Saturday, December 29, 2012


“In the stillness you realize how the whole valley is alive with singing of crickets, a constant universal treble going up to God out of the fields, rising like the incense of an evening prayer to the pure sky.” Thomas Merton

Glowing low through eastern pines
suspended, self-contained,
this perfect world gently refines
the rough, red clouds
of eventide.

Beneath the moon
in throbbing streams, tremor
in the vibrant night,
green cloisters chant their lusty song
glorious noise, rising antiphon.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tree by the Road

A naked tree
stands apart.

Cars pass
with freeway speed
bending thin branches
in their own furious wind.

I see black leaves
on nearly empty limbs…

No, not leaves,
but dark pears,

or glass balls left to fall
from a forgotten Christmas tree

abandoned, alone, without cheer,

when, roaring, an eighteen wheeler
spews misty twisters.

Then leaves, ornaments, and pears
all rise in a singular mass
of flashing black wings
cawing into the
grey winter

Friday, December 21, 2012

Storm on Tamalpais

From high above,
Pacific waves conceal
both depth
and content.

But when the mystic cloud
ascends this holy mountain,
the living mist rises
from fecund moss
to consecrated  crown,

and rain pours down
in resurgent rivers,
insurgent life
drowning death
in the sea’s mighty

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bright Day

bright day, trees waving
like summer, chill revealing
winter lurks, waiting

Sunday, December 16, 2012

His Secret

"There must be a time of day when the man who has to speak falls very silent. And his mind forms no more propositions, and he asks himself: Did they have a meaning?"Thomas Merton

The pain cuts me
Like an edge of ice
Cutting brightly
Into thickening

We walked slowly
To his grave.
The grass was wet
With winter's dew
Newly melted In
the warming sun.

I saw it,
The newly turned soil,
A few rocks
Glittering joyfully
After a million years In
underground darkness,
Raised at last,
Bare and sparkling
In the black earth.

Stillness in the field,
The wind intimating
His newfound secret.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

At the Death of a Young Girl

"We cannot find Him unless we know we need Him."  Thomas Merton

I see its raw fury clawing at her hands,
Kissing her sallow face with lies so perfect on silk pillows,
Concealing raw, gaping wounds inside, the insult
The harsh silence, the enforced peace.
I have seen all this before, this beast, this darkness, this indifference
To waves of anguish washing through the room
As her mother weeps, and her father strokes
Her dark, perfect hair.
I see her, and
I know.

But what am I to say to their terror? These children
Look at me, questioning … after all,
I am their teacher…
But why did she die?, well, asthma… breath denied… but why?

I know this insistent knot, this question piercing my gut,
And I want to hide in silence, but questions will not be denied,
And I know their questions, all of them…
So what am I to say to calm their red, flowing eyes,
These, my poor, dark flowers, piercing me with their tears?

Yes, read the book to them…Lazarus found out… faith…
Promises were made, now to be made good.
Yes, faith… what else is there but
And so we say the rosary,
And we go on.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Star

“Kindled by a spark of divine love, the soul streaks heavenward in an act of intelligence as clear and direct as the rocket's trail of fire. Grace has released the deepest energies of our spirit and assists us to climb to new and unsuspected heights.”  Thomas Merton

in the high Texan sky
contrail flaring,
streaking, glaring
of fire!

Is this some love-struck soul,
streaking heavenward
seeking in unsuspected cities,
a new home
in the golden dome?

or does it fall,
ever to heavy earth
drag of weight,
dross of
mortal freight?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fog at Dawn

“We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through it all the time...He is everywhere, He is in everything, and we cannot be without Him.”  Thomas Merton

Morning fog softens
spreads through the bare trees, muffles
the cries of the birds.

Edges blur, rounded
fog,  logic of cloud earthbound:
faith betrayed and drowned.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Days of Infamy

The day recedes into peaceful night
spreading gentle darkness
over wide California fields,

the flames of history
nearly forgotten
but for the ember glow
In the wrinkled cobalt sky.

But we remember
bloody days

when war-planes roared
into the rising Pacific sun
and ripped it
into sanguine strips.

Bombs pierced polished decks,
and amazed sailors dove
into crimson waters,
as the Rising Sun spread darkness
Over half the globe

seventy-one years ago. . .

