poems and prose
from this side of the room
On Traveling Through Texas
HOW ABOUT A MILE OR TWO OF WIND-SWEPT PRARIE!
HOW ABOUT A MILE OR TWO OF SAGE BRUSH AND CACTUS!
HOW ABOUT A MILE OR TWO OF COASTAL PLANE, HOT AND HUMID!
HOW ABOUT A MILE OR TWO OF -- 'HILL COUNTRY'?
GOD! GOD MUST HAVE LOVED TEXAS, HE MADE SO MUCH OF IT, ALL
LOVE IS WAITING IN THE GARDEN
Love is the water for the garden,
you can sprinkle it generously around
And watch the flowers quickly growing
Where the water's found the fertile ground.
And if you want to find me, early every morning
Take the flowers in your hand,
When the dew is lying on the garden
I am there with love,
Just waiting to be found.
1996 MAUI SUNSET
Facing west the setting sun,
bright and shining in my eyes
As I wait for the Maui sunset.
What is it supposed to be?
Why is it so special?
It's just the sun going down over Molokai
Chasing away the heavy dark clouds that look like rain.
But how does the sun,
the dark clouds and the island shadow
Make a sunset?
And then it happens, an hour of changing light,
Flaming orange and red and streaked with brilliant yellow
As though the clouds of heavy blue just couldn't resist
the sun and turned to flame.
Now it's dark again along the rocky shore.
The lights gone out across the channel.
And on the Maui side just the tiki torches light the rocks
and accent the white foam of the breaking waves.
The heavy clouds are dark again against that other island.
Just the sound of the waves endlessly breaking on the shore
To lull me to sleep and dreams of another Maui sunset.
SITTING AT KIMO'S
Parasailing, like my heart
High, aloft and free,
Reveling in contented bliss
Watching the rolling breakers
Rolling in to Kimo's.
Lunch on the terrace
Looking at the channel between me and Molokai.
Wondering, is it ok?
To feel this good, this well, this blissful.
Reassuring Hawaiian music
Talking with the trades.
Clean sounds, simple melody
Quieting, superbly calming.
Small boats, anchored
But still moving softly on the sea.
Faint taste of lemon on the sliced tomato.
Eating and savoring every mouthful.
Wondering where the taste goes
When we savor nothing
And hardly feel it going down.
But this is bliss, knowing the taste of it
More than just living.
This is lunch, this is Maui, this is Kimo's.
DO NOT FRET
Do not fret and carry on
When it looks like you’ve been sent away.
Those who truly love you
Will be there with you wherever you are now.
And when or if you need them will answer the call.
And all the others?
Love them well in passing
And kiss them with a brushing kiss.
But save the quiet loving or passionate embrace
For the other one or two or three.
For, are there ever more?
1968 AND MOTHER
Draw me to your breast to hush the frightened cry,
Caress away the tears
And satisfy the hunger for a thousand things
And be the substance of them all.
And fill the many tiny places with a certain warmth
And love and tenderness.
Lightly healing, softly feeling, quietly giving.
And Mother, opulent and dazzling,
Say beauty, say power, say light and it is so!
But Mother, then say truth and let the ages roll!
And Mother, turn your head and open your heart
(And hide the choking, smothering pain)
And let me go for I must go my way
And find and taste the bittersweet.
It seems so strange to sit there one by one
Separated by the stools.
Are we so far apart?
Are we really looking across and through
Hoping to see
Something warm and friendly and approachable?
But, if we sit too close
And, if we talk across
We seem too bold for such a time.
But then, I always look too long
And talk too loud
And wish too hard for that one significant glance
To turn the time into a moment.
THE ELEVATOR AT THE SHELTON
You wait, you turn your head
And then you turn around and kiss his neck.
He holds you closer, twisting slightly
Don’t look around.
It’s your thing,
It’s your bag,
It’s your night
And it’s right.
As a matter of fact it’s a beautiful moment.
But a girl could get nervous
Waiting for the elevator at the Shelton.
High amid blossoms on soft breezes
A fragrance to carry homeward.
Tender, trembling blossoms move and fall,
And their movement blurrs the quiet tree.
