She’ll Fly True

Originally written August 28, 2012.

Serenity‘s crew has lost Wash–their pilot and Zoe‘s husband. They defeated the demonic Reavers. Broadcasted the footage that could change the ʼverse. Buried Shepherd Book who died for defending them. Managed to disarm and convert The Operative sent to eliminate River Tam, the teenaged girl with the broken mind and a special gift. All thatʼs left now is to patch up–the ship and themselves–and move on.

Mal: Think she’ll hold together?

Zoe: Sheʼs tore up plenty. But sheʼll fly true.

Mal: Make sure everythingʼs secure. Could be bumpy.

Zoe: Always is.

Iʼve been living in 2 Chronicles for months. Specifically 2 Chronicles 18-21. Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, is one of my favorite Old Testament characters. He made a marriage alliance with the king of Israel. Ahab then asks if Jehoshaphat will back him in a war. J-phat is willing, but first asks Ahab to inquire of the Lord. Ahab agrees, and brings out enough prophets to make the Macy’s Parade look like an epic fail.

But in the midst of all the sooth-saying, and lot-casting, and whatever other shenanigans the prophets were putting on, J-phat was still not quite convinced that this was a move he was supposed to make. So he asked Ahab if he had any other prophets of the Lord besides the FOUR HUNDRED they had already heard from. And Ahab replies: “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord . . . but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil.”

J-phat insists on hearing from this dissenting prophet and what Micaiah tells them, nobody wants to hear. He prophesies absolute destruction. So Ahab has him thrown into jail, and is so confident in his prophets and in himself, goes to war anyway. I won’t tell you how the story ends because you’re going to want to read this one for yourself. Only one of these men returns. Jehoshaphat.

A seer approaches him and tells him that heʼs not all innocent either, and he better check himself. But since he made a good choice here and there, God was going to spare him because he set his heart to seek God. He made some changes in his kingdom, appointing judges and warning them against the dangers of partiality and taking bribes.

But the happy ending doesn’t come. Eventually Judah themselves are under attack by three clans, a multitude of them, coming from all directions.

There was no time for Jehoshaphat to make a marriage alliance with another kingdom and use his own prophets to convince his would-be allies of a victorious outcome. Here is where it gets really good.

“Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.”

“And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, and said, (a whole lot of things, but he ended with this) “. . .  we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us.”

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

“Meanwhile all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon [a bunch of them with really weird names]. And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. . . . You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”

After that, the people of Judah sang and praised and worshiped REALLY LOUDLY. It says that. Right there. They were THAT loud.

In their terror, they sang. In the face of possible annihilation, they praised. Even as the multitudes and hordes gathered around them to wipe their names from the face of the earth, they worshiped. Loudly.

I don’t do these things. I do other things. And I do them loudly. Like complaining. Whining. Dwelling in self-pity. Blaming God. Believing lies. Finding comfort in all the wrong things and all the wrong people. Trying to control everything I can by obsessing and fretting and problem-solving. Giving in to despair. Sinking into hopelessness. Getting really angry. Becoming completely paralyzed by anxiety.

I do these things because I don’t know what to do. At that moment, in whatever situation, I am so helpless I shut down and wall up. I don’t know what to do, because my eyes are on me. I’m a survivor. That’s what I do. I do what it takes. I get it done. I make life work by solving the problem and averting the disasters and controlling the uncontrollable. I make life work by being perfect. By trying to be perfect. But I’m so tired now. And I’m tired of surviving. I can’t make life work at all.

I can’t make my mom not die. I can’t get Mike’s job back, the one we thought was a dream come true, a “once in a lifetime” opportunity, the one we moved to Chicago for. I can’t make my daughter, Phoenix, not have so many diagnoses, not have so many letters that describe her “condition,” not have so many demanding, exhausting, bewildering, invisible special needs.

I can’t make up for the eight months with no health insurance that led me to wean myself off Paxil, making me so vulnerable to the harrowing, debilitating depression already waiting for me. I can’t, on my own, restore the friendships that were so suddenly shattered by misunderstanding and stubbornness.

I can’t take back the mistakes I made that would have seriously threatened, and most likely destroyed, a weaker marriage to a lesser man than my forgiving, gracious, supernaturally loving husband. I can’t make the whole solid year of disappointment and loss and grief go away, like it never happened, or won’t ever happen again.

For months, I would lie awake at night as the tears pooled in my ears, with my chest caving in from the sheer heaviness of anxiety, whispering this prayer of Jehoshaphat’s. We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you. Sometimes it was all I could say. For days at a time.

