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This is about the one lonely voice,
singing a plaintive song,

near the pond in the woods. That pond—
apart from the river—is shrinking and dying,

due to a lack of rain. White geese glide
like dancers on the flowing, nearby river,

like swans on a silver pond
with only the goslings making a splash.

The ducks act like vulgar cousins:
Poor, like ours.  And ugly.

The ones whose house remains unpainted—
inside and out, year after year—

the ones with pink flamingos on their lawns
made of dirt, the ones who sing gospel or blues,

pluck a banjo, smoke unfiltered
cigarettes, drink cheap whiskey

deep in the night deep in the woods,
where skinny kids left clothes on bushes

and jumped—naked—
into that slime of receding pond-water.

first published in The Centrifugal Eye

At first sight, joy seems to be connected with being different. When you receive a compliment or win an award, you experience the joy of not being the same as others. You are faster, smarter, more beautiful, and it is that difference that brings you joy. But such joy is very temporary. True joy is hidden where we are the same as other people: fragile and mortal. It is the joy of belonging to the human race. It is the joy of being with others as a friend, a companion, a fellow traveler.

This is the joy of Jesus, who is Emmanuel: God-with-us.

I just received an e-mail message concerning this blog. The message said:

Dear Helen,

Our editors recently reviewed your blog and have given it a 9.5 score out of (10). Your blog is currently rated #5 in the Entertainment & Recreation/Books & Literature category of This is quite an achievement!

We evaluated your blog based on the following criteria: Frequency of Updates, Relevance of Content, Site Design, and Writing Style. After carefully reviewing each of these criteria, your site was given its 9.5 score.

Please accept my congratulations on a blog well-done!


Andres Lopez

So you see, I AM famous!!!

Go to (Books and Literature Blogs) and scroll down.

I really am there. 🙂

Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many joy seems hard to find. They complain that their lives are sorrowful and depressing. What then brings the joy we so much desire? Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck? Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently than the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it.

What makes us human is precisely this freedom of choice.

Witness To Power

I speak now to those who entice,
who didn’t see the snow fall
by night nor the mist that covered
what proved to be only a dusting.
Today, I am living my poetry,
just as Val—living with Ruth—

lives her own fiction.  The way any
writer or poet may feel,
when knocked in bellowing rejection
by a shoeless, story-telling editor—
even though the man who enters a
flowering meadow and drops to his

knees is beneath a valid burden—
isn’t truth.  My guess is, a skillful woman
can make her lover hustle like an ordered soldier
then take from him a soldier’s power,
replacing it with nothing
but the power of the clover.

The Eagle at Sunset
(Just North of Winston-Salem)

This trek begins near Pinnacle.

Yes, I’ve been here before:
A shadowed cow wades in a farmer’s pond.

The sun becomes
a thin and setting line. A lone tobacco plant

moves thorny underbrush
aside, poking through. The smell of money

no longer dances in the wind.
Coiled cedar roots cling to the earth

like young octopi. I drink water
in long, refreshing gulps,

enjoy the evening, flanked by evergreens:
watching an eagle—diving

from Pilot’s forbidden ledge, soaring in
concentric circles, charging the down-currents

of the gusty wind.
Then, a darkening silhouette: And he’s lost

in the reddening sky.

first published in Domicile and later in Gathering the Broken Pieces

Eagles live on Pilot Mountain, just north of Winston-Salem. Cover photo by Bill Losse.

See Karen Hopper’s poem here.

Forgiving does not mean forgetting. When we forgive a person, the memory of the wound might stay with us for a long time, even throughout our lives. Sometimes we carry the memory in our bodies as a visible sign. But forgiveness changes the way we remember. It converts the curse into a blessing. When we forgive our parents for their divorce, our children for their lack of attention, our friends for their unfaithfulness in crisis, our doctors for their ill advice, we no longer have to experience ourselves as the victims of events we had no control over.

Forgiveness allows us to claim our own power and not let these events destroy us; it enables them to become events that deepen the wisdom of our hearts. Forgiveness indeed heals memories.

I saw this picture on Collin Kelley’s blog. It’s so funny I had to “steal” it.

Collin is a poet and a (D), or at least he’s going to vote for a (D). 🙂 Read his poems in the Dead Mule.

Read the transcript for Mr. Balloon-Head’s latest speech on CNN.

Don’t worry, folks. No balloons were harmed in the making of this picture. 🙄

EDIT: I don’t hate Bush, er… Mr. Balloon-Head. I hate what he’s doing to my country.

EDIT II: Collin Kelley on Mr. Balloon-Head: “Undoing all the harm he’s caused will take the new president the entire four years.”

The God Who Is

Outside, the clouds are gray.

The brownish grass looks lifeless
and barren, not like the beach
where the churning sea pounds
an innocent shore, where both land

and water are teeming with life.  I
know people whose boats are tossed,
who tumble on ocean waves,
where no sun graces the darkness.

Meanwhile, far and away,
in dusk’s purple tint of the deepest
gray, a forlorn quail-call breaks
the silence of nature.  A lone deer

enters the thicket.  Near the ruins
of a burned-out cabin, one purple
crocus continues to grow, to join me
in that honest prayer to the God Who Is.

May the rough sea be calmed,
each tiny skiff moored.  May the dawn
shine in orange rays.  And may that light
fall onto God’s hurting children,

and onto the deer and the quail
and the cabin—in blessing and healing
and love, in understanding
and forgiveness.

NOTE:  I can always go back to where I came from, if it turns out to be better.

We are all wounded people. Who wounds us? Often those whom we love and those who love us. When we feel rejected, abandoned, abused, manipulated, or violated, it is mostly by people very close to us: our parents, our friends, our spouses, our lovers, our children, our neighbors, our teachers, our pastors. Those who love us wound us too. That’s the tragedy of our lives. This is what makes forgiveness from the heart so difficult. It is precisely our hearts that are wounded. We cry out, “You, who I expected to be there for me, you have abandoned me. How can I ever forgive you for that?”

Forgiveness often seems impossible, but nothing is impossible for God. The God who lives within us will give us the grace to go beyond our wounded selves and say, “In the Name of God you are forgiven.” Let’s pray for that grace.

January 2008