Catch the blossoms gently as it falls
And cradle broken petals in your palm.
If you love and nourish the tree,
Will the blossoms last a little longer?
Let me touch and hold the blossom,
For I may lose the path along this way.
1996 MY IMPORTANT ONE
I don’t know if you can stand it, friend,
But you are my important one.
The one I want to talk to late at night
When it closes in,
When the morning seems so far away.
The one I think about when I’m on the road
When I’m alone in those strange places
In which I’ve chosen to be.
To dream of closeness, being safe and loving,
And wanting at the same time
To be on the road, free and moving,
Learning and growing into new places,
New ideas and other times.
But, I love you still and deep within
I want you to be there.
And I will be there too, for you, my friend,
My important one!
ARE WE LISTENING?
Are we listening?
To voices of a thousand dreams
To quiet pain, wounded hearts
And empty, empty, emptiness
That fills the overflowing brain
With looking and trying to see.
But it’s so dark and not enough.
Where are the other ears to hear the
story of the time
Through which I pass?
The quiet nod of another head
To know that I am heard,
To fill that giant emptiness?
Are we listening?
There is so much to hear.
Hard to get a handle on it. To understand what is driving, what is pushing and
what is pulling. A feeling without plus or minus. Something on dead center.
Without the assurance of youth that it will all work out, just do it and everything
will be better and better and better.
But now.... Here I am, unsure, unsure that action, movement, engaging has
anything to do with it. But simply staring at a blank wall, feeling uncertain,
unwilling to risk, this is certainly unsatisfying. The trick is to replace the old
values that don't seem to fit and give life and direction now to the internal
mechanisms of just being -- that is the order of the day. But in the in-between
time, between the old way of going that seems so meaningless and inappropriate
and the new way of going lies a giant chasm of emptiness and I think I am
floating somewhere in that chasm, hoping to find something solid to put my feet
I'm willing to walk a new path if I could find it, if it made sense, if it could give
that old feeling of certainty or even a certain lack of doubt about me, my place,
my role the direction of my life. But now, on the bright side, all the avenues are
open and some even beckoning, but on the other side that gnawing, empty feeling
that resists and even discourages taking the new thought or action plan for the
now-me, the one that has another 20 years to live. Afraid now to become again
when the first becoming was so effortless, mostly automatic. This time, every
step is agonized over with the chorus reinforcing with the do-nothing refrain, let
it go, it's better to be on hold than to take a chance that you will lose it all again.
But somewhere there is an 'I' buried beneath all the negativity that is looking for a
way to surface, and this time to love more deeply, to want the best for others more
sincerely, to be a better person. Maybe even to walk with God and this time to
give me, to surrender me to the journey, letting those positive impulses rise right
to the top and push and pull and guide and ultimately, perhaps, even to satisfy or
at least to still the beast of doubt and fill the aching emptiness with more love of
life and living.
Is this too much to ask for? Oh God, you are the ground of being, now be under
my feet and let the winding path be a little straighter so these old bones can try
again to find the way and climb the path.
The air is light now, mid summer’s heavy dew is past. But in the
passing I feel the longing to move on. I felt it in the air this very day,
an autumn day, I thought, warm, sharp and bright, but not, perhaps the
autumn day you may have known, nor the falling leaves that signal
Fall. A different kind of summer day,. The old folks called it ‘Indian
Summer’ and it floods the deepest parts of my very self with warmth
and cries out to be given voice. So, I’m writing you this end of summer
note, to affirm to you the indescribable things I’ve felt and learned by
being with you and loving you. I’ve learned that I am loved and that’s
the greatest of the gifts. And I have returned the gift. I’ve seen you
stretching to overcome your fearful moments and watched you reach out
to others for no reason of personal gain, just love, pure love, and
thought that just maybe that realization of tenderness and affection, that
grace of spirit came out of our mutual loving. I’ve watched you choose
to be someone strong for me and dependable and not afraid; and I am
not afraid, still wanting to be strong.
