First Grade

The packer went back and forth

Back and forth

The ground got harder and harder

Harder and harder

A dump truck dumped river rock.

The packer went back and forth

Back and forth

The ground got harder and harder

Harder and harder

A dump truck dumped gravel.

The packer went back and forth

Back and forth

The ground got harder and harder

Harder and harder

A dump truck dumped dirt.

The packer went back and forth

Back and forth

The ground got harder and harder

Harder and harder

A dump truck dumped fine gravel.

The packer went back and forth

Back and forth

The ground got harder and harder

Harder and harder

An oil truck sprayed tar.

The packer went back and forth

Back and forth

The ground got smoother and smoother

Smoother and cooler

A paint truck sprayed yellow lines.

The cars and trucks went back and forth

Back and forth

The road smiled and smiled

Smiled and smiled

The construction workers smiled in their sleep.

October Frost

Joy stole in with October’s frost,

Its crystal stems pierced the ache in my throat

While icy air froze dawn’s pink flow.

I turned to embrace the chilly morn

Remembering that seasons come and go

That songs mellow in Autumn’s gold.

After Psalm 95

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord

Shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation,

Enter His presence with thanksgiving,

Shout joyfully to Him with psalms.

                For the Lord is a great God

                A great King above all gods.

His left hand holds the Marine Trench

The height of Mount Kilimanjaro is measured with his pinkie

He patted out the Mojave

And cups the Caribbean in His right.

Gather round and worship—kneel down.

He is God

Be silent at his feet.

I went to Newfoundland

The place where cod and cliff and cove

kiss fog and fisherman, where humpbacks blow their

watery horns and puffins dance on peat and locals invite

you to the hearth to warm your damp soul in July

where crumpled piers dot the rocky shore

alongside each fishing shack

and each b’y pulls his dory to dock in the dusk

when the capelin and lobster are done.

The place where crab and sea arch

play tag as the tide serves salmon or

halibut cheek at the Twillingate

theater, family lore lights the stage

peals of laughter are washed down with wine

while Jack was Every Inch a Sailor and Saltwater

Joys are accompanied with Gary’s accordion,

Chelsea belts forth in Newfoundland gusto

guests wipe wet cheeks and notes fade on the

Labrador Sea, Will the Circle be Unbroken?

Southe’n Bones

When you tell me Guys Mills is beautiful, I just want to say,

Honey, yo’ must have eyes like a grasshopper for yo’ sur’

aint never been to Virginia where the mountains run up

one of side of the forest and down the other and where the

curves twist the roads around boulders and across chortling streams,

where hay fields and vineyards border market stands piled with

sweet corn and tomatoes and melons. I don’t blame yo’ if you think

the golden rod colors the swamp lovely, what with the geese flying

over the sumac and a cream moon shining down, there was a moment

to pause. It must be all in perspective, I suppos’.

Must be somethin’ about knowing

Barbara Hudgins that lives in the trailer in the woods with seventeen cats

and first hearin’ then barely seein’ Nick go by on his bike.

Must be more about the peepers and the wide blue sky

fog steaming off the James River hazing an early morning drive

more about Boutetourt and less about peach ice cream and a paycheck.

Are your grasshopper eyes up for grabs?

Cut Down in Spring

Riddles were not shaped to die young—

a hurricane that rips through an apple orchard in May

shreds trunks, shrivels roots, splits hearts,

scattering limbs that leaves

blood spilled on grass and shoulder and tarmac.

People were created to kiss, to dance, to laugh,

to grow old like the live oaks in Georgia

that weather the storms and branch out to each other

supporting, holding an arm, twisting together

never to be undone.

Malachi Martin met his Maker on August 19. To Lucy, my dear sister, and Daniel, we grieve with you. May the Father continue to carry you.

Isaiah 30:15

You just are like the pink gladiolas that grow

along the front of my trailer

stunningly simple, yet complex,


like the oak and gum and maple that branch their arms

from one to the next

foresting my view of each sunrise

silent, stately, there.

You just are fullness we miss in our ragged rush to proceed

to the next project, efficient, while the moon rises and sets

rises and sets.

Last night’s moonscape dazzled Monet’s Garden,

it hung white and round against navy velvet—

warm when I touched it, gauzy strands of silver

spanned the scape like bands to hold the scene to the board.

