Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tree and Sunset

photograph courtesy of Sonja Bingen

"A tree gives glory to God first of all by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be, it is imitating an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree."  Thomas Merton

Oh, learn from the trees,
that through cold days' rush
endure, from hope to hope,
and embrace
evening's blush.

See how the faithful jay 
flits from branch to 
barren branch, 
and sings of 
summer's lost day.

For all trees believe 
in summer's heat, 
though icy winds may strip 
their tender leaves.

They know that change 
is always the  same, 
some long winter hence
they'll fall, by vicious storm slain,
and grateful life will
quietly end.

Originally published on December 10, 2011

Monday, December 2, 2013

Foggy Road

“...unity in love is one of the most characteristic works of the inner self, so that paradoxically the inner “I” is not only isolated but at the same time united with others on a higher plane, which is in fact the plane of spiritual solitude.”  Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation


in fog we walk
down the glistening road

our steps ring
like ice shattering

crystal souls, shards
sharp and eager
at last,
to rise.

You look
into my eyes
and see

I look
into your eyes
and see

as together
we walk
down the shimmering

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Night Scene

Black windows frame dark
folded drapes; indifferent
stars peer through high arch.

Wine glass gleams. Fragrant
constellations, red dregs, swill
over empty stem.

Night trains blare, despairing
gates clang, steel wheels crease dark rails.
Night birds stir, dreaming.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Flawed Haiku

clouds gather where none
had been, promising rain, they
scatter in vain

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Lux in Tenebris Lucet

“Lux in tenebris lucet et tenebrae eam non comprehenderunt. (The Light shines in darkness and the darkness has not understood it.)” Thomas Merton

she lies, broken,
by steel needles
dried blood caked
under translucent tape,
her chest slightly rising
and falling

almost motionless

but for her searching eyes
seeking light
in the darkness.

The Barren Time

The barren time approaches.

Shadows skulk through empty streets
vacant lines fill with lies.

Fear approaches,
drains pale the moon.

Only a single bulb

Do you see
them coming?

Are you afraid?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ordinary Life

My home’s filled
with living sounds.

Pans clanging
in the kitchen,

My son’s speaking
through thin chips
with distant friends

while pressed against my arm,
soft and warm,
the cat purrs with contentment.

She’s following
my dancing fingers

as I tap black patterns
on this glowing screen,
(to her, wise critic,
signifying nothing!)

I swim in this pond
like golden koi,
and inhale the fragrant
of my ordinary life.

Like Rising Flame

Like rising flame
my love ignites
the dawn
as molten sky
pours sacred gold
to fill your
folded valley
and compel your love
to conspire
with my soul’s
hot desire.

Driving Home

I glide,
past moon-drenched vines,
my feeble light casting
to where all certainty ends.
But beneath these wheels
the dark road sings
hymns of breathless
I speed
to that distant place
where I know
you are waiting.

Hear my love's breath

I hear my love's breath! 
Oh, where should I stay? 
Whispering fear 
to the stale, 
withered day?

I feel her breath
on my bleak, barren soul. 
She warms my heart, 
brings me out of the cold.

Morning Bright

Morning bright, night chill gone,
the scented wind stroking
high, compliant branches,

and I watch for you
in our summer garden;
lush in leaf and yellow rose
and silky grass
in vernal sunshine,

and It's you I wait for in the ivy shade
watching our lazy cat
stretch her dappled fur
on the bright, sun soaked
concrete step.

Like the tender vine
in the warming soil
I am content
to wait
for you.

Love and Living

“Life consists in learning to live on one's own, spontaneous, freewheeling: to do this one must recognize what is one's own - be familiar and at home with oneself.....The world is made up of people who are fully alive in it: that is, of the people who can be themselves in it and can enter into a living and fruitful relationship with each other in it.” Thomas Merton

What is mine,
aging skin
wraps my
inner world

where hidden rivers
course through veins,
rapids throb
with the
urgent pulse of

my brain
snaps commands
at the speed of light,
compels my hands
to type living

eyes send
to prove the truth
of my

here as I wait
and watch
for you to finish
your warm

I see
that I live
in you
and you in

Our Love

flashing in your eyes,
wind in your hair, gleaming
moon, passion

It remains
deep in my heart;
unquenched desire,
our love's constant fire.


st francis santa fe

The old town square swings 
in the gentle desert breeze
as the band plays hot salsa and Grateful Dead, 
and couples dance and children laugh
in the dying day's lingering heat. 

We don't dance, 
although our feet tap,
our shoulders shrug 
to these fiesta rhythms,

We claim our seats 
under the ancient elm
in the cathedral's green yard, 
and watch as St. Francis, 
with sweeping gesture, 
blesses with eternal joy 
this lusty life.

In the deepening shade 
of trees and adobe wall,
we stand 
as the day declines, 
and the fiery sun descends 
beyond painted desert hills, 
the glorious moon rising, 
over Santa Fe


"This light shines in darkness, but unless God Himself draws us out of the darkness, we are not enlightened by Him, even though He be present."  Thomas Merton

soft summer wind
murmering trees
distant train
calling me.

sun-washed patio,
the house gleams
in the sweet after-
glow of noon.

the chairs are

limbs lean to the
heavy with apples
sweet velvet light,

all waiting.

sometimes in the night

"Love is the revelation of our deepest personal meaning, value and identity. But this revelation remains impossible as long as we are the prisoners of our own egoism. I cannot find myself in myself, but only in another."  Thomas Merton. Love and Living.

in the night
I fight the 
deepening shadows
of sleep disturbed 
by fearful stirrings,
silent watchers
standing, waiting
as I fall  

but when I awake
and turn to you
I feel your breath
and finding myself anew
I begin
to live.


