Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December 2008 poems

The Changing Light
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The changing light
at San Francisco
is none of your East Coast
none of your
pearly light of Paris
The light of San Francisco
is a sea light
an island light
And the light of fog
blanketing the hills
drifting in at night
through the Golden Gate
to lie on the city at dawn
And then the halcyon late mornings
after the fog burns off
and the sun paints white houses with the sea light of Greece
with sharp clean shadows
making the town look like
it had just been painted
But the wind comes up at four o'clock
sweeping the hills
And then the veil of light of early evening
And then another scrim
when the new night fog
floats in
And in that vale of light
the city drifts
anchorless upon the ocean

Starry Night

Some say that ever,
`Gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome,
Then no planets strike,
No fairy takes,
Nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.

Hamlet – Act 1, Scene 1

An Ill Wind
By Louis Jenkins

Today there's a cold northeast wind blowing, piling up ice all
along the water's edge.

The Point is deserted, no one for five
miles down the beach.

Just the way I like it.

The sand is frozen mostly, so the walking is easy as I pick my way through the
wrack and drift.

Today I don't even leave footprints.

Wind, sand, sun and water. A simplicity that defies comprehension.

The barest essentials for the imagination's work. This shore has
been pretty much the same for ten thousand years.

Countless others have been here before me, musing and pondering, as
they walked down the beach and disappeared forever.

So here's what I'm thinking: wouldn't it be great if one of them dropped
a big roll of hundred dollar bills and I found it?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Prayers for Peace

Here are all of the prayers we posted from the Day of Prayer for Peace on Dec. 6:

Prayer by Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) :

In you, Father all-mighty, we have our preservation and our bliss. In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving. You are our mother, brother, and savior. In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvelous and plenteous grace. You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us. You are our maker, our lover, our keeper. Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Amen.

A Prayer for the California State Senate

Here is one of the prayers I wrote for the California State Senate in 2006. I wish it was out-of-date:

Almighty God, we pray that the leaders of all nations will work unceasingly for peace and reconcilliation in the many troubled lands of this earth. We pray especially for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we ask that all who are serving our nation will be protected by your embrace and will return safely home soon. Amen.

A Prayer by Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Lord, open our eyes, that we may see you in our brothers and sisters.

Lord, open our ears, that we may hear the cries of hungry, the cold, the frightened, the oppressed.

Lord, open our hearts, that we may love each other as you love us.

Renew in us your spirit, Lord, free us and make us one. Amen.

A Jewish Shabbat Prayer for Peace

You have given us the power, O God, to bring peace and justice into the world. May we always love peace and pursue it, and love our fellow creatures. Fill Your children with kindness, wisdom, and love. Then shall they learn to live at peace.

Blessed is the Lord, Teacher of Peace.

A Muslim Prayer for Peace

God made this universe from love

For Him to be the Father of.

There cannot be

Another such as He.

What duty more exquiste is

Than loving with a love like His?

A better task

No one could ever ask.

Rahman Baba

Buddhist Prayer

May all beings have happiness, and the causes of happiness; May all be free from sorrow, and the causes of sorrow; May all never be separated from the sacred happiness which is sorrowless; And may live in equanimity, without too much attachment and too much aversion, And live believing in the equality of all that lives.

Prayer by Leslie Middleton

Our own Leslie Middleton wrote this prayer this morning and shared it with us a few minutes ago with a piece of art she created. Here is her prayer:

Dear God

Peace is messy. Peace is bloody.
Peace in my heart is not something I know.

In my mind, I think “Peace. This could be a good thing.”

In my heart, I cry to be free.

I cry to be free of all that is un-peaceful in my heart.

I can barely look across the desert and see the

Dark children with swollen bellies, walking slowly

Until they can no longer walk.

I can barely look at the women in my town,

Black, overweight, alone with their children’s

Children, eating day-old sweets and hot dogs.

I can barely see the ground beneath bulldozers,

Plowed under for concrete and cars.

I can barely see the green that splits the

Pavement wide, the power of soil and light.

I can, barely, in this quiet,

Except for the peace that eludes me, the bloody

World, the place within my heart where unrest resides.