Jehoshaphat and Judah were delivered that day. They survived to see their enemies lying in a field, defeated and destroyed. But there was a condition. They had to show up. And sing. And while they were singing God saved their lives.

I don’t sing nearly enough. I’m not good at it, especially when I’m alone and there’s no one else around to carry the tune for me. But I love to sing with other people. And I need those people around me, the ones who can sing through the storm.

So back to Serenity. My point is this. Not one of the crew could have saved themselves, let alone most of them, including the countless strangers whose lives depended on the success of their mission. The one who managed to land them alive, their pilot, navigator, cheeky sidekick, died in the attempt. They lost business partners, allies, and friends, including friends who had become family. They nearly lost their livelihoods. They came very close to losing the ship that made them a family and gave them a home. They battled unspeakable evil and lived to tell the tale. The war they waged became a song, a song they sung together to save their lives. They showed up. They showed up singing. And their song was their salvation.

The question Mal asks, “Think she’ll hold together?” is directed at Zoe, and it seems as if he’s asking about Serenity; if the ship that carries them will hold together, will hold them together. But the longer Mal looks into Zoe’s eyes, you know what he’s really asking. Zoe lost Wash. Her husband. Their anchor. Mal’s asking Zoe about her, does she think she’ll hold together in the loss and grief and despair? She looks him dead in the eye and answers him without hesitation. “She’s tore up plenty. But she’ll fly true.

At the end of Serenity, Mal is at the helm with River Tam, the burden that endangered them becoming the one who makes them family. He’s teaching her the finer points of piloting.

Mal: . . . it ain’t all buttons and charts, little albatross. You know what the first rule of flying is? Love. You can learn all the math in the ʼverse, but you take a boat in the air you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as the turning of worlds.”

Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you sheʼs hurting ʼfore she keens. Makes her a home.”

River: “Stormʼs getting worse.”

Mal: “Weʼll pass through it soon enough.”

The battle is not mine, it’s the Lord’s. And what He asks of me is to stand firm, hold my position, and see the salvation of the LORD on my behalf. And he has given me an army to stand with.I have friends who have become my family and they helped me sing to save my life. They keep me showing up, going out there, tell me to sing louder to drown out all the other voices in my head. The ones that threaten me with hordes and multitudes and certain death. We’ll pass through it, usually not soon enough for me, but we will pass through it. When the other voices die down, I hear the promise. The one I keep and the one that is made to me. She’s tore up plenty, but she’ll fly true.

Living by Paradox

Review: The Moment of Tenderness
by Madeleine L’Engle

Hardback: Grand Central Publishing, 2020
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ] [ Audible ]

Liars, cowards, rescuers, and lovers. Characters you can recognize in the pit of your stomach and others you hope never to meet. The Moment of Tenderness introduces us to a lineup of memorable saints and sinners who remind us that humanity is flawed beyond belief yet worthy of redemption. The saints are faithful caretakers and longsuffering bit players who are achingly authentic and distressingly familiar. The sinners are jealous, combative, haughty, and overbearing; yet given every opportunity to redeem themselves and their choices.

Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis, author of the biography Becoming Madeleine, has brought us a new collection of old stories. Papers and unpublished manuscripts were gathered from 3 different houses where her writing was stored. Much of the content in the stories are almost uncomfortably autobiographical, revealing Madeleine’s loneliness, fear of disconnection, and sadness during certain periods of her life as an adolescent in a boarding school, her young adulthood spent in Greenwich Village, and her early years as a mother and published author. You see glimpses of this in her novels, but this collection gives us unique insight into L’Engle’s personal life and brings her closer, making her more relatable and human.

The first five stories begin with “The Birthday,” about a child on the eve of turning eight. We meet young protagonist Cecily Carey cold and shivering in her bedroom window as she experiences her first identity crisis. She expresses herself in a stream of consciousness, her thoughts tumble out of her in rapid-fire sequence, questioning her being and existence, “. . . because the world had changed all of a sudden and it wasn’t hers anymore and she didn’t know who owned it.” She feels small and frightened. As the story closes she cries for her mother from her bed but when nobody answers, she tells herself the truth about who she is and how she is loved and how she belongs. She gets up with bravery and confidence and takes care of herself. It’s a brilliant opener for the collection as it sets us up for a narrative journey through universal experiences of personal growth and hard-won maturity.

L’Engle continues her coming-of-age theme with children who are absorbing trauma from their parents, being bullied at boarding school, and humiliated and rejected at summer camp. The characters get increasingly older