Gilt Gift {a #poem}

Sometimes I guilt myself right out

of joy. Like the surprise of an iridescent

butterfly from an unsightly cocoon,

who would expect this shimmering

show in morning sunlight?

Eyes are trained on Northwest firs

framed in blue, frosted feeders,

feathered presents hidden among

the trees.

I’ve held my breath, wondering.

Did my mother ever ponder stilling

herself, take a moment with the

birds in her California garden? Gaze

restful at morning fog carried

in on marine air? Was she ever at ease

in her troubled life, as she parented

us alone?

I will never know.

I cannot ring her up to ask, there

is no email to send, no letter to write.

She is gone, stolen far too soon.

I consider this feigned injustice.

How wildly unfair I should gather

such beauty as surely she never did,

then abandon my thoughts. No.

I will not leave reason to balance the

ledger, steal this away, too. Feathered

hum of heat, filigreed pane, frosty view.

I drink in sleeping green, hear her

whisper over my shoulder,

Breathe in the brilliant morning.

Surrender second guesses and leave

logic to the philosophers.

I startle to the present, welcome with

wonder this gilt gift, nothing to ponder

but my thanks.

–From my new book “Hearts on Pilgrimage-Poems&Prayers” 

****

I share this poem coincidentally on Mothering Sunday, an observance in the U.K. to honor mothers. Mothering Sunday began as an explicitly religious event of the 16th Century, with no connection to mothers at all. The word “mothering” referred to the “mother church”, which is to say the main church or cathedral of the region. It became a tradition that, on the fourth Sunday of Lent, people would return to their mother church for a special service. This pilgrimage was apparently known as “going a-mothering”, and became something of a holiday event, with domestic servants traditionally given the day off to visit their own families as well as their mother church.

If we find ourselves returning to our “mother” church, we may similarly find ourselves returning to Christ, the bringer of joy and restoration in our lives, regardless of our life experience with our own mothers. That was the intent with my poem, to mirror God’s grace to us, His care and love that he so lavishly pours out on us as a parent. Our days are all gift.

Unwrap yours today, friend, and receive it with joy.

-Jody

It’s Almost Here–Hearts on Pilgrimage-Poems & Prayers

It’s the fourth day of Christmas and I’m sitting at my dining table while shadows play on the Advent wreath and the dishwasher hums.

The post-holiday lull has begun, that in-between time where memories of enjoying my family’s company, complete with six noisy grandkids, partner with a looking-forward frame of mind to a new year and a new book.

Hearts on Pilgrimage-Poems & Prayers is allllmoooost finished; the final touches are being added to the cover and I am working on the electronic download of the book as well.  Since I’m self-publishing the process is a little nerve-wracking as all the details of content, design and cover are up to me (and a remarkable design gal for who I am eternally grateful.) Come mid-January we should be ready to launch. I so look forward to having some poetic inspiration available and in readers’ hands soon. The book will be available on Amazon and orderable wherever books are sold.

If you’d like be one of the first to receive an announcement of the book’s release, just click HERE.

In the meantime, may I offer you the title poem?

Pilgrimage

Since I am coming to that holy room…

            I shall be made thy music. -John Donne

Our journey home begins

daily with the sun. And a map.

Oriented by true north, that

compass which magnets

us in subtle, insistent ways, we move.

Deep and invisible, His song draws

us on as we come ’round again

in a thousand turns to the sound

of that voice.

We are Peregrinus, pilgrims

wandering place to place,

straining for an echo of melody,

words to a song we forgot we knew.

Forever we crease and fold our maps,

spilling tea as we travel, stain and blur

lines as we learn the way.

We look up. Scan the signs,

slow down, take note.

*****

No. Not a map, a musical score,

vellum notes traced over time

played on heart’s harp, tuning

our ears ever more finely to the

pitch, not of His voice, but His tent,

that dwelling place where we finally

meno with Him. Home at last.

