It’s not a secret, as if between God and me
The Spell of Words*
Venus, bearer of light, blinking on,
nothing to come between this couple
Think kindly of this couple no one believes can weather a week, a month, a year, forty-four years, fifty
Season of Lent, Ash Wednesday
My days lengthen toward a blink of light at the rim of shadows
Childhood, East Texas
The dog went with the boy
across the dirt road, past
the sycamore limbs reaching out
City Light Community
It is for us to hold on
together, each waking
to what can be a new day
A portal beckons,
we bow, rise to blue, such sea,
such sky, untouched sand,
Epiphany For 2023
Consider what the imagination knows,
a six-year-old’s painting–three apples
I Want To Read All The Poems About Mothers*
mothers . . . pleading with God
to hold on tightly to their children
Season of Advent, 2022: Love
a child born to a teenage mother
cradling the child to a manger, watched over by gentle beasts
“Not A Creature Was Stirring”
Our gentle beasts had already laid claim to their night.
Dancing With A Beautiful Friend
She understands their mothers’ calm now
November 25, 2022
This day all the beloved dogs
are returning, called by silent whistles
Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2022
and tomorrow garland their home with lights
“parted into the night”
FAITH: An Active-Voice Verb
Having the faith of a mustard seed
May you still gather
each day as if a petal
her almost touch, its surprise
God still speaks to people by name.
“This Is Why We Have All These Things,”
passed down mother to daughter
Salvation of the Fine, Liberal Arts
Do not despair . . .
Esoteric Happiness Anniversary: August 28, 2022, for Katrina*
He would always have the movie, the music
a handful of repose, the quiet of light rising from the dark
The Light, A Devotional, With Gratitude For My Friends At City Light Community Ministries*
The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light
“Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” (Genesis 5: 24, ESV)*
the lost Garden, its vegetarian beasts lying down with tender creatures, a child their caretaker
Two Prayers Against Despairing
Though the fig tree does not blossom
Holy Saturday: Christ’s Harrowing of Hell
Had Mary of Magdala burdened her grief to the tomb this day
“and a little child shall lead them”
And Still The Wheel *
spins us from still waters
Season of Lent
Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
The Deep: A Devotional of City Light Community Ministries
Peace, Be Still
“a light that darkness could not overcome”
Picture At A Funeral
You could be forgiven
if you believed it staged
My Prayer for 2022*
The noble plan only noble things,
noble their every move.
“So we hold on to each other now.”*
It’s almost Christmas. Again.
Welcome To The Life Skills Curriculum*
In the beginning your mother delivered you in pain forgettable, your first lesson.
Pine Springs Cemetery, Oso Community, Flatonia, Texas
Even in death they come broken
A Late Serendipity
A galaxy of starlings
“The greatest among you must be your servant.”
“In the World…”
I have conquered
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret.”
“how long will we cling together in the night
and where will it carry us together”
A Way, Maybe, To Live At Peace
All of us, in union with Christ, form one body, and as parts of it we belong to each other.
what I came to see
from the beginning
Journal Entry: City Light Community Ministries
She looks up and asks, “Do you pray hard?”
“Lord, Make Me An Instrument Of Your Peace.” (Saint Francis, circa 1181-1226)*
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light
Attending Gigi at the Reclaimed Mason-Hamlin Baby Grand: A Creative Process
“all these silent images
on their shadowy river”
What We Could Use . . .
The irreverent belly-burst of a laugh
To My Professor Friends Who May Believe Their Work Has Come To Nothing
Meditative seeker, your quiet voice
louder than the roar of ignorance,
The tall young violinist
skips dips across a field
A woman in the choir is lifting her hands, palms up, Jesus raised from the tomb
Maundy Thursday Service
“I give you a new commandment:
love one another.”
(John 13:34, The Jerusalem Bible)
“Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey.”
(Matthew 21: 5, ESV)
Journal Entry: Why We Need Poetry, the Liberal and Fine Arts
“what remains of incessant striving”
Gerasene: For Friends At City Light
“I am still above ground,”
he tells anyone who asks
how he’s doing
“Far off from these a slow and silent stream,
Lethe the River of Oblivion rolls”
Night Is Over
The night is over.
The real light is already shining.
Pale Horse. Dog of Heaven. A Fable.
Shapeshifters shepherd the neighborhood streets
Words For January 20, 2021
A light has shown.
Shadow and Darkness
“and after shadow and darkness,
the eyes of the blind will see”
(Isaiah 29: 18)
“For Unto Us A Child Is Born”*
“Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.” (Luke 2: 10)
“The Essential Generosity of Nature,” Dennis Overbye
“And heaven and nature sing”
To Give Light
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death
Sorrow Joyed in the Time of Coronavirus, COVID-19
And the angel of the Lord said to the shepherds, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy”
Song Of The Selfless* In This Time Of Coronavirus, COVID-19
“But when you can’t walk away?”