Together we have learned to ask for what we want and identify better
what we need, so that the wanting makes more sense. We’ve learned
together to hold each other close and the other first, to love each other
with sensitivity in every aspect, never submerging our honest self in the
offering of our self. That is the blessing of honest love -- to be able to
give love without requiring it in return, and then to rejoice, almost
humbly, that the love which was not required has been freely given back.
Love meets love when there is no fear or design or seeking. In your love
I find my own, deeply buried and almost forgotten, but to find it is to
shudder in delight and inexplicably feel the need to give it back.
This kind of summer is never gone. I have loved it best and I am ready,
gratefully, for whatever lies ahead.
Talking circumspectly all around it,
Trying not to falter on the phone,
Hoping it will sound just normal,
Clutching softly in the throat.
May I see you in the evening?
May I call you when you're home?
Can you feel the quiet tension
In my voice and in my tone?
Aware there may be some rejection,
Growing taut to hide the fear,
Hoping still, a moment sensing
"It's ok, I'm here, I'm here."
Paris 1996 PLACE DU TERTRE
Looking at the sky, but thinking thoughts of love, even
New green -- trees mostly -- and so bright the green.
And warm red -- tablecloths -- on white plastic tables under
the new green trees and umbrellas, also red.
Blue sky and gray clouds passing over making fresh and cool
the place where I am sitting on the Place.
And all around I am distracted by creative art and
enterprise and restaurants with their tables both inside the
ancient buildings and outside in the park
When I would rather be thinking about new green, warm red,
white, blue and gray and passing clouds and cool breezes
And thoughts of love, even longing.
Norman fields in Spring, schemes of yellow and green
Like a patchwork quilt that's bright and regular.
With rains that come, nourishing, frequent
and wind that's sometimes Mistral warm, and
sometimes cold like winter on the channel to the north.
These fields seem to promise they'll be there forever
as they shimmer before my eyes,
stirring, moving, heating, growing each day to reach their
feverish peak of dazzling color.
Why is it always so unexpected
to see those glorious yellow blossoms fade
and find maturing seed and harvest in their place?
Why can't I claim forever that delirious union of soul and place
that brilliant hereness with me in its center?
Is it really gone? Did I really see it fade? Must it really be
enough just once to reach this awesome high?
I should find solace, I guess, in the perfecting of the cycle,
the hand of God and the order of the universe.
But, instead I want to cry out "Come back, I want it all again,
to feel the rush of color, the driving rain and the blowing
And thrill again to Norman Spring.
We waited for the rain to pass, dashing into the new
American Art Museum, and finding there a delightful
sampling of American Impressionist paintings by the
American students of Claude Monet, students who spent the
summers with Monet and his family at Giverny.
Then on to the famous garden where Monet immortalized
the water lily. The sunlight after the rain was brilliant. I sat
on a bench in the midst of the garden to catch my breath.
The sun created a dazzling effect on the flowers. The colors
were unbelievable, from yellows of the lightest cream to
deepest, warmest fiery orange and red. Beds of small sky
blue flowers hugged the ground while graceful pink tulips
waved their heads over the gentle blueness. Iris, variegated
tulips both red and yellow appeared iridescent in the
This is Monet’s light, almost blindingly white, sparkling,
dancing, highlighting and making shadow; this is what
Claude Monet that genius was able to see and capture first
with his heart and then with his brush at Giverny.
ALL THAT MATTERS NOW
I have an inkling now of what it means. He has his love and that is
what makes it possible to go on. It is all that matters to him now. I
know a little of how that feels, though I miss him and the way it was
in the old days, the easy confidences and the interest in doing things
together. I have told him I love him in letters, but I would like to tell
him straight that I don’t want to lose him. But it has little point to cry,
“Don’t go, stay with me” when he has to go. He has all the comfort I
could give and more. I have heard the quiet, calm exchange between
him and his love, the question and the response, the earnest love and
loving which is all that really means anything now. And I won’t
forget. He has been well loved by me and cherished as a dear friend
and that is all I can give.
And now what of my loving, where do I place it? How do I hold it in?
