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Ash Wednesday, February 2005

Rounding the turn
on this familiar street,
up on the rise
the white stained home,
warm lights in the windows
Where have you been?
What have you done?
These questions ring
in my ears
as up the drive
I ascend
slow to a stop
and put the engine to rest--
all the Yeses and No’s of these days
stream behind like stringed cans
from the bumper
of a wedding car.

9 Feb 05

Although written weeks before the retreat, in response to Mark Lingle’s Ash Wednesday homily, the poem also evokes arriving at the Trinity Center. Approaching a destination with the whole of your life is what I hear in the those moments when we stop and pay attention--like at Ash Wednesday service and the annual Silent Retreat. So in this sense they are connected. For the "Yeses and No's" I had in mind all the acceptances and rejections of one’s life that are present at the ends, but are also the seeds at the beginnings. So the particular "where have you been?”(both an acceptance and rejection) that your family may ask upon a particular arrival, is also the question posed for us all at the end of our lives. --egh

* * *

I awake at four
to the sound of whimpering through the night,
the full moon spotlighting through the window in the ceiling
on that precipice of sleep and waking
I think it may be a child down the hall
running from some terror in a dream.
Yet sitting up and turning it becomes apparent
the sound is outside this house
that holds me in its arms--
it may be a wolf in the night, or sly fox come to deceive
or fight--perhaps singing that song after a long hunt
and the prey has given up itself
to the way of day and night.

Slowly I get up,
willing life into legs still weary and weak with sleep,
pulling the shade aside, moonlight spills
down to the snow covered lawn
and gives it a glow so unlike any other light;
I search for the sound to solve this late night mystery--
There, at the trunk of the barren dogwood,
circling back and forth,
a black silhouette--coyote, I presume--
making stifled howls as if caught in its throat
troubled by the moon and snow making the night
a dawning; it pauses
with paws up on the trunk of the tree, waiting.
I go downstairs to have a closer look,
but he is gone.

The next day I am out,
searching for his tracks, to confirm the sighting--
an eagle scout combing over prints and scat--yes, a coyote here;
but there are no tracks besides the back and forth line
of the deer run--no prints beneath the dogwood tree.

And I am caught up--
what was it in the night,
what black, whimpering contour went off into the darkness
where I cannot follow--but only imagine--
and wonder if dreams and daylight are bedfellows
fumbling in what illuminates the air between them?

12 Mar 05

This is a dream poem that has the feel of portent. This third edit reflects the comments of my writing group to bring out more of the haunting feel of this juxtaposition of dream and reality. --egh
* * *


Eavesdropping is verdant,
illicit, mischievous--like gossip--
such is the milieu in the locker room at the Y--
snippets of conversations, small talk,
prejudices, prattle
even among the elderly gents who shuffle their way
to the lockers and shower

"a lot of snow this year"
didn't get out yesterday."
"so being stuck at home isn't so bad...
some of your favorite booze,
some cuddling…"
"no, just a book,
and some hot chocolate"
"no cuddling?"
it takes too much time."

Snow melts on the roof
it drips from eaves
splashes on the shrubs,
and with wind, the window sills.
If we take the time to listen,
to cuddle up with the words,
we hear the clarity in the patter.

12 Mar 05

This snippet of actual conversation had packed into it such fundamental questions, that I could not comment, only listen--which is what the last stanza is trying to say. I’ve changed the last word to something that connects with the conversation and with the metaphor of raining down meaning a drop at a time. --egh
* * *

Snowy Night

Late night
I go out to the car in the lot
to retrieve a bag.
In the hum of a street lamp
snow falls so slowly
I hold my breath
take smaller steps
look up
stick out my tongue
and catch this icy lace,
this tightly woven
a cold and melting truth,
an evening hour that is no more.

12 Mar 05

In a snippet of a poem, sometimes the shift at the destination can be too abrupt.-- hence lines 11 and 12 to make the turn. --egh
* * *

Only the silence

In this lush
woodland that rises
from the river teeming,
the meditation is of the wisdom
of the desert.
Snow falls--a comforter over all
that would otherwise be noise--
music fills the room
and "we enter into the desert,
to cultivate a garden."
The memory of the abundant
breakfast buffet
fresh on our palettes--
only the silence
is the fast
that parches our souls,
ripens the sponge
for spring rain.

12 Mar 05
* * *

Turning over

"To learn something by being nothing
A little while but the rich
Lens of attention" -- Mary Oliver

Lying on the floor
in front of the long window,
the sky becomes the ground
and the late winter tall trees
reach down from exposed roots
that catch in the soil of clouds;
the icicles that hang from the eave
are clear blades of grass,
the ceiling spots--footlights;
the exit sign--a door jamb.
All the worlds that stop
are magnified in this glass
through which I peer
through which I go.

12 Mar 05

This poem was written while lying on the floor on the conference room --something I do to tend to a lower back in revolt-- and meditating on the Mary Oliver poem Kathleen read. What was the something that I learned by being this lens looking up from the floor? It was the altered perspective--especially when presented with the opportunity to stop and listen to your life, and that of your community--which a retreat affords.
* * *


While writing a poem
from this morning's meditation,
reflecting on the abundance of this place
to which we retreat
to the forty hours into the wisdom of the desert,
I write "dessert" instead,
the sweetness fresh on my tongue
that I have silenced
just long enough
to let the words blow in like a sandstorm,
the grains of silica blinding me,
the salt dry on my lips
the wind standing me up.
Leaning against it
I taste the richness.

12 Mar 05
* * *


"[it is] in holes and lostness I can pick up the light of small ordinary
progress, newly made moments flecked like pepper into the slog and
the disruptions." --Anne Lamott

Is it the punctures of a brush
on an otherwise serene canvas
that lets the light through,
making holes in what was
presumed whole--that shows this web
for what it is,
so this desert does not become mirage
and the dunes of sameness uniform?

