Friday, December 28, 2018

After Christmas

Photo, Brian Federle: Desert Tree, Palm Springs, Dec. 2016.

After Christmas
life persists, though
the bare trees are
dancing with death,

their leaves ripped
from living flesh;
disincarnate,they wait
for the storm.

So how, then, can I endure?

I live that day every day,
clenched fists pounding
my penitent heart, crying
Mea culpa! Mea culpa!

What kind of a father am I,
absent at the hour of your need?

Oh, forgive me, my son!

Surely tomorrow

the rain will come.

(28 Dec. 2018)

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

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.



Photo, Brian Federle: Pacifica Sunset

Sudden light
flares in the eastern sky.

Bright clouds burst
and consume the void
with glory.

The newborn child,
wrinkled and pink, warms
in his mother’s embrace

and waits for the stunned world
to exhale.

(23 December 2012)

Monday, December 17, 2018


"There must be a time when the man of prayer
 goes to pray as if it were the first time 
in his life he had every prayed."  Thomas Merton

Grey mist
rises and falls
enfolding parched hills
easing autumn’s harsh pain
saturating the spreading valley
with gathering rain

and mercy.

(1 Oct. 2012)

The Window of Being

“Actions are the doors and windows of being. 
Unless we act we have no way of knowing what 
we are. “ Thomas Merton

through the door
and do
not stay
in this dark room,
thin soul of


Break open the window,
and breathe deeply
the light

of being.

(25 Oct 2012)

Saturday, December 15, 2018


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)

Monday, December 10, 2018


The poor still wait
for bolted doors to open
hunger to be filled
and concern to replace
the deep scorn

of the rich, who believe
God is on their side,
who offer golden chalices
and cathedrals of crystal
to purchase
eternal life

with God, who remembers
the poor 
will fill their every
but sends away the rich
with nothing

no things to carry
in their powerful, sleek cars
to their empty houses
silent houses 
stony, soulless
but their names
on fine marble 

yet the poor watch
and still wait.

(24 March 2014)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

I, John

Photo: Brian Federle, Desert Sunrise, Dec. 2016

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 1, 2018

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.


Thursday, November 29, 2018


“Deep contemplative silence communicates prayer.” Thomas Merton

Your voice
like apples 
in a 

I hear
my soul
to your

(11 Aug. 2012)


It flows
over highways
dripping down
through gutters,
storm drains,
narrow lanes,
past dark houses,
past high-tension
wires, driving
constraining fence,
it fills
the green hills
and rolls
through folding slough, past
low bridge and causeway,
ever lower
down to Suisun Bay,
like a swimmer’s blood
pulsing through throbbing vein,
reaching for Gate of Gold
to break free,
to become
one with

(19 April 2011)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Three Poems for My Father

Photo: Brian Federle, Overcast in Oregon
…on the 40th anniversary of my father’s death


When I last saw you
Your hands were clenched
With a rage foreign to your voice
And you were rushing inward
Away from the moon, beyond the glowing
Of my grief.

Yet on my way home
I saw the moon rise.

Where have you gone, then, If not
to that land behind the moon?

In the emptiness above the earth
In the terrific clashing of jet with atmosphere

I heard your new voice
I saw your new hands

Tearing at the cold, hurtling steel,
Casting off silk shroud

For dark soil
And even darker rivers.

If stars loom too large
Is not my window too small?


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Winter's Tree of Leaf and Bird

Winter's tree, of leaf and bird, 
of mystery stripped
silent and spare

where living glade
with leafy trunk and fragrant limb
once hid mockingbirds 
as they played
through drowsy summer's 
longest day.

But now in winter's brittle chill 
all is silent, all is still
as death works out 
his hollow will.

(28 Dec 2011)

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Blue Days

Photo: Brian Federle, Sunset at Pacifica Seawall, 2013

days race
to starry
grace, candles plunging
to panting dreams. Power is brief.
The mounting sun with youthful stride lusts for noon’s brightest
heights, but ennui runs deep gently
recedes sun’s fading
fire to