Or can I offer it?. Love is new and untried till it is offered. But so
much risk. To give and lose when it is deep and cherished. And can a
new friend love me as I love him. Even though I feel I could love him
forever, I know now there is no forever, only the commitment, the
commitment to love, now. In this moment I would love him and
would never leave him nor turn him away. That is how I love and if
he will have me as I am, I will have him as he is, cleanly, honestly and
honorably. And all that might be between us will continue and
whatever can be will grow. And finally, that which is to be will
become and that which is lost will be forgotten?
The 24th of May. I felt the one great difference today between the
left bank and the right bank. I’ve known it always, I think, but
just today it became real. The left bank is young. Wynne and I
were people watching on Boulevard St. Germain. We were out of
the rain, inside Le Solferino Brasserie after the Musee D’Orsay,
resting our museum weakened bodies by drinking coffee and
eating expensive patisseries.
It was a very small ‘aahaaa’ as I caught sight of a thirty-
something couple on the corner exchanging a quiet kiss. Not kids
I said to myself. A camera was slung over the young man’s
shoulder. Together, arms around each other, they moved on
slowly in the light rain along the Boul in the direction of the
church of St. Germain de Pre. The sycamores arch over this
boulevard just like they do on the right bank where we walked
earlier between the Madeleine and L’Opera. But there is no
kissing there. But the difference here is surely more than just a
kiss. This is the Latin Quarter, the University is at home here.
This may be the only the place in Paris where it is still ok to be
young at any age.
A discovery of appreciation today at the D’Orsay museum—
Alfred Sisley. I’ve known there was an Alfred Sisley from the
beginning, but apparently looked right through him up to now.
But I saw his paintings today, full of grace and delicacy in softer
images than even his brother painters Pisarro and Monet, the
three displayed side by side in similar sized works. Monet still
towers over them all, I think, such a pleasure to know his paint-
ings, his home at Giverny, the collection of lilies at the Marmotan
and to see this broad collection of his works in this high vaulted
train station turned beautiful museum.
Cold wind blowing, friendly French older people helping the American
tourists figure out how to buy the ticket on the street for the “payant”
curbside parking space de riguer all over France. Then walking against the
wind to the cathedral hidden to us from the winding street and then
suddenly finding it on its square, and feeling this surprising and awesome
view is how it has appeared to visitors for centuries. Not offended as in
Paris at Notre Dame by aggressive auto drivers and hordes of people.
Entering through the wooden door held open by a beggar woman, arm out
and palm up. “Is this a gypsy,” asked Wynne. Hans had locked all the
doors at La Noue the day before against the real or imagined threat of
gypsies who had made camp in Mondreville 4 kilometres away.
The church, impressively grand with buttressed walls, but warmed by
gorgeous stained glass windows: a small one in yellows introduced in the
15th century, others in blues, lavender and the grand rose colored rosette
over the nave. The “Assumption of Mary” beyond the altar revealed by a
floodlight which gave the statue mystery and shadow, a quizzical angel
almost pushing Mary heavenward from the base of the work. The “Tresor”
of gold chalices and richly embroidered robes. A frieze in stone of three-
foot three-dimensional sculpted figures north of the chancel, standing for
centuries to tell their biblical stories. A small candlelit chapel on the left
behind the frieze. And above the altar sits a stately madonna and child in
Byzantine gold thread robes. The altar, a table with a small gold statue of
Christ crucified, honoring in one place both the birth of Jesus and his death
with hundreds of 10 franc candles all burning and casting a twinkling light
in this small place in this dark and cold and beautiful church. An invitation
to prayer on the sign “This chapel is reserved for those who wish to pray.”
If not on knees, at least in the heart I said to myself.
Outside again, in a cafe I had visited years before drinking cafe-au-lait and
eating a buttered baguette a foot long, talking with Wynne about life.
Then, on to Versailles. Versailles was a hunting lodge for Louis XIII and
then remodeled and expanded for his son Louis the 14th who wanted it for
his court. The gardens are huge and regular and precise in the French
manner but too daunting after walking through the royal residence which
must be at least 50,000 sf. We entered through the chambers before the Hall
of Mirrors literally shoulder to shoulder with tour groups and visiting
children. But enjoyed most the gallery with the huge paintings of the great
battles in French history from Clovis and Charelemagne to George
Washington and Lafayette at Yorktown to Napoleon. After Versailles spent
one of the extra hours resting in our little Renault, eating apples and cheese
we had bought at Auchan in the morning and brought with us. Wynne
curled up in the backseat and snoozed for a while and I listened to Alan
Jones tapes from the 1990 All Saints’ Festival of Life. I made notes from
the tapes and transcribed two of the poems the speaker recited.
