When I Am Most Sick

When I am most sick, she confesses,
My mother’s face swims close
Like a dimly discerned form
On tree bark on which

I trace the tenderness I craved
Drawn by sickness to my window
Witnessing penance in unremitting pain
As in a cloister where whispers seek

Absolution that will never be given
By roots winding, coiling, her fingers
As leaves brushing bark into memory
Locked in a brace of trees.

“Embrace”
(painting by Lee Madgwick used by permission
for dVerse’s Poetics ekphrastic prompt)

Love Ran Through His Island Heart

“Without hope we live on in desire.”
Sanza speme vivemo in disio.

Dante, Inferno, Canto IV, line 42

Love ran through his island heart
From springes freed took flight
Left swallows’ cries of yesteryears
Desire-torn in apple-bright

Bone-white his wings that beat the air
And strain bent low his neck
Wind beat hard his sinews bare
Yet Hope grew clear his sight

Quiet-warmed as kingly deer by brook
Calm shattered shivers of doubt
Drawn unseen through cloud and dark
Dew-quenched his thirsting heart

Love and Hope together sang
He heard their various strain
Not far the wing-breadths that remained
To reach the One he loved.


“That without hope we live on in desire”
The pagan poet found
But pity more each one whose fire
Burns for themselves alone.


Before Canto 4 of the Inferno where the pilgrim Dante is introduced to the virtuous pagans among whom is his guide through Hell, the poet Virgil himself, Dante first crosses the gate of Hell whereon he sees inscribed, “Abandon hope all who enter here” (Canto 3). Here, he sees the first sinners in Hell, a craven company who lived for themselves, filled with envious desires, whom Virgil describes as “the sorry souls of those who lived without infamy or praise. They are mingled with that base band of angels who were neither rebellious nor faithful to God, but stood apart.” Being disengaged from the battle, this endless line of souls have no hope of death’s oblivion, “mercy and justice disdain them. Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass on” (trans. Charles S. Singleton). Virgil won’t even name them for they have reduced reality, reduced the world to a show, a spectacle for their own amusement. These rage and wail as swarms of stinging wasps and flies follow them and worms engorge on their blood. In contrast the virtuous pre-Christian pagans whom Dante meets next in Limbo live in a bucolic garden, their great sadness, desiring yet remaining apart from God.

Continue reading “Love Ran Through His Island Heart”

Dawn Worship

A-lone, a-bed, a need to rise,
arise, remembering, sighing to rise
sight aroused, upraised

dawn-drawn
in fulness of cloud
tears of consummation, gathering

gathering, a communion of praise
for One whose work completed
upgathers to raise me, to rise,

arise, walk in new life.


Luke 5: 18-26 And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he said to the man who was paralyzed–“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.”

And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God.

And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”


To use the word "work" in a quadrille of 44 words is our Labor Day task from Lisa at dVerse. My labor? To look on the work of Christ Jesus upon the Cross for all who believe in Him. 

I wonder where the lost have gone

Dante and Virgil Penetrating the Forest 1824-7 William Blake 1757-1827 (Tate Gallery)

I wonder where the lost have gone
Lost to wonder, lost to touch
When sense is taken, sight is gone
What is found, and what is won.

I wonder if they’re all alone
In the darkness, in the gloom
Or in the sweating ground alone
More is said, and more is done.

Spinning earth no justice takes
For lying tongue or stiff-necked pride;
Warm her microbe-seethed embrace
Of oneness wrought, forgetfulness.

The bodies claimed by coffins lined
Or watery depths or funeral pyres
Souls unearthed new moorings find
As exiled prophets, poets divined.

I wonder where the lost have gone
Apart from mercy, love, and grace
And in their wake what’s left undone
Too late—their choices sealed in stone.


