Tuesday, July 31, 2018


The planets spread out along the horizon,
Mars gleaming a pale orange low in the east
Saturn piercing the darkness toward the south
Jupiter shining in the southwest.

I spin slowly on the grass beside the river,
watch the planets' steady light
among the glimmering stars,
Randy pointing them out one by one.

We sat on the grass,
saw a satellite fly high overhead,
watched a jet blinking across the sky,
laughed at my inability to name the stars
in the summer triangle ... after all these summers together.

I should study.  Next time I'll know them:

Maybe it was after looking at a night sky like this, that Bruce Cockburn wrote these words ...

Lord of the starfields
Ancient of Days
Universe Maker
Here's a song in your praise.

Wings of the storm cloud
Beginning and end
You make my heart leap
Like a banner in the wind.

O love that fires the sun
Keep me burning.

Lord of the starfields
Sower of life,
Heaven and earth are
Full of your light.

Voice of the nova
Smile of the dew,
All of our yearning
Only comes home to you.

O love that fires the sun
Keep me burning. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

playground friendships

she inserted herself seamlessly into their monkey bar routine
not butting in but waiting confidently for her turn
stepping in between the brothers
for her turn to swing across

understood the relationships
watching out for their little sister
called her "little sister"
made sure that she had a chance to swing, to play

and when they were all hot and thirsty
she offered them a drink of water from her 7 Up water bottle
she knew they were thirsty too

it was only when she cried out
after a swing came back
to unceremoniously cuff her on the head that
one of the older kids who had been playing

confidently swinging
playing those games with rules that
morph with the day and the playmates

quickly came to her aid
made sure she was alright
called her back - once

then she came back to us
called me Grandma too
asked me for a push on the swing

My view from the deck as I think about the gifts of this day.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

hillside crocus

Riding, then walking, we see
brown grass, sea gulls sailing
geese coming in low
juniper with purple berries covering the hill
and tumbling over the hillside
moon rising
ice drifting down river.

Walking and then bending low, we see
brown grass, grey sage, one purple blossom
mostly closed and pointing upward
surrounded by a family of fuzzy stalks not yet opened
and once we have seen one
the hillside erupts into purple sunlit song.

Have I always been blind to this
purple song on a barely spring hillside,

or did I never walk on a high bluff
while the snow still melted from the river bank
and the pelicans and sea gulls
celebrated their return
to my Saskatoon shores?

Friday, April 20, 2018

looking for crocuses

we went looking for crocuses
we were not expecting
   herons standing in the river
   coyote hunting for gophers
   geese debating nesting grounds
   a beaver pup running along
      the river bank,

we went looking for crocuses
   and found fuzzy patches
   sage and thistles greening

everything is coming up for air
   ready to live
   under the warming sun

we went looking for crocuses
   laughed at cormorants on a wire
   at things taken too seriously

ice jams
beaver dams
laughter slams
into shadows, who scramble
back into their
wintry caves

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Saturday morning limericks

Words for this week: word, dwell, glory, born, receive, grace

Things I was not prepared for:
-ways that a form lays me bare.  In Monday's quatern there is a line that moves from the 1st line in the 1st verse to the 2nd line in the 2nd verse ... down to the last line in the 4th verse.  My repeating line was "first words emerge out of chaos" ... and that repeating refrain reached deeply into chaos.

-a struggle with meaning and words.  Each form requires a number of syllables, or a certain rhyming scheme ... so they force sounds to be considered before meaning.  When I write a line, and the last word is "received", the next thing I do is write a list of words that rhyme:  cleave, leave, reprieve, peeve, weave, achieve, believe, retrieve, beneath(?), grieve, heave.  Sick.  "Received."  I cannot do that with "Weaved".  or "leaved".  It has to be "wove", "left".  Nope.  Can I make it singular?  so that I can use weave and leave?  But now the last line wants to be something else and weaves lands earlier in the last line.  And limericks just want to be funny regardless of the words they hold. 

-and it seems that I will have to study sonnets.  I will read some good ones by Keats and Shakespeare.  I don't get them.  I mechanically work the rhyming scheme and the number of syllables but the cadence is off and they are wooden.

