She’s always been heavy handed, my mother,
when she lays the paint on her water-based canvas.
It’s not that she is a glutton for beauty
(though a case could certainly be made for her hunger)
but simply that she loves the way the hues blur
and fade and run when she sprays them with water.
With every spritz she sheds off a year until she’s a girl
with skinned knees and curls, gasping at fireworks
that appear on the page as the violets fade to lilacs
and wed with the muted yellows that once were a gold.
I thought about this today in the shower when I turned on the tap
and the room bled away in a puddle of colors,
a blanket of steam muddling every mirror and shutting me in
to the immediacy of a place in which you can’t see your face
and I thought of you too, dear reader, and of the soft-edged
impression of your continual presence that lives in my words,
blurring the harsh lines into gentler hues
and obscuring the things that should live in the dark.
This poem was born as a note roughly scribbled in a notebook. I wrote it from deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota, as I drank coffee on the porch and marveled at how loud the silence was.
i close the door
the hills rise up
to meet me
and unmoving waltz
the mist and i
am no longer
i am in
the Inner Room,
that which I do
is deftly usurped
by that who
pour out liquid words
fill your cup and overflow
then mop up the mess
of spilt nouns and wayward verbs
sacrificed to the story
Perhaps it was the way I sat there – hands alert
over laptop keys as birds welcomed in the first morning light –
that finally drove inspiration away.
Tired of my constant attention, I suspect she simply
needed some space. I can almost see her, rounding the corner
on a journey to someplace a bit more exotic.
Perhaps she’s strolling the Champs Elysees
wearing a jaunty beret and sipping espresso
at sidewalk cafes in the noonday haze, a cigarette
teetering wryly between her finger and thumb
as she lazily plumbs the mysteries of Verlaine
and the secrets behind that reticent smile.
Or perhaps she departed for wilder places
where the air is heavy with the scent of gardenia
and the echoes of capuchins bounce overhead
as she hacks with machete through dense jungle floor
to carve out a path that will help her descend
to the temple of wisdom and transcendent light.
But as for me, I’ll stay right here – fingers poised and hands alert –
and watch the steam rise off my coffee as the mama robin
searches the yard for a buried worm to feed to her young.
Wildly, the rooted
dandelion throws itself
to the waiting wind.
woman, mother, writer, friend
breathe in, breathe out, foot down, grab hand
let down, neglect, fall short, defend
again, again, again, again
lover, maker, advocate, friend
with voice that made the world begin
who rescued you from all your sin
am pleased, am here, am all, amen
over the garden.
Hope*writer’s challenge of the day: “start.”
I scribbled this poem down, months ago, when the squash bugs devoured my pumpkin and cucumber vines.
Dramatically, I really had sung to my plants – not in some last ditch effort to bring them back to life but just because they looked like they could use a lullaby.
Today, as I was considering the prompt to “start,” I looked out at my newly planted garden beds with their neat rows and giant mounds.
Perhaps my squashes will do better this year; I’m learning all about larvae and viruses and healthy soil. But even if they don’t, I think I’ll keep planting anyway.
After all, when the Gardener planted His own garden, He knew there would be a Fall. But He sowed the trees and breathed Himself into the dirt anyway.
His mother sang her welcome over a life that she knew would end in death.
Perhaps our success lies – not in the outcome – but in simply planting seeds.
So write your poem. Paint your canvas. Take your class. Make your call.
Sure, plants wither. Scores flop. Publishers reject. Lovers leave.
But grow anyway. Sing anyway. Write anyway. Love anyway.
We’ve been imbued with the wild hope that we will say that it is good.
In just a few hours, I get to talk with 30 girls about writing poetry. So this day is pretty much a win. The American Heritage Girls group needs their “writer badge,” so I get to share some poems and talk about how great it is to play with words.
As I was preparing, I started flipping through my poems. Which ones should I share with a room of 6-12 year olds? I realized that the poems I wanted to explore weren’t my own: they were theirs. What stories would these girls tell? What emotions would they share? What would it look like if they played with words?
Curiosity seized the day, and I created a poetry exercise for students. As I share my poems, I hope they are inspired to create their own.
Scanning the lesson, I flashed back to my homeschooling days: my kids would have liked this. I thought about the boy’s writing club that a friend of mine hosts. I even considered that this could make for a fun ladies’ night. You know. If we added wine.
So I’m putting it out there for all you homeschooling, book clubbing, ladies’ night out-ing friends. Feel free to use it in any way you’d like…*
(as long as you don’t sell it *which is the legal thing you have to say with free resources, I guess*)
The more poetry in the world, the better. Let’s get writing.
