For Want of an “E”

I thought you exclaimed, Oh, my dear,
and quickly my mind bent toward trouble.

But trouble had nothing to do with you
when the spelling of “dear” became deer––

Five of them in a pretty line, crossing
the field to the other side of the road

from whence they disappeared
into the stand of pines.

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Merton and Fire [in Holy Week]

A divine informant came to Merton
when he was still a young man
with the promise, I will give you what
you desire; I will lead you into solitude.

Everything that touches you
shall burn you, and you will draw
your hand away in pain until
you have withdrawn yourself

from all things. Then you will be all
alone … that you may become
the brother of God and learn to know
the Christ of the burnt men.

Stung by the Spelling Bee

A cardinal rule of spelling is i before e
except after c. Historically a follower
of rules, with spelling no exception,
I had always misspelled sieze.
It looked right but it wasn’t until
my daughter’s epilepsy broke the spell
of that rule as it applied to seize or seizure––
that it would never ever qualify
as inadvertent oversight again.

Why the Tears?

I sat across the table from you
leaking tears and talking, talking
trying to put my finger on why I wept
and felt embarrassed in a class where we
discussed the abuse of women and girls.

The tears began as I tried to articulate the need
for awareness of all those who at that moment
(when we were discussing their situations
in a much removed room at divinity school)
were alone in their abuse, with no relief in sight.

Trying to discern the reason for tears
while explaining to you the sense of distance
I felt between me and my body,
me and my skin, even while the invitation
to fill that space hung in the air.

What else would God do but weep? you said.
I rode your words bareback into that space
where compassion closed the gap. I felt
how the heart of God is the part of how
we are one with ourselves and with each other.

Shaman

In the movie “The Pathfinder,” a Saami youth goes toe-to-toe with evil
for the sake of the tribe when he inherits the mantle of the fallen
shaman in a vision of a reindeer in the glow of the aurora borealis.

 

Shibboleth/aidenkieli*

Learn the language to tell the tale
with authenticity, and not through
a screen of created distance.

Long enough have you walked around it,
this task that will free your mother tongue.*
Act in faith and see what I do for you.

Dream Translation

A featureless head of white brocade
turns on a swivel slowly toward me
waiting in a line of toll-booth traffic
on a road to God-knows-where.

Confounded by currency he has never
seen, the toll-taker looks on helplessly.
I call out from my car
Mina puhun suomea! I speak Finnish.

The head with no eyes looks at me
and I understand it is up to me
to interpret, to translate,
what it is she wants to say.

Second Appearance

The same walk down the same road
for thirty years, savoring the sights
and smells of the changing seasons––
Never bored, I hope for thirty more.

Drawn by invisible threads
on this morning in May, I turn left
into the field, walk a quarter mile
and turn to the woods. Beneath

a pine, a two-point antler
dropped on the ground by a young
buck. Five feet away, the second antler––
the completion of visitation.

Third Appearance

On a hot July morning
the hungry sky devours the fog, and
the sound of last night’s showers flows
through the culvert beneath my feet.

As I speak my thanks on this hidden road
a buck perfect of limb and head leaps
before me, my saiva sarva,* filling my sight
with his glory, and I rejoice.

*token animal

 

 

The Saint-Maker

Church is a machine for the making of saints,
not so different from the making of sausage
the process of which you don’t want to see.

It may be the same with the saints––
God at work in the human soul, sweating
betraying an image we cannot abide.

But who’s to say what goes on inside any man
woman or child? God knows and perseveres,
poking, prodding, sometimes with fire

seeming oblivious to the pain induced, which
must be serving some purpose, some use,
hidden as is the process for making sausage.

For a Latter-day Prophet

If ever I needed further proof
that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
was still active in our fallen world,
I found that proof in you. In your seeing
what had to be done and doing it
with a passion that consumed your life.

A prophet indeed, and more than a prophet––
a man for all seasons, tested and found
worthy of the task assigned.
Now you go on in support of the life
you called into being by your bold action
knowing this is how the kingdom will come.