A Clanging Cymbal

The rumble and buzz of cars

that blots out birdsong

is but one bleating sound

in a constellation of noise,

a devil (if I believed in the devil)-

designed distraction from

the voice in the cave

of my heart

that I do believe in.

So, I will arise and go now,

and go to New Camaldoli

and there a cell of silence seek,

a shady seat beneath

the fruiting fig tree, and

            Mother Pacific,

            O Father Sky,

a view of blue further than I can see.

Drench me in Your breezy quietude

and remind me in the cooing of the dove

that I am nothing if I have not love.


With appreciation to St. Paul (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) and W.B. Yeats (The Lake Isle of Innisfree)

A collage of sunbeams streaming into the sanctuary at New Camaldoli, a bench on  a cliff overlooking the ocean, and a garden


What Will Save Us

Drawing by Sarojani Rohan

We’re all in this together,

looking for the songs to sing

that will hold the world together.

We might look to the soldier or scientist

to save us,

but the hero sits in silence before dawn,

looks out the window at the moon

slender and radiant in her old age,

and listens,

listens below ticking clock

and hooting owl,

listens beyond the whisper of candle flame

and the tinkle from the bells

the ants wear round their feet.

Deep in the earth,

deep in the cave of her heart,

angels sing,

and the poet transcribes.

Originally published in Second Wind: Words & Art of Hope & Resilience.

The Nobility of Quiet

Turn off the TV

and silence your phone.

Outside your window

soft rain shimmers

like a silver veil.

Listen to its serenade,

drops hitting leaves,

splashing into the birdbath.

Then attune your ears

to the silence under

this murmur and patter.

What do you hear?

The Lord of the Dance

calling to you,

ephphatha!

Be opened!

 

After reading Mark 7:32-34. Title from “The Winter Apple” by David Whyte. Just published in my parish newsletter, Holy Cross Community Voices.

The River That Mines the Silence of Stone

Image courtesy of Sarojani Rohan

 

After the light

beams into the inner chamber

 

on the shortest day,

after the souls of the dead have departed,

 

silence fills the hollow space

like the beat of the drum just did.

 

The underland will feed it

like a candle perpetually snuffed,

 

scent of melted wax and burnt wick

in the dark.

 

Above, nights pass

and days come

 

in the temple of time

that makes equals of us all.

 

The earth blooms into spring,

flowers and fruits through summer,

 

and releases once more into fall.

On that first winter day,

 

when the priestess returns

before dawn,

 

lint and tinder in her pouch,

but guided by memory and touch,

 

this is what she hears:

the silence of stone.

 

No words, no message,

just the time-nourished silence.

 

Rebirth is the gift of the deep,

to return as servant once more –

 

lover and light-bearer,

priestess and poet reborn.

 

Title from Rilke’s Book of Hours, I,16

 

At Newgrange August 2019

Second Wind

What gets you through adversity? Last spring my friends Kate Aver Avraham and Melody Culver decided to answer that question by gathering diverse voices to share prose, poetry and art that speaks of how we get through 2020, make the most of our changed lives, and move toward a meaningful future. The resulting book, Second Wind, has just been published, and I’m honored that it includes a few of my poems, including this one I began my blog  with five years ago. As we face a pandemic and a divided nation, I look forward to finding hope and resilience in this lovely book.

Copies of Second Wind are available at Bookshop Santa Cruz and on Amazon, and all sale profits will go to the Santa Cruz County Community Foundation Covid-19 Relief Fund.


A Map to the Kingdom

Let me draw myself a map

out of the world of scarcity

into the kingdom

where everyone has enough.

The map I’m talking about

requires a subtle yet revolutionary algorithm

to rewrite the neuronal pathways of my brain.

Let my ears hear the soft call to prayer

from the cave of my heart

instead of the 21st-century symphonic blast

begging me to worship at the altar of the mall

and buy more apps for my iPhone.

The promise of productivity

and the buzz of news and games

want to trick me into believing

they can fill me up and give me purpose.

But no.

Rewire the neurons.

Let me rejoice in the gift of each moment

instead of fretting about what I don’t have time for.

Then I can find the cartographers

who will collaborate with me

in mapping our way to the kingdom of enough.

In that place time is the currency,

and communion is all we want to buy.

What does the kingdom look like? This week I had a chance to share my reflections on the parable of the ten virgins with Deacon Joe DePage of Holy Cross Church.

I Drip Out Slowly

What essence remains in the dry grass

when it gives itself to the fire?

A single blade

before the flame

has no say.


I see You, Beloved,

in the green

at the tip of the redwood bough,

in the yellow roses

climbing up the garden arch,

but could it also be You

carving the fine lines into my face

that will deepen into wrinkles,

drawing the color from my hair?

My own aging is the flame

and You the all-consuming fire.


Title from a poem by Lal Ded, a 14th century woman mystic from Kashmir

I Am

This is how Foothill faculty and staff describe academic year 2019-20

On the Friday before fall classes start at Foothill College faculty and staff come together for “Opening Day” to prepare for the new academic year. This year a panel of student leaders became our teachers and offered us a two-hour training on equity, focusing on implicit bias, privilege, and racism in higher education, including at Foothill. For our last activity at the end of the session we were invited to write a poem in which each line begins with the words “I am” to help us see our diversity and our unity.

I was almost too heartbroken by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to share this poem, but the students who asked us to “Listen, Learn, and Level Up” inspire me to live up to RBG’s legacy and work for a just and democratic society. Please take ten minutes to write your own I Am poem and share it in the comments.

I Am

I am a woman with no children

   learning to mother others.

I am a librarian

   learning to read

   myself and the world

   in a new way.

I am a seeker

   learning how to listen.

I am a human

   learning how to be a better creature

   on this planet.

I am grateful to be

   on this clear and sunny morning

part of the Foothill family.

Pack Nothing

Not even my laptop or photo albums?

What about insurance policies,

the earrings my sweetheart gave me?

One pair in your ears.

If I go with just the clothes on my back,

which outfit should I choose?

Shoes you can run in.

My books?

Start memorizing poems now.

Learn how to tell a story.

If you trust the prayer

in breath and heartbeat,

you can travel light.

All Things Sing You

yellow roses climbing up archHuman ears hear

the chittering of squirrels

and the here I am coos

of the mated mourning doves,

the breeze playing

in redwood boughs,

bamboo fronds,

and ponderous birds of paradise,

each tree as distinct

in the fingers of the wind

as instruments in an orchestra.

But could I ever learn to hear

the spit spat spurt

of asparagus cells eating sunlight

or slow my vision to catch

those green spears soaring to the sky?

Ordain my senses

that I may eavesdrop

on the love song

of the vine to the rosebuds

and the petals’ pleasure-soaked sighs

as they unfurl their delicate curves.

May I too sing You

ten thousand ways

in the ebb and flow

of silence.

Title from Rilke’s Book of Hours, 1,45

The Womb of Winter

Snowy scene
Photo courtesy of Quin Johnson

Hidden in the earth

a seed waits, drinking darkness.

Conceived on a summer day

when the sun suckled the earth,

fruit of wanton flowers frolicking

with passionate, hungry bees,

a seed in the womb of winter

might feel lost and forgotten.

But no,

the earth is not a grave;

it is your swaddling clothes.

Trust in the darkness,

trust in your quiescent potential

that holds all in its nothingness.

Spring will come,

and the light of lengthening days

will coax the glory of God

from the seedpod

and beckon you to itself.