It was in these dunes at the beach
that I stole away with my date,
with blanket and sunscreen--hiding
in the beach brush
from the crowd of sun soakers
laid out like hors d'oeuvres
on wheat cracker towels;
up and behind the children
batting a multi-colored ball
among all but one--
something in the middle?

Among the rustling change of quarter-round leaves
of the beach sage and sand roses,
seeking out the silence of a new kiss,
the smooth forever of a golden calf
falling after the white rabbit with the tipped hat,
through the hole in the sand,
through a moan and pant of breath,
to cross over into wonderland--
this was what we sought,
and sometimes found.

12 Mar 05

A more sensual image-- I recently learned that “haptic,” to which I am no doubt related, means “relating to or based on the sense of touch.” If all revelation is incarnational, then we do well to pay attention to the carnal --egh
* * *

Silent Lunch

I seek out the silent food,
the soft slice of pork loin
with baked apples,
tomatoes without the skins,
small mesclun greens without the snap
of stems.
The Terra chips I left
behind beckon
when the meal is done.
I steal away a handful
to munch alone
a breaking silence
in another room.

12 Mar 05

More tongue-in-cheek, reflecting the amusement of the lunch table sounds, this hints of the everyday Fall presented in the smallest of temptations. --egh
* * *

Cross country

In the silence of new snow
a solitary skier
glides the long left-right
of the Nordic trail--
to the right, a river
runs it rapids,
to the left, the rails
of a train long quiet--
the skier makes his way
between the voluptuous murmurs
and the cold straight steel,
making his own sound--
a swoosh, then crunch
as shifted snow packs
under the weight of his wooden rails;
the sun is watching over the arms
of pine tree sentinels,
a lone bird calls from a perch
somewhere unseen--
these are the sounds of holiness
on a path of straight lines
that meander,
that are true only to
the one who follows himself
like a cat watching from the hillock.

12 Mar 05
* * *

Under the curve of blue sky
that is eternity,
this slice of sunlight
between the winter trees
is a burning bush
in the snow--
I shed my shoes
and curl my toes
into the melting.

12 Mar 05

This short poem is based on two things: the stopping and paying attention to nature as prayer--something Mary Oliver evoked--and David Whyte’s relating a Hasidic student’s comment on his use of the burning bush story--that the Hebrew word for “take off” your sandals… is the same word for an animal shedding its skin. So shedding our all-to-busy lives we are given the opportunity to reconnect with our ground of being, and realize that we’ve been standing on holy ground all along (David's insight.) --egh
* * *


This place
in the cleft of Berkshire foothills
where the Housatonic runs wild and free
there are no signals;
my cell phone pans
the waves searching in vain,
from other worlds,
even time is not displayed

I don't like being late
but often am,
never leaving enough time
for the transit,
holding on to where I am
until I must dash out
to the car and highway,
praying for no traffic,
no long red lights.

The weekend program notes that
checkout time is 9:00 AM,
the morning Eucharist 9:30,
lunch at 11:45
and I am watch-less

Yet I can watch and wait
for when the people here
get up from chairs
near fireplace and windows,
and follow--
somewhere in this chain
of people with whom
I am connected
there will be a watch
ticking just as surely
as my cell phone
scans to synch--
and I will lean
on them
and know the time.

13 Mar 05

This first poem about time and connections is the interior journey paralleling the external one in the poem below. Both refer to the transformation of the weekend, as we moved from the metaphor of the wasteland, to the desert, then arriving at the garden gate ---egh
* * *

Telling Time

While skiing
on the path through the wood,
I grab my cell to check my time
and drop it in the snow--
the battery pops free
and lays there disconnected.
The gloves come off,
the poles tucked under
one arm, I bend
to snare them
brush the snow
from the silver case
and snap it back together.
Pushing power
I wait for the telling buzz
with satellite icon searching
the sky as if a radar
looking for planes lined up
for final approach
and landing--
there are none found,
and I have no idea
how long I've skied,
how far I've come
and when to turn back--
I listen to my breathing
and the ache in my legs
and know.

13 Mar 05
* * *

Train in the distance

"suddenly there was a noise, a rattling,
and the bones came together bone to its bone." --Ezekiel 37:7 NRSV

In the stone chapel
where we gather
for the Eucharist
shoulder to shoulder
in pews and chairs
around the walls and table--
every seat is taken--
this being the close
to a silent retreat,
we are as expectant
as Advent.

As the first lesson is read
the train sounds in the distance,
the ground begins to shake
and it rolls by the windows
behind the altar,
behind lumbering tandem diesels
car after car--
this could be our train
and sinewed together we
could almost rise up and board
as one--
we who hear this call
as if it were a shaking--
a recovery
of the foundations.

13 Mar 05

The juxtaposition of the train and the reading were too connected to pass by. --egh

Easter service, 11:31 AM

What is this rush
of emotion,
that rises up in me
like the wind in a sail,
as the Wesleyan hymn
begins the Easter processional?
I cannot sing
for this is the heart-in-your-throat
all the stones that collect
over days
that weigh me down
are moved away,
and in this moment
I am new again.

24 Mar 05

Easter, like Advent is anticipation, and despite the familiar forms of liturgy and hymn, is ever new. The rising of faith in the face of fear and defeat, is a message that is often lost between the defeat of Good Friday and the victory of Easter. And the message of Easter for here and now is often lost in the desires to know, or prove, what really happened and what did not-- how we squeeze the mystery out of encounters to be cherished! All the Easter images are here in the moment of opening of a hymn --egh

All Poems © Copyright 2005, E. Granger-Happ, All Rights Reserved.

Contents - Lent, 2005

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