Chartres was the best, not just because we were fresh for it, but because it
was so beautiful and connected us so well with the past. You could feel the
faith of past generations and appreciate their effort to glorify God and offer
thanks, such an enormous outpouring of thanks the cathedral represents.
The two poems which follow were from audio tapes I was listening to as we
rested in Versailles.
QUOTATION FROM JOHN CAGE
When you let it, it supports itself;
You don’t have to.
Each something is a celebration of the nothing that supports it.
When we remove the world from our shoulders,
We notice it does not drop.
Where is the responsibility?
“Ohne Wahrum” (Without Why)
The rose is without why.
It blooms because it blooms.
It does not pay attention to itself.
It does not care whether anyone sees it.
(Comment by Alan Jones—“That is the
secret of living. God made you out of
sheer joie de vivre. Our being needs no
why, but it is our brokenness that
demands we keep on asking ‘Why’.”
ONE MOMENT MORE
Let me be. Jealously guarding moments alone when I am
quiet and looking inward and reaching outward into the
moment in which I am. Sensing, feeling, touching;
alternately seeking coolness and warmth, experiencing
emptiness and fulfillment, marveling that it can all be true
in the same moment. Deliriously aware, but tentative in
accepting the reality of this wonderful, deepening, finding of
me. So, let me love me a little bit more, I whisper, so that I
can love you with all I hope to be, more worthy of you,
deserving of you. But can it be enough for you, or is it too
unsure? Can you love now that which is becoming, slowly,
slowly being revealed in its own time. For still, quiet and
alone I long to be together. Is this real? Am I one or the
other or both of these -- wanting to be me and relishing the
aloneness still crying out to be with you at the same time?
Are aloneness and togetherness a part of each other? Wait,
wait for me. Can you stay a moment longer? Can you hold
me one moment more?
AND NOW, WHAT OF MY LOVING?
I have an inkling now of what it means. He has his love and
that is what makes it possible to go on. It is all that matters to
him now. I know a little of how that feels, though I miss him
and the way it was in the old days, the easy confidences and
the interest in doing things together. I have told him I love
him in letters, but I would like to tell him straight that I don’t
want to lose him. But it has little point to cry, “Don’t go, stay
with me” when he has to go. He has all the comfort I could
give and more. I have heard the quiet, calm exchange between
him and his love, the question and the response, the earnest
love and loving which is all that really means anything now.
And I won’t forget. He has been well loved by me and
cherished as a dear friend and that is all I can give.
And now what of my loving, where do I place it? How do I hold it
in? Or can I offer it?. Love is new and untried till it is offered.
But so much risk. To give and lose when it is deep and cherished.
And can a new friend love me as I love him. Even though I feel I
could love him forever, I know now there is no forever, only the
commitment, the commitment to love, now. In this moment I
would love him and would never leave him nor turn him away.
That is how I love and if he will have me as I am, I will have him
as he is, cleanly, honestly and honorably. And all that might be
between us will continue and whatever can be will grow. And
finally, that which is to be will become and that which is lost will
”YOU CAN’T HAVE AN AUTUMN DAY, YOU CAN ONLY ENJOY IT.”
C. S. Lewis
I have been asked to read the wonderful ‘I forgive’ of Monseñor
Romero, but before I do that I would like to make a personal
statement that explains a little of where I am and how I got there. It
was because of All Saints Central American Ministry that I went to
El Salvador in the Spring of 1993. It was my first visit in 20 years
since I had been in El Salvador working on a State Department land
reform project. The visit in 1993 changed my life and this is my
confession and my resolve.
In the presence of these martyrs I wish to confess that I am ashamed
of the policies of the American government that contributed to the
horror of the civil war in El Salvador.
