Category Archives: Poetry

Along the Shining Sea and other poems, by Clarissa Jakobsons

 

 

 

 

Along the Shining Sea

Cumulus pockets of abandon hover

over waves. High tide churns seaweed tufts

close to my chair and feet. I sit on stones

b

listen to the ocean breathe, watching a seal

drift past. Low flying, double-breasted

cormorants head toward the dilapidated

b

pier where several posts remain.

My Canadian friends left this morning, packed

their van by 8 am, kids strapped to back seats

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with stuffed sharks and 120 plastic critters in a box.

Four-cormorants drift, open mouths anticipating

a free meal. I miss my new little friends,

b

6-year-old Clare and 8-year-old Eliza.

Last night, free hugs and kisses filled old bodies

with warmth. Clare called me the pretty one,

b

Grandma watched, thankful for her first embrace.

Live well, my lovelies. Catch the sails and check-out

the horseshoe crabs on shore. Sleep safe

b

tucked in clouds. Listen to the waves at your feet.

You don’t have to touch bottom when you swim,

just kick,

kick, and kick.

b

Listen to the Great Emptiness

Can you hear the tide turn its head at Sippewissett

Two ocean sunsets lost

forever chased by Hurricane Earl.

The geese are not crying.

b

Falmouth shoppers scurry shopping carts

instead of the sea. I flee Buzzards Bay, Bourne.

Along Route 86 and 17, the Southern Tier Expressway

past Albany, Binghamton, Corning, New York.

b

In a far field, cows and horses cast shade

and Angus nestle like crows.

Evening Primrose opens a window,

a promise. Water

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lilies tighten under darkening sky

cold rains dampen feet.

Curled hay, bundled and tied,

full streams ahead.

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Suddenly, Lake Erie appears

as an ocean cradling its own light.

My fingers loosen grip, a seashell falls—

Home.

Originally published in The Tower Magazine, UK

b

Somewhere Between Heaven and the Heron 

The call of the running tide is clear,
a wild call that cannot be denied
—John Mansfield

There’s something to be said

about the wind waving in the ocean

rinsing shells that nag the traveler

upset by cell phones wailing,

sea gulls screeching, or men

shearing leaves at dawn.

b

Quartz sand blows across his face,

the slight sting reminds of breath

where sea salt drips to nourish sand,

black-eyed Susans, sea oats,

and a few Palmetto palms.

b

Somewhere between heaven

and the heron there is a song.

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Eternity Meets the World’s Beginning

He departs as swift as his arrival, our minutes a fond memory. A gift. Return tomorrow, egret, I’ll serve a fresh plate of beef Wellington next to the shells. We’ll speak of the past, herald desires to the sky and wink with a smile.

Like a poem, his plumage flows in wind, spiral tufts crowning head. Toes stretch into still-wings. I wrestle the urge to stroke his down, hunted years past almost to extinction for feathery hats. Today, we share this space, this air. This pure-white charmer preens like a tightrope walker balancing on a toothpick. Bright yellow-basket feet, one tucks suspended from sight. His head nestles into the soft pillow of his back, ever-present, watching every move.

I sneak Mother-May-I steps into hotel room for a Canon camera. He inches toward the door concentric eyes zoom onto a plate of empty shells cleansed of salt drying in never-fading brilliance. Quickly, I close the door and snap 100 snowy egret photos.

Within a wink the white moon perches on the rail overlooking beach gulf sand where eternity meets the world’s beginning.

I am.

The Gulf Between Us

His plumage wades through black seas:
tufted crown still wings, toothpick legs
glaze mordant red. His beak stabs my gut.

I turn off the news.

Creatures great and small
covered in the doom and sludge
of sleep. He swallows
tar balls thinking food.

—Clarissa Jakobsons, Aurora, Ohio, teaches art and writing courses at a local community college. Her art has been exhibited widely. Recently she enjoyed a Fine Arts Work Center artist residency and is working on a book of poems. Visiting Cape Cod during her college years instilled in Jakobsons a love for the ocean though without her quite knowing why it felt like home. When her daughters visited Lithuania of her childhood and sent photos of the Baltic dunes, she immediately understood the connection—the sea harbors a special place in her DNA; it is why she curls toes in the sand.

The Unmapped Way, by David L. Myers

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The Unmapped Way

An early Tuesday,
Late September morning
And the clouded light
Lines the closed slats
Of the window blinds.
Muted shapes
Of sofa and chairs
And last night’s
Wine glass on the
Coffee table silhouette
The room. Soon enough
There will be fillamented
Incandescence
And humming steel.
But for now
There is only this
Silent habitation
From whence cometh,
Finally,
A turning toward surrender,
A calming in holy defeat,
And gratitude for
Once again being on
The beautiful,
The unmapped way.