There it was

silent, silver, startling

unveiled for the first look when I stepped out of the garage.

“How is your grandmother?”

Today’s guest post comes from Marlene, who gypsies about the great white north, where she rescues abandoned books and grows poems. And I might add, who lives about eighteen hours closer to the North Pole than I; the type that thrives in Longer Colder Winters and Blissfully Sunny Summers amongst pine and moose. Thankyou, Marlene, for allowing me to share this piece; it has ground itself into my gut.

“How Is your grandmother?”
do I know? How
can I answer when I do not think
she has been very how for a long time? How
can I tell you how she stares,
how she stumbles, how she
How can I tell you how
she asks who I am and why I came, then immediately says
she misses my dad?
How I drill her
on her parents’ names, her children’s names?
How can I tell you
how she feels when she never knows
what time of what day of what month of what year it is,
who is at her table,
why I make her wash after going to the bathroom?
How can I tell you how she claps
and sings “Jesus loves me” all wrong?
How can I tell you how
she still plays Scrabble, pieces quilts, sneaks cookies?
How can I tell you how I miss her, how I’m mad at her,
how I mourn her?
How can I tell you how her querulous voice
softens and lifts
when she reads aloud the
Sermon on the Mount? 

Writer’s Block

This is where they say the fun begins. Getting started when you really don’t know what is going to come next. We are always telling our students to write. Free write. Write whatever is on your mind. And your heart and in your soul. Write the color of the sky and the look of the land. Write the taste of water and the texture of yogurt. Write about the room you are sitting in and the acre outside your window. I think it is really cool to see how one can put words on paper and suddenly there are paragraphs borne that have not been before just like this.

Something I’ve noticed again about writing that I wasn’t as aware of before is that it takes a lot of munching to make a good paragraph. Yesterday it was Route 11 Lightly Salted Kettle Cooked Potato Chips. I licked out that bag to the last crumbs last night at 10:30 when I was typing up another assignment about faith and how faith plugs into our writing experiences. And oh yes, I felt a bit, actually very much, like Pooh–suddenly I needed hon- I mean chocolate. Now the chocolate that I pulled out of the cupboard, and yes, we have a Very Important Spot in the cupboard, which right now holds a Dark Chocolate Bar and Peanut Clusters from Sharp Shopper and I think a half bar of Hershey’s Chocolate, the medium-milk for fairer folk, the kind you break into little bars and put on smores. Yes, that. Well the little pink Tupperware container that I pulled out also contained chocolate, the left over crumbled bar of Very Dark Intense Organic Chocolate. A gift from my sister-in-law.  It had ridden along in my purse for awhile, was melted and reformed, and you know how chocolate gets when it is very old and worn out, kind of whitish looking and a little bubbly looking. Well that’s the how the crumbs in the little pink container looked, but aha, they were perfect for a nine forty five snack when one is trying to put words about faith and writing on a paper. They sustained this student at the eleventh hour when the fifty-word assignment (which isn’t much, let me tell you) was due in ninety minutes. Between Kettle Cooked crumbs and faded Intense Organic bubbly chocolate nibbles we made it. Its called sustenance at Dark Hour. I hope today when the sun goes behind a cloud, you can find your way to that Very Important Spot and pull out your little pink Tupperware container and find energy for your assignments.


And like that he is gone


Writhing pain

reincarnated as immortality,

Curled toes reborn as

new wings.

Thunder shakes the heavens

“Well done thou good and faithful

servant, enter into the joy of my Lord.”

He falls prostrate like a timber freshly cut,

face to the dust

the earth shakes

“Rise my son, Welcome Home”

a royal crown is placed on his head,

the sun glints off each tip scattering a

thousand rainbows,

a new white robe sheer as satin

enfolds him.

Lightening flashes,

“Your new name” Jesus says touching his forehead,

“Emblazoned only for the Father’s eyes.”

And then reunion

Father and son embrace in

utter delight

pure presence.

He is running now

effortlessly running down crystal streets

pure mirth tumbles from his lips,

Roman and Ada, uncles and aunts

welcome Ivan to glory.

They join hands and run like teenagers

through poppy-filled meadows

talking at once

and circle back to kneel at the throne,

“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty

Who is and was and is to come.”