Wednesday, December 27, 2017

On the Feast of St. Stephen

The Martyrdom of St. Stephen by Peter Paul Rubens 1616-1617

"The life of the soul is not knowledge, it is love, since love is the act of the supreme faculty, the will, by which man is formally united to the final end of all his striving – by which man becomes one with God." (Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain)

See how wind tears, how
clouds ravage the sky
to shreds…

Can you hear the geese fleeing,
shouting dread
as the savage storm crouches?

Are you afraid?

I know
how the sea sometimes
launches boulders;

but the stubborn land
bows and waits
and, swollen, forgives

with torrents of life;
rivers of joy.


Monday, December 25, 2017

false comfort, treacherous joy

Photo Brian Federle: Candles 2014

Lights dancing
In evergreen branches

bright birds perched among
golden ornaments —

false comfort,
treacherous joy!

For this season of life
refreshes my tears,
renews my pain.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

to the center

Photo: Brian Federle, "Night", 2014

constant hum,
music of days to
night fading; the right note, only
song you know; sum of your days, falling, falling to night.

to the
center, to
the black place to wait
for Him. Don’t call out in fear for
there’s nobody there but you and He, so silent be

how His song
fills your darkness with
light; smile at Him, your familiar
bright friend, and no longer will you fear your emptiness.

(23 Dec 2013)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Winter Solstice

Image from The Sunrise Blogger

Driving down the arrow-straight road

I'm blinded by the sudden flash
in my rear-view mirror.

The burning disc,
orange flame
rises over low eastern hills,
I  look away
into the dim west,

to the moon,
setting cool and deep,
hovering low
over Jamison Canyon,
in the blue morning.

It was smaller
when I saw it last night
hanging high
over my gleaming roof.

Then the moon owned the night
and drenched the grey lawns
with mystic light
our pale houses,
into windy mythic temples,
sheltering whispering shades.

Now the fierce sun claims
his wide, waiting world
as the supple moon
coolly descends;

But for a moment
across the brightening sky,
they gaze like lovers

from horizons in equilibrium,

in this perfect movement
of time.


I, John

I, John, declare.
Can you hear?
Open your eyes and see.

With outstretched hands reach and
proclaim to the world of endless strife
the Word of peace,
eternal Life!
ref: 1 John 1:1-4

(23 December 2011)

Saturday, December 9, 2017

New Wine into Fresh Skins!

Renew me, wash me
in deeper pools open my
righteous, narrow mind,

for your wine over-
whelms, rends ancient seams, blood streams,
my weakness reveals.

Make me a new man
and I'll hold your wine within
my fresh, new-made skin.

"...nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins too. No! New wine into fresh skins!" Mark 2:22

(19 Oct. 2012)

Thursday, December 7, 2017


Come into my night;
the darkness is so cold
that sparrows flee
my winter trees,

so I have closed
my windows and my doors
to horde my little warmth.

Crickets will not sing delight
and stars no longer glimmer
in winter’s dreary night.

O come,
O come, Emmanuel!

I am captive and dull.
I cannot see the flashing stars
that lurk beyond the cloud.

O come into my small house
my meager fire share.

O come, and bring fierce angels
to cut away death’s empty snare!

(30 Jan 2011)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Camping at Lake Berryessa

My children sleep
on the thin vinyl floor
while above our tent,
just past the dark tree-line,
the Milky Way glimmers
like cool waves breaking
on the black coast
of the deep mountain sky.

All night
the lake whispers softly
under gentle western winds
as egret and owl
keep guardian eyes
on the sleeping
human shore.

While watching my sons sleep,
I hear the low murmur
of wild turkey and possum
scuffling through dry dust and leaves,
searching our campground for leftovers
peanut butter crusts, hot dogs and beans,
any careless, easy meal,

when I feel rolling pressure
pushing insistently at base of our tent,
and, alarmed, hear quick, powerful,
exploratory snorts.

Holding my breath,
I gaze into the deer’s
fearless eyes,

and wonder
if we campers
are part of this
ancient community,

or welcomed,
honored guests,

or simply curious,
rude intruders.