Continue reading “I wonder where the lost have gone”

Light

Unlooked for.
You were unlooked for.
Unhoped for.
You were unhoped for.
Where I was
You were not.
Where You were
I was not.
Sudden. Then.
It was sudden.
Not the shuddering
of wings, not of swan.
Angels watched.
Unwatched for.
What are you looking at?
Put ‘em back, your hallelujahs.
Because I’m a mess.
A blubbering mess.
Mess of sticky goo, sin.
Call it what you will.
It was painful, this birth.
This death. At twenty.
A resurrection in You.
In You. In You. In You.
I can’t get over You.
I can’t get over You.
You know me through and through.
You know me through and through.
You swaddled me
not in a manger.
You fed me at Your breast
Your Holy Spirit milk.
You hid me in Egypt.
You found me at Jacob’s well.
You suffer me a cross to bear
You bore it as well. For me. For me.
You birthed me. You loved me.
It’s not a fluke of biology
this Light as in Damascus.
This Love, this Light, this manger
this cross, this thorny crown
this night, this life over which
this darkness cannot roll.
This Love is Light is mine.


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. … The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:1-5, 9-13

Grace at dVerse asks us to write either in the form of Kwansaba or write a poem of blessing or praise in the style of David Whyte. Click on Mr. Linky and join us for the last meeting of 2021 at the dVerse bar.
Image credit: Photo by Andre Moura from pexels

Sailing into Eternity

“What is all this love for if we have to walk into the dark?” (M.R. James)

This is no country for old women
Scavenging among the shops of younger
Birds feathered-fit for triumphalist high-fives
Impatient of scarecrow’s creaking shoes, masked
Grimace reaching for a tin on a grocer’s shelf.

Pain exacts through sickness and age
Its own price, even as we gingerly kneel
To find the lisolia of those now lost to sight,
Praying hands held aloft, clasping light
In the aftergloom of laughter’s ghosts.

In the heartmoor of these days and nights
Visions appear, and I press forward into the dark
Of words that like crumbs from the children’s table
Fall upon me, as manna, as showers, as stories
Of love that even scarecrows can laugh to tell.


Linda at dVerse asks us to choose one or more words from a list of neologisms to write a poem. Click on Mr. Linky and join in! I've chosen "heartmoor," "aftergloom" and "lisolia," definitions of which are given in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:
Aftergloom: the pang of loneliness you feel the day after an intensely social event, as the glow of voices and laughter fades into a somber quiet.
Heartmoor: the primal longing for a home village to return to, a place that no longer exists, if it ever did.
Lisolia: the satisfaction of things worn down by time, broken in baseball mitts, the shiny snout of a lucky bronze pig, or footprints ground deep into floorboards by generations of kneeling monks.

Last Days

Image credit; Kellepics @ Pixabay

The ghosts
of religion: hipsters,
academics, suburbanites
in confession: by coffins cradling
amen-ing old women
stoned.

And you’re singing
the tomcat blues;
you’re whistling
a lazy cat’s tunes.

And a pigeon
on a sidewalk colored
a tinsel rainbow
says the Captain’s
coming back soon.


Shay/Fireblossom's Word Garden Word List #4 (Laura Nyro)
Mish at dVerse Quadrille #142 ("tinsel", 44 words)
Sadje's What Do You See #112

The Necklace

It was coiled and glowing in a single ray
of light, speaking of treasure maps

and I am there when she gives it to you,
the thin gold filigree weaving delicate

through coral one after another, jostling
into the tender skin of your palm

cupped like a boat that had sailed too far
to be retrieved by a golden hook

that cut into the bark of heart and home
but landed somewhere between reality

and the wound that never heals:
“I’m leaving it with you,” I hear her say

to you. And you look at it like the sum
of all mysteries and said to her, to me,

“Where will you go? Can’t you stay?”
and I said, she said, “It’s no more use to me,

maybe for you,” and you tore the coral off
your neck and your hands bled for a season

and a day, until you drew its poison out
of your body and praised the Light that stayed.


