The Poem that is YOU: How Will it End?

The sun rose and lit the horizon out my window with fire and flash.

But I almost didn't see it. I'm a little dizzy. A bit unsure of where I am, and soon to leave again. Fish camp is over (already?). The

Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop

 is done (far too soon).                      This first week back in Kodiak I'm trying to house train a deadly-cute puppy whose spiritual gift is piddling in every wrong place.


Oh WHY  oh WHY did I say yes to a puppy?? Because my two youngest sons are just too persuasive? Because God made puppies [and children] with instant pull-cords to our ridiculous mushy hearts??


Then the mail came, and 

Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers

 showed up at my door again----this time in Chinese.  

And Micah (youngest son)and I have just started Godspell rehearsals, which gives us a huge nightly shot of gospel joy and dance.

Sunday I leave for radio interviews with Focus on the Family (and more) in Colorado Springs.

But Saturday. Do you know what happened on Saturday? Besides offering a poetry workshop that only three people attended. (Oh, the suffering of poets!) But more----a poem was planted above a beach, overlooking mountains and sea.

With Corey Pederson, the amazing photographer who took the accompanying photo.

I read it aloud to the stalwart crowd, into the cold blasting winds that amplified my words.

Later, that night, Wendy and I walked back to the beach at sunset, and marveled. 

(The amazing Wendy Erd is the founder of the statewide "Poems-in-Place" project.)  

The land and sea itself echoed the photo, and the words . ...

Since the poem was chosen months ago---I have not been allowed to share it. Until now. May I share it with you? 


Across the wide bay, fin whales feed,

  great sinking ships.

Wind lifts ocean to lace.

Mountains wear their own sky,

Volcanoes fume.

The dizzying spruce sway shadows across the sun.

Under the bay, red corals grow houses

like veins, hearts.

  And here, along the tideline, fragments of it all---

whale bones, ash, lost trees, homes.

Each time I come here with you

the continent’s shelf tilts, empties, delivers

to our hands and feet this surplus.

And gathering these pieces 

I am already generous,

      forgiving breached promises, lost homes, broken hopes.

I lay these weights down

on the beach,

now small and light 

as the coil of red coral

I rest at your feet.

This is where poems and words belong (and Wendy knew this before  any of us.) Out in the light of sun and sunset. Out where they meet us when we don't expect them. Out of closed books and four-walled classrooms. Out where we walk and sing and cry and pray and pick up shells and spruce cones and driftwood as though collecting friends. 

Just simple words to you all this week: 

I want to send you out. Out in God's glowing and Fall-bright world. Maybe for an hour you will lose yourself. Maybe for those minutes you will see the largesse of God in a flower cup, the particular love of God in a swallow's flight, the revelry of God in a colony of raucous gulls. 

       Maybe, under such a sky, He will break your heart and make you generous again, as you used to be. 

      I want this, too. 

      It will happen. Because do you know what God sees when He sees you walking on that trail, by the sea; when He sees you head-up in the pines, dancing in that flower garden?

          He sees a beautiful poem. There, among his glorious Creation He sees you, His "poeia," one of the loveliest poems He's written.  He has spent so much on you. And He will not stop, just as He will not stop breathing out beauty in this world. Do you see it? Do you feel it? Do you know it?

Be generous again. As He has been with you. Be generous with others. Walk your beautiful poem-self straight out into broken homes, lost hopes and sad people. Lay down that piece of your heart at their feet. 

And now, your poem will end just as God wrote it. 

The Glory of Diapers, the Terror-Joy of Pregnancy Tests and You,Dr. Mom!!

Dearest Mothers and all those who Mother---for YOU!!

Consider it Mother's Day Week, or better, Mother's Week! In your honor, here's a poem written in the thick of those diaper-changing days. And if you're long past, come and remember with me that profoundly sense-filled experience!

Changing Diapers

Baby, I do for you what Mother did for me.

So personal, this knowledge of your eliminations:

Amounts, hourly schedules, colors, smells,

The warmth of the plumped plastic.

So personal this place on you,

But how quickly the gaze goes medical.

There is deeper knowledge here,

And as I wipe and swipe

and swath in white

Like cloth over wounds,

I have learned the necessary secrets of your body

And know my next prescription.

