I walked this life – lonely –

I walked this life – lonely –
Aware of shame – only –
Chiding Your apathy – to me –
I saw myself – painfully – alone.

In Your light I see – suddenly –
Always You are – with me –
Walking me home – lonely –
Never having left me – painfully – alone.


Psalm 35:4-9 (NIV): Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

image credit: yoksei @ unsplash

Continue reading “I walked this life – lonely –”

I had two grannies

I had two grannies
(Not everyone does, you know).
One tall and spindly like a soothsayer’s runes
And another short and dwarfish like a hoarder of rubies.

If they could have peeled the flesh off me
They would have when I was four
And grafted their skin on me with their
Surgery knives of fleshy steel called tongues.

I remember them: their eyes, and now I wish
— I wish I didn’t.
Except in those messy fairy tales where
Witches get pushed into ovens
And children find their own way home.

But they don’t.


Just as an addendum: I never saw my grandmothers again after the age of six when we moved and they died at a much later date. My dim memories of them are few.

For dVerse's "Grandmothers ..."

A Walk With You

When I walk down the street with you
it seems an avenue for the parvenu
who glitter and mime like bees round a cru
flush with cash, flush with dash, flush with boppity-boo.

I lean in, you lean out, you lean in, I lean out,
a flamenco we do, even a samba no doubt
while the white picket fences they shimmer and shout
“Oh look who! Oh look who!” like old aunties with gout.

And I’m so gorgeous and you’re larger than life
and if you’re honest, you’ll make me your wife;
but this world is so public and with catastrophes rife
its cerulean sky could change into a razor-sharp knife.

Would you stay with me, forever and a day
when the zinnias of summer turn a wintry gray?
When we walk beneath cottonwoods, will you turn and say,
“I’m glad you and I chose to go another way”?
Photo by Adam Bird

Continue reading “A Walk With You”

Christian Contentment

When, in a word, I write my
Contentment as a city
Founded by His Spirit
Whose boast is the cross

Whose streets are the Lord’s
Whose enterprises are the Lord’s
Whose possessions are the Lord’s
Whose provisions are the Lord’s

A city in which all is quieted in the Lord
All concerns are submitted to the Lord
All desires are centered in the Lord
All hopes are in the faithfulness of the Lord
All joy is found in the love of the Lord
All trust abounds in the goodness of the Lord

Then my soul glories in God my Savior alone
As enemies rail futilely against its walls
Fail to supplant the reign of the Lord
Every extremity under His sovereign control
Every lack a gain in grace upon grace
Every worry cast aside for the security of His promises
Every treasure in heaven stored from moth and rust and thieves

Then I am free to be satisfied in the Lord
Free to be satisfied with myself
Free to be part of the mystery
That is, Christ in me, the hope of glory.

Dreams from a Pilgrimage

photo prompt © Fleur Lind

word count: 100
genre: poetry

Dreams from a Pilgrimage

It’s just this way, she agonized, and
I won’t end where I’ve begun.
It’s the dream I’m waking up to.

I wonder, he antagonized, what if
today becomes your cannibal past tomorrow,
feeding on today’s life, keeping itself alive,
demanding its pound of flesh?

She knew his aim.
It was to lead her in circles,
to origins, not beginnings.

But each cross-road meant progress,
a royal one, or common as a pilgrim
on a well-worn track, peculiar as a dream

singular as a vision, a glaring blaze
of glory, immense as a grain of sand
sparkling in the New Jerusalem.


A three-prompt medley is the tune I'm playing off with Rochelle's Friday Fictioneers photo prompt & 100-word challenge, dVerse's Poetics: Visionary Poetry, and GirlieOnEdge Six Sentence Story ("lead"). Join us!

The Sphinx and American Ivy

A little fun combining three prompts: from dverse where I chose to use all the podcast titles to compose a poem (Articles of Interest: American Ivy, I Was Never There, Legacy of Speed, Not Lost, Pivot, Reveal: After Ayotzinapa, Rumble Strip, Serial, This American Life, Ghost in the Burbs); Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers (100 words or less using the photo prompt below); and GirlieonEdge’s Six Sentence Story (prompt word: VISA). Does the story poem succeed? Well, you be the judge!

photo prompt © Roger Bultot

The Sphinx and American Ivy

It isn’t fair, it isn’t fair, it isn’t fair: just some
articles of interest, American Ivy shouts.

The Sphinx runs behind Reveal (after Ayotzinapa,
he was never the same), columnar legs
standing astride this American life with a VISA card.