Phillis Wheatley, African American Poet

phyllis wheatley
From Poetry Foundation online
Several years ago in a biography of preacher and evangelist Jonathan Edwards, I read the name of  “slave poet” Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784). Wheatley wrote an elegy (poem on the occasion of one’s death) for George Whitefield, one of Jonathan Edwards’ dear friends. Whitefield and Edwards were pillars of the Great Awakening that swept the world from England to the United States in the 1700’s and Wheatley had been greatly affected by the move of God in her own life. In fact, much of her strong Christian faith shows up in her poems, which I soon found out when I went looking.
What’s astonishing to me is the language and voice of Wheatley’s work. She was brought to America from Senegal/Gambia at the age of 7 and purchased by a family in Boston to purportedly “accompany the family’s children and share in domestic work.” As a result, she inadvertently was taught to read and write, receiving a stellar classical education alongside the children, something unheard for a slave. She read widely the literature and early works of Virgil and Ovid, John Milton and Shakespeare, and the style of her writing reflects this classical immersion.
The more I read the more surprised I was, assuming that all African slaves in the 1700’s were illtreated and illiterate. Thanks to my Sophomore English teacher, Dr. Kehl, I learned to love the language and style of Shakespeare’s writing (though I often needed assistance in deciphering his meaning.) When I first became a Christian I enjoyed the King James Version of the Bible for just that reason. Reading Wheatley’s poetry was like reading Shakespeare and I was drawn in.
Thanks to her owners and their wide circles in Boston society Wheatley’s work was known and shared widely in Boston and across the Atlantic. Her first published poem was printed when she was only 13 and she went on to write many, many more. Mary Wheatley, Phillis’ benefactress, saw to it that bookseller Archibald Bell begin to circulate Phillis’ work, and the debut edition of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was published in 1773. Poems on Various Subjects was the first volume of poetry by an American Negro published in modern times. Its readers included notables like Benjamin Franklin, among others and was well received and widely supported.

The Next Best Yes {a #poem}

view of cda lake from room
C’oeur d’Alene Lake, ID 

 

Now

Let 

And 

Yet

How can the power of my surrender

be wrapped up in three slight letters?

A mix of mercy in a single syllable?

And yet.

Placed just so, like fine crystal

refracting evening sun into shards 

of light, they precede each sentence,

illuming my way to the next best yes.

***

I’m grateful to Jesus, who is eternal and an all-at-once God, that we are bound by time.

That we are asked to step into our days one at a time, one yes at a time.

 

Five Female Poets of Faith

cb2ed-2014-11-082b07-54-46

One thing the world needs is for more people to read poetry. Especially from female writers of a certain age who identify as people of faith. I hope you enjoy this small round up and hope you’ll take the time to read more of their work via the links provided. You will be richer for it.

–Abigail Carroll

Photo:  Julian Russell

That I Might Dwell

That I might dwell in warbler
song, in fields of sorrel, fields
of stars, that dwelling in your
house I’d know, I’d rest, I’d play
at wonder. Oh that I might dwell

in pine-branched shade, among
the sway, among the praise of oak-fern,                                                                                        granite, jay nest, spruce—
among the shadow-dance of leaves,
the breeze unpinning doubt, all

apathy, all hollow hours, all fears.
Oh may I dwell in reverence here,
and dwelling in your house, I’ll
wait, I’ll pray, I’ll lay this body
down on what you’ve dreamed,

on what you’ve sung, spliced, spun,
twined, embroidered, breathed.
And dwelling in your house I’ll
know the peace of moss, the moth-                                                                                                  winged hush of unhinged awe,

musk of sage, gaze of deer. Oh let
me lose myself in rooms of fox-                                                                                                      glove, cowslip, wild plum, wren—
that I might taste the sleep of loam,
that I might tenant beauty here.

from Habitation of Wonder by Abigail Carroll (Wipf & Stock 2018)

Abigail Carroll is a poet and author whose most recent book, Habitation of Wonder (Wipf & Stock, 2018), is an offering of poems that travels the intersection of the natural landscape and the landscape of spirit. A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim (Eerdmans, 2017), has been called “sparked with joy and stitched with whimsy” by the Chicago Tribune, and Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal (Basic Books, 2013), was a finalist for the Zocalo Public Square Book Prize.

