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 –”

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!

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”

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)

This Long November Day

This long November day
unravels, filaments of self
unthreaded spin in disarray
seek a coalescing glance
from Thee, my soul’s desire.

This long November night
defeats, malingers yesterdays
that moon in shallow doorways
guilt-shadowed, hammering refrains
that only Thy voice can silence.

Hasten to send Thou, Oh Lord, Thy Word,
Thy Light by day, by night, my sight
unblind, my thought overspread, unroll
yard by yard Thy seeded spring
in frozen heart by Thy Spirit’s warmth.

And then shall November night become
as day, November day as night unfurled
in Thy blanketing love, and like a traveler
who spies a bridge o’er torrents harsh, I’ll race
to cross encircling time, and so abide in Thee.

Dante’s Prayer

I hear the call, Eternal, sound in my heart and in the stars.
Is it timeless or infinity itself? Is its Voice a song?
I do not question, so much yet to understand and I am not able.

I only respond in gratitude, though one-legged in faith still hobbling,
letting go finger by finger my pride,
and taking up, hand after hand, my cross of self-denial.

For this Eternal is Love.


By Purgatorio, Canto 11 of the Commedia, Dante the pilgrim has exited Hell and entered purgatory by permission of the angel at the gate who uses two keys, one silver (remorse) and one gold (reconciliation). As he and his guide, the poet Virgil, enter they are warned not to look back at any point in the journey up through the terraces of purgatory to the Garden of Eden. In Purgatorio, Canto 10, Dante had seen examples of humility. Now on the first and lowest terrace he sees souls of the proud bent over by large stones they carry on their backs, due penance for their sin of Pride, of which there are three kinds: pride of family, pride of art, and pride of power.

Federigo da Montefeltro, Divina Commedia, ca. 1478.
Purgatorio, Canto XI: The Prideful. – Source

Purgatorio is filled with the prayers of souls as they ascend the terraces. And Canto 11 opens with the only complete prayer which is really an expanded version or gloss of The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6: 9-13; Luke 11: 2-4).

“Our Father, You who dwell within the heavens

but are not circumscribed by them out of

Your greater love for Your first works above,


Praised be Your name and Your omnipotence,

by every creature, just as it is seemly

to offer thanks to Your sweet effluence.


Your kingdom’s peace come unto us, for if

it does not come, then though we summon all

our force, we cannot reach it of our selves.


Just as Your angels, as they sing Hosanna,

offer their wills to You as sacrifice,

so may men offer up their wills to You.


Give unto us this day the daily manna

without which he who labors most to move

ahead through this harsh wilderness falls back.


Even as we forgive all who have done

us injury, may You, benevolent,

forgive, and do not judge us by our worth.


Try not our strength, so easily subdued,

against the ancient foe, but set it free

from him who goads it to perversity.”

Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, Canto X1, lines 1-21, transl. Alan Mandelbaum
Gustave Doré, Dante Alighieri’s Commedia, The Beatific Vision (1880)

The Commedia ends with Paradiso where Dante receives the beatific vision: “The Love that moves the other stars” (l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle). As Giuseppe Mazzotta notes, Inferno and Purgatorio also end with stelle. “So when Dante says that love moves the sun and other stars, what he’s really doing is placing himself immediately right back on earth, back at the beginning of his quest. He’s here with us looking up at the stars.”

Continue reading “Dante’s Prayer”

Tree by Night

photo ©dorahak

Tree by Night

Under cover of his darkness, I walk. And night walks with me.

As a child, I mistrusted him, hiding under the crisp linen covers, fearing transmogrification of dust bunnies under beds.

Much later, worries, imprisoned by the day’s demands, would spring free and trouble me to insomniac madness with night’s seeming acquiescence.

Now my life closes in on its last chapter. But I’ve learned night’s secrets. His is not the darkness of despair or torment, the deceit of his doppelganger. His the sweet nourishing knowledge of his Maker, the sustainer of souls looking to Him in childlike trust.

