And many repeated words
For Mom
Whose hearing aids
-	She often calls them ear plugs
Never seem to work quite good enough

Goodbyes and hugs
Dishwasher loaded
Hands in soapy water
With pots and pans
And Mom’s silver gravy spoon

Outside the kitchen window
Though it is dark now
I see our trellis 
Beautifully burdened with Carolina jasmine
Our towering, shaggy spruce
Behind our newly planted Japanese maple
And the faint glow from Mom’s
Blessed Virgin Mary statue 
-	Survivor of Hurricane Katrina
Snuggled into our garden 
Between the shed and trellis
In front of the azalea
That will bloom astonishing deep red
For crown and cloak
Come spring

Did I really miss
Centering prayer
Or did I simply live it?

Love Now

Four year old Milo enters
Already chattering
Like an impatient blackbird

My mother calls from upstairs
And begins her complaint 
As I am still mounting the stairs

Our dog gets restless
Waiting for her morning treat
And almost murmurs her feed me bark

The stack of mail to be dealt with
Yells at my eyes
Every time I look at the side table 

The laundry basket
With the lid that won’t quite close
The dirty dishes in the sink
The empty bookcase waiting to be moved
The bathroom to clean
The baker’s rack to paint
The new towels to order

All shout, demanding attention

While Woody waits patient
Though the morning grows long
And I still hide in the bedroom
Reading, writing, praying, dozing

Regrets and hopes
Wants and needs
Past and future
Scream, “Pay attention to me”

If I am not careful
I will miss the quiet entrance
And soft speech
Of Love now

More Than Alright

I couldda done better
I shouldda done better
I wouldda done better

Were I a different I
Or you a different you
Or this world, that world
or the universe infolding 
instead of unfolding 

But I want this I
And this you
Most definitely this you
And we are stuck with this
Particular world
And this unfolding universe

So I decide no
I really couldn’t have done better
And that is more than alright 

A Weird Man

There was a man
Who just didn’t care
About sin

He said he knew God
Claimed he spoke for God
Yet he didn’t pay any attention
To who was good and who was bad

(Proving, at least,
That he was not
Santa Claus)

He ignored equally
The rulers of his religion
And conquerors of his nation

He refused to worry
About anything
That he should have worried about

He loved to welcome people
Teach them
Help them
Feed them
Protect them
Heal them

He didn’t like the big expensive temple
He didn’t like the priests
He didn’t even like the best educated people

He never seemed to have much ambition
He never settled down
He wandered around
Saying strange things
Doing outrageous things

I can’t help but wonder how he would feel
About the church that is the legacy
He never seemed to want

					

Like Mary

When Woody smiles at me
And says You did that so well, so gently

When my 4-year-old grandson
Offers me a handful of blue sticky gummies

When my 98-year-old mother
Says thank you

When my across-the-street neighbor
Sends me his photograph of the sunrise

When I remember to water the windowsill plants
When I listen to Gregorian chant

Or Tibetan rhythms
Or June Boyce Tillman’s performances

When I bake bread
Or wash dishes

My hands deep in warm soapy water
And my mind about as still as it ever gets

When I write a poem
When I share a poem

Ah, then, like Mary Oliver
I feel quite beautiful

Early Morning Prayer





The fox does not know
How to live
Except in the moment

The tree does not mourn
Summer nor
Long for spring

The wave does not resent
The shore
Where it dies

The sky does not conquer
The earth
To grasp more for itself

The sun does not fear
Setting
As the earth spins

The moon does not cling
To full
And refuse to wane

Let me live
Now
Not then nor maybe

Let me rejoice
Knowing
Not fearing death

Let me welcome
The new shore
While enjoying the deep sea

Let me share
As the sky
Shares rain with the earth

Let me lighten
My world
Though sunset nears

Let me wane
Even as I have waxed
Through days and years

Let me feel the rhythm
The eternal renewal 
Of each new now

Of fox and tree
Wave and sky
Sun and moon

In peace
So may it be
For me


Good Morning

What is this feeling? 
How do I name it?
As I lie here
In the early pre-dawn 
Woody gently snoring
Beside me
And the white noise machine
Making waves

I woke to a realization
Of a necessary task
Forgotten

I had not set up
Mom’s breakfast

…

I move
Through the dark
Turn on minimal lights

Quiet…slow now…slow
Hush…no need for hurry

Bowl, spoon, cereal
To the table
Shush…slow
Soft through the still air

Milk into the small bottle
Meant for salad dressing

Why this contented sigh
As I fix the prune juice mixture?

My hands flow in a slow ballet
My body ripples through the air
Making only small disturbances
Nature’s asanas
Kitchen yoga

Mom’s breakfast is set now
I’m back in bed
Under the quilt Ruth made
Writing as Woody gently snores

How shall I name this slow quiet
Feeling that fills my chest
Almost heavy
Quilt heavy…not stone heavy

This feeling that is as easy with sorrow as with joy…
with memories as with dreams.
This feeling of loving myself…
of gratitude for my life,
sadness about mistakes
wonderment about achievements
contentment
expectation
joy
This divine feeling

hush now…
quiet…
soft

Good morning, friends

A Prayer for Compassion

(Cf. Psalm 1)

Blessed can I be
If I do not run to compete
If I do not stand around feeling better than others 
If I do not sit smugly judging others

Instead let me focus on collaboration
Turn my mind always to God’s compassion

Then my spirit will take shape 
Like a fruitful tree
Watered by fresh flowing communication

Please, Lady Wisdom,
Do not let me wither and shrivel into competition
Help me be compassionate and collaborative, 
Nourished and nourishing
Help me to remember that without compassion
My efforts become like dead leaves
Blown every which way by competitive thoughts

My tree will be bowed down, broken and uprooted
I will be unable to enjoy the ripened fruits of compassion

The compassionate choice supports harmony and community 
The competitive choice brings discord and isolation.  
Amen

Wondrous Coward





There exists a poem
At least I think it is a poem
With the lines
“The coward dies a thousand deaths
The valiant die but once”
Or something close to that

I have lived your death too many times
I am a total coward 
Not for myself
But for myself without you

Sometimes in the night
I wake up and lie
Fearfully still
Until I hear you breathe

Sometimes, like now,
When you are napping
Because you “just didn’t feel quite right”
I have to resist the urge
To go into the bedroom
To check that you are just sleeping
Not dead

Like when my children were babies

That dreadful fear
That my heart and life
My sanity itself
Will break into a thousand shards
And cut my soul to shreds
Should you have stopped breathing

Your love has made of me
A wondrous coward