Long and Late

Long and late on the purple shroud of night

my spirit moved with shadows of an oak,

then knelt beside a moon-struck shard of light

which pierced the dark of waning winter’s cloak.

Illumined by that ricocheting ray,

a stone lay leaning from the glacial flow

of ancient roots intent to weave their way

above the muted catacombs below.

Its etchings echoed of a whispered name

that crossed the lips of someone there before,

perhaps a broken kindred soul who came

to leave itself a shard at Heaven’s door.

Then bending near this habitated ground,

I felt the roots of something deep within

conjoin with oaken arms to reach around

the weeping wounded gathered once again.

Silently, on a low and level place,

a stranger prays with other souls who mourn,

and in this fertile garden of embrace

life’s sacred shoots of hope again are born.

To the River

To the river I come by a thrice-known way
through a shadowy, oaken stand,
as each autumn pastel turns a shade of gray,
and each limb, an enfolding hand.

Borne in body and mind and the soul, all three,
on this leaf-layered, loamy road
are the burdens of lost tranquility
and the depth of thanksgiving, owed.

A mysterious melding of land and limbs
with the river’s lamenting flow
brings a chanting of praise in ancient hymns
on a tune that I seem to know.

Now, the body, the mind, and the soul all sing
in a chorus of wind in trees;
and renewal in each of the three will bring
a most grateful life to its knees.

Tethering

Tethering

In order to show mercy to others and be an agent of healing for them, I have to, at some level, be able to see my own impoverishment and need of mercy and healing. I have to stop dividing and start unifying. I can no longer label as “lame” or “whole.” I can only label as “present.” I must see myself and others in the same light, of the same substance, with the same needs, in the very same field, from the same home, headed in the same direction on the same road, held in the same embrace. Seeking to know, forgive and love myself is seeking to know, forgive and love others, and both are seeking to know and love God. Then follows union, the one great tethering of the Spirit, which I believe to be the meaning and goal of life.

If mercy and healing are to pass through me to others

they must first coat my wounds.

The parted must be unified.

Labels, “lame” and “whole”

become only, “present.”

I must see myself and others

in the same light,

of a shared substance,

with similar needs,

in a common field,

from one home,

headed in the same direction,

held in universal embrace.

Seeking to know, forgive and love myself

is seeking to know, forgive and love others.

Both are seeking to know and love God.

Then follows union, one great tethering of the Spirit,

the meaning and goal of all life.

The Little Boy

An old man of the mountains traveled into town one day

to find a little boy he knew but lost along the way.

The lines of rugged living lay like furrows on his face,

and tears plowed through those dusty rows to clear the way for Grace.

Some say it was poor choices, some say disease or fate

that drove him up that stony road and shut away the gate.

I say, for sanctuary, the elder sought repose

beneath a verdant canopy where mountain laurel grows.

And in the spirit of an ancient spring-fed, sparkling stream

his thirsty soul drew sustenance, and Heaven was his dream.

Though weary from the wayward ways embarked upon in youth,

a wisdom gained in wandering had etched his stone with truth.

But broken years still left for him a longing so profound

to muster all remaining will and walk familiar ground.

So with his only trapping, an old heart that longed for home

and bygone days of innocence burned by the urge to roam,

he limped along toward the gate he’d fastened long ago

to wall away his brokenness the world could never know.

That day he walked on Holy Ground: a churchyard near a grave,

a grassy spot beneath an oak that “progress” chose to save,

the playground where, in fantasy, he’d whiled away his time,

the schoolyard where a snow-capped dame

had taught his lines to rhyme,

the lot upon which stood the timbers of his childhood home

(a mansion in his memory, with ivy overgrown),

his double-secret hideaway: a fort for all the boys

who’d bravely fought marauding bands and shared in manly joys.

And as the sun was sinking down behind his mountain wall,

he passed the spot where love’s first kiss had bade its beckon call.

And there amidst the shadows of the lives he’d loved before,

an old man thought he heard again from just beyond a door

the voice of Mama calling home a little boy he knew,

for supper and serenity, for warmth and welcome, too.

Then mourning something of himself while passing by a grave,

he clasped the little hand of one he’d left those hills to save.

Together there, old man and boy, in unity, made whole,

began the upward trek to where a mountain meets a soul.

And after lifting up the latch that locked away the gate,

the care-free boy left it ajar, as time was ticking late.

Each ray of sinking sunset left its hue upon that place.

Each dusty tear upon the cheek had cleared the way for Grace.

And then the old man, with his boy, fell peacefully to rest:

the balm applied for broken life, Bright Canaan for the blest.

The Pattern

Silhouettes of trees                                                                                                                                    on tie-dyed sunsets                                                                                                                            always draw me in.

Not that sunsets alone lack allure.                                                                                                            I ponder every one.                                                                                                                                 But there’s something about the limbs, the lines…

I think that’s the way life is;                                                                                                                   the way God is.

The pattern of limbs is a signature,                                                                                                       life traced out upon life,                                                                                                           proceeding from the Source                                                                                                                   and reaching back again.                                                                                                                 Vessels flowing to and from the heart;                                                                                          springs of Earth to oceans                                                                                                                    ever ebbing toward the shore. 

Love flows out in lines like that,                                                                                                     always branching, always seeking;                                                                                                         to the very last cell,                                                                                                                                  the distal-most part,                                                                                                                                the smallest leaf.

Its limb-like coursing                                                                                                                               lets no Love be lost.

One channel, branching to infinity,                                                                                                  leaves no empty space.

From there, it carries something back                                                                                                    in sap and blood and water;                                                                                                         something of itself and more.

Radiance of the sun transformed,                                                                                                      gases of the air exchanged,                                                                                                            elements of the earth transported;                                                                                                 always creating, making life new.

It comes and flows,                                                                                                                          coating conduits in itself                                                                                                                       and in the whole stuff of living;                                                                                                  impurities dissolved in perfect melding.

Spirits soar like this, I feel;                                                                                                                      up through roots and rings,                                                                                                             beneath bark and colored leaves,                                                                                                springing out in shoots of green.

At the next sunsets’ viewing –                                                                                                               find the pattern of trees,                                                                                                                      trace the trail of life,                                                                                                                                sign the signature of Love.