But God, below me is light. I think.

Was there first, I believe.

Comes with the dawn, I must trust.

Ever more, I pray.


Quaker Prayer by Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845)

O Lord, may we be directed what to do, and what to leave undone, and then may we humbly trust that a blessing will be with us. Enable us, O Lord, to feel tenderly and charitably toward all. Help us to have no soreness toward any. Let us think no evil, bear all things, hope all things, endure all things. Let us walk in all humility before all we meet, and into your sight. Amen.

Jewish Prayer for Peace

Grant us peace, Your most precious gift, O Eternal Source of peace, and give us the will to proclaim its message to all the peoples of the earth. Bless our country, that it may always be a stronghold of peace, and its advocate among the nations. May contentment reign within its borders, health and happiness within its homes. Strengthen the bonds of friendship among the inhabitants of all lands, and may the love of Your name hallow every home and every heart. Blessed is the Eternal God, the Source of peace. AMEN

Gates of Prayer (Jewish), p. 695

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

O God: Teach us to rejoice in all the things we have in common and respect each others' differences; remind us that we are all your children, and teach us to listen; we pray that people everywhere will strive to live in peace, tolerance, and respect, no matter what their faith or race — may we gain the wisdom, grace, and generosity of spirit to overcome our differences and live as one. Amen.

Desmond Tutu, from “A Prayer for Dafur.”

Monday, November 3, 2008

November 2008 poems

The Patience of Ordinary Things

by Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they're supposed to be.
I've been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?


by Rafael Jesus Gonzalez

Thanks & blessings be
to the Sun & the Earth
for this bread & this wine,
this fruit, this meat, this salt,
this food;
thanks be & blessing to them
who prepare it, who serve it;
thanks & blessings to them
who share it
(& also the absent & the dead).
Thanks & Blessing to them who bring it
(may they not want),
to them who plant & tend it,
harvest & gather it
(may they not want);
thanks & blessing to them who work
& blessing to them who cannot;
may they not want - for their hunger
sours the wine & robs
the taste from the salt.
Thanks be for the sustenance & strength
for our dance & work of justice, of peace.

Giving Thanks
Based on a prayer by Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)

Holy and gracious God, we give thanks for the gift of this gathering; for the food before us; the loving hands that have prepared it; and the blessings we share together. Kindle our hearts and awaken hope, that we may know you always as our companion along the way. Forgive us where we have fallen short with each other and with ourselves; heal our wounds, restore our health, strengthen our souls, and help us to be ever mindful the needs of those near us who have so little. Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Amen.

A Brief for the Defense

By Jack Gilbert

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies

are not starving someplace, they are starving

somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.

But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.

Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not

be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not

be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women

at the fountain are laughing together between

the suffering they have known and the awfulness

in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody

in the village is very sick. There is laughter

every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,

and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.

If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,

we lessen the importance of their deprivation.

We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,

but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have

the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless

furnace of this world. To make injustice the only

measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,

we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.

We must admit there will be music despite everything.

We stand at the prow again of a small ship

anchored late at night in the tiny port

looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront

is three shuttered cafes and one naked light burning.

To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat

comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth

all the years of sorrow that are to come.

After the Rain

by Anthony Hecht


The barbed-wire fences rust

As their cedar uprights blacken

After a night of rain.

Some early, innocent lust

Gets me outdoors to smell

The teasle, the pelted bracken,

The cold, mossed-over well,

Rank with its iron chain,


And takes me off for a stroll.

Wetness has taken over.

From drain and creeper twine

It’s runnelled and trenched and edged

A pebbled serpentine

Secretly, as though pledged

To attain a difficult goal

And join some important river.


The air is a smear of ashes

With a cool taste of coins.

Stiff among misty washes,

The trees are as black as wicks,

Silent, detached and old.

A pallor undermines

Some damp and swollen sticks.

The woods are rich with mould.


How even and pure this light!

All things stand on their own,

Equal and shadowless,

In a world gone pale and neuter,

Yet riddled with fresh delight.

The heart of every stone

Conceals a toad, and the grass

Shines with a douse of pewter.


