Thursday, July 13, 2017

Praying with Poetry

The Chapel at DePaul House, Menands New York

I am presently leading a guided retreat with some of our sisters here.

Here's one of the poems we are praying with:

Radical Hospitality


This being human is a guest house.

Every morning is a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

[S]he may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.




Saturday, July 8, 2017

One of those California songs...

A place I have never been:   the Ventura Highway in Southern California.

I'm reading an old Jonathan Kellerman murder mystery: When the Bough Breaks.These Alex Delaware mysteries are all set in Los Angeles or its environs.

Besides the Kellerman novels, I have read all of the Michael Connelly mysteries whose detective is Harry Bosch. These also are set in LA. 

I finally got to visit LA in February of 2015, when I went to a conference at USC.  Even though I only travelled from the airport to USC, and walked around down there,  I saw so many familiar street names.   These novels are filled with details about the roads of LA city and county.

Anyway, today the name of the Ventura Highway came up, and my mind played the tape of the song by the Eagles,  "Ventura Highway."  It's always been a song through which I have visualized summer in California:

Ventura Highway


Chewing on a piece of grass
Walking down the road
Tell me, how long you gonna stay here Joe?
Some people say this town don't look
Good in snow
You don't care, I know


Ventura Highway in the sunshine
Where the days are longer
The nights are stronger
Than moonshine
You're gonna go I know

'Cause the free wind is blowin' through
Your hair
And the days surround your daylight
Seasons crying no despair
Alligator lizards in the air


Wishin' on a falling star
Watchin' for the early train
Sorry boy, but I've been hit by
Purple rain
Aw, come on Joe, you can always
Change your name
Thanks a…

Did di di di dit ...

Ventura Highway in the sunshine
Where the days are longer
The nights are stronger than moonshine
You're gonna go I know

'Cause the free wind is blowin' through your hair
And the days surround your daylight there
Seasons crying no despair
Alligator lizards in the air, in the air

Did di di di dit ...


So different from the East Coast, from my familiar landscapes, but so alluring.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Who makes much of a miracle?

photo: sunrise, Cape May Harbor, by Joe Evangelista

Here's a poem by Walt Whitman:


Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
        with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so
        quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the
        ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?


Monday, July 3, 2017

What has borne up so long

Here's a poem by my poet friend  Maryann Corbett:

Colors come as a shock.
Pink garnet, hematite, green epidote.
Agate, the jewels’ blood.
What’s underfoot
is gemstone, not dumb rock,
and what we took for dun-
dusted utility—construction grade,
anonymous as mud—
is scaled-down jade.
Like reliquary stone,
it venerates remains:
foraminifera in starch-stiff curls,
puff-bodied, spiculed rays,
whorled shells.
Silly to call them grains
as if a summer acre
busheled them, cut and dried, the season’s yield.
These need the ocean’s pace—
decades laid down like nacre,
time pearled.
Drawn to this intimate view,
we’re pressed to think in eons: glacial crush
that ground scree and moraine,
and river rush
boiling the stone stew
down to a settled thing.
So brokenness, shivered from what it was,
reduced again, again,
till it seemed to us
not worth our focusing,
falls into focus, strong,
million-powered beneath the microscope.
A child with a paper cup
builds on the sand. What has borne up so long
will bear her up.

Sunday, July 2, 2017


painting by Shirley Nachtrieb

I don't have any zinnias in the garden; they are annuals and I concentrated on perennials. But I love them and vow to plant them next summer.

Here's another poem by Mary Szybist:

In the Glare of the Garden


Yes, the open mouth

 of your watering can, it

 reminds me of you, of

 rushing toward

 smallness, toward

 a bright and yellowish

 color. Its mouth is smaller

 than any part of it,

 smaller than any of those red

 or yellow petals. It

 reminds me of me, of

 smallness that seems

 closable, but isn’t. Go ahead

 and tilt it, keep it

 up over the zinnias—it

 isn’t empty. The zinnias

 have their tongues out now almost

 completely, let's have it

 go to them. I don't think it has

 ever seen them before,

 let's have it

 hold in the air a little

 longer—it doesn't know

 the smell yet, yes,

 I think you want emptiness

 also, let's have it. And the zinnias

 open and spark and unregarding it goes

 out to them.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

At What Point is Something Gone Completely?

In my search for poems for the upcoming poetry retreat, I came across the poetry of Mary Szybist.

I didn't use any of her poems for the retreat- thought they might be too complicated for that occasion.

However, I was really struck by many of them.

Here is one:

The Troubadours Etc.

Just for this evening, let’s not mock them.

Not their curtsies or cross-garters

or ever-recurring pepper trees in their gardens

promising, promising.


At least they had ideas about love.


All day we’ve driven past cornfields, past cows poking their heads

through metal contraptions to eat.

We’ve followed West 84, and what else?

Irrigation sprinklers fly past us, huge wooden spools in the fields,

lounging sheep, telephone wires,

yellowing flowering shrubs.


Before us, above us, the clouds swell, layers of them,

the violet underneath of clouds.

Every idea I have is nostalgia. Look up:

there is the sky that passenger pigeons darkened and filled—

darkened for days, eclipsing sun, eclipsing all other sound

with the thunder of their wings.

After a while, it must have seemed that they followed

not instinct or pattern but only

one another.


When they stopped, Audubon observed,

they broke the limbs of stout trees by the weight of the numbers.


And when we stop we’ll follow—what?

Our hearts?


The Puritans thought that we are granted the ability to love

only through miracle,

but the troubadours knew how to burn themselves through,

how to make themselves shrines to their own longing.

The spectacular was never behind them.


Think of days of those scarlet-breasted, blue-winged birds above you.

Think of me in the garden, humming

quietly to myself in my blue dress,

a blue darker than the sky above us, a blue dark enough for storms,

though cloudless.


At what point is something gone completely?

The last of the sunlight is disappearing

even as it swells—


Just for this evening, won’t you put me before you

until I’m far enough away you can

believe in me?


Then try, try to come closer—

my wonderful and less than.