Playing the ghost in the burbs? American Ivy
taunts, the riddle and its answer are one!

I wasn’t there, Sphinx replies
(she’s a serial liar).

American Ivy laughs: Life isn’t fair, but here’s
the rumble strip to your legacy of speed:

neither’s love, the riddle YOU can’t solve.
Sphinx pivots: All’s not lost? and

Ivy laughs, says, Love conquers all.


The Curse

Unmasked by Michael Whelan (Pastels and Watercolor on an Acrylic Splash on Pastel Paper), 2011

It was the panther
she reached for.

My mother gave it to her.

Before she took her first breath
it bit her

in her cradle, in besotted arms,
no protection afforded (VISA’s terms
of use) from shadowed purity
from fatal slumber.

It took her a way
and then away.

The way back was a narrow gate,
blood of the Immortal in the mortal
through whom she found her freedom.

Doing cartwheels
on a blade, she lives,
a trust unbroken,
bless that day.

Passage: Verge, Michael Whelan (acrylic on canvas), 1989

Continue reading “The Curse”

Prayer for the New Year

Length of days does not profit me

Except the days are passed in Thy presence, in Thy service to Thy glory.

Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains

    Sanctifies, aids every hour,

That I might not be one moment apart from Thee, 

But may rely on thy Spirit

To supply every thought,

    Speak every word,

    Direct every step,

    Prosper every work,

    Build up every mote of faith,

And give me a desire

To show forth Thy praise,

    Testify Thy love,

    Advance Thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,

    With Thee, O Father, as my harbour,

    Thee O Son, at my helm,

    Thee O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,

    My lamp burning,

    My ear open to thy calls, 

    My heart full of love, my soul free.

Give me Thy grace to sanctify me,

    Thy comforts to cheer me,

    Thy wisdom to teach,

    Thy right hand to guide,

    Thy counsel to instruct,

    Thy law to judge,

Thy presence to stabilize.

May Thy fear* be my awe,

    Thy triumphs my joy.

From Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

* “fear” was used in this era of the 16th-17th century to mean “awesome respect” for God’s person, power and majesty.

For and By: Christina on New Year’s Eve

“It was a stark surprise of loss,”
she wrote, and then she stopped,
her hand stilled on the backlit keys
her eyes glued to the screen

where suddenly the lines misted,
metamorphosed in rain,
the world becoming watery,
a deluge full of pain.

She wiped her cheeks, she rose, she paced,
she spun about the room,
though memories of a dream-like shore
outran her pleas for peace.

Into her words she’d poured her heart,
into the poems she wrote
but from them she no longer found
the comfort that she sought.

None came but one, a fiery flare
that lit the distant sky
as if it came in search of her,
a foundling lost to claim.

“What joy is this, what Guest on high
has chosen this black night,
to show His love, to set alight
my dark and stormy heart?”

She cried, and in her joy she found
a new theme to set down
by psalm-borne winds she softly sang
of things divine, unseen.

Christina Rossetti, painting by John Brett, 1857 (Oil on canvas
Private Collection)

Old and New Year Ditties by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

1.

New Year met me somewhat sad:
Old Year leaves me tired,
Stripped of favourite things I had,
Baulked of much desired:
Yet farther on my road today
God willing, farther on my way.

New Year coming on apace
What have you to give me?
Bring you scathe, or bring you grace,
Face me with an honest face;
You shall not deceive me:
Be it good or ill, be it what you will,
It needs shall help me on my road,
My rugged way to heaven, please God.

2.

Watch with me, men, women, and children dear,
You whom I love, for whom I hope and fear,
Watch with me this last vigil of the year.
Some hug their business, some their pleasure scheme;
Some seize the vacant hour to sleep or dream;
Heart locked in heart some kneel and watch apart.

Watch with me, blessed spirits, who delight
All thro’ the holy night to walk in white,
Or take your ease after the long-drawn fight.
I know not if they watch with me: I know
They count this eve of resurrection slow,
And cry, “How long?” with urgent utterance strong.

Watch with me, Jesus, in my loneliness:
Tho’ others say me nay, yet say Thou yes;
Tho’ others pass me by, stop Thou to bless.
Yea, Thou dost stop with me this vigil night;
Tonight of pain, tomorrow of delight:
I, Love, am Thine; Thou, Lord my God, art mine.

3.

Passing away, saith the World, passing away:
Chances, beauty and youth sapped day by day:
Thy life never continueth in one stay.
Is the eye waxen dim, is the dark hair changing to grey
That hath won neither laurel nor bay?
I shall clothe myself in Spring and bud in May:
Thou, root-stricken, shalt not rebuild thy decay
On my bosom for aye.
Then I answered: Yea.