It won’t stop raining. We keep our muddy boots in a barrel beside the door, next to a shelf of umbrellas and towels. Every time we come in from the drizzle, we give the barrel the evil eye. It always looks appropriately ashamed.
I yelled at my sons yesterday. As tempting as it is to blame the weather or their attitudes or Trump (I kid), I know that the problem isn’t something in the room. It’s something in my skin.
We’re in the season of lent right now – the time for preparing our hearts for Easter. “Lent” literally means springtime, and I feel it in my bones. Spring is coming to my ground and my soul.
Not everything that thaws is pleasant. Sure, there are the tulips and all. But the thaw also lifts the blanket off a winter’s-worth of dog poop and previously hidden road kill. Spring is the beauty of promise and the stench of unveiling.
This Easter looms large, like a slow sunrise. As the rays of dawn lengthen, so do the shadows. When the Easter sun rises high, I want to dance in it, but first I need to clean the yard. And so I have embraced lent’s quintessential work: repentance.
Lent is more than halfway over, and I’m weary. There’s nothing like standing knee-deep in dog poop for 31 days to make you realize how big the yard is. I needed music to keep me going. That’s where this playlist comes in.
On the days I can’t pray or read or confess another word, I listen to these songs and I remember.
Because every holy season deserves a killer playlist.
Check it out on this YouTube Playlist
or, ad-free, on this Amazon Unlimited Playlist
Scroll down to see the track list and some of my favorite lines from the songs:
Nothing starts off a time of repentance like a little Latin. This beautiful song is a great segue into worship, as the haunting melody sings again and again to the “Lamb of God.”
“Forgive me Lover for I have sinned
for I have done you wrong…
But this estranged organ in my chest
still beats for you. It will not rest…”
“You are the blood in my chest.
The bird gathering nest.
The sea which won’t rest
until I’m home.”
“And when I looked him in the eyes, I felt the weight of all my sin,
for I know what the law required
a death for death, a traitor’s end
But when I thought I’d feel his wrath
despaired and filled with shame
He bent down to search my eyes
and with such love whispered my name…”
“Some holy ghost keeps me hanging on…”
“From this broken hill all your praises they shall ring if it be your will to let me sing.”
“All the doubts I’ve faced, I continue to face them but nothing is a waste.”
“Because of His great love, we are not overcome…”
Sometimes the best songs don’t say a word.
“Oh the lonely road you’re on, was it to Calvary?”
“Back broke and crying
Cause it’s near
Cause it’s near
“It’s God the surgeon and He’s come to save my life. I’m finding mercy cuts like a sharpened knife…”
“Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to your ways…”
“Do you feel the world is broken? We do.
Do you feel the shadows deepen? We do.
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? We do.”
“Now you have put the wine back in the glass. You have put the blood back in me.”
“With the pruning the branch is stronger,
I will learn to love the sheers…”
“Call all our names and we’ll be found.”
“You cut me deep, I know, I felt it but it’s the sweetest kind of pain.
Oh sweet relief, you took my burden, so I believe. Oh I believe.”
“In labor all creation groans ‘
til fear and hatred cease
’til human hearts come to believe
in Christ alone is peace.”
“I’m not sure why it always goes downhill, why broken cisterns never could stay filled.”
“Here is the fire and the wood but where is the sacrifice?
Here in the place of our sin, He will Himself provide.”
“Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to your ways.”
“Our mouths they were filled, filled with laughter.
Our tongues they were loosed, loosed with joy.
Restore us, O Lord.”
“But they whom sin has wounded sore find healing in the wounds He bore.”
“There’ll be no more running ’round for me, no more back down, you’ll see.”
“Let us come again, and feed on Him, our Lord Emmanuel.”
“Truth be known, you’re not alone.
Your aching bones will find a home
In place where God He set us free…
Oh Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani.”
“We nailed Him to a tree,
not a word, not a word, not a word.
He never said a mumblin’ word.”
“He will not cry out or raise His voice
He will not call out or loose His chains.
He will not raise up against His foe
or condemn all who mocked as he bled
He will rain mercy on all of their heads.”
“Answer, Father, answer prayer.
Bless, O bless, each weak endeavor
blood bought pardon to declare.”
“But the darker shades He painted, the ones that I had asked for not
put me in the shadow of the cross.”
“When I stand in the presence of a holy God, and I flee and I cover my face,
my heart filled with shame yet you still called my name
and you break me by the power of your grace.”
“Give us clean hands. Give us pure hearts. Let us not lift our souls to another.”
“Break us, O Lord, that we may be whole again.”
“I knew you’d never forgive me,
but I was wrong.
And I’m so, so sorry.”