. . . yet just say the date
and silence fills any room.

We remember movies we’ve seen
Of dive-bombers and chaos,
heroes rising in fighters to
stave off the improbable wave.

We see old men in service caps,
Tossing wreaths into
bright Hawaiian waters.

They weep
as old wounds
again bleed.

They gaze into the sad eyes
Of buddies who
didn’t make it.

And we think of our own losses,

Korea and Vietnam,
torrents of blood
flowing through fertile
Asian valleys,

and the obscenity of 9-11,
insurgency raping
Iraq and

and we ask, “When will it end?”

Nodding slowly,
we know.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Storm's Ending

rains cease, clouds closing
rising to sun, blue by sky
encased and dismissed.

Grizzly Island Road

Soft sky, blue and white
cloud swelling over low hills,
delta waters,
twilight sloughs

calling to geese and egret,
kingfisher and mallard
to lounge in waving reeds
as grazing cattle linger
in verdant valley.

Like a river the road flows
down to the sacred sea,
to the deep, living stream
of Earth.

Monday, November 26, 2012


"Inexorably life moves on toward crisis and mystery." Thomas Merton

Out on the edge
death staggers,

frail legs falter
and fail,

but wait!
light is arising,.

life resuming,
breath prevails.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Quarrel

"Let no one hope to find in contemplation an escape from conflict, from anguish or from doubt." Thomas Merton

Words spoken drift like
mustard gas, doubt burning like
webs, unexpected

spiders brush my ears,
slip into my eyes as blind-
ly I rush away.

Your Silence Sings

“Silence can carry many different messages; it can be a powerful form of communication.” Thomas Merton

Your silence sings in 
emerald leaves glistening
through arching blue skies.

Apple trees groaning 
anointing the sacred ground 
with seeds of silence.

Close by rushes a 
train; howling wind brushes my 
face with your silence.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Final Parting

“The things that are on the surface are nothing; what is deep is the Real.” Thomas Merton

The visit was nearly over;
all that could be said
was nearly said.

My mother lay still on her sick-bed,
carefully arranged in the living room,
smaller than ever I saw her,
pain numbed at last,
as peacefully she fingered her rosary
and waited for me to come in
to say goodbye.

Walking into the dusky room
I knelt down at her low bed
and kissed her sallow face and embraced
her thin, cancer-riven body,
when suddenly she held me tight,
and with surprising strength, pulled me down,
tearfully embracing her child,
and nearly breathless, whispered in my ear,
“I never thought anything like this
would ever happen to me”

and empty at last,
I left.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Aubade: Night into Morning

We lie under high arched windows
awake in the deep winter night
and gaze on the tallest trees
glazed in silver light.

They reach up to the radiant moon,
their fingers spread bare and plain,
raised in silent prayer 
after December's cold, hard rain.

Your face is bathed in these holy rays,
and I fight sleep; I cannot turn away
from truth so deep as the moon beaming 
through our wintering trees ardently streaming.

But I close my eyes for a moment, then see
dawn drawing azure from night's darkest seed,
and the trees' golden limbs rising on high
to praise morning's vaulting blue sky. 

So I arise and turning to you I see
how night flows to dawn eternally
and to the resurgent world restores
the spring of our never-ending joy.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Vanitas Folia

Leaves quickly fall
now that November
is nearly done. 

From behind a glass door
I watch the dry storm,
blanket the ground,

Useless appendages
liabilities in the wind,
cast-aways await
the hollow scraping
of my wide rake.

Yet in the tree
hope for reprieve, 
wave and rush 
sure that bright color
can distract, delay death
with brilliant 

Raking Leaves

Look to the tallest tree
and see how the noon-day sun
glints through slender grey limbs
to where leafless Life contracts
to its tender core
(this year’s ring
and waits for winter’s storms.

Leaves lie,
golden harvest, luxuriant carpet
to kick and scatter like
brittle snow. . .
. . . years ago

playing through the autumn day long,
we built castles and smashing them,
dove deep into fragrant mounds.

Incense of burn piles
sanctified the chilled air of November.

Today I just rake,
scraping turf
making smaller heaps to haul
into my big green recycle bin
and see how golden autumn light
softly glows in gleaming grass,
free at last
from the detritus
of summer.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Night Plows

lights glare, clouds rise, flare
in the night, blades split earth, fur-
rows before the storm.