Lying on my bed, I look up in the street of sky. Night walks scattering poems of a Love more powerful than the stars that light the avenues of time and space.

Tree leaves shiver under streetlights. A thousand golden poems sing me to sleep.

Hallelujah.


Psalm 19:1-4 (NIV)
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.


Continue reading “Tree by Night”

Autumn Revelry

images © dorahak

So I took a trip down Jack O’Lantern Lane
Where skeletons and ghosts were raising Cain
The crows they cawed
The mockingbirds squawked
And the treetops flared like a fire engine.

So I ran back home to ink an angry complaint
Against shuffling monsters that make one faint
But I tripped over boxes
Left by masquerade foxes
And I cursed like the dickens cuz a saint I ain’t.

So then I opened my eyes, took in the wide blue skies
And I laughed at the beauty that around me lies
The anthem of the trees
As they sang in the breeze
And I thanked the Lord with my heartfelt sighs.

As if by magic my anger disappeared and the doorbell rang
And I rose from my chair with a clatter and a bang
See, I had my nutty nurse costume on
A green glowing needle and a wig of blonde
I was going trick or treatin’ with my neighborhood gang.


Continue reading “Autumn Revelry”

This Woman

Glow of Hope,” Sawlaram Haldankar (1946), watercolor

She slow walks the hope
that others tango away,
with that fermented sway
she blends like warm cashmere,
sari fragrant in folds full
to embrace high-strung husband
or the frightened chit at full-speed
running into a silken bungalow,
avatar of lighthouse flashing
“no amount of grave concern
not handled here,” and behold,
juggernauts vanish beneath her feet
of frangipani, ethereal gold.


Continue reading “This Woman”

The Structure of Things

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Feeling a little ambitious today with three prompts for the price of one: Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneer’s photo prompt (100-word story), Sammi’s 13 Days of Samhain (“The Cheek of the Devil”) and Thursday’s Six Sentence Story (“Structure”). Enjoy!

Word/Sentence Count: 100 words/6 sentences; Genre: Fiction

The Structure of Things

“Mom, that lady was rude and you just let her walk without telling her off!!”

Ruth considers her outraged child.

She picks up the broken glass structure at her feet, says quietly, “I’ve always taught you to turn the other cheek, haven’t I? Someone’s got to be the first to take the hate, stop it from spreading, and I can, because Christ gives me that power.”

“But Mom, if you keep turning the other cheek, it just keeps getting bloodied!”

“Like our Master’s on the cross, and whose cheek would you rather have, Christ’s or the cheek of the Devil?”


Matthew 5:38-45:
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good,
and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Cold Fusion

The stairway is not
the woman
nor the stairway
the bird

The bird sees the woman
but the woman does not see
the light

The light descends
over the flight of the blackbird
over the black form of
the woman

The woman is not resting
nor sleeping nor dreaming
curled weary on
the limestone

The limestone does not know
the hardness of
each step

Each step
is blind to
the descent and
the ascent

The ascent is known
only by the light
and the bird
and the woman

singing
singing
singing


Photograph by Gregory Colbert shared by Carrie Burtt for her Sunday Muse #229 ekphrastic prompt. (Thank you, Carrie.) Click here to join in.

Expectant Hope

Photo by Fiona Murray on Unsplash

She was still swaying as the last honey-laden tunes
Of sweet summer faded away like fragile baby’s breath—
Her eyes were closed, a shawl lightly over shoulders
Under the net of stars that had become a shroud
As one by one they died silent into the pale light
Of a clouded dawn, and all the guests had gone
In a whispered goodbye, like the twinkle in his eye.

