Saturday, September 12, 2015

just stop

stop looking for Jesus
in all my poems.
i mean - i’m sure he’s in there
haunting the words
(he likes to do that)
whispering in the ear,
confusing the issues –
but I suspect
he’s more likely sitting beside you
while you’re reading,
you keep finding him –
like Waldo –
in every scene.

this need to see him
in every line
is a perverse hide and seek –
where you hide
(and miss)
what the poem is hiding.
you resist the poem –
its ability to surprise you.
you nail it to the page,
flay the words,
filling the empty spaces
with some imagined revelation;
this text, and that text,
and the next word.

let him announce himself;
let him give up the Ghost.
i have no idea what he’s trying to say –
i can’t hear him over your affirmations,
choking on the words
you force into his mouth.

try entering
the poem’s space
and wait.

look for yourself there,
if you must.

maybe Jesus will meet you;
maybe not.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

safety (psalm four)

will you hear me when i call
you, my righteousness, my
hope. this voice must find
a home, a curling place, your ear.
turn your face to me now.
may it be a kind face.
let it be an open window.

every day you trade your glory
for shame. every day you choose
a lie, you lay waste
to the song
you hide.

still, i will sing.
and you will hear.

i may become angry.
i will not point the finger.
Slowly i will lay down
next to you. i will be still.
in the morning
you will find my song
nestled in the hollow
of your neck.

shyly, i offer you this gift.

let me take the doubt
about your neck; let me
be good to you.

let me feel the heat
of your attention,
let joy sound its note
full of good things –
let us become drunk
as we lay down
in peace, and sleep.
let me be safe.

Monday, June 29, 2015

st. agnes

I think our minds respond to things beyond this world. Take beauty: it’s a very mysterious thing, isn’t it?  I think it’s a response in our minds to perfection. It’s too bad, people not realizing that their minds expand beyond this world. - agnes martin

it’s not so much the purity
that imputed poetry -
no saint, you

offer a more fierce protection:
what is yours
and yours alone

i think they misread you
the way you hold the light –
no seductress, you

just keep searching:
what is yours
and what is ours

all those simple figures
traced on skin –
no skeptic, you

a true believer:
searching for truth
in the bones

i keep returning to the promise
of something more –
the sublime, perhaps

you keep skating
on edges:
this prayer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


can we be this
open? can we really be
this naked flesh
and bone broken
and pressed
and then can we
be honest and
without shame?

this is a man
without guile
he said,
and then pointed
to the moment
the wound was fresh
and heart broken
i wandered
into a desert
full of searching

when the time
was complete
(a week,
40 days,
a year)
i awoke --
found that someone
made a poultice
and wrapped it around me
-- a cataplasmic cast

i found myself
beneath a fig tree.
i reached upwards
and emptied
each branch,
filled my mouth
with seeds,
made myself a home
in the earth.
covered the scars
fingered in the skin
drew in the sand
new figures.

Friday, May 1, 2015

reflections on national poetry month/ NaPoWriMo

april is National Poetry Month in both Canada and the United States, and over the past 6 years i have posted a poem a day to join in this celebration of language and symbol.

in 2010, 2011 and 2013 i simply posted poems that moved me in some way. in 2012 i offered poems that had a more religious sensibility, and in 2014 i focussed on canadian poets. those years i also concluded National Poetry Month with a poem of my own. this year it was again simply poems i enjoy.

each year i have returned to some of my favourite poets – Anne Carson, Jan Zwicky, Nicholas Samaras – but i have also discovered so many new poets, such as Gregory Orr. i have also tried to include a range of poetic voices.

last fall i had the opportunity to attend the Glen West writing workshop with Scott Cairns, another of my favourite poets. it was encouraging in that, while i hadn’t really pursued my poetry for some 15 years, the most recent poems i submitted were pretty solid poems. i wasn’t, it seemed, as rusty as i had thought. when i returned i continued writing poetry, and have enjoyed this reawakening immensely.

this year, inspired by that experience, i took on the additional challenge of posting a new (and as finished as possible) poem each day. i had been thinking of NaNoWriMo and wondered if there were anything comparable for poetry. lo, and behold, there waseth.

i invited several friends and colleagues to join me in this challenge though, ultimately, only Dave von Bieker joined me in this experiment. it was pretty exciting to see what wrote.

while there were days that stretched pretty late before i was able to post something, for most of the month it felt pretty comfortable. i will definitely be revisiting a number of these poems and rewriting/ editing, but on the whole they feel pretty complete. i also look forward to exploring some other formats and using some prompts i gathered over the month. after all, i do have a goal of 50 to 60 finished poems.

i think i would still like to set a standard for continuing to write - perhaps a [finished] poem every 2 weeks? - but in the meantime, if any of my fellow poets and writers would be willing to give feedback, i would truly appreciate it.
until next year...