Monday, April 27, 2009

A Better Resurrection

by Christina Rosetti

I have no wit, no words, no tears;
    My heart within me like a stone
Is numbed too much for hopes or fears;
    Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimmed with grief
    No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
    O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
    My harvest dwindled to a husk;
Truly my life is void and brief
    And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
    No bud or greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall--the sap of Spring;
    O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
    A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
    Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perished thing,
    Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him my King:
    O Jesus, drink of me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Time Does Not Bring Relief

by Edna St. Vincent Milay

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountainside,
And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year's bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go -- so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, "There is no memory of him here!"
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Gospel According to Helena

(c) 2007, Linford Detweiler, Over the Rhine

She loves to sing
She knows she may not even be that good
What does it mean when somebody
Loves to do something
So much
Doesn't care
Whether or not
It makes any sense to the world

What does it mean when somebody
Does something just because
It makes her feel more alive
Opens her eyes

What does it when somebody
Does something just because 
She's missing God
And wonders if she always will

She must know that all good songs
Are a form of prayer

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Wife's Tale

by Seamus Heaney

When I had spread it all on linen cloth
Under the hedge, I called them over.
The hum and gulp of the thresher ran down
And the big belt slewed to a standstill, straw
Hanging undelivered in the jaws.
There was such quiet that I heard their boots
Crunching the stubble twenty yards away.

He lay down and said, 'Give these fellows theirs,
I'm in no hurry,' plucking grass in handfuls
And tossing it in the air.  'That looks well.'
(He nodded at my white cloth on the grass.)
'I declare a woman could lay out a field
Though boys like us have little call for cloths.'
He winked, then watched me as I poured a cup
And buttered the thick slices that he likes.
'It's threshing better than I thought, and mid
It's good clean seed.  Away over there and look.'
Always this inspection has to be made
Even when I don't know what to look for.

But I ran my hand in the half-filled bags
Hooked to the slots.  It was hard as shot,
Innumerable and cool.  The bags gaped
Where the chutes ran back to the stilled drum
And forks were stuck at angles in the ground
As javelins might mark lost battlefields.
I moved between them back across the stubble.

They lay in the ring of their own crusts and dregs,
Smoking and saying nothing.  'There's good yield,
Isn't there?' --as proud as if he were the land itself--
'Enough for crushing and sowing both.'
And that was it.  I'd come and he had shown me,
So I belonged no further to the work.
I gathered cups and folded up the cloth
And went.  But they still kept their ease,
Spread out, unbuttoned, grateful, under the trees.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


by Luci Shaw

Doubt padlocked one door and
Memory put her back to the other.
Still the damp draught seeped in
though Fear chinked all the cracks and 
Blindness boarded up the window.
In the darkness that was left
Defeat crouched in his cold corner.

Then Jesus came
(all the doors being shut)
and stood among them.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter magic

by Leslie Leyland Fields

Had we crucified the rabbit--

yanked him from his fields of grass
and staked him out by paws and tender feet
to quiver, twitch and die in agony
of innocence, 
and then, in three days' time,
had seen him hop from the tomb
but for the wounded paws and feet we felt--

then maybe now we'd talk of Christ,
pass his story down from child to child
and only faintly hint at silly myths of
wicker baskets,
chocolate eggs,
treasures hidden in the field
and some trick hare who died

then somehow disappeared.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


by Scott Cairns

The thing to remember is how
tentative all of this really is.
You could wake up dead.

Or the woman you love
could decide you're ugly.
Maybe she'll finally give up
trying to ignore the way
you floss your teeth as you
watch television.  All I'm saying
is that there are no sure things here.

I mean, you'll probably wake up alive,
and she'll probably keep putting off 
any actual decision about your looks.
Could be she'll be glad your teeth
are so clean.  The morning might be 
full of all the love and kindness
you need.  Just don't go thinking
you deserve any of it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I, 4

by Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

We must not portray you in king's robes,
you drifting mist that brought forth the morning.

Once again from the old paintboxes
we take the same gold for scepter and crown
that has disguised you through the ages.

Piously we produce our images of you
till they stand around you like a thousand walls.
And when our hearts would simply open,
our fervent hands hide you.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Psalm of Life

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers, 
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real - life is earnest - 
And the grave is not its goal:
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destin'd end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle,
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act - act in the glorious Present!
Heart within, and God o'er head!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.

Footprints, that, perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwreck'd brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Sonnet 29

by William Shakespeare

When, in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, 
Haply I think on thee, and then my state
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.


by Mary Oliver

Salt shining behind its glass cylinder.
Milk in a blue bowl.  The yellow linoleum.
The cat stretching her black body from the pillow.
The way she makes her curvaceous response to the small, kind gesture.
Then laps the bowl clean.
Then wants to go out into the world
where she leaps lightly and for no apparent reason across the lawn,
then sits, perfectly still, in the grass.
I watch her a little while, thinking:
what more could I do with wild words?
I stand in the cold kitchen, bowing down to her.
I stand in the cold kitchen, everything wonderful around me.


(c) 2007, Linford Detweiler, Over the Rhine

I have to leave the city now, she said,
Or dash my soul against my will instead.

I do not wish to have the quiet part of me
That once could rest (the part
That could just be) tossed
Aside and left somewhere
For dead.

Tonight it seems to me
That what some friends call energy
Is nothing more than a phenomenon of nature known as
"Incurable Whirling Disease."

Please, take me far from here, she said,
The buildings sting and echo
With the fumy cries of yellowjacket cars.

I took her hand in mine and said,
I'm thinking of a place now
Where I used to have to tell myself
Those are not clouds,
They're stars.


by Seamus Heaney, Irish poet, author, and Nobel Laureate

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging.  I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper.  He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf.  Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.