But the womb still has its memory as does the heart—
Heart over heart, head over head, eight months bodied
Though autumn breezes steal him away like a changeling,
Like a changeling into winter’s overcoat to fleeting summer’s loss—
I will not speak of spring, she said, breathing gusts of prayer
Aware at last of the chillness in the air, but of tombs, oh LORD, empty
Oh, my God, in that long-expectant day, birthing him to eternity, holy.


1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (NIV)
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

Continue reading “Expectant Hope”

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."

What Child Is This? (A Haibun)

Aristotle wrote that women are incomplete men. I was raised on this with my mother’s milk. What is a girl when your firstborn could have been a boy. In my mother’s eyes, shame. In my father’s, disappointment, shame. Flawless would be a boy. Flawed would be me.

Christmas with a baby at the center just turned up the drollery of fate. Each year’s gift whispered, “Be a man. Someone notable. Do that for us and we will love you.” How unkind to have only a girl child to celebrate the birth of a King!

What child is this? Daddy asks. Mummy echoes, What child is this?

I ask, Dear God, What Child is this?

“What Child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?”1

Now Christmas comes to a woman whose hair is thinning, whose hands and feet are deformed with disease, whose gait is slow, whose back is bent. Not under the weight of shame. She sees the One in the manger born and wonders that Love came down into the muck of a world where children cry themselves to sleep and no one hears or cares. Jesus, You came a long way. And so did I with You.

This, this One died lonely
tree-hung to save a girl child
from pitiless hands

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Philippians 2:5-11
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

1What Child Is This?

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping,
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?

(Refrain)This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary!

Why lies He in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
The Cross be borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word Made Flesh,
The babe, the son of Mary!

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant, king, to own Him!
The King of Kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him!

Raise, raise the song on high!
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy! joy! for Christ is born,
The babe, the son of Mary!

William Chatterton Dix, “What Child Is This?” (1865)
“What Child is This” – Violinist: Lindsey Stirling
Donna's Go Dog Go Cafe’s Inaugural Haibun Wednesday
Eugi's Weekly Prompt: "notable"

A Tale of Two, and One

image ©dorahak

“Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)
“But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’” (Matt. 15:25)

Two women: Queen Esther. The Canaanite/Syrophoenician woman.

One was a Jewish concubine in a Persian king’s harem. The other was a Gentile kneeling before the Messiah.

Both women were pleading for the lives of people they loved, one for the Jews in the Persian Empire, the other for her daughter possessed by an unclean spirit.

One pleaded for community. The other for family.

One came before an earthly king. The other before the Kings of kings.

Both came trusting in a God who “had prepared a table before them” in the presence of their enemies, came in the power of His Shepherding grace and love through the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23)

They came as sheep before their Shepherd, believing in His power to rescue and save.

Two women. Two needs.

Having prayed to the sovereign God, Esther came before the earthly king knowing the fate of the Jews in the land was in the hand of God, as was her fate: “If I perish, I perish.”

Having heard of Jesus, the Canaanite woman came before the Jewish Messiah, knowing He was Lord and her daughter’s fate was in His hand: “Lord, help me.”

They were tried. Haman worked actively against all that Esther would do.

They were tested. The Canaanite woman was asked the reason for her hope.

In both cases, God worked behind the scenes, though in the book of Esther He is never mentioned, not once. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus seemed to be indifferent to the Canaanite woman’s plight, though in her heart He had already laid the groundwork that made her bold and persistent.

They knew what God could do. They didn’t know what God would do.

“Let my life be granted for my wish, and my people for my request.” (Esther 7:3)
“Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (Mark 7:28)

They hadn’t known what God would do, but they knew who He was: He was a God who cared enough to listen.

Two women who had no rights but what were granted as crumbs in the society in which they lived, went away as daughters of the living God, granted more than crumbs, granted their heart’s desire.

A community of Jews was saved. A daughter released from demonic possession.

A tale of two women alone? No. The story is really about God, and how his daughters (and sons) are never alone.

Pray now, and “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)


Isaiah 49:15-16
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands;
your walls are continually before Me.”