Image credit: Amrita Sher-Gil, "The Little Girl in Blue" (detail; 1934).
Merril at dVerse asks us to "write about a historical artifact…You may write about any object—a family heirloom, a museum piece, a monument, or a palace. The choice is yours, but there must be some link to history and the past. You can write in any form or free verse."

I took a tree for a chapel

Thank you, Bjorn, for your fearless leadership of dVerse and your unflagging encouragement to those of us who gather at the dVerse pub from this most appreciative admirer of your poetry. Here’s to you and the ancient librarian! Cheers!

I took a tree for a chapel
I took a bird for a priest
I ate a heart out of ginger root
Its enflamed sighs my prayers

Out of my back a tree grew one day
Sparrows fluttered in my blind branches
Until feather-gorged down a smooth-skinned maw
One soundlessly disappeared

Out of my ginger-rooted chest
A giant water bug starving crawled
To pierce into liquefaction
A spring peeper, sun-warmed frog.

I dreamt there was no heaven
I dreamt there was no rest

No sunsets that spoke of design
No kindness that spoke the divine

I fancied stardust my homeland
And entropy was my life

In the scheme of all that’s unholy
This is what I wrote

“Everything is fine”

Lillian at dVerse asks us to "write a poem that includes one line and one line only, from the lyrics of ABBA’s Dancing Queen. The line must be word for word." I chose to use the line, "Everything is fine." Click on Mr. Linky and join us!
photo ©dorahak

Break, break the splitting cataracts

Break, break the splitting cataracts
Send skin-sharp torrents to set free
Remold with Spirit-sinew mottled clay
Jarring-fiery Sinai-thunderous
The deep unseen core.

Hide me there upon the Rock
See me a revelry of particulate force
Lifting light, water, earth, and air
Across a timeless mist of song.

You, O God, who overflows my praise
Falling upon sun-spun life baptized
Fathomless One who fathoms me
To dance in the compass of Thy heart
Break, break the splitting cataracts!

Fay Collins, “Full Spate,” Lodore Falls, oil on board

Sarah at dVerse asks us for an ekphrastic poem, "to choose a picture, and let it inspire your words," with the picture being one by artist Fay Collins. Click on Mr. Linky and join in!

Journey (4)

A lone tree
alone tree

parched finger roots on limestone
see:

above the clay
careening

this Rock has a hold on me

as winds, storms buffet free pride
of trunk unbent:

steady in heat of day, laboring:
oh Lord my God, I thank Thee.


Image credit: Splitshire.com
Lillian at dVerse Quadrille (44 words) prompts us with the word "careen"
Click on Mr. Linky to join in!

Apple-spent (A Compound Word Verse)

An inch the moon moved, me eyeing
through sleepless lids I lay dying:
apple-fed.

Dim my sight, breath weakening
death’s poison ever strengthening:
apple-cursed.

Whispered prayers, hurried words of flesh
plead soul’s deliverance afresh:
apple-damned.

Darkness now floods the mind distraught
I would, I could, but I cannot:
apple-bent.

God’s Son whose flesh my guilt impaled
On cross for me o’er death prevailed:
apple-freed.

Photo by Tom Fisk from Pexels
Grace at dVerse challenges us today to write a Compound Word Verse, an unfamiliar form to most ous I daresay. She writes: "The Compound Word Verse is a poetry form invented by Margaret R. Smith that consists of five 3-line stanzas, for a total of 15 lines. The last line of each stanza ends in a compound word and these compound words share a common stem word which is taken from the title. (In the first example below the stem word is “moon” from the title “Moonlighting”; the compound words related to the title are moondust, moonbeams, moonsongs, etc.)

The Compound Word Verse (3 lines) has a set rhyme scheme and meter as follows:

Rhyme Scheme: a,a,b
Syllable/Meter: 8, 8, 3

Click on Mr. Linky to read more and join in!