(30 Jan. 2011)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Advent Wreath

The pale sun, gliding low,
refuses to rise into leaden
grey skies, so bleak night
inters our sinful souls.

Oh! break out the candles
and place them around!
See how their fires
consume the dark ground.

Bouquet of flame!
devour our sins,
and ignite winter’s night
in holy conflagration.


Monday, November 27, 2017

The Light in November

Photo: Brian Federle,  Oregon, 2012.

The light in November slants low.
It fills my eyes as I glance
askance through amber trees
and see the leaves descend in
gold flashes
past my open window.

The autumn sun skirts
my low Suisun hills
casting deep shadows
along the ebbing marsh

where wading egrets probe
still, black waters

and finding their prize
rise to blue heaven,
white, slender wings
elegantly beating
the softly falling sun.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Leap of Faith

You decided
that you want me,
and so commanded
flashing angels
to invade my night.
With blind bliss 
to contend,
and weary with seraphic strife
I gave in:

(a pious moment
here and there,
a sign of the cross,
a whispered prayer),

until, patient Father,
in bright dreams you called
and led me high 
up your holy mountain
that I will rise
and never,
never fall.

(24 Dec. 2011)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

"The Gift" by Mary Oliver


Full from the feast
table laded
with fragrant dressing,
steam of onion and celery,
tender turkey and
five kinds of pies

The family gathered.
My parents smiled
at our busy banter
and sisters nudging and
teasing,  beaming
in the glow
of that happy day
so long ago.

Now you and I gather
our sons around us;
again we pause, pray
and eat the bounty
of this bright Thanksgiving Day.

They say that some things,

kind hearts,
hearty laughs,
enduring love

are so good
they persist long down  
the thankful

(for Brian we are so thankful)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Passage: Sunset. Photo by Brian Federle, 2016


Deep inside
I carry paradise,

A bright flood,
pours through
my soul’s veins,

but like those blind fish,
I cannot see
the holy river
running through me.

On a good, clear day, though,
staring hard beyond,
I can almost see
God’s holy fire
glancing off
my boundless sea.


Consoling Mary

Freely flow her tears;
a dam so brimful
cannot contain
such towering waves.

Wondering that
my words fail
to give peace,
I reach out
and take her trembling hands.

I brush away
all her
bitter tears.

(13 April 2011)

Monday, November 20, 2017

In Contemplation of Seeking

….contemplation is simply the “experience” …. of God in a luminous darkness which is the perfection of faith illuminating our inmost self….. a flash of the lightning of divinity piercing the darkness of nothingness and sin. Not something general and abstract, but something, on the contrary, as concrete, particular, and “existential” as it can possibly be. It is the confrontation of man with his God…    Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation
In my darkness I seek you
through deep caverns I run;
my dying flesh yearns for
your fierce, piercing love.

Through darkness I see
you’re glowing so bright,
but always receding,
deeper than night.

I fear that I’ll falter,
betrayed by frail will
when softly you whisper

“my child, just be still.”

(3 Dec. 2013)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017



He worked nights, leaving as we climbed
the tall narrow staircase to our shared room,
up into the summer heat, the steel fan
in the hallway window
pulling cool, leafy breezes
from our waving trees.

We heard the kitchen screen-door
slap shut, the Pontiac roaring to life,
and watched as slowly he backed down
the dark driveway, and was gone.

And gladly we glided through our misty dreams,
flying over tree-tops, baseball games
and cool swimming pools,

when finally the robin’s enthusiasm
and the fresh morning sun
flashing through green leaves
woke us as we heard the car stop
and Dad call cheerfully, “I’m home!”

The air already scented with bacon and coffee,
we flew down the groaning stairs,
two steps at a bound,
and eagerly started another golden
summer’s day.


One winter day I did something wrong, and
he got angry and drew his worn leather belt
from the loops of his grey, stained work trousers
To teach me a lesson.

Terrified, I ran upstairs to the big closet
and trembled behind coats and sweaters,
as heavily he came up the steps,
righteous anger ringing in his voice,
tears flowing down my cheeks;

when my big brother, teenage and strong,
called defiance to him and drew him down
into the back yard to fight him
and save me, angered by his
memory of so many other beatings,
determined to stop it now!

