Hidden in a cleft
Swirling wind, swelling waves
The storm is fierce tonight
Debris from all directions
Causing fear and fright
Roaring thunder, pounding rain
From which there’s no evasion
The blackened sky overwhelms
Only the wise seek a guardian
Finding calm, feeling secure
Hidden in this cleft
Onward the storm rages
Caring not who is left
Steadfast hope, enduring faith
These will see me through
The storm is no match
For the guardian will pursue
Unending love, unfailing promise
The guardian is quite deft
So, I will be found
Hidden in this cleft
For the Little Girl Inside You
When your tongue tastes the dirt of failure,
do you swallow rocks of fear?
When you’re told to quit, it’s just a hobby,
do you trade in your tools for a blazer?
When you smack the Great-Wall-of-Worry,
do you pull out grappling hooks or step away?
When he doesn’t write you back,
does anyone’s heart hear your tears?
When Skinny says you’re too much,
do you still have coffee with her?
When the semester is almost over,
the dryer quits again,
another bill is in the mailbox,
do you want to fill the tank and see it all in the rearview?
When your words are passed by like flowers in a median,
do your petals pull together, away from the sun?
When you feel like a lion without a pack,
do you keep company with Little Debbie and Rory Gilmore?
When you drop the eggs, lose your job,
do you point the boxing gloves at yourself?
When bitterness asks you to hold his hand,
leave him with the check.
Dinner on the Grounds of Heaven
Do not grieve for me, my children,
Like heathen who have no hope.
I have a mansion in the celestial city now.
The fountain that waters it is Love,
And the Son never sets.
I am a child again hopping and skipping
And bringing reports of butterflies
To doting aunts and uncles under the spreading shade —
Dinner on the grounds of heaven.
Uncle Will is there with chewing gum in his pockets
And Aunt May has brought her famous apple pie.
Uncle Clarence who died before I was born
Has swung me high above his head.
There’s Mama smiling more than ever on earth
And Pop-paw loving her again.
All my brothers and sisters whose lives
Were measured in hours are here —
And Grandma who died when Mama was two;
Even my stillborn son is showing me around.
When you come, my children —
And I pray you”ll come —
Mine will be the second face you see.
All things have passed.
But not this joy;
It shall not pass.
Thief time has had his hands broken.
Grieve not for me.
This is the place for which
I’ve been homesick
All my life.
(In memory of Julia Layman Inzer—what she would say to me now.)
Dancing Summer’s Dance
There is an empty field
with nothing but a tree
which underneath I sit and sigh
and breathe the summer breeze.
A canopy of leaves
a shelter from the sun
so when the rain comes falling
no damage to me is done
Beautiful are the branches
that hold me as I climb
to the very treetop
and gaze out at the skies.
It is a tree of life
and I am just a branch
clinging to the trunk
dancing summer’s dance.
A firstborn, my daughter memorizes this battle—
a black mud dauber caught by the hind leg
in a spider web that once softened
the corner outside of her window. The spider
has tenderly pasted three egg sacks
in the web above the raucous, a sun, moon,
earth suspended. The spider waits,
which spiders are good at doing, I say,
and the dauber whirls, rests, opens wide
her mandibles. She’ll tire out,
I tell her, hand on her shoulder,
and I can’t help but recall the times I have
tired out, played the game wrong,
had web on one leg then another.
Can anything pull itself free?
The world is full of catching places,
and I am happy in mine, gathering
from the earth to wall
my home. The spider hangs above me,
just far enough, and patiently.
Beyond the Horizon
There is a dark spot on the horizon, growing,
hungry, surrounded by a collapsing hue of blue,
cataract in the sky, while the eye of the unknown,
on the other side, its vision blurry to blind.
The lone observer of stars and setting suns trapped,
as if an arrow unable to slow, jettisoned with the
power of a dying light, on a final journey to oblivion,
mesmerized by the horizontal abyss, he falls.
Swimming a fast crawl between parallel lines of walls,
impalpable solids, bright as the power of many suns,
he cannot escape in this vertiginous endeavor,
prisoner of will and want, excited by the ultimate fear.
But the dark spot is no closer with eons passing,
the alchemist of his self is a plaything in the hands of
a mystery larger, and certainty a constant ignorance;
his fate is sealed, to remain a traveler to a destination too far.
A Blustery Day
There is a force–invisible
that dances through the air
it tiptoes over blades of grass
and flings far out my hair
There is a force as sweet as fall
before it fades away
and in this force we place our hopes
and fears for all our days
There is a force surrounding me
as I wander my ponderous path
and it is the force that picks me up
and carefully puts me back down
And as the days depress me
as days are wont to do
I feel the force surrounding me,
the old becoming new
That Fateful Day
Standing, listening, not saying a word
On the fateful day everything changed
Three years old, a little girl
Weeps for her country
She understood everything
Yet did not at all
She pulls out her blocks
The horror that just happened
Fifteen years later
The girl is now a woman
And her heart still cries out for those lost
On that fateful day
She climbs on a plane, and says a prayer
Hoping she will see another day
When the morning comes, her eyes open
And she gets ready
To go to the spot where everything happened
A saddening stillness comes over her
As she walks, only a yard
Away from where so many lives were lost
Red, yellow, black, and white
Lost on that fateful day
She stands steady, strong, feet planted
Shoulders shaking, eyes leaking
Her lungs filling with air
A peace, an overwhelming peace comes over her
As she stands in front of the wall
Knowing that this is the reason why her country is so strong.
En Pointe in the Living Room
Their hands rest softly as dust
on the hope chest.
My girls, two and four, practice
ballet to a video, “I’m a Ballerina Now,”
bending their knees, twisting outward feet
that seem to have only now been released
from the curl of my womb.
For sixty hours of volunteer work, they could go
to classes at the forum free, a friend tells me,
as I watch my girls in borrowed leotards extend
their arms, point toes, first position, second.
When my pastor’s daughter was two,
she lived in the slums of Latvia.
His wife says everyday she relives that little girl’s
nightmare of six years, the unforgivable providence.
Even here, there is evidence of brokenness. The elm limbs
in our yard, bare still in March, fragment the sky. I try
to point out spring to my daughters, where I can see
the early signs, buds on plants I was never taught
the names of. My mother worked long hours.
But I can point to this: next door, in the yard of the widow,
the tulip tree, the one the chainsaw guys keep telling her
is dead, bloomed this morning in a shock
of petal, ballet pink.
An overwhelming darkness—
so cold and so vast.
But, there are cracks along the walls.
Slight streams of sanity—
a faint white light,
visible only for a little while
The old madness returns
as the sun sets
and night is over me once more.
I’m straining for the light.
The cracks are widening.
Red pain and blackening skin…
There are now cracks on me;
but, the wall is free.
New clarity floods in.
Moonlight and darkness together,
opposites sharing the sky.
I’ve learned I’m like the sky—
Pain is what kept me hostage
and yet, Pain is what also set me free.