An (Un)Earthened Riddle

I watched you go,
the empty sleeve of your coat
brushing my cheek long before
the final goodbye

on riddling ground
east of Eden, west of the moon,
where dead roam among the living
as infernal winds sweep through
like furies spitting over our destinies

in the wasteland where visions die
where banshees howl, half-formed men bay
round fires of Cain’s wandering offspring;
yet the eternal revelation, tri-folded,
goes forth to the hungry and the poor in spirit

on ground riddled with the treacherous dust of history,
walking as quickened ones, lilies of the field,
dandelions harboring the unsearchable riches of Christ
showing forth the unassailable purpose of God

as dumb to the world’s riddles, we carry on,
spinning out of bereft arms into shrouds
or across canyons of a diseased mind
losing each other to time’s grasp, till time stops,
and we, with joy unspeakable, walk on new ground.

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com
Ingrid at dVerse's "Poetics: From a place of pain" asks us to "try your hand at writing your way out of a place of pain" which I have done combining fragments of poems from the past. Join us by clicking on Mr. Linky.

Continuum

Salvador Dalí. (Spanish, 1904-1989). The Persistence of Memory. 1931

Five minutes ago
insurance was on the phone
something needed watching
a chore couldn’t be ignored
prescriptions waited in the hallway
voices cluttered up the inbox
the sun was breaking hot
motes star-fished into eyes
death landed on the floor
space folded into halves
you went into your room
the music turned up loud
in the spaces of my heart
where you still pace and pray
the speakers turned up high
distance crumpling in my hand
the clock stretched round a bend
five minutes ago


For dVerse's Open Link Night 293 hosted by Lisa. Click on Mr. Linky and meet us there!

Sandy Foundations: A Zéjel

Grace at dVerse engages us to try a new poetic form: the Zéjel, 
a Spanish form with Arabic influence related to the Qasida 
and adopted by the Spanish troubadours of 15th century. 
The rules for the most common form:
1) 8 syllable lines.
2) stanzaic, opening with a mono-rhymed triplet followed by any number of quatrains.  
3) rhymed, the rhyme of the opening mudanza establishes a linking rhyme with the end line of the succeeding quatrains. Rhyme scheme, aaa bbba ccca etc.
Click on Mr. Linky to read more poems.
Image credit: Roman Odintsov.

Universes and grains of sand
Threading dreams, like daisies, by hand
Unstrung the quicker when more grand.

I sought the visions of a dream
Where suffering ends and life would seem
Heavenly, as every soul would beam
To see wishes fulfilled as planned.

Long I searched by day and by night
Like Eldorado by the knight
The end I sought grew dim not bright
As all my hopes came to a stand.

Now gray and old, I do decry
The day I fell for that old lie:
Apart from God to live and die
And build my towering hopes on sand.

Enter Stage Right: Cicindela

Cicindela sexguttata, also known as the green tiger beetle, Catoctin Mountain Park

It was my walk you were on
hunting caterpillars, spiders and ants:
cicindela sexguttata, tiger beetle
after its prey in a flashy fluorescent kind of way

I stopped, you froze, neither of us camouflaged,
me turmeric topped in white jeans,
you in green metallic sheen
me on all fours to examine you better
you on all sixes to beat it if you had to

I exited stage left, you stayed put, focused,
a cirque du soleil wanderer, stray spotlight hoarder
ready to celebrate with a juicy meal
of tang-colored butterfly puddling nearby

When comic relief: a crow flaps its wings
while you race for your prey but your timing is late,
the butterfly flutters off and I shout off the bird
and you meander onward, a green blaze of disgust.


Join the dVerse poets as we write on "Creepies and Crawlies," for Poetics Tuesday.

Freedom

There she was:
I realized she was me
crouched in the beating room,
hateful she, a thing that cried piteously
ugly she, crying stupidly, screwed up she,
she ugly, she stupid, she dumb, nothing deserving.

Dark, glassy the room:
no color, but a stink of loathing
a stink of putrid fear, foul abhorrence
disgust mirrored through the open door of midnight
huddled waiting for the next well-deserved blow.

