there are things that i deserve
narrow eyes and sullen words

i am all that's left of grace

a broken rope, a flooded path
forgotten love awakens wrath

when the sand buries my face

holding hostage ugly dolls
gold inscription on the walls

the music sets the pace

thunderstorms, bottles of wine
clay water mixed with iodine

alone i've found my place


Bitter as it is red


we sang walking beneath the trees
and down the concrete sidewalks
from the marble stoop of our hostel

you wore your favorite handcrafted beanie
as we walked down the stairs
and you told me your knees were cold

on the landing below the staircase
the people on the street could hear us yell
and sing the words chalked on the building walls

I'd been growing out my beard
and hiding the scratches along my chin
from when my arm clipped the motorcyclist

in france
it was then that I learned not to trust you
and the way your eyes lure a pressing danger

your lipstick bitter as it is red
leaving evidence like prints at a crime scene
that I had once been in love


oh Lord i'm overcome

still air in the hotel lobby
prayers reverberate in my mind

i tried to remember your words last night
or the smiles you once gave me
whenever you met my gaze through a window

your eyes were either red or green
depending on your dress, or the last time you'd cried
and i thought i'd taken you away from that place

i want to take your face in my hands
and tell you everything is fine

but today we'll go for a walk instead


I held her body in my arms
my face against her stomach
her legs kicking beside my head
and she was laughing

she rested her arms on the pillowcase
her wrists crossed above her tangled brown hair
her body rising and falling with every deep breath
and I was reminded of the tree dying outside our window

she slept the winter by my side
and we watched the frost creep along the glass
like splinters and frigid spiderwebs
hiding the light so we could sleep 'til noon

we eventually left the French countryside
with a bag of chalk and bandages on my face
a book of poems and kindness in her eyes
and set off to find a city where the streets still echoed desire

I'd met her last summer outside a bakery
standing on the busy streets I could never navigate
but with a taste for wine and a lust for her ruby red lips
I thought her light in me would never fade

now I hold her body in my arms
my face against her stomach
her legs kicking beside my head
and she is weeping


Rainbows gilding her waist

inspired by the painting "Colors Unseen" by Sarah Guiffrida
(named from the poem that follows)

I found the Lord's presence
in colors unseen,
racing clouds across the sky,
on a chariot carried by
wings of the wind

I found the Lord's grace
wrapped like a dress,
brighter than the heavenly host

I feared the light,
but returned ashamed,
like a moth draws to the flame

I heard the Lord's voice carry
like birds of the air,
traveling the wind like the breeze itself,
hiding like the moon

I saw the work of the Lord
green like sage

Everlasting the light of day,
like smoke that trembles
from the mountains

I found the eye of the Lord
and prayed when it found
me, that my name
could be pronounced holy

I saw the heart of the Lord
hiding me like darkness,
igniting me like fire, and
holding wisdom in love's embrace

Rainbows gilding her waist

But the face of the Lord
I cannot tell,
from the leviathan of the sea,
or the shadows in me,
but I feel His hand
guiding me down the shaded narrow

For the Peace of God
rests in your branches
when the sun steals night
with the rise of day,
and your shade waters
the harvest planted
when thunder flees
the darkest sky.


Tent Pitching

She stands in a field like a silk tent
the ropes taught around her body and arms
dragging her into the ground, if not for her legs
stubborn trunks, columns into the soft earth
and you can feel the strain on her neck
just by glancing or walking past

The sun heats what she keeps inside
kernels and seeds, love and malice
they bubble and pop in the heat
rising out of her, begging to break free
bitter salt on the lips of those who have ears to hear

If I asked her to set her chains free
would she leave her burdens with me
or bury herself farther in the ground?

I ran my fingers along the tent wall
down her side, tracing her navel and her spine
and I felt the ropes pull farther into the soil
like a wind were galling against her mind
and her desires were a sail lifting her from the ground
wrapping the ropes tighter around her throat
sa précieux, or la gorge...

What if I were to take up the ax lain at her feet?
Would she be set free?


Would You Be a Lilac?

Kiss me, you’re beautiful. These are truly the last days.
(a Reflection on Godspeed You! Black Emperor's F#A# infinity)

The train through the window was a muffled weeping
with the rain scratching on the glass
like the whispers of a vinyl record. 

I sat in this tub room for an hour yesterday,
the passengers knocking incessantly;
a desperate boy who had to pee, a woman who swore I had drowned.

I refused to answer because I had none,
other than to rest in the water that couldn’t cover my body.
The water had soaked the hair on my legs and I could feel it
weigh down my knees as they stood out of the miniature tub, 
like volcanic mountains among pacific waves.

I sat my book on the toilet’s rim and set my arms in the water.
The hair of my arm caught bubbles of air
like droplets of polystyrene dew on an artificial flower.
The water was warm like my brazen skin
and I was reminded of you again.

If you were a flower would you be a lilac?
Some say they represent a first love.
Others claim youthful innocence.

Yes, I had a love once before, but she was no lilac.
She was a cherry blossom. Transient and ephemeral.
Knowing nothing of love but a simple naiveté,
like a child who longs for God’s attention.

God is buried in a book, sitting on the toilet’s edge
anxious to turn every page and discover the next chapter

God is buried in the bagpipe player’s chanter
as he drones from a cabin down the hall

God is buried in the sewage of the train
as it crosses the South African border
expecting the passengers to be able to sleep
until the destination has arrived

We will be crushed, you and I
like two pennies laid on the rail
laying face to face as our tales fade
into the discourse that keeps us one,
ending where we'd begun.

Somewhere in Tibet a baby is crying.
Her father lay to waste under Olympic coliseums
and the fervor of dreams of fame and wealth.

Somewhere in Vienna a woman is drowning
in a pool of vomit and spit, her stockings strewn about her face
like a holy handkerchief, fishnet prints on her cheek.

The complaints of the homeless are a muted cello
in the cellar of an Italian winery. The catacombs echo
a resilient, dampened satire, a plot-less minstrel show;
improvisations of the beggar laying on a park bench,
cheating death under the same stars that guard this border.

We’re not so safe, you and I. 
We are afraid.


Learning to Listen

The moon in the trees
was like crinkled cellophane,
filtering the light in a camera lens,
watching the young musician
as he took the artist’s hand,
in a spotlight under moonlit sky,
as they leaned against his beaten subcompact
in a parking lot behind a church,
watching the cars pass on the interstate,
with the windows cracked behind them
to hear the stereo.

She wore her heart on a chain,
like a millstone around her neck,
and a light rain began to fall
from cloudless skies,
as she looked at him and said,
Holding your hand is letting go of this weight,
and placed the necklace in his palm.
In the drizzling rain,
beside a fallen sycamore,
they swayed in time to the music:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…

Since then her words have been a cymbal,
ringing in reverse,
a crescendo with every stroke,
constantly building into something more,
rolling off her tongue like pennies down a slide
in a park where children play in the sun
with no mind for the shape of the stars,
or what tomorrow leaves on their doorstep.



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Grace & Peace
- DR