Somewhere a branch rustles

With the life of squirrels or birds,

Some life that is quick and right.

This queer, delicious bareness,

This plain, uniform light,

In which both elms and thistles,

Grass, boulders, even words,

Speak for a Spartan fairness,


Might, as I think it over,

Speak in a form of signs,

If only one could know

All of its hidden tricks,

Saying that I must go

With a cool taste of coins

To join some important river,

Some damp and swollen Styx .


Yet what puzzles me the most

Is my unwavering taste

For these dim, weathery ghosts,

And how, from the very first,

An early, innocent lust

Delighted in such wastes,

Sought with a reckless thirst

A light so pure and just.


By Birago Diop

Listen more often to things rather than beings.

Hear the fire's voice,

Hear the voice of water.

In the wind hear the sobbing of the trees,

It is our forefathers breathing.

The dead are not gone forever.

They are in the paling shadows,

And in the darkening shadows.

The dead are not beneath the ground,

They are in the rustling tree,

In the murmuring wood,

In the flowing water,

In the still water,

In the lonely place, in the crowd:

The dead are not dead.


Listen more often to things rather than beings.

Hear the fire's voice,

Hear the voice of water.

In the wind hear the sobbing of the trees.

It is the breathing of our forefathers,

Who are not gone, not beneath the ground,

Not dead.


The dead are not gone for ever.

They are in a woman's breast,

A child's crying, a glowing ember.

The dead are not beneath the earth,

They are in the flickering fire,

In the weeping plant, the groaning rock,

The wooded place, the home.

The dead are not dead.


Listen more often to things rather than beings.

Hear the fire's voice,

Hear the voice of water.

In the wind hear the sobbing of the trees.

It is the breathing of our forefathers.

That Lives in Us

by Rumi

If you put your hands on this oar with me,
they will never harm another, and they will come to find
they hold everything you want.

If you put your hands on this oar with me,
they would no longer lift anything to your
mouth that might wound your precious land –
that sacred earth that is your body.

If you put your soul against this oar with me,
the power that made the universe will enter your sinew
from a source not outside your limbs, but from a holy realm
that lives in us.

Exuberant is existence, time a husk.
When the moment cracks open, ecstasy leaps out and devours space;
love goes mad with the blessings, like my words give.

Why lay yourself on the torturer’s rack of the past and the future?
The mind that tries to shape tomorrow beyond its capacities
will find no rest.

Be kind to yourself, dear – to our innocent follies.
Forget any sounds or touch you knew that did not help you dance.
You will come to see that all evolves us.

For an Election

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of United States in the election of a President, and other officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For those in the Armed Services of our Country

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Social Justice

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us many crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October 2008 poems

Halloween Prayer

From ghoulies and ghosties 

And long-leggedy beasties 

And things that go bump in the night, 

Good Lord, deliver us! 

Everything is waiting for you

by David Whyte


Your great mistake is to act the drama

as if you were alone.  As if life

were a progressive and cunning crime

with no witness to the tiny hidden

transgressions.  To feel abandoned is to deny

the intimacy of your surroundings.  Surely,

even you, at times, have felt the grand array;

the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding

out your solo voice.  You must note

the way the soap dish enables you,

or the window latch grants you freedom.

Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.

The stairs are your mentor of things

to come, the doors have always been there

to frighten you and invite you,

and the tiny speaker in the phone

is your dream-ladder to divinity.


Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into

the conversation.  The kettle is singing

even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots

have left their arrogant aloofness and

seen the good in you at last.  All the birds

and creatures of the world are unutterably

themselves.  Everything is waiting for you.



by Terence Winch

from Boy Drinkers


Father Cahir kept us holy.

He smoked cigars in the confessional.

He had a distracted air about him,

as though he wasn't sure what

he was supposed to do next.


I don't remember what he taught.

History, probably. It was his

liberal attitude as a confessor

that made him a legend.


No matter what you confessed to,

he always barked out the same penance:

“Three Hail Marys and a Good Act

of Contrition. Next!”

So we tested

this leniency, confessing

to rape, murder, burglary.


Cahir paid no attention.

He knew we were a bunch

of high school punks.

