Tug and Sigh

Datura blossoms, also known as angel's trumpet

Like the datura’s yellow trumpets

I am waiting for the breath of angels

to perfume the twilight

of this ordinary day

and play the vigil hymn

reminding me

that heaven and earth

wed long ago.

I too am married

to the unseen

sigh and scent,

filling and returning,

thus never full –

always longing,

often failing,

yet ever blessed

with heaven’s pull.


(Title from “The Silence Now” by May Sarton)


Gray-Haired Woman under the Harvest Moon

full moon

Sixty summers I’ve seen ease into autumn,

and I recognize this patient tug 

of nighttime on the days,

gentle at first like my own hand

easing a ripe tomato from the vine,

then insistent,

darkness yearning

for the tomb of winter.

At sixty a sprain is slow to heal,

and vigor wanes

before day’s work is done.

Tonight, though, last light

like the scent of apples

round the cider press

lingers on summer’s wake

as the orange belly

of this pregnant season

peeps over the horizon.

What will I gather

in the gloaming?

Paint on the cavern wall

the hieroglyph for patience,

And plant me as a seed,

for sixty years have shown me —

winter is a womb.

Feast me now with hazelnuts

and pour a cup of mead

to seal the promise

of a distant spring.

Like crickets and tree roots,

I am beholden to darkness

and care not 

what the world in me may see. 

Touched by harvest moonlight,

I know my silver beauty,

and novice though I am,

surrender to the night.

Image courtesy of C.E. Price

Hold Us in the Great Hands of Light

photo of garden at New Camaldoli

Touching the outside,

you make the inside glow.

Drinking my coffee

by halogen light,

I may not see it,

but the fig tree knows.

It all began with you.

Fiat lux,

and so it was 

that first day.

This morning

light on leaf

draws my eye

as a chipmunk 

nibbles the fig I left

last night on the fence rail,

dainty as a lady at a tea,

all of us beholden

to you,

one of countless,

but in this blue sky

our one, our only.

Title from “Why I Wake Early” by Mary Oliver

A Holy Fire

Candle surrounded by stars
Image by Sarojani Rohan

What if you were pregnant with a holy fire?

Would you be lit from within?

Might your glowing eyes hint

at the mystery to the outside world?


How would you feed this fire?


When she was pregnant,

my friend listened everyday

to Mozart and Debussy

so her babe would hear

sweet sounds in the womb.

She gave up caffeine and alcohol,

ate fresh organic food,

and practiced breathing

to prepare for labor.


How would you feed this fire?


Purify yourself.

Rest and dream.

Now is the time of waiting,

now is the long night.

Breathe in

the darkness,

and breathe out

your fear.


You are tinder for the fire,

and it will burn in your bones.

Floral Designs

Photo courtesy of Maggie Muir

I would give my all

to this one and only blooming,

every cell attentive

to soil and sunshine

in my sweet suckling

desire for water and light.

Perfume and pigment to petal, please,

then welcome, hummingbird,

butterfly, and bee

to my prodigal promiscuity.

Pollen to pistil,

let us give and take our fill

as if night will never fall

or winter ever come.

What Do You Hear?

What do you hear, Mary Camille?

On this first morning of the Labor Day weekend

I hear the roll of tires on asphalt

even through my double-paned windows.

I hear the mourning dove’s coo,

here I am, and where are you?

I hear the rumble of the espresso machine

like a locomotive grinding up a mountain grade

and the hiss of the frother,

spoon clinking against cup.

I hear the thump of squirrel paws

landing on the roof

and a rustling of privet leaves

on the limb he just leapt from.

I hear the silence

in a city without electricity,

the gurgle of receding floodwaters,

the last, labored rasp of the old woman

in the convalescent home.

I hear the clap and roar

of the departing helicopter,

the moans of those left behind,

barely make out the whisper

of a knife pulled from its sheath.

I hear the startled cry of the child

when another aftershock shakes her world,

the creak and clatter of shifting rubble,

the crinkle of plastic

as an empty water bottle is crunched

and tossed on a pile of trash.

I hear the crackle of wildfire

and roaring wind the fire itself creates,

the pop of exploding pinecones,

stamp of boots on earth,

a curse.

I hear the clackety clack

of the Giant Dipper gripping the track,

the cries of thrilled delight

when it crests the hill

and races gravity down.

I hear cheerful old tunes

on the antique organ

urging Looff’s painted ponies on

in their eternal loop,

the clatter of metal rings 

tossed towards the clown’s gaping mouth.

I hear gulls and waves breaking,

sand lapping seawater,

the ocean’s own merry-go-round.

I hear the surf

like the heartbeat of the earth

I hear the surf.

Inspired by the poet’s question to himself, “What do you hear Walt Whitman?” in his poem “Salut au Monde!”

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.