On a hot, dry, Spring day on a barren hillside in the village of
Ellacuría in Chaletenango Province, I faced the fragments of
American-made aerial bombs, dropped from American-made
helicopters on the unprotected women and children and old people
huddled for protection in a storage room in the village. I burned
On another afternoon I stood in the garden of the residence of the
Jesuits at the University and wept silently among the roses after I
had viewed the record of the killings. I didn’t know till later that
16 of the 26 officers and men involved in the slaughter of the
innocents had been trained at the School of the Americas at Ft.
Benning, Georgia. I am deeply ashamed.
But it was there in El Salvador that I finally embraced the grief and
pain of those people and recognized my own guilt for my political
indifference to my government’s policies in those days. I resolved
then that I would do whatever I could in any way I could to make
things better in El Salvador.
Listen to the words of Monseñor as that gallant man speaks to me and you
today. First in the language in which the words were first spoken and then
in my translation to English.
““He sido frecuentemente amenazado de muerte. Debo dicirles que,
como cristiano, no creo en la muerte sino resurrección. Si me matan,
resucitaré en el pueblo salvadoreño. Se lo digo sin ninguna jactancia,
con la más grande humildad.
Como pastor estoy obligado por mandato divino a dar la vida por quienes
amo, que son todos los salvadoreños, aún por aquellos que vayan a
asesinarme. Si llegaran a cumplirse las amenazas, desde ya ofrezco a
Dios mi sangre por la redención y resurrección de El Salvador.
El martirio es una gracia que no creo merecer. Pero si Dios acepta el
sacrificio de mi vida, que mi sangre sea semilla de libertad y la señal de
que la esperanza será pronto una realidad. Mi muerte, si es aceptada por
Dios, sea por la liberación de mi pueblo y como un testimonio de
esperanza en el futuro. Puede Usted decir, si llegasen a asesinarme, que
perdono y bendigo a quienes lo hagan. Ojalá, sí se convenzan que
perderán su tiempo. Un obispo morirá, pero la Iglesia de Dios, que es el
pueblo, no perecerá jamás.” marzo, 1980
“I have been frequently threatened with death. I must tell you that, as a
Christian, I do not believe in death but in the resurrection. If they kill me, I
will return again in the Salvadoran people. I say this with no arrogance,
with greatest humility.”
As a pastor I am obliged by divine command to give my life for those whom
I love, who are all the Salvadorans even for those who may be going to
assassinate me. If they should fulfill their threats, I now offer to God my
blood for the redemption and resurrection of El Salvador.”
Martyrdom is a grace I don’t think I deserve. But if God accepts the
sacrifice of my life, may my blood be the seed of liberty and the sign that
hope will soon be a reality. May my death, if it is accepted by God, be for
the liberation of my people and as a testimony of hope for the future. You
may say, if they accomplish my assassination, that I forgive and bless those
who do it. God grant they become convinced they will waste their time. A
bishop will die, but the Church of God which is the people will never
perish.” March 1980
Agua Verde 1996
ACCORDING TO MARTY
She says, "Now listen with your heart to what the children are
saying and watch the children when they're playing,
"For if you hear and see with your heart, you will know how to
love and when you love you will know how to give."
"But, how do I know what to give," I asked?
"Just sit here in this prayer circle," she says, "and let the Spirit
move in you here in Agua Verde just as it does in Pasadena.
Then you will know the answer in your heart even before the
"You will find the way to give without taking and watch the
children build from within and your gift will be love, love, love."
"And if you should pray for light along the way," she adds,
"You will find it there, I know, in the faces of the children,
My beautiful children of Mexico.
WHEN IT’S READY
When it's ready, the hammock swings
On its own, with only the slightest help from the onshore breezes.
And the setting sun is our silver path, shining, exciting,
Reflecting from the beach out into the vast, vast, endlessly vast
And I am lying here in the dark, looking outward with anxious
adventuresome companions also waiting.
Waiting for the Spirit to move over this sea, this shore, this land.
To help us help the children and change the land, if only for the
children, the people, for their dreams.
Quiet, quiet now -- that’s much too much,
When it's ready, the hammock swings.