Puffing his cigar,

he'd issue his standard

penance and absolve all sins,

real or imagined,

with godlike aloofness,

his vast indifference to

or total acceptance of the darkness

within the human soul

exactly how I hope the deity

regards us. Take forgiveness

any way you can get it.

The Sacred

by Stephen Dunn


After the teacher asked if anyone had

       a sacred place

and the students fidgeted and shrank


in their chairs, the most serious of them all

      said it was his car,

being in it alone, his tape deck playing


things he’d chosen, and others knew the truth

       had been spoken

and began speaking about their rooms,


their hiding places, but the car kept coming up,

      the car in motion,

music filling it, and sometimes one other person


who understood the bright altar of the dashboard

     and how far way

a car could take him from the need


to speak, or to answer, the key

    in having a key

        and putting it in, and going.

Elk Trails

Gary Snyder


Ancient, world-old Elk paths

Narrow, dusty Elk paths

Wide-trampled, muddy,

Aimless . . . wandering . . .

Everchanging Elk paths.


I have walked you, ancient trails,

Along the narrow rocky ridges

High above the mountains that

Make up your world:

Looking down on giant trees, silent

In the purple shadows of ravines—

Above the spire-like alpine fir

Above the high, steep-slanting meadows

Where sun-softened snowfields share the earth

With flowers


I have followed narrow twisting ridges,

Sharp-topped and jagged ass a broken crosscut saw

Across the roof of all the Elk-world

On one ancient wandering trail,

Cutting crazily over rocks and dust and snow—

Gently slanting through high meadows,

Rich with scent of Lupine,

Rich with smell of Elk-dung,

Rich with scent of short-lived

Dainty flowers.

And from the ridgetops I have followed you

Down through heather fields, through timber,

Downward winding to the hoof-churned shore of

One tiny blue-green mountain lake

Untouched by lips of men.


Ancient, wandering trails

Cut and edged by centuries of cloven hooves

Passing from one pasture to another—

Route and destination seeming aimless, but

Charted by the sharp-tempered guardian of creatures,

Instinct. A God coarse-haired, steel muscled,

Thin-flanked and musky. Used to sleeping lonely

In the snow, or napping in the mountain grasses

On warm summer afternoons, high in the meadows.

And their God laughs low and often

At the man-made trails,

Precise-cut babies of the mountains

Ignorant of the fine, high-soaring ridges

And the slanting grassy meadows

Hanging over space—

Trails that follow streams and valleys

In well-marked switchbacks through the trees,

Newcomers to the Elk World.


(High above, the Elk walk in the evening

From one pasture to another

Scrambling on the rock and snow

While their ancient, wandering

Aimless trails

And their ancient, coarse-haired,

Thin-flanked God

Laugh in silent wind-like chuckles

At man, and all his trails.)

Camas Lilies

by Lynn Ungar


Consider the lilies of the field,

the blue banks of camas

opening into acres of sky along the road.

Would the longing to lie down

and be washed by that beauty

abate if you knew their usefulness,

how the natives ground their bulbs

or flour, how the settlers’ hogs

uprooted them, grunting in gleeful

oblivion as the flowers fell?


And you — what of your rushed

and useful life? Imagine setting it all down —

papers, plans, appointments, everything —

leaving only a note: “Gone

to the fields to be lovely. Be back

when I’m through with blooming.”


Even now, unneeded and uneaten,

the camas lilies gaze out above the grass

from their tender blue eyes.

Even in sleep your life will shine.

Make no mistake. Of course

your work will always matter.

A Spiritual Journey 

by Wendell Berry


And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,

no matter how long,

but only by a spiritual journey,

a journey of one inch,

very arduous and humbling and joyful,

by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,

and learn to be at home.

Bernardo Taiz

Inside an open rose
A tree frog
no bigger
than my thumbnail.
I try to imagine
rest like that,
in such a bed of petals.
I try to imagine
prayer like that,
so intently
in the early light
saying so little.

The summer
into old age,
as do I,
those blackberries
that still cling
to their thorny arms
readying themselves
to trust the earth again,
for a moment
at least,
there is a place for everything.