But facing his own father
he could not fight back, and
weeping, I watched my dad
pummel my brother’s defenseless face,
far worse than any beating
I would have gotten.

From kitchen window,
I screamed to them both
to stop!

That was when my father saw,
in the kitchen window’s glare
his own father’s angry eyes,
and felt his father’s fists
landing hard on his own face,
and he stopped and
embraced my brother.


Seven years after my father died
my first child, my son, was born in spring,
and in the gleaming, sterile room
I first held him in my arms
as, with his impossibly wide, blue eyes
he calmy gazed right into my raw soul,
and I felt in a sudden rush of warmth,
a timeless love
and at last discovered
the reason for my life.

It was then
I understood my father.

In my son’s face I saw my own
and felt my father’s eyes gazing
in warm wonder on me
and I glowed with
unconditional love for my son.

(30 Jan 2011/ 2017)

Photo: Steven Federle holding Brian Federle, March 1986

Friday, November 10, 2017

November Sky

See the perfect sky of November
cloudless, cool, southern sun,
garden of blue eternity

vaulting over rioting trees, leaves
shouting that life is good
as they fall, and with red cover
the green world

with perfect red
as in perfect blue
life turns inward,

like the planet,

the fleeting sun’s
fading hue.

(2013 - rev. 2017)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Feast of St. Francis

Sisters of St. Francis of the Neuman Community
from "Canticle of the Sun," by St. Francis of Assisi: "Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance."

Bird-song rises 
in clear, liquid waves

as golden leaves arc
to the ground.

Heavy gold
must fall.

October heat
gives way 
to winter rain,

yet inevitably life flows
like the breeze
rising from the broad sea
to the high Sierra;

grey clouds rise
and heavy snow falls.

All the living waters
give praise.

(10/4/2013 - 10/29/2017)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Fall Leaves

Photo: Brian Federle, Camping, March 2010.

Wind-ripped leaves
cover my yard

severed flesh, leathery
fingers splayed
grip the brick walkway.

Flush winter roses
drop petals,
red shrouds cover
glistening gold veins
from ravaged trees.

Yet the trees survive.

mimicking death’s
grey angularity
oblivious to the wind,

nude limbs
lean into the howling storm
and dream of June breezes,
singing green afternoons,
the faithful thrush
thrusting new life to flight.

But for now
black clouds gather

the winter wind sings dirges
for these sacrificial leaves
nourishing the famished earth.

re-post 10/25/2017

Sunday, October 22, 2017


In October
golden days suddenly fly
as unexpected,
nights arise.

You died last spring
when love seemed
to promise life
never ending.

Thirty-one years before,
when I first held you,
your bright eyes
gazed on me
with wonder,
my son —
my love at first sight!

But the cruelty of March
surpasses even winter’s rage.

I prayed for God’s mercy
On that bright, green day.
but bereft in my soul,
only bitter darkness

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Wildfire Close to Home

“The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another. “ Thomas Merton

Night streaks the afternoon sky.

Smoke pours through trees
riots through suburban streets,
flames snarl, snap in the meadow,
the red beast
just beyond the fence.

I feel its glare
as wild heat brushes my brow.

Crossing arms, I walk
quickly, first to the corner,
then to the threatened house,
where my young neighbor
clutches her baby
and wonders
when will it be time to flee,
leave home,
abandon furniture, new carpets, tv
dreams of

We watch and wait
for the calm firemen
to arrest this marauder,
cool its rage,
restore to ordered life
this blue July day.

2012 - 2017

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Disasters of War

Iron soldiers,
astride their power,
grip swords
stand poised
wait for the order
to stain red
the innocent earth

as women,
naked bellies swollen,
watch flashing steel
steal away their children,

who play
at their bare feet

and those
who yet swim
in warmer pools.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Pacifica Seawall, October

Photo: Pacifica Seawall, 4 Oct 2014, Brian Federle

We dropped by your house today
and sat in the new chairs
under the gnarled tree
and spoke of you.

We walked to the wall
that separates ocean
from land, and observed waves
rising, mighty, lunging at rocks
beneath our feet.

We spoke your name
there, to the moaning sea.

(Oct 4, 2017)