—David L. Myers has been a pastor of four Mennonite congregations and worked in a variety of denominational leadership settings. Currently he serves in the Obama administration, having been appointed by the president in May 2009 to direct the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In 2011, he was also named as senior advisor to the FEMA administrator. During autumn 2015 he is Practitioner in Residence at Eastern Mennonite University.

Being Saved, by Barbara Esch Shisler

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Being Saved

An old man
crouches in a November rain
calling a little dog.

From the dark cage in a puppy mill
to the universe of a fenced yard,
she runs wild, drenched and trembling,
desperate for what she doesn’t know.

His sciatica aches.
He chases, pleads, swears, plots.
He stays with her through
the cold afternoon,

until help comes and she is caught,
carried, wrapped, warmed,
held fast—
home.

Barbara Esch Shisler, author of the Kingsview & Co post “Imagining God’s Imagination,” is a retired Mennonite pastor and spiritual director, active in her Perkasie Mennonite congregation. Her life as wife, mother, and grandmother is filled with friends, gardening, dogs, movies, books and much more. Reading and writing poetry have been a lifelong joy and learning. She is author of the collection of poems Momentary Stay (Cascadia/DreamSeeker Books, 2015) from which “Being Saved” is drawn by permission.

Editor’s note: As Pope Francis electrifies many with his vision of mercy and compassion for all humans and creatures and earth itself, I see Barbara Shisler’s “Being Saved” as naming honestly the chasing, pleading, swearing it can take—even as she opens our hearts to the tenderness of being carried home by God and each other the Pope is inviting.

Imagining God’s Imagination, by Barbara Esch Shisler

KCGuestPost-BarbaraShislerI begin with my own small imagination. I have a blank piece of paper, a pen, and an idea for a poem. I write, cross out, rewrite, edit, and throw it in a folder. I get it out again, read, reread, rewrite, put it in the computer. Eventually I may have created a poem.

But of course, I have created nothing. I already had language, a vocabulary, images, experiences, memories, stories, dreams, and more, to work with. What I did was assemble a poem. God created a universe from nothing.

So who is this incomprehensible Creator God?

Here again, imagination is what we have to look through, a different window than hard facts. The Bible is rich with images of God, each describing some aspect of God. We all have our favorites. When I try to imagine Creator God imagining the cosmos into existence, this is what I come up with:

A force field of energy so enormous and powerful and beyond description, Huge . . . throbbing with pure love and joy and growing, swelling, ballooning, until the energy becomes so volatile it explodes with a whopping Big Bang, and flies into tiny bits of divinity that set off the process of creating a universe saturated with God’s life.

Now, it’s billions of years later and a fabulous universe exists, and a teeny pea of a planet with human animals are somehow miraculously worthy of God’s embodiment in the flesh. . . . Wow.

How can our little minds absorb this? It takes more than mind. It takes body, soul, spirit. Thank God we have five senses to try to take in the evidence of what God imagined into being:

Color astonishing enough to make us cry: name the sunset, rainbow, fall maples, fresh snow on spruce, cardinals, daffodils, monarchs. Name the sounds: music, wind, waves, frog and bird and locust. Name tastes of ripe tomato, sun-warmed peach, mint and basil. Name smells, name the touch of rain, grass, fresh-turned soil, the fur of a kitten, the cheek of a newborn baby. The universe is a marathon of feasts to glut our senses. We might well be saying “Wow” all the time.

When God’s creative energy let loose during the Big Bang it found its way into our human DNA and set off an innate longing to imagine and assemble new things, whether it’s art or machines, medicine or philosophies. The most beguiling and thrilling thing about this for me is that it all came about because of love.

Gregory Boyle, a Franciscan priest who works with gangs in Los Angeles writes in Tattoos on the Heart about God’s gladness and delight in human beings. Boyle’s ability to see God’s pleasure in tough, mean, dirty, drug-addicted gang members, to believe in their preciousness just as they are. This takes some imagination on my part. I get stuck in how God must see the ugliness, cruelty, suffering and sin in our world. How are we then creatures of beauty and goodness? Proverbs 8 says that God’s wisdom rejoices in the inhabited world, delights in the human race. Is God grieving or delighting?