My grandsons and I had fun with Wednesday's Haynaku.  I read the words for the week to them, and explained the rhythm (1 word in the 1st line, 2 words in the second, and 3 in the third). This is what happened:

born                                             Jesus
God rose                                      was risen
from the dead                               from the dead

I                                                    We
had a                                              went to
very good day                                to Grandma's house

like to
explore the forest

child                                             child
glory contained                            glory contained
glee spilling over                         grace spilling over

And the limericks - which I do not quite feel like owning.  But I wanted to use the words "dwell" and "receive" ... so this is what happened. 
We struggle to relive the glory
He was born - we oft hear the story
Among us to dwell
Our flesh - not a shell
Holding treasure, t'was more like a quarry.

This word is a gift we receive;
not something that we can achieve.
Though constant our struggle,
understanding through trouble,
grace weaves through our lives a reprieve.

take 2:
This Word is a gift we receive;
Once spoken, the Father would weave
from beginning of time
his actions like mime
renewal of life to conceive.

And now I have to get on with other Saturday things.  Blessings in this wintry February season. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Saturday, February 17, 2018

playing with form (limited by form)

The short program in figure skating has never been my favorite.  The demands seem huge, and constraining, with little room for freedom of expression.  Within 2 minutes and 50 seconds, they must complete 7 specified elements of jumps, spins and sequences. It often feels much more mechanical than the free skate.

I am watching a lot of Olympics these days, and this specified limitation of form interests me.  There are timing or weight or clothing restrictions, space markers, boundaries, specified orders of operations. Things that matter to within tenths or hundredths of seconds or grams or millimeters in any one of the events.

This limitation of form intrigues me, partly because I do not like constraints, do not like limiting my options.  And partly because my faith is in One who stepped into a very limited and restricted form to live a life like mine.  And that continues to stagger my mind and heart.  And to defy logic.

So I am going to explore poetic writing forms for this season of Lent.  To see what artificial constraints of rhythm and rhyme do with words and thoughts.  How does form restrict meaning, or shape meaning?  or enhance meaning?!  Oh, how it restricts!  There are strict rhyming schemes in some.  So I search for a word that rhymes with an end of a thought.  And nothing comes, so I walk to the river, talking out loud with rhyming words.  (I am not crazy.)  And when I find a word that rhymes, try to construct a thought that fits.  That is so different than just writing what I want regardless of length of line and sound of words.  Or a short poetry form like Haiku where you do not use metaphor or simile or title.  Or a Landay (Thursday's form) sung more than written, likely originates in the region of Afghanistan/Pakistan, often a way of communicating among isolated women.  Edgy.  Specializing in themes of war, separation, homeland, grief, war,  Or a limerick ... which can't help but be a bit funny.  How can form do all of these things?

One more layer to add to this - each week I am choosing six words from a section of the Gospel of John that can be a focus or theme or just a word inserted.  Six elements.  Changing each week.  After only a partial week, it seems that sonnets may be my downfall.  Rhyming feels just so artificial when I MUST do it.

So I'll share some of my attempts - even when I know they fall short - because this imposition of form is the thing I am wrestling with.  How does form affect meaning?

The letter to the Philippians (2:6-7)  gives us a hint of this ...
Though he was God (or "being in the form of God")
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges (or "emptied himself")
he took the humble position of a slave ("took the form of a slave")
and was born as a human being.
when he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God...

I did some research and found some new-to-me poetic forms at www.writersdigest.com.  Decided on the following constraints:

Mondays - Quatern
Tuesdays - Nonet
Wednesday - Haynaku
Thursday - Sonnet
Fridays - Landay
Saturdays - Limerick or Haiku

And an any day substitution - Sestina
And let's be honest.  Though points may be deducted for incomplete sequences I may just switch out a limerick when a sonnet refuses to be written.

So the elements for this first short week (words from the first verses of the gospel of John)
beginning, word, made, life, light, darkness, gives

On your mark, get set ...

Wednesday (Haynaku)
soil frozen
still fast asleep

Thursday (Landay)
rivers know the way water must flow
but we wander, wonder, carving the land with our words

Friday (Sonnet ...  incomplete and in need of revision but Friday came to an end and this was all I could do!!)

And so the world spoken by a word spins
not so that we become dizzy with speed;
water, wind, earth, fire as he begins
to speak, to breathe life into (each living seed) [don't like this ending]

Whispers of wind run through the dark shadow
grass long dried along the riverbank gives
voice in the silence, for how can you know
One who spoke words into spaces, and lives.

The spinning the living the dying the watching
for One who breathes life and who utters a word
 ......                                                        catching
.......                                                        blurred

What do I want to say?
Or must words first be allowed to play?

Saturday (Haiku)
light interrupts dark
and a word betrays silence
a flicker of life

sunlight reflecting
water shimmering, flowing
ducks share winter ice