Passing away, saith my Soul, passing away:
With its burden of fear and hope, of labour and play;
Hearken what the past doth witness and say:
Rust in thy gold, a moth is in thine array,
A canker is in thy bud, thy leaf must decay.
At midnight, at cockcrow, at morning, one certain day
Lo the bridegroom shall come and shall not delay:
Watch thou and pray.
Then I answered: Yea.

Passing away, saith my God, passing away:
Winter passeth after the long delay:
New grapes on the vine, new figs on the tender spray,
Turtle calleth turtle in Heaven’s May.
Tho’ I tarry, wait for Me, trust Me, watch and pray.
Arise, come away, night is past and lo it is day,
My love, My sister, My spouse, thou shalt hear Me say.
Then I answered: Yea.

This poem was originally published in Goblin Market and Other Poems (Macmillan, 1862) and appears in The Complete Poems by Christina Rossetti (Penguin, 2001). It is in the public domain.

I wrote the top poem in honor of Christina Rossetti whose poetry stirs readers and poets alike with their psalm-like appeal, as “Old and New Year Ditties,” on the cusp of a new year. Join us at Denise’s Six Sentence Story (using prompt word “surprise”). To my blog visitors, have a Happy New Year, one full of love and peace.

The Bell-ringer

A short story of 100 words (for Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers using photo prompt) and in six sentences (for GirlieonEdge’s Six Sentence Story, “knot”).

photo prompt © Dale Rogerson

The Bell-ringer

Remember the bell-ringer, Sundar!
Mummy, just now I’m trying to find . . . !

There once was a bell-ringer whose job it was to . . .
ring the bell at dawn announcing Christmas.

He was born without . . .
no, born with a heart of gold that shone . . .
and stomach in knots he’d walk remembering Christ Jesus,
all alone, in the dark town
past sleeping people.

Look up, Sundar, you’re almost there and . . .
I can see you, Mummy, I can see you!

———
NEWS ALERT: Elderly man found dead in church bell-tower.

Giovanni Segantini – The Bell Ringer, 1879-80. Image via Arthur Digital Museum.
Continue reading “The Bell-ringer”

In Sheer Joy

Ice Dawn by William Hays (Colour Linocut, 2010)

O LORD, sheer joy with you,
Israel, in exile Homeward bound
From among a people of strange tongue
Gone forth in sheer joy

Shouting Hallelujah!
Out of Egypt have I gone forth with you,
True and Faithful by name
In sheer Joy!

How heavy the moment
Is with eternity, Lord Jesus,
Yet each flows after the other
Like water escaping
The hand that captures
The eyes that see
The thoughts that would knot
Them into a jeweled chain
To be adorned not as memory
But as presence

Cradled birth, my life in your hands:
Tenderly kept as shepherd with lamb
Hurrying at angelic proclamations of peace
Heavens ringing hallelujahs
Your delight brooding over the waters
Breaking over this new life, moments Spirit-born

When come the magi bearing each —
On a camel fresh out of the box
Of ornaments and sweet scents
Frankincense and myrrh unpacked —
Mystery like knots unraveling sheer

Joy, O Lord! You give each new
Moment flowing rapidly bringing you
Nearer, sheer joy as I await the
Long-awaited coming in sheer joy!

Advent Cry (based on Psalm 18)

I wept and You heard me
I cried out and You helped me
I knew no rest, only loss; to You
O LORD, I stretched my hands:

“I have no words
No pleas to offer
The wind is strong
My breath is gone

There is the desert
Where there’s no succor
Here is the sea
Where I will drown

Unless You come
To deliver
The world will take
The life you own.”

So I cried and in love You answered
You came down from Heaven’s splendor
Down, down, down as it was written,
Born of virgin, clothed in flesh.

From cords of death You unbound me
Shedding Your blood to release me
Nailed to a cross my guilt You bore for me
From the grave rising my life You saved.

Now I stand on solid ground
Upon the Rock You set me on
All the darkness flees before me
As with Your light I abound.

Like a deer upon Your holy mountain
New heights of glory I can see
Though rising waters still pursue me
Lord, my eyes are set on Thee.

Come, then, Jesus, as once before
You came Your children to deliver
Now return and never leave us
On that Day when all floods cease.


image credit: Gersom Clark

The Prisoner

[A Short Story]

“When’d he stop talking?” asks the new inmate, staring at the gargantuan man working his mouth on a wad of gum and carting the cell block’s laundry, a mountain of a man encased in glacier-like silence.