The rustling of leaves:
standing many a time at the doorway dreaming
she was never there, the she that was me
this still-born excrescence, but now she, suddenly shielded
with the cloak of pure light of the Ancient One, holy,
whose right cannot be denied, his blood the price for she, for me.

Photo by Masha Raymers on Pexels.com

Romans 7:14-25 (NET)
For we know that the law is spiritual – but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin. For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want – instead, I do what I hate. But if I do what I don’t want, I agree that the law is good. But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me. So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Romans 8:15 (NET)
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.”

2 Corinthians 3: 17-18 (NET)
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

For dVerse: Poetics - Dungeons and Dragons, Sanaa asks that we "play a poetry game called,'Dungeons and Derivatives.' The idea here is to select one (from a list of eight sentences) and to change at least one word or more by replacing it with a derivative. Once you are done, unlock the muse from its dungeon and write a poem with the existing sentence." I chose the line from one of her poems which runs: “The rustling of leaves; I have stood many a time at the doorway of dreaming.” Click on Mr. Linky to read more and join in!

Not Our Will, But Thy Will Be Done

For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light do we see light. (Psalm 36:9)
Not Our Will, But Thy Will Be Done

Silvery strands, hair falls in brush-fulls
one saint’s covering glory thread-bare
every thread-count, hair-count numbered
tears bottled, not nameless
not in a warehouse,
but in the house of the Lord, O En-hakkore,
on Zion’s mount, where nations stream
one day, El-Shaddai, that day
don’t delay, Yahweh, that hour
cry the faithful weeping from hospital beds
prison cells, beside mass graves,
the suffering martyrs, broken families
soldiers and civilians mere fodder for power,
numberless babes murdered in wombs:
hear our prayers, O LORD our God,
for the coming of Thy Son.


For today's dVerse Poetics, Ingrid asks us to "try to complete the poem as far as possible without writing it down. Think about the devices discussed above: regular rhythms, repeated phrases or ‘motifs’, alliteration and rhyme schemes – anything to aid the memory and help the words to flow....Make an audio/video recording of your poem and post it to your blog and/or transcribe your poem, so we can read the finished version." Click on Mr. Linky to join in and read more poems.

In Honor of Daniil Kharms

“Today I wrote nothing”

on Twitter

as people fell out of Windows

on Amazon’s Prime Day sale

like cats and dogs

and me heart-less

in the cell on Facebook

padlocked

when the famine came

and the rations ran out

and the rats came in.


Writer Daniil Kharms (1905-1942) is one of Russia’s great absurdists, his black humor seemingly politically opaque, but troublesome enough to alert Soviet authorities who threw him in prison where he died forgotten by his jailers.

Join us a dVerse where we are writing a quadrille (44 words exactly) using the word "heart." Click Mr. Linky to read more.

Knife-walkers

Girl with Balloon or There is Always Hope, original mural by graffiti artist Banksy (2002) on Waterloo Bridge in London’s South Bank; photo Dominic Robinson, 2004

writers are knife-walkers
we walk to make the final cut
where the blade
ruptures the heart

surgical artists dissecting ourselves
in the Circus Maximus
for the amusement of the gods
in their curtained prosceniums

they, eviscerating each other,
we rip ourselves up to see the truth
in fictional lives stitched up later
as scarred tissues of lies

only to find we’re not hopelessly alone
that our arteries flow into one another
through artful bridges of aqueducts
leading one to another’s aortas

in ancient tides and ocean swells,
each as wombs incubating embryonic
lives of who we are meant to be
where the bone meets the marrow.

Today Tricia Sankey guest hosts at dVerse Poetics, and she challenge us with writing about risk. Inspired by Tricia's own poem, well, writing poetry is a risk for me, but as I tried to say, one well worth taking when it's done in community like the poets at dVerse. Thanks to one and all.