There’s a Glory

There’s a glory in the struggle,
There’s a triumph in the toil,
There’s a blessing in the trouble,
There’s a treasure in the spoil.
There’s an angel in the darkness.
There’s a devil in the dawn.
There’s a deep peace like a river.
There’s a song when hope is gone.
There’s a Face that says, “Forgiven.”
There’s a Person in the pain.
There’s a Hand stretched out from Heaven.
There’s a Heart that knows your name.


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Hope is alive and deserves to be named
only inasmuch as it can find what some
might call the guts to take in hand those 
faces its mob self would spit on or slap
or ridicule or judge and instead listen to
the soul of its lonely self and be the only
one in the crowd to hold them ’til there’s
no more hurt or hate or fear or crying as
the callous clique walks one by one away.


On the Way to Work

“What part of ‘Thou shalt not’ do you not understand?”
J., who was deaf and hadn’t been taught to read 
but who had eyes as keen as a red-tailed hawk’s
looked up at that writing on the church marquis
and only understood the contrast of meaningless
black letters on the white background and how
that made him want to paint a warm yellow sun
behind the first few words and blue-green wings
on the last few so he could fly away to the only One
who he felt had ever loved him whose picture hanging
in the little corner church looked like the One who came
and held him at night when angry words from faces
that contrasted terribly against the dimly lit air of his
bedroom hurled their way into his heart because of
something he did or didn’t do and he thought about
again when he looked up at that white church sign
with black letters and it made him want to paint
bright colors to bring the two together somehow
and join him with the kind One in the sky who said
in a language only J. could understand “Thou shalt be J.”
and “Thou shalt be good” and “Thou shalt be loved”
and “Thou shalt not be afraid.”


Oak Affinity

On one level, I understand my affinity for white oaks.
Dad loved them, and we used to talk about that. The texture
and hue of their leaves, their steely bark, ancient angles
of their limbs, the swath of their colors – russet, gray,
old-world green, textured black at twilight – their affinity
for each other, growing with their kin high above hollows
on hillsides and ridges. The deep peace of their shade.
Their loam-scented skirts studded with acorns hidden in
the wrinkles of their roots. At times, among them, the sap
of me seems to channel from some source below, rising
through root and trunk and branch to be launched toward
Heaven in a leaf, falling to the sheltered path as one who’s
seen the light, yet comes back for a scripted death. Some-
where inside I knew this affinity was more than could be
explained, and bowed my head to the riddle. Then I saw it.
In the cemetery of the old family church. I’d been there many
times and never had noticed the lone grave on a hillside
sloping down and away from other markers gathered in
familial groups, most decked with plastic florals or the rare
live potted plant. Set off by itself among the roots and shaded
by the largest white oak tree on the place, its small flat head-
stone partly buried in sand and clay, was the lonely grave of
my great-grandfather. Why here? Why away? What were the
missing words of that narrative? Then, while standing in the
speckled sunlit shadows of the father oak, I began to write them.
“The tree had been his confidant, a childhood’s cherished friend.
It’s limbs had written down the dreams he’d whispered to the wind.
And when the one who’d held his heart slipped silently away,
he’d stood among its roots and shade, with nothing left to say,
but on that very spot he firmly made his solemn vows
that in this ground would be his rest, beneath these ancient boughs.”
Hearts live on in other hearts. Do you believe? Could the
channel for one to another be the roots and trunk and limbs
and leaves and shade of a white oak tree? Now when I walk
among their groves and groupings and put to silence the chatter
of doubts and disbelief and all illusions of ever being alone in
the forest of this or any world, I stop and stand long enough
to take root in the land and listen awhile for an old man’s voice
before leaving with an acorn and a leaf and a sprouting soul.



Have you ever considered what happens
in spaces between breaths? Molecular
moments beyond exhalation, when the 
essential exchange of gases needed
for the maintenance of life has occurred?
Think about it. That second or two is
like life; our duration juxtaposes
one first gasp and the final out-letting.
Let’s embrace it. Between, we are breathless.


Something of Home

I carry something of home into each new year.

Into encounters with sick folk, seekers.

Loners sizing up shame from across the room.

Learners getting acquainted with the language.

Helpers suffering strong in their strength.

Old people looking for a lost child’s face.


I remember how it felt to be mute;

life like a lump stuck in my throat.

Crying on the pages of an untold story.

Wanting to come home, but afraid.

Afraid to listen to silence I had never heard.


I came back with empty bags, open hands,

and a heart soaking in serenity.

Door unlatched. Table set. Gathered good.

Saints and singers. Mercy menders.

Tutors of the languages of Love.

They’d been reading a book titled my secret name.


So I sat and learned to listen.

Quietly. Safely. At home.

My bag filled with new tools and tokens.


Now in every New Year

I can bring something of home to every house call.

Lester Potts 50

“Rainbow Smokehouse,” watercolor art by Lester E. Potts, Jr., and artist who had Alzheimer’s


Reflections at the Close of 2017

This Old Year
on the one hand I am grateful
for all who have shown kindness to me
and to the people and causes that I value.
On the other hand I am remorseful
for all the occasions when I have failed
to show kindness to people and good causes
and thereby briefly became a non-participant
in the divinely directed movement
toward universal reconciliation
along the blueprint
of Love.

This New Year
I promise to join one hand
and the other hand together
mustering the courage to stand
squarely in the intervening paradox
with honesty and discernment
and patience and compassion
and humility and gratitude
and faith and authenticity
and mercy and wonder
along the blueprint
of forgiveness.