Click here for Abigail’s website.

Dayspring From on High {a #poem}

 

Related imageThe Christ, as yet unchristened.

The Word as yet unspoken. So His

Mother announced instead,

He has performed mighty deeds with 

His arm; He has scattered those who are

proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

He has brought down rulers from their

thrones, but has exalted the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things

But has sent the rich away empty. He has

helped His servant Israel, remembering to 

to be merciful, as He promised to our Fathers

to Abraham and his descendants forever.”

It is written. It is said. It is done.

Before our Lord’s first cry, we’d already won.

*****

Mary’s song is from Luke 1:46-55

Silence Ascends, Sunday {a #poem}

P_20190130_081852_vHDR_On-620976672-1549500404116.jpgThere’s a lot one can say
     about the power of being 
     quiet (yes, I see the irony).
When listening forefronts the mind
     other senses muscle their 
     way into place (the ears above
     all) take in the not-words
     simply song, hum and tone
     in counterpoint.
No addition necessary; I am
     mute, yet the Word bursts
     alive, verse and chorus rise
     without me. The truth
     needs no help to stand.
Even when I’m not singing
     even if I’m not yes-ing it.
Sometimes you don’t get an amen.

Home-A Poem in Three Parts

Beginning

Years and miles evaporate

like the morning’s ocean fog where

the strong, bright gleam of

friendship holds true.

Holds true like trees that have

weathered decades of sun as we

weathered our own wearying

waves of life, lapping at the edge

of our friendship, threatening

to erode the years of tears

and laughter, the breaking

in between.

In between we hold on, reach

out past the yesterdays touching this

day as we raise high our glasses,

crystal etching the air, the sound

like a chime announcing

we are still here.

Middle

I threw myself at roaring rolls

of foam and froth, abandoned

my limbs skyward as I jumped

the tops of broken, bowing

breakers, exploded in laughter,

surprised after all these years that

I still know how to dive when needed,

that my body remembers the bounce

and bob of moving water and most

of all, recalls the healing taste of salt,

the wondrous sky-blaze balm

that is the sun.

End

The melodious midnight insistence

of cricket backdrops my sleep.

I drift into memories of summer

nights when this accompaniment

was the only sound, a lullaby

for my youthful self; I rest

with a song.

Every summer I have a chance to visit Southern California, the land where I grew up. I spend days and evenings with family and friends, enjoying the rich, singular experience of a place that is buried deep in my bones. My mind is always flooded with memories when I return and, as usual, poured out into words.

Up {a #Poem}

2015-10-09 07.06.05“In the beginning”
begs the existence of a
dot, the endpoint of
a line referencing time and
movement, like an ant on
the Golden Gate Bridge.
If there is time (now)
and movement (how?)
why do we shun this
guess the size of a
galaxy, turn from the
possibility of a God
placing us just so?

I may travel by antenna,
feel my way blind on small
steel and close pavement,
stopping for crumbs.
But just because I cannot
see it does not mean
there is no sky.

 

To the Tune of ‘Lilies’, {a #poem}

gardenia NOLA

There is a song in petals,

the rainsound of notes on thirsty

earth feeding spring’s new flowers.

There is a melody in the making

of a garden where silent, shriveled

seeds wait to burst, pushing

through wet soil with their magic

strength inside.

There is a harmony in the golden

leafwhisper and silent shout

of green dusting the tips of

dogwood and rose, tulip, lilac, moss.

The symphony grows as God

bouquets the Earth with color

and we hear that far off tune,

the resounding music that calls

us beyond this heaven to our home.

~*~*~*

I was reading Psalm 45 this morning; the Scripture that God spoke to me years ago when I began writing, “my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” I noticed the text said it was written to the “tune of ‘Lilies'”, perhaps a song…and I wondered, what do lilies sound like?