Saturday, January 31, 2009


I've been reading a lot of new and different (for me) poets lately. T.S. Eliot, John Donne, and the like. Talk about unattainable heights. This poem is taken, in a way, from Eliot's the Four Quartets. I hesitate to say that, though, because it invariably suggests comparison, which I could neither ask nor want.


Thus bound, we are unbound,
in chains as heavy as the sea
waves crashing, foam to ground,
up from a rough eternity,
and in this noisome sound,
that rolls in rush and pound,
unbound are we,

who skitter on the sand
and flail our sodden wings for flight,
to neither lift nor land,
to look down from no greater height.
The dirt calls to the hand,
you are my clay, my sand,
and my birthright,

born in the fires below
that pull the flesh away from bone,
where from a chant runs low,
a pagan rite of blood and stone.
But here, the gentiles know;
the gods that come and go
were always one,

and One who dries the wings,
and sets the shell upon the air,
whose voice, in shouting, sings
whose wretchedness is blessed fair.
These chains are golden rings,
that lift to higher things,
to everywhere.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Lonely Hope

I am not particularly pleased with this poem, so I may revise it at some point. This week has been an absolute crush of responsibility, and my free time has dwindled down to a few spare minutes here and there. But a poem a week is a poem a week, and so I shall not disappoint (at least in one sense...).

A Lonely Hope

Here I wake and hold my breath,
from solemn sleep, close kin of death,
but she refrains from drawing on my debt.

Another hour yet I hold,
to make of it my grist or gold,
to strain against the world in my net.

This is too much to ask of one
whose weakness is the will undone,
whose palaces are set upon the sand.

How can I hope to find, unfound,
the treasures resting in this ground,
the wonders held beyond my grasping hand?

Is it enough that I should keep
from sinking in the soundless deep
and hold my head above the stormy sea?

For I fear, yet, the heavy cost
we pay for what is asked and lost.
No happiness is set a simple fee.

And still for happiness we seek,
as if we were not frail and meek;
we cannot choose the path our feet will tread.

A lonely hope it is, but true,
and this small hope, alone, will do
to separate the living from the dead.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Despite the fact that I have a three day weekend, I have been rising every morning to watch the sunrise, and each time, it is equally and surprisingly beautiful. No matter how busy life gets, morning somehow manages to wash all of that away, and for a few spare hours, everything again seems simple and easy.


The half-moon stands illustrious above the trees,
there turned to watch the early earth unbend
in eyes and wings that waken with the western breeze
and stretch in sunlight shadow on the grass,
white-rymed and folded down in frost from end to end
and held as silent statues born in glass.

The winter black is wrenched aside as if a shroud
were split apart to prove the life that lay
beneath the still of sleep, with resurrection bowed
to swell and gasp the chill and quickened air
that bears the seasoned breath of cedar spray
and strands of smoke, the fields' hoary hair,

where little scraps of dusk endure in dip and fold
of wrinkled ground that wears its age with ease,
to wait the sun that rises slowly, rimmed in gold.
I cannot tell the moment when the day
broke forth so suddenly from secret eastern seas,
but when it did, all darkness drew away.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Who Are You?

Over the last several years, I have had the unique experience of moving from one tightly-knit and well-established community to another, each time with little or no connection. Yet, each time, I have been taken in by people far better than myself and treated with such warmth and openness that I wonder how long such good fortune can last. But that is exactly what it is not. There is no good fortune. These people truly love, and such lack of reservation obliterates any petty differences. They show me themselves honestly, as I attempt to show myself, and nothing else is necessary. We can have our disagreements and our differences. We need not always take pleasure and enjoyment in each others' company. And still, we can find true friendship, for it rests on none of this. If the whole world loved as these people love, I doubt there would be a single unhappy person in it. Of course, no one is perfect, and neither are these people, but their love approaches much more closely to real love than anything else I have experienced. This poem is meant to capture that kind of love, and the way in which it does not merely exist between those who find shallow likenesses and commonalities. This love is human love, and the only likeness needed is the likeness which we all have as men, created in the image, and through the absolute love, of God.

Who Are You?

Who are you, that I know you so?
The years, as yet, are few
that carried us within the flow,
as years will tend to do.

There was no softly spoken word,
no touch upon the sleeve,
that caught the sound so seldom heard,
the creed so unbelieved.

Our thoughts did not find constancy
nor concert at a glance;
our conversation seldom free
to turn upon a chance.

Our smiles did not blaze with light,
as all the stars above.
No, friendship sprang, as friendship might,
from this alone: I love.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Coalbiters

The beauty of writing, in any form, can be broken into two distinct divisions. First, writing can be beautiful because of 'what it says,' while, second, writing can be beautiful because of 'how it says.' Yet, all too often, prose tends towards the former, whereas poetry (at least of the more traditional variety) strives overly for the latter. Any truly great work of writing, however, will, and must, unite both these forms of beauty. Such perfect works are often very difficult to find. But this brings us to the real point: every truly great work deserves to be read aloud. Why? The beauty of the 'how' lies in many things, but one of the most essential is the sound and cadence of the words as they are spoken. To not read such a book out loud is to deny it a key part of its beauty. J. R. R. Tolkien formed a club, with C. S. Lewis, dedicated to such a task (at least with respect to ancient Nordic texts) and called it the Kolbitars, which refers to one who sits so close to the fire that he bites the coals - literally, a coal biter. Traditionally, such a name has a connotation of laziness in Icelandic culture (if one prefers to spend so much time in front of the warm fireplace that his face and stomach are black with soot, he will likely not be tramping about much in the snow and rain, gathering wood and food and whatnot), but I think that we, like Tolkien, shall stick with the more material interpretation of the word. So, cheers to coalbiters everywhere, but particularly to Stumptown's own coalbiter - Little My - who introduced me to the idea in the first place.

The Coalbiters

The pen once fell upon the page
and left a silent trail
in careful curlings of ink;
black-nighted bridal veil.

Then words arose, as mirrored stars,
a million or more,
and quietly they sat in state,
as mute as they before,

until we found their simple door
and set in it a key
that creased the tender turn of page
and called them out in glee.

For words were not writ down to be
imprisoned by the proud.
We are the brave; we coalbiters
shall carry them aloud.