“Hello City Light,” my friend shouts, Black, Vietnam vet, towering over all of us, the Displaced, suffered in line for a hot meal
God As We Understand
“Which is the way
to the home of the light”
My Prayer* (Tuesday, November 3, 2020)
May we, in a spirit of wisdom and insight
“A Noble and Generous Heart” (Luke 8: 15)
I Needed Some Extra Jesus
Night and Day
Again the morning
from the night
The Shadow’d Wilds, Time of Coronavirus, COVID-19
I have been in danger
of becoming a grownup.
At the Window
She speaks to small creatures,
speaks for them–
Shakespearean Sonnet OCD SOS
It comes expected as another fall
from your bike, or sudden sinking, how to swim
forgotten as the spell to rescue you
Beginning of the Fall Semester. The End.
The castle walls have been breached,
the castle keep in ruins.
Why We Have Poetry
Pale horse of a blank page
the pencil worn to a nub
Nature Goes On
in blossom, bougainvilleas dripping
pink from their hanging baskets
No Se Recuerdo
I can find no poem opening line
sad or romantic enough
for a supermarket-bakery cake
inscribed “Happy Birthday Edna”
What I Have Learned From My Friends at Hardin-Simmons University, at City Light Community Ministries
One day we find ourselves
running on a ridgeline,
an ice storm seconds behind
It is good to have a good ear for music
The Words Of The Prophets
whispered in the sound of silence
For Today, A Delight
“Blessed is the apple the banana loves.”
Two Poems I Thought Might Lead To a Poem a Day
She is all our mothers, too young and lovely, probably alone except for Gracie Rose, eighteen months old
Lucy Dog’s Gospel
“Last night in Jerez some people lived, some people died.”
The Consolation of Trees*
Haven’t we always known the trees are talking to each other
Vision and Re-Vision
I’m sure I have. I must have. I just can’t remember composing a poem in my sleep before
In Praise and Envy of Jericho Brown’s Poem “Say Thank You Say I’m Sorry”*
This is a poem for the poem I wish I had written.
And the prophets will rise.
A Found, Small Joy, My Own
This week especially I wish all of us the inexplicable joy
of finding (receiving) the words, the only right ones.
“And God said, ‘Let there be light'”
Frazier Brook Road: A Found Poem
You won’t find it
on a road sign
“And the dark
doesn’t feel so
Prayer of the Hopeful in the Time of Coronavirus, COVID-19*
and a child leads them
“For mourning robe the oil of gladness” (Isaiah 61: 3)
“Cry out for joy and gladness”
“For It Is In Giving That We Receive”*: A Sunday Morning At City Light Community Ministries, May 17, 2020
This remembrance is my story-picture Post of my heroes–the Sunday morning breakfast crew at City Light
A Small Joy: Thursday, May 14, 2020*
He calls to me from fifty feet away. I veer toward the middle of the street. A social distance, not, I recognize, from caution against COVID-19 contagion.
Of All Years, Of All Days, Today
“. . . on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shown.”
(Isaiah 9: 1, The Jerusalem Bible)
Lucy’s COVID-19 Briefing
Okay, I don’t like the New Normal any more than you do.
A Light Unto Our Path
I’m the new guy at City Light, having been volunteering a little less than a year. I am offering this Post to express my admiration for the City Light veterans, faithful caretakers of its beacon of shelter and hope.
The Song of Sisters
Once there was a baby who when she was born winked at her mother, and in the wink was a smile her big sister saw, and smiled back–a Secret between sisters.
The Word of Ecclesiastes in the Time of Coronavirus, COVID-19
The sun rises, the sun sets
a generation comes, a generation goes
southward the wind, northward it turns
and turns again, again it turns
Easter Sunday: He Has Risen
“There is no need for you to be afraid.”
Today, Friday, April 10, 2020, is “Good Friday,” but on the day of Jesus’s crucifixion, death, and burial, there was nothing good about this Friday.
Living on the street doesn’t mean we’re homeless.
Should God decree the whale’s belly does not make us homeless.
“‘You see, there is nothing you can do;
look, the whole world is running after him!'”
(John 12: 19, The Jerusalem Bible)
Margaret’s Bedtime Prayer in the Time of Coronavirus COVID-19
Margaret, four years old, fresh from her bath, red hair haloed about her face, gazing up,
The Story: For My Family, Friends, Our Country, Our World, All Of Us Together–Love In The Time of Coronavirus COVID-19
“I only know that I was blind and now I can see.”