Baby, you are getting older now,

An unwilling patient past passivity,

Busy on the rebellious route: The foot in the thick of it,

The exploring hand, the smeared clothes

As you try to stand. . . .

To wrestle or coo or doctor,

We meet on this mat times past counting.

I am wrapping my days around you,

My soft absorbant days that snug your hips,

And as I slowly peel off each one,

How you fill them baby!

How you fill every one!

                                      -------Leslie Leyland Fields

Just one more: Remember the terror-joy of the pregnancy test? How many of these did I take? The last two---in my mid-forties 


Is this really possible? I thought, shocked and appalled at even the possibility. It was indeed.


It's a mini chemistry set:

  tubes, vials, rubber stopper,

   test stick, white crystalline powder, 


liquids. At least

you supply the most important part,

waiting that long night

for the first splash of morning

into the small cup,

then adrenaline eyes devouring the directions

opened like a map on the vanity.

Step one:  remove grey stopper.

Step two: this is the recipe 

for making a child, you think. A little 

of this, little that. Stir, rinse, spin.


You go to the living room,

act casual while someone' life

waits to be made.

When you can, you return calmly

to the only thing that matters,

your mind picking petals from a daisy . . .

You have practiced how to be happy

either way, and now

all you want is knowing.

Pink is the color--any shade at all. 

Don't breathe. Even from the doorway,

a soul can look so pale.

                                               ----Leslie Leyland Fields

And here is who those pink lines became . . . 

Love to all you mothers and those who have mothered.  Thank you for loving children---yours and others---so wildly, so indiscriminately, with such beautiful, heart-breaking endurance. Just as you will never forget the ones you have born and nursed and taught and raised, so God will never forget you, His most precious daughter.

With so much love to you all,


Stop Praising the Devil: The Case for Joy Even and Especially Now

"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."

                                                                 ---Jack Gilbert

It has been a few days since we awoke to bloody headlines, and maybe life has returned to normal. Which means still a little blood here and there, but your table is still set for dinner, your books are slowly getting read by your bed, and you're flinching less when you turn on the radio or check the Headline News.  You're thankful for news about budgets and immigration, the usual political conflagrations. No one is dying too badly today. You want to kiss Routine on both her pallid cheeks.

But maybe we can do more. Do you have room in your life right now for joy, even delight? I am guessing not. I am guessing that your house is like mine, the rooms visited with unwelcome guests named "Despond," "Overstressed," and "Hopeless" every time you hear the news or talk to your neighbor or ask for prayer requests or open your email.

Yes, God wants us to make room for the sad and unwanted. He wants our proud hearts broken and brought low. He wants us to weep with those who weep (more on that here), and pray for our sisters and brothers who are persecuted, imprisoned, going to death for their faith, OUR faith!! 

Yes, please carry them with you in prayer and tears through your days. But we have nothing to give our neighbors but sorrow if we cannot also "rejoice with those who rejoice"!  We think God is at work redeeming only among evil and persecution, but He is equally at work in the good, the lovely, the noble, the wayward son coming home, the party around the fattened calf.  

And is it possible that if we give our attention only to evil, we court and praise the devil?

It is possible. Here is rejoicing!  And I invite you to rejoice with me. 

I am rejoicing because morning came and the house stopped shaking under the wind and rain and ducks were happy in the ocean below my house.

I am rejoicing because this very day one of my sons, a son who has wandered down dead-end roads, has written to say that God has come near to him. That God's word has come alive to him. That he is full of joy.   

I am rejoicing today because 45 people have yoked themselves together in presenting a musical (Tarzan) and we're in the last week before opening night. We're exhausted, nervous, but there is such love among us all. 

I can give you two thousand other reasons to rejoice, but instead I'm going to give you a poem. One poem that will help us find our way again to delight. 
  (I don't care if you don't normally read poems. If you miss this one, you deserve to keep hosting your tragic unwelcome guests in all your spare rooms.) 

Are you ready? 

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 cafés 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.

There will be music despite everything. We must risk delight.  Even in  our  temptation to despair, God provides a way of escape that we may be able to bear it, through

 a poem, 

His own powerful Word, 

you, me, one another, each gifts to the other,

 the sound of oars in the water,


 the clicking clack of the coming train that misses us

   for now,

   or howls and hoots us home

   not with tragedy 

but magnitude.

Will you risk delight with me this week?? Spread the word!