Richard Rohr says that spiritual maturity means being able to hold two opposites as true at the same time. God suffers and God delights. I need to grow into a better balance of God’s joy and gladness even when I get stuck in God’s disappointment and sorrow with all that has gone wrong in creation. (Actually, I’m hoping to fall overboard someday into an ocean of God’s joy and gladness)

Brian Swimme is a specialist in mathematical cosmology, author of a book called The Universe is a Green Dragon. Here’s what he says about allurement and the universe:

Love begins as allurement. Think of the entire cosmos, 100 billion galaxies rushing through space. The dynamics of the universe is the attraction each galaxy has for every other galaxy. Each part of the universe is attracted to every other part. The result is the creation of community. Love is the word that points to this alluring activity in the cosmos.

Swimme acknowledges in his book his indebtedness to science, art, and religion but especially to the Mysterious Source of these realities.

Two poets of the 1700 and 1800s give me words to describe the holy mystery of creation.

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a wild flower—
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an Hour.
—William Blake

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here root and all in my hand.
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.”
—Lord Alfred Tennyson

 Mysterious, profound, extravagant words . . . but what it all comes down to is one simple word we all know: Love.

A song we used to sing says, “It’s about love, love, love. Everybody sing and shout ‘cause that’s what it’s all about. It’s about love.”

Barbara Esch Shisler is a retired Mennonite pastor and spiritual director, active in her Perkasie Mennonite congregation. Her life as wife, mother, and grandmother is filled with friends, gardening, dogs, movies, books and much more. Reading and writing poetry have been a lifelong joy and learning. She is author of the collection of poems Momentary Stay (Cascadia/DreamSeeker Books, 2015).

What the Body Knows, by Jean Janzen

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What the Body Knows

Maybe it’s the ocean’s rhythmic tug
that helps me sleep, my body’s own
surge remembering its deepest pulse.

Think of those Celtic monks who
scaled the slippery rocks carrying
vellum and inks while the sea broke

and battered beneath them. High
in a crevice, a hidden stone hut
with cot and candle. The scribe

dips and swirls his quill to preserve
the story—Luke’s genealogy,
name after name, letters shaped

like birds in every color, a flight
of messengers released into history.
Each word unfurls the promise,

like Gabriel kneeling. The body
knows that wings, like waves,
can break through walls and enter,

that the secret of the story
is love, that even as we sleep,
its tides carry us in a wild safety.

—Jean Janzen, a poet living in Fresno, California, is the author of six previous collections of poetry who has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and other awards. A graduate of Fresno Pacific University and California State University of Fresno, she has taught at Fresno Pacific and Eastern Mennonite University. Janzen is author of What the Body Knows, from which this poem is excerpted (DreamSeeker Books/Cascadia, 2015, used by permission of publisher and author).

Editor’s note: Kingsview & Co guest posts will often not be intended to integrate directly with the flow of prior and future posts, and certainly this haunting poem can stand alone in its telling of the story’s secret. However, it’s also offered here in awareness that it joins the flow of “Blogging Toward Kansas City 2015” and the yearnings of so many of us, amid tumult in church and culture, to experience “that the secret of the story / is love, that even as we sleep, / its tides carry us in a wild safety.”

Friday night at the IWC* Guest House, by Jonathan Beachy

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Friday night at the IWC* Guest House

The knots in the homemade comforter
Feel like prayers trying to keep the
Hardness of the cold wooden floor
From seeping further into my back

Tonight the house is full of pain, past
Abuse, death, violence, terror—
Beds and sofas are full of guests
But there is floor space, and a comforter

The true comforter, however, is not under my
Back but in the room next door—
Abused, raped, threatened, desperate she
Pled for asylum for ten months

Her midnight songs and prayers opened doors
And now shake the earth in my heart
Rattling my complacence and false
Comfort on a hard wooden floor

—Jonathan Beachy, San Antonio, Texas, has spent a life time caring for and being enriched by persons society often rejects. Currently those persons are special needs students, but historically they have also included prison inmates, and indigenous persons in South America. Volunteering with Interfaith Welcome Coalition has allowed Beachy to see the face of Jesus over and over in the faces of refugee women and children crying out for help, for “caring for one of the least of these, is caring for me” (Jesus).

*Interfaith Welcome Coalition. IWC is a response and presence for refugee women and children who have fled unspeakable horrors in their Central American countries of origin. On their arrival at the Unites States border, they turn themselves in, requesting help. Their “crime” is to have requested help, and so they are detained in for-profit prisons (euphemistically called “Family Detention Centers”) until they can meet bond or are granted asylum.

Editor’s note: I want to thank Jonathan Beachy for being a catalyst for the launching of Kingsview & Co. His asking about venues for publishing poetry like this helped me decide it was time to extend DreamSeeker Magazine, which often published poetry, through this new blog. In light of this, I’m particularly pleased that Jonathan’s is the very first guest post. —Michael A. King