November Wind

cold wind
tears at my hair

thin wisps,
fine threads
make me 

as towards bright 
rooms I run

through silver sleet 
piercing my core, 

I pass
through winter's 
icy door.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Two Poem Morning

Creation had been given to man as a clean window through which the light of God could shine into men’s souls. Thomas Merton

Holy Spirit

I lift heavy legs and groping for glasses,
stumble through my dark house
to see if night will return the sky.

Aching for the new day
I sip strong coffee
and write.

Listen! Birdsong rings
from dark trees.

Wise winter birds
know that the world
and ends
with song.

With the rush of wings
they teach me,
how to capture the infant sun!

They show me
how, with trill and vibrato,
to end the dreary night.

They use breath and light
to rise to heaven,
and renew with love
the face
of the earth.

Aubade: Morning Rain

Living trees, grass rising
from dark cool soil

Roses, like blood from a wound
rise above a common weed.

Its fugitive life persists
evading my brutal hands.

November rains
provoke darker green

Dim clouds pour
solemn waterfalls

Holy tears renew
the life of our dark world.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Brief Day Ends

October slips
past golden hills
as traffic
through the narrow valley slides, 

glittering serpent
past thrashing grass

while high atop the street lamp, 
stands the black vulture,
wings extending

massive and dark
and still,

this new season 
of death.

Monday, October 15, 2012


“In silence we face and admit the gap between the depth of our being, which we consistently ignore, and the surface which is untrue to our own reality.” Thomas Merton

Distracted, ears filled
with gossip, with chattering
laughter, hissing pots,
baroque music.

This chair’s too hard.

My small table’s streaked
and sticky,

twisting veins
of old, spilled

I seek silence.

Where else to find it
but here,
under this too-
bright spot-

Monday, October 8, 2012

First Flight

“The moment the first man sprang into being, moved by the breath of God, the depths of the center of his perfect soul blazed with the silent, magnificent flame of Wisdom.”  Thomas Merton, The New Man

grey dawn rising
blaze of new light

purposeful, climbing,
breath of new height,

sharp beak piercing

song of first flight!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


“When the sun rises each one of us is summoned
by the living and the dead to praise God.”
Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander.

In the morning
you sent clouds towering
and drove fine ice
into the tender

(its red petals scattered, 
a holocaust 
on pure white ground)

and took my breath away!

Father, I seek you
like death, 

clean and clear
in the ringing air.

Green and golden, 
long shadows flow east
and birdsong fills 
your nodding trees.

In the gentle rhythm
of the swaying wind
there I hear 

your song again.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

from a dark room

Van Gogh, A Lane near Arles (Landscape with Edge of a Road), 1888

“Our spirits were made for light, not for darkness.” Thomas Merton

This dark room

comforts me.

Tender eyes
are safe here from
the hot autumn wind.

Dark tears cleanse

as I gaze out
to the shimmering street
where rises the sacred scent
of yellow flowers,


and sweet.


Deep in the twilight grey
I wait
for black night to drop
and completely.

At the end of the day,
hope is measured
one careful procedure
at a time.

is not kind in winter.

Too early It comes,
and stays much too long.

It brings fear,
red eyes
and stinging tears.

Lit by throbbing numbers
night probes your veins
one pulse at a time,

as your shivering soul watches
from cool blue bars
gleaming in the distant ceiling.

Stroking your hands
In the fading day’s light
I pray
for one more

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Three Trees: Autumn

The Three Trees: Autumn Claude Monet, 1891

thin limbs,
wind drifting,
sun melting straw
autumn’s frost

form is septolet....syllabic verse, 1-2-3-4-3-2-1

Monday, September 24, 2012


“Real self-conquest is the conquest of ourselves not by ourselves but by the Holy Spirit. Self-conquest is really self-surrender.”  Thomas Merton.

Look to the west
and see how your eyes
must narrow
or turn inward
to shut out
the glare
that precedes

Hills wrapped in haze
lose all definition
become flat, devoid
of fold or crevasse.

No sudden rise
blocks your way
to the edge
at the top.

Surrender there
to the light
you enter

the night.