“Hasn’t opened his mouth from when they brung him in back in ‘73,” Sully answers, shaking his head, “but he sure as heck works that jaw of his on that gum, never without it, like he’s gotta be chewing on something or somebody he’s got it in for.”

“They got him locked up like a vault, I heard ‘em say, murdered too many for comfort ….”

“More like spliced,” Sully interrupts softly, “cutting up their body parts, reworking ‘em into something unnatural so as you wouldn’t know what they were made to be in the first place.”

“But the cat got his tongue?!”

They laugh, until suddenly he turns to face them, and in the chilling clarity of revelation, they look away, stiff with terror, speechless.


The power of language is no small thing in Dante’s writings. Language is a gift of God, a blessing unique to man. When abused it becomes a curse, as with the Tower of Babel when in his pride man misused his speech to defy rather than honor God. In The Divine Comedy Nimrod and his fellow giants of that time are condemned in Hell to not only chains but to speak gibberish, incomprehensible even to themselves. I’ve mentioned in other posts how honey-tongued Ulysses speaks with Dante, as do many others in the Inferno, showing by their speech alone the manner of their thought while on earth. Both the ambiguity and precision of rhetoric as art is on display here.

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, The Tower of Babel (1563), oil on panel,

Yet there are times when language gives way, as when in Canto 32, Dante is met with the sight of the lowest circle of hell where there is no burning fire, only cold, hard ice.

Had I the crude and scrannel rhymes to suit
the melancholy hole upon which all
the other circling crags converge and rest,

the juice of my conception would be pressed
more fully; but because I feel their lack,
I bring myself to speak, yet speak in fear;

for it is not a task to take in jest,
to show the base of all the universe-
nor for a tongue that cries out, “mama,” “papa.”

Inferno, Canto 32, ll. 1-9, tr. Mandelbaum

The language that utters familiar words of love falls short of this landscape, a vast frozen lake, at the center of which stands Satan, each of his three heads (in an unholy parody of the Trinity) chewing on a traitor, Judas, Casius, and Brutus. The only sounds are the cries of the treacherous who are damned here, planted variously about in the ice.

Twice in his Commedia Dante experiences the utter failure of language to convey the sublime: first, the horror of this frozen landscape with Satan at its center, and then in Paradiso when he receives the beatific vision.

What he sees in the icy core of hell makes him cry out,

O reader, do not ask of me how I
grew faint and frozen then-I cannot write it:
all words would fall far short of what it was.

I did not die, and I was not alive;
think for yourself, if you have any wit,
what I became, deprived of life and death.

The emperor of the despondent kingdom
so towered from the ice, up from midchest,
that I match better with a giant’s breadth

than giants match the measure of his arms;
now you can gauge the size of all of him
if it is in proportion to such parts.

If he was once as handsome as he now
is ugly and, despite that, raised his brows
against his Maker, one can understand

how every sorrow has its source in him!

Inferno, Canto 34, ll. 22-37, tr. Mandelbaum
Illustration by Gustave Doré

Unlike Milton’s Satan, Dante’s Satan is silent, dumb with fury, powerful but imprisoned and, worst of all from his perspective, a means of the pilgrim’s ascent, as following his guide Virgil, Dante makes use of Satan’s hairy legs as the only way to climb downward in order to re-emerge upwards in the opposite hemisphere and into the light of the stars above once more.


See Denise's Six Sentence Story Prompt for more stories using the word "vault" or click here.

Snowballs in the Snow

Love:

let me be
your candy
sweet fantasy

of reindeer snow
of red-nosed glow
from snowball throw

aimed happy crazy
on mouth soft and saucy
and your eyes that melt me

gleam a Southern summertime
of delicious crime
as time spins on a dime.


A recipe for Peanut Butter Snowballs (pictured above) is here. Of course the earliest reference to peanut butter can be traced back to the Aztecs who would not have been acquainted with snow. Written for dVerse’s Quadrille (44 words, “candy”).

Gaudete: Rejoice!

Jyoti Sahi (1944–), Holding the Flame of Fire, 2005. Kolkata, India.

Being found by You, I find everything:
the sky a brighter blue, the leaves a happier hue
of glistening green, the river’s melodious

sounds rising high and low, bandying mountain notes
to valley tunes, and sun-washed strands of ocean
shores joining moon-drawn tides of marshalled harmony.

