Photo N Federle: Egrets in Suisun Marsh, 2019
Bathe me in light, with warm
water wash, submerge
my submissive head,
my face, my hands,
my wayfaring feet.
Oh, cleanse me!
into your perfect
“Happiness consists in finding out precisely what the ‘one thing necessary’ may be, in our lives, and in gladly relinquishing all the rest. For then, by a divine paradox, we find that everything else is given us together with the one thing we needed.” Thomas Merton
on spring grass, on leaves
bending as two mourning doves moan,
beat wide their wings and brush back the sky, falling low to
dark earth, gladly would I give it
all for a moment
in the glow
(9 April 2013)
Deep thunder shakes this warm July evening
and lightning flashes over the waterfront
filling the clear, starry sky with acrid clouds and glimmering rain
falling to the water as children gaze
in shock and awe,
waiting for the next big one to explode.
False bombardment as celebration:
such fits my nation, founded in genocide and slavery,
this nation baptized in the blood and tears
of Navaho and Cherokee and all the tribes of the American holocaust
a nation that devoured one quarter of its sons
in four short, blood-soaked years; my nation,
a nation of efficient bigots and hungry hypocrites,
giving the world Gettysburg and the Trail of Tears
as models for problem-solving;
a nation unlike any other, not able to live up to its promises
because no other nation dares make such promises.
The bright violence of rockets’ red glare lights our sky
like the bold Declaration ignited the world, and thunder
rocked mighty kings from complacent belief in their divine rights,
rocked the people of Europe, thirsting for their own rights
and land and a chance to pursue a little happiness;
yes, rocked even distant Asia, deep in its ancient dream
foolish men joyfully following the distant thunder
to seek the fabled Golden Mountain.
The promise was made and broken and made yet again,
and the anger of betrayal torched the cities of the sixties,
and singed our hearts
and in the redeeming pain of change
made them a little less impure.
Yes, we are imperfect,
but we know our sins
and pay for them over and over again,
and to remind ourselves of the debt yet unsatisfied,
every summer we celebrate in the only way fitting for such a nation;
In the starry sky fiercely glowing with liberty
and in the transcendent thunder
of the Promise.
(4 July 2011)
He worked nights, leaving as we climbed
the tall narrow staircase to our shared room,
up into the summer heat, the steel fan
in the hallway window
pulling cool, leafy breezes
from our waving trees.
We heard the kitchen screen-door
slap shut, the Pontiac roaring to life,
and watched as slowly he backed down
the dark driveway, and was gone.
And gladly we glided through misty dreams,
flying over tree-tops, baseball games
and cool swimming pools,
when finally the robin’s enthusiasm
and the fresh morning sun
flashing through green leaves
woke us as we heard the car stop
and Dad call cheerfully, “I’m home!”
The air already scented with bacon and coffee,
we flew down the groaning stairs,
two steps at a bound,
and eagerly started another golden
One winter day I did something wrong, and
he got angry and drew his worn leather belt
From the loops of his grey, stained work trousers
To teach me a lesson.
Terrified, I ran upstairs to the big closet
and trembled behind coats and sweaters,
as heavily he came up the steps,
righteous anger ringing in his voice,
tears flowing down my cheeks;
when my big brother, teenage and strong,
called defiance to him and drew him down
into the back yard to fight him
and save me, angered by his
memory of so many other beatings,
determined to stop it now!
But facing his own father
he could not fight back, and
weeping, I watched my dad
pummel my brother’s defenseless face,
far worse than any beating
I would have gotten.
From kitchen window,
I screamed to them both
That was when my father saw,
in the kitchen window’s glare
his own father’s angry eyes,
and felt his father’s fists
landing hard on his own face,
and he stopped and
embraced my brother.
Seven years after my father died
my first child, my son, was born in spring,
and in the gleaming, sterile room
I first held him in my arms
as, with his impossibly wide, blue eyes
he calmy gazed right into my raw soul,
and I felt in a sudden rush of warmth,
a timeless love
and at last discovered
the reason for my life.
It was then
I understood my father.
In my son’s face I saw my own
and felt my father’s eyes gazing
in warm wonder on me
and I glowed with
unconditional love for my son.
(30 Jan 2011/11-2017)
“Out of the silence, Light is spoken.” Thomas Merton
into the morning.
in the dark,
an unseen breeze
arms, my bare neck,
as two cranes
over the edge
of the meadow
as the Holy Spirit
of morning light.
my winter tears
as unseen geese
crossed the opaque sky.
Things well hidden
my fragile faith,
so when bright, piercing rays
this lonely vale of tears
I thought it was only the sun
not the golden light,
desire of my fleeting years.
“We do not see the Blinding One in black emptiness. He speaks to us gently; His light is one fullness and one Wisdom.” Thomas Merton
Do not gaze into the night.
He is not in the cold wind
tearing at tender leaves.
No, nor does He live
on the mountain of thunder
nor on the crashing shore
where the surf pounds
time on rocks as old
in the piercing cries
of the children
but in your own
by your tears
there you will find Him:
gentle, and full,
Image: Solomon Raj
From deep inside
I heard them,
lashing me with my own hands
gashing the rocky tombs
with my own bloody feet.
Late at night
they cursed and fought
my aching skull.
I was their prisoner,
and they were many…
But then I saw Him by the lake
and my soul leapt
even as Legion arose
as with my ragged voice they raged,
“what will you do to us?”
but my soul cried louder,
Hearing us both,
He drove the dark spirits
from my unclean breast
and into the beasts….poor swine.
Madness cast them
into death’s deep pit….
but I could hear only
My hand moved
only when I commanded,
and what my eyes saw
I clearly viewed.
The people of the village
fearing a man who could
begged Him to leave.
If only they could see Him
as I do.
As he was going, I begged to go too
and stay forever in the light
of his face.
But this grace
for me alone…
He told me to go
and proclaim without fear
how His love saved me
from my soul’s dark night,
and led me here,
(18 Feb 2013)
I know you stroll
gazing on Magellanic Clouds,
but I cannot see that far.
I am stardust
Yet I seek you in the autumn rain,
hear you singing in the evening wind.
Your breath fills my empty lungs,
your smile lights
my darkened eyes,
and my heart overflows
with your sacred blood —
Over bright fields
bounded by darkness,
on our song’s
the growing edge
(7 July 2012)