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


I imagine a young girl
Who today might be excited
To start high school.

I imagine a young girl
Who back then was excited
To be betrothed.

She was a good girl
Far from perfect
But plenty good enough

A pretty girl
Far from stunning
But plenty pretty enough

A devout girl
Far from saintly
But plenty devout enough

A happy girl
Far from trouble-free
But plenty happy enough

A loved girl
Far from worshipped
But plenty loved enough

A simple girl
Far from stupid 
But just a simple girl

Who looked forward to marriage
And, please God, making babies
With her young husband

Until she became a surprised girl
“Full of grace” God’s messenger said
What could that mean?

Then Gabriel explained
And Mary of Nazareth
Became Theotokos.

But Gabriel left
Returning to God’s glory
Leaving her to explain

The unexplainable 
Unimaginable miracle
That would look like sin

And the pregnant virgin 
Fled to her cousin
Elizabeth the barren

Who was also with child.

Thinking Back

For years I taught facts
And brought bright light of knowledge
To many students

The mistake we made
I made
Through most of those years
Was simply this:
I assumed knowledge was a collection of facts
And truth was a sufficiently large collection of knowledge

I completely forgot Santayana’s insight:
“Knowledge is a torch of smokey pine
That lights the path but one dim step ahead
It is by faith alone that we are led
Unto the thinking of the thought divine”

(I should look that up because I am certain to have made mistakes in the exact wording but instead I shall carry on, beyond facts to insight.)

I did shine a bright light
A surgical light
On needed knowledge
Valued knowledge

(And I am comforted now to remember that some of my students will have used that knowledge in their oeuvre saving others.)

But oh how I wish 
I had remembered
To also teach them to squint
Beyond the bright light
Into the whole dark delightful universe
Of unknowing.

Love’s Natural Infinity

A sunny December day
Blue sky
Trees showing their bones
Brown leaves
Hug the ground

But also
Misty cold rain
A miserable day 
To many
But to me
A sign

Nature loves nature
Speaks to itself
Nurtures itself
With rain no less than sun
With cold no less than warmth
With dying no less than borning

How fortunate we are
How blessed
To have nature’s sure signs
Of the infinity and variety of love

Solstice Litany

Let us move beyond
The harsh light of theology

Let us live beyond
The eternal devastation of sin

Let us rest beyond
The ceaseless demands of religion

Let us believe beyond
The certainty of knowledge

Let us love beyond
The ugliness of indifference

Let us see beyond
The darkness of now

Queen of the Underworld
Dark mother of my soul

Protect me from the hard glare
Of the overlord of this world

Grant me night vision
To see your soft blessings

No Thank You

I fear heaven
“We shall not all die
But we shall all be changed”
We are promised

Happy always…No sin
Blissful always…No troubles
Joyous always…No disappointments
Peaceful always…No vexations

Wait…no vexations?
You mean to tell me
I won’t worry any more?
No more strategizing how 
To help my husband maneuver stairs
With his bad knee
No more holding Carol, helpless
As she cries for her dying ex-husband
No more catching the doctor’s eye
To shake my head as her patient
My mom
Exaggerates a minor problem
Then catch myself and wonder
Why do I think I have to correct
When she has been my mother’s doctor
For more than 20 years

No more of my daily concerns
No more grocery shopping
And coming home to realize
I went out for 3 things
Came home with 12
And forgot one of the 3 things
I went for

Just happiness and bliss
Joy and peace

I am sure some entity
Divine no doubt
Will be eternally happy there

I am also sure it will not be
Anything resembling this me
That I hold on to
Perhaps too closely

If Eternity

If eternity
were but endless time
how frightening
how unattractive
how pointless
it would be

If eternity
were always now
how boring
how stagnant
how wretched 
it would be

How how how
can mind grasp
or spirit crave

Time that does not move
Now that does not stagnate

When I have no more tomorrows
Will I remember all my yesterdays?

Prompt: What makes the world come clear?

Marijuana can help
But is by no means a sure thing

Alcohol is useless
At least for this purpose

Prayer is performative
And muddies the waters

Friends are sometimes
But often better for laughter
Or tears

Love-making is brilliant
Too brilliant perhaps for clarity

Poetry is helpful
And sometimes lights the path

Oh how I wish I could write
Of meditation
Reading the mystics
Even walking through a woods
Or a field
Wading a stream
Watching deer or birds
Or even our dog

Oh how I wish my world would come clear
In grand and glorious style
The wonder of many
The envy of all

But I just sit quietly on the sofa
Beside my husband
Usually, he works a jigsaw puzzle
On his i-pad
Sometimes he draws
Or listens to a podcast 
About woodworking
Or the environmental crisis

He always sits on my right
So that his good left ear
Is between him and me
But we don’t talk much

I read, or listen to a podcast
Or dabble in acrylics
With children’s paints
On my lap
Deliberately resisting the impulse
To buy proper artist tools
I let myself play with colors
On small canvases
With brushes and knives
Steel wool and cotton balls
Toothbrush and cotton swap

The canvas may get confused
But the world comes clear

Three Small Gratitudes

My knees bend
Almost as much as ever
And ache very little

My bedroom becomes a poetry hide-out
Muting Mom’s
Ever louder TV

And then there is that small gummy
With its even smaller quantity of THC

I don’t like intercessory prayer
But I have at times asked God for favors

Please let my husband live
Please let my daughter’s twins live
Please ease Betty’s dementia
Please let marijuana be legal by the time I retire

Wouldn’t you know
It was that last one
The Sovereign God of All Eternity
Chose to answer OK.