Being known by You, I know everything:
Love stronger than Death, darkness overcome by Light,
Peace past understanding, Hope unbounded, Joy unspeakable,

Faith that Hell’s gates will assail in prayer, Strength of soul,
Patience through trials, Your Life eternal flowing
through me, Your Blood that washed every stain of sin.

Being loved by You, no other love compares:
not love of man or woman or child; not the charms of all
the world’s delights, not health nor fortune, not lands

nor houses, neither knowledge of every secret
on earth or above it, nor wisdom to confound
and bring to their knees every earthly might and power.

There’s nothing on earth for me if not for You:
there’s nothing in heaven if You be not there:
Mary’s little baby boy would be just another child

if he had not been You come down to earth, taking
on our flesh, suffering on earth the plight that is ours,
to give to us, Your children, by faith the glory that is Yours.

Maranatha.


The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday.

Gaudete, 16th Century Christmas Carol (wikipedia)

From Black Ship to Ferry and Never Home Again

[A Short Story]

I unravel from my winding sheet for that is what it is, this flesh which harbors my soul in the same way my soul embraced the flesh in its wanderings like Ulysses aboard his black ships.

As I do, I spy my body at a slowly retreating distance, see its supine figure like a sculpture by Rodin, no, strike that, more like a painting by Caravaggio, the one of Paul struck down on his way to Damascus, every strained muscle in his body and lineament of his face expressing brute confrontation with Truth.

Yes, I capitalized it, or Him, Truth, a living Being, the source and embodiment of the absolute by virtue of His aseity and omnipotence, against whom I thought I could compete with my own truth, small case, t-r-u-t-h, to my own demise when I took up arms against any who would tell me not to heed the siren’s call, or the call of that master rhetorician Ulysses, alive in every age, in every town, in every social circle, school, temple or townhall, the sly, polished poet, a borrower or thief with pockets full of gold who says, “Let’s see what’s out there, so much to see, so much to experience, and oh, the things we’ll learn as we range unanchored to any known shore, pushing that thin envelope of body and spirit to the limit!”

He offered what we all yearn for, knowledge of the world, a wisdom that ordinary people (how we despise them!) in their ordinary little lives could never hope to find, when there’s a world of pure epicurean adventure led by your captain, my captain, let’s call him Ulysses.

I was twenty-nine, hardly naïve, yet naïve as a voter with a politician spinning promises, and so I left my home and went with him, my Ulysses, as ready as he with wit to parley at every Areopagus, eager to hear or spin every newfangled tale ever told, see every exotic sight to behold, by plane, by train, oh, the places to go, to experience every esoteric fad and sensation, and everywhere the dawn rose to the rooster’s call of Carpe diem and the night fell on the cries to transgress, transgress, every boundary, every limit, until my soul gave way from its moorings at the realization that I had gained nothing but lost everything.

Soon I’ll leave for Charon’s Ferry and I wish now – too late — for just one more voyage: a voyage I’ll never know.


Denise's Six Sentence Story Word Prompt is "range" so naturally my thoughts flew to that free-ranging (anti-)hero Ulysses and his place in Canto 26 of Dante's Inferno, Commedia. 

Canto 26 is one of my favorite cantos in the Inferno, so much being said here by Dante, revealing how much he too is tempted by the same passion as Ulysses whose supple philosophical genius and rhetorical skills are used to deceive the Trojans and ultimately lead to the doom of his own men as he leaves Ithaca, his home. They sail beyond the gates of Hercules where he and his men spy Mount Purgatory before “a whirlwind rose and hammered” at their ships sending them plunging beneath the ocean waves.

Continue reading “From Black Ship to Ferry and Never Home Again”

An Absent Parent on Advent Sunday

She’ll be singing, “Lo,
How a Rose E’er Blooming”
But I won’t hear it
Her voice so dulcet
Her face pink, all aglow.

To God she’ll give the glory
As her heart attuned soaring
Sings out its praise
Sad hearts to raise
To Him our Savior and our joy.

Somehow I’ll know, my spirit sense
The words when she is singing
Rejoicing knowing
In Christ she’s growing
And that makes all the difference.

Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith– to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Romans 16:25-27 [NIV]

Galo Ocampo (Filipino, 1913–1985), Nativity, late 1930s.
Oil on canvas. UST Museum, Manila, Philippines.

Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
(15th c. German, trans. Theodore Baker)

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming
As men of old have sung.
It came, a flower bright,
Amid the cold of winter
When half-gone was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind:
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright
She bore to men a Savior
When half-gone was the night.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere.
True man, yet very God,
From sin and death He saves us
And lightens every load.

Continue reading “An Absent Parent on Advent Sunday”