In the glow of the autumn fire
your eyes warm me.

With bouquet
of winter rose you sweeten
our room; your voice lifts
away night's misty gloom.

So why ever
should we die?

My heart beats
in steady time with yours,
and my mind seeks words
to shine for you
like diamonds.

Oh, my love, let's live here

Aubade Wake Up and See

and see
how the sun
lights the top-most leaves
sets astir the delta breeze, shrugs
off night and drives darkness down into the flashing sea!

Fill Your Breath

fill your breath
with the warm delta breeze,
whispering leaves, all power
contained in a bit of green
and a murmur of rain.

in the hot summer sun
our fingers caress. I see
in your eyes what
I’ll never forget.


Your breath

your voice
summer soft
lost in sleep

I dream
your whisper

rushing across
my bare

your breath

lands unknown

soft days, warm nights, life
flows into life, seasons melt
to hazy light; hold tight

my love, and don’t let
go! for together we’ll jour-
ney to lands unknown.

In the Human Community

in the human community
laughter fills the air,
deep voiced fathers, uncles,
small children laughing, playing tag,
playing hide
and seek
as birdsong pierces
the opaque sky
fills with ancient peace
the resurrection-trees of resurgent spring
in the human community.

Aubade: Your Face

Starry lace wraps
your sleeping face.

With passion
I watch over you

like the moon
to secret

to the importunate sun,

who, with ardent speed,
rises in-
to the fiery

Aubade: Autumn

Day and night
our hearts beat,
arteries, veins pulse
breath swells ardent lungs
and we live!  

Oh, hear how the morning dove moans
in the pale early light;
Wander with me.
With open arms
embrace the radiant eye.

Our love grows
as slowly
we rise.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The English Teacher

When I told them how Jim Crow
made prisons of
bathrooms, restaurants,
candy stores, schools

and how the school bus forced
colored kids into a ditch,
(too black to ride)
and justice finally failed
even Sunday school girls,

they looked askance,
narrowing their eyes
and asked how people
could be so unfair,

so I showed them.

Six million gone
with the careless wave
of the Kommandant’s baton,
and Anne, discovered and reduced
to words on a page.

Their eyes grew suddenly old and grave.

asking them to write April poems,
I say,
look at the cold spring day…
wind blowing
through restless trees,
rain filling the land to
make it green,

but instead they sing dirges,
of children who murder,
and children who die.

So why should I be surprised ?
They did not make this world
and I cannot lie.

Author notes

(after reading Billy Collins’s poem, “The History Teacher”)

Sunday, September 29, 2013


"Music is pleasing not only because of the sound but because of the silence that is in it: without the alteration of sound and silence there would be no rhythm."
Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island

The grave is empty.

Darkness, half lit by the blurred moon,
Chilled by the sea, the fog waiting,
The enthralled stars, nearly lost,
Searching for another earth,
The dark soil waiting for the seed.


The memory of a fireplace,
Warmth with music
Undulating arias
Like small birds falling into darkness.

Cold rain

Driving against my window.
Muffled music and dreams of water,
And another grave.

Rocky Shore

The new man lives in a world that is always being created and renewed.  
He lives in this realm of renewal and creation.  He lives in life.   
Thomas Merton

ancient lake
spirit of
waves recede
and the bones of fish

to summer 

day follows day;
sharp edges

to anger,
to blue

until arise
souls, smooth
and wise.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


"Sooner or later . . . we have to risk everything in order to gain everything. We have to gamble on the invisible and risk all that we can see and taste and feel.” Thomas Merton

Soft autumn breezes,
hills: brown, blue, violet - black
moving to nothing.

risk it all, keep no-
thing in your hand; grasp thin air
and take everything.

taste your fears, salt-tears
sting your eyes; glare like the sun-
set on the last day.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The People of the West Wind

Suisunes once lived
beneath the Twin Sisters.

Ascending beyond the vineyards and twisted oaks,
they still drift through morning mist,
and walk the sacred paths
of their fathers.

Guardian oaks still embrace the People.
Meandering branches lean low,
give clambering children
an easy climb
high to where acorns
fall in the western wind
to feed
their hungry

The Suisunes people, called The People of the West Wind, lived for over 10,000 years in the area where I now live... but they nearly died out within a generation of exposure to European missionaries seeking to save their souls. They would have eluded the attention of the Spanish longer had they not given refuge to escaped mission Indians.  In 1810 several dozen of these gentle people committed  suicide rather than submit to the Spanish.
If you listen carefully in the morning breeze you can still hear their laughter.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Destruction in Homs, Syria 2012

“While I am asking questions which You do not answer, You ask me a question which is so simple that I cannot answer. I do not even understand the question.”  Thomas Merton
“In distress you called and I rescued you; I answered you in secret with thunder.” Psalm 81: 8

City in rubble,
walls exposed,
shattered windows,
rudely ripping
the dead
for any good reason
to live.

They ask
which you do not

I want to understand
your master-plan

but you speak
in secret
in whispers of

Victims of Bashar al Assad in Homs, 2012