(John 9:26, The Jerusalem Bible)
Her street composed in leaves,
each one a song from a jukebox (Remember?),
its catalogue of poems singing sibilant cities–
St. Louis, Jerusalem, San Antonio.
Sunday Morning Repast: March 15, 2020
7:00 a.m., City Light Community Ministries
preparing hot breakfasts–scrambled eggs, gravy,
bread, a banana, homemade chocolate donut,
“Body and Soul”
Ludwig van Beethoven was thirty-eight years old, hiding in his brother’s basement, terrified by the bombardment of Vienna under siege by the French:
The Story of Leaves
“and the pleasure, the only long pleasure, of taking a place in the story of leaves” (Donald Hall, “Kicking the Leaves”)
Hardin-Simmons, the liberal arts university where I taught for forty-two years and quickly came to love, is disappearing as I knew it.
“When animals die out, the last survivor
is called an endling. It is a word of soft beauty,
heartbreaking solitude, and chilling finality.”
“And Now For Something Completely Different” *
I’ve given up getting better.
My Inerrant Irreverence
“They were our guardian angels.
Naughty, nippy, yippy angels,
but angels nonetheless.”
“A Place Of Stone”*
To my friends cast out.
“A Time To Mourn”: Lament For Friends Feeling Forsaken
“and light shines in darkness,
and darkness could not overpower it”
For Theirs Is The Kingdom Of Heaven*
“In spite of everything, don’t lose your faith
in a table circumferenced with friends.”
“10 things I learned in the ’10s”
I never imagined I would not be able to throw a baseball.
Every day bodies tumble from high buildings, achieving maximum velocity, the streets below spinning kaleidoscopic colors clicking their stained-glass windows
Better Two . . .
“Better two than one by himself. . . .
If one should fall, the other helps him up.”
(Ecclesiastes 4: 9-11)
The Servant Leader
I am not a preacher. I do not claim to be wise, but I can recognize and celebrate wisdom, humility, and compassion in those who are servant leaders
Displaced: A Prose Poem
There has come an arctic cold that sweeps across the screen, the confident weather lady conducting blue into orange and red, no green this time of year in Abilene
“Turn, Turn, Turn”: The New Year Comes
“Is it I who have come to this age
or is it the age that has come to me
which one has brought along all these
silent images on their shadowy river”
Daniel: A Poem
He is, I think, his own angel, or mine,
not winged or gifted with a voice of annunciation–
Blessed are you of all–or wielding a double-edged sword
Lucy’s 4:00 a.m. Christmas Wish For You
May no possums caution their ugly selves
along the top of your backyard fence,
just out of reach.
Behold, This Child . . . *
Even here a new star
has risen above
the city underpass,
And on Earth Peace, Good Will
“. . . it is the going we remember
it is the way that comes along with us”
W. S. Merwin, “Only Now”
Shepherds: A Prose Poem
A voice whispering rise and walk to the table at the window, the page, the pencil, and record the favor of men lost in crowds, displaced outside of family–the darkness not only of this night, shepherds tending to lambs fallen into gullies, tangled in briars
“The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.”
John 1: 5 (ESV)
“A Beautiful Day For A Neighbor”
The man said to Jesus,
“And who is my neighbor?”
Luke 10: 29-30 (The Jerusalem Bible)
I don’t know why “No” was my thoughtless, truthful answer to Louise’s asking if I would like to take a thirty-minute prayer slot.
“. . . without vulnerability
there can be no relationship.”
David Brooks *
I don’t know what losses, what anguish, may have led New York Times opinion writer David Brooks to this consolation, maybe his brick wall of certainty, of control, of this is me, crumbled, reality gone, the reality we walk hand in hand with until the hand drops, and we are left staring into the void. So now Who am I? Who can I turn to?
This morning, I’m nostalgic (no, Bob, be honest–weepy) for friends past and present. Of course it’s 4:00 a.m. again. Again I’m at my writing table, a cup of dark-roast coffee, a square of dark chocolate, the smooth touch of this Blackwing 602 pencil leading me across the pages of my Moleskine notebook and, oh yes, Beegie Adair’s jazz trio playing Always On My Mind as in you were always on my mind.
How We Listen
“Words save our lives, sometimes.” Neil Gaiman.
I understand. Lil comes late to the noonday meal at the City Light Mission.
What I Would Have Said
Lynn, the angel of City Light Mission, turns to me arranging the counter-top crocks of Robert’s homemade ranch salad dressing and the sliced jalapeños, my assignment today with which to greet the first-name only patrons filling their paper plates with the plenty promised by Jesus
“Who Can I Turn To?”
“Who would you call in the middle of the night
if you were sick or afraid?” *
Shankar Vedantam’s question is mostly responsible for my mood this morning.
Not political. Not tightfisted, pursed lips, finger-wagging shame on you for not being me. No, I mean a song on a city bus, a hug brushing aside a handshake, a laugh sudden and unafraid.
Madonna and Child
A young woman with a baby cuddled to her breast but not nursing, being carried in a kind of papoose pouch, climbing all the way up the narrow concrete steps spaced too close for my comfort having caught my toe and stumbled more than once, so I am afraid for her—she could fall.
The Salvation of Strangers: A Prose Poem
It began, I think, with losing everything–his college degree in biology, environmental science, National Park management, a Park ranger, like the romance of joining the French Foreign Legion, the girl in that song–Laura–“the face in the misty light . . . only a dream” lost and himself as well
“Milkflower petals on the street
like pieces of a girl’s dress.
May your days be merry and bright. . .
He fills a teacup with champagne, brings it to her lips.
Open, he says.”
“Aubade with Burning City”*
How We Gather At The Table: A Prose Poem
“What if we joined our sorrows, I’m saying.
I’m saying: What if that is joy?”
Another Serenity Prayer
So here’s a question for you, Reinhold Niebuhr: Did you ever take this sinful world as it is, not as you, and I, would have it? And here’s another: In the dark of a deep night, humming your mantra like counting sheep—“Serenity come! Serenity, come.”—did you feel the twelve dance steps of heavy-footed men clutching a bottle like a lithe partner not wincing when they mashed her toe or miss-stepped against her shin, laughing their song from a throat thrown back, a kind of fire swallowed, and she whispering how serene they might be spinning her away for God, and they turned little one, the child they maybe never got to be?
“When We Were Homeless”: A Prose Poem
Holidays are the worst, families gathered around dining-room tables passed down from parents, someone blessing the turkey, the brisket, the sweet potatoes and three-bean salad, thick-sliced bread just out of the oven, an expectation of pecan pie.
What rescues this smile from the beginning-to-curl-down corners of my mouth is my remembering the mother wolf in the Fort Worth Zoo when Katrina and I were young and students with twin babies in special take-your-baby-everywhere-you-adventure backpacks, . . .
Cruising: A Poem by Tiffany Haggard Fink
“I said to Michael, Jr, last night, ‘let’s go cruising.’” This is the opening sentence of the email my daughter-in-law Tiffany Haggard Fink sent Thursday morning. It’s a wonderful email celebrating the love she and her brother Michael have for their father, Michael C. Haggard, Sr., who passed away Sunday, August 11. His memorial service was Wednesday, August 14. Mike loved street rods, muscle cars—the faster and louder the better. He also loved the blues, that music in the growl of a V8 engine at a stop sign, a long stretch of blacktop road.
If Jesus Had A Dog: A Poem
It was a Lucy dog, Australian shepherd,
not German, not even that American
of all herding dogs, rescuer of Timmy
from the well, a bearded collie,
but Lucy diamonded from the sky–
Leaving Hardin-Simmons University: Lucy’s Goodbye Promise: A Poem
I’ll be all around in the dog park—I’ll be everywhere—
wherever you look. Wherever there’s a poet can’t nudge the word
from the tip of a Blackwing 602 pencil, I’ll be there
to whisper ineffable.
“Old” Is A Four-Letter Word
For the past forty-two years I have been eighteen years old. Sometimes seventeen; sometimes nineteen, twenty, twenty-one or twenty-two. Never over thirty—the age Mick Jagger told my generation should not be trusted, and certainly not seventy-three, an age when the only names you can recall are those of your family physician, surgeons, and physical therapists. The Age of Retirement! The age I never expected.
The words descending to my fingers
following the soft lead of the Blackwing pencil
still available to a penitent rising in the dark
of 4:00 a.m., transcribing a path
from the woman stirring to hum my name
and ask what is always rising on her breath
to hover at my ear—Are you all right?—
An Ending. A Beginning
This has been a year. A year for taking the long look back, forty-two years that seem a day—what my friend Donald Hall called the one day, every other day too frantic to recognize this day Henry David Thoreau knew we will each come to, asking have we lived, been attentive to what each day has to discover.
4:00 A.M. Coffee and Dark Chocolate
This is how it started. Rising at 4:00 a.m. Dark chocolate. Lucy came much later, after Susie, Chelsea, Bosco, Kita, Kianna, and Wrangler. Lucy does not get the dark chocolate and coffee.