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Travelling – seeing new sights, hearing new music, and meeting new people – is exciting and exhilarating. But when we have no home to return to where someone will ask us, “How was your trip?” we might be less eager to go. Travelling is joyful when we travel with the eyes and ears of those who love us, who want to see our slides and hear our stories.

This is what life is about. It is being sent on a trip by a loving God, who is waiting at home for our return and is eager to watch the slides we took and hear about the friends we made. When we travel with the eyes and ears of the God who sent us, we will see wonderful sights, hear wonderful sounds, meet wonderful people … and be happy to return home.

Dying is a gradual diminishing and final vanishing over the horizon of life. When we watch a sailboat leaving port and moving toward the horizon, it becomes smaller and smaller until we can no longer see it. But we must trust that someone is standing on a faraway shore seeing that same sailboat become larger and larger until it reaches its new harbor. Death is a painful loss. When we return to our homes after a burial, our hearts are in grief. But when we think about the One standing at the other shore eagerly waiting to welcome our beloved friend into a new home, a smile can break through our tears.

The autumn leaves can dazzle us with their magnificent colors: deep red, purple, yellow, gold, bronze, in countless variations and combinations. Then, shortly after having shown their unspeakable beauty, they fall to the ground and die. The barren trees remind us that winter is near. Likewise, the autumn of life has the potential to be very colorful: wisdom, humor, care, patience, and joy may bloom splendidly just before we fall to the ground and die.

As we look at the barren trees and remember our dead, let us be grateful for the beauty we saw in them and wait hopefully for a new spring.

As I look out the window,
dogwood blossoms turn away from
me, as though I were illegal or alien,

look toward the rising sun, where
I see a flag blowing in the wind.
That is; I see the flag, if I cock my

head in just the right manner
and squint. At any rate, I see
a house. And before the spring

foliage began to blossom into what
will become its summer green, I could
see—with a similar amount of odd

eye crossing and head movement—
that a second house had been
built beyond the leafless trees.


Evie Shockley wowed a small crowd in her reading at Wake Forest University, beginning with five poems from her recently published book, a half-red sea. Her first five poems were taken from the book and centered around the themes of cities and race. Then she read new poems—“lost poems,” she called them—including several with 31 words and a sonnet sequence entitled, “looking for a good time.” The beautiful musicality of Evie’s voice was never more apparent than when she read “short poem: initiation.”


Evie read “on becoming a new jersey poet, eleven days and counting,” and then turned southern again. “Y’all saw the pictures,” she said, introducing “a thousand words,” a poem about torture, included in her book. Then in closing, she read “a course in canvas,” a musical poem about the relationship between jazz and hip hop.


The audience consisted of students and faculty members, many from the English department, friends and poets, who asked Evie a few questions after the reading. In response to one about the impact of poetry on the world, she replied that while not all of her poems are overtly political, she tries to “correct the imbalance” created by those who would keep the status quo. Ken Rumble then asked her “how she got so good?” followed by a serious question concerning the balance between her poetry and academic work. She said she “shifts back and forth” because she enjoys both.


After the reading, a reception was held in the A.R Ammons Lounge, where the munchies were what one expects at Wake Forest, Evie signed her books, and a good time was had by all.

Love is forbidden
to lovely geisha.  Emotion of
the human soul is reduced

to the beauty of a doll.  She is
art to wealthy men.
But, like her son who will

never exist, wife only
to the deceit of darkness.

first published in Right Hand Pointing

“[There is] a time for mourning, a time for dancing” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). But mourning and dancing are never fully separated. Their “times” do not necessarily follow each other. In fact, their “times” may become one “time.” Mourning may turn into dancing and dancing into mourning without showing a clear point where one ends and the other starts.
Often our grief allows us to choreograph our dance while our dance creates the space for our grief. We lose a beloved friend, and in the midst of our tears we discover an unknown joy. We celebrate a success, and in the midst of the party we feel deep sadness. Mourning and dancing, grief and laughter, sadness and gladness – they belong together as the sad-faced clown and the happy-faced clown, who make us both cry and laugh. Let’s trust that the beauty of our lives becomes visible where mourning and dancing touch each other.

“Love is the guarantee that the life of the Spirit is growing in us – Love is the sign of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church and in the world.”


Thomas Merton, Seasons of Celebration. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1950: 220


I wish I could love the springtime the way others do. But for me, there is too much pollen to deal with. The spring is called the season of renewal. I disagree. I think the the fall is the real spring.


The Real Spring Is Fall

The real spring is fall,

starting with school clothes,

a new grade, and then Halloween.

The leaves fall in preparation for

a season of holiday. The climax

is the birth of Jesus, but let’s not

jump ahead too far.


The real spring is about joy,

about crisp country air, about

pumpkins and harvest, a harvest of

corn. The purple of chrysanthemums.

The yellow of the moon.

All kinds of pies, the stuffed turkey.

Granny Smith apples. The fair.


The real spring gives us family,

gives us holiday, gives us candles,

gives presents and love. The real

spring gives us fruit cake, wreaths,

twinkling lights, and roaring fires.

The real spring is fall, the season that

leads to the greatest birthday of them all.


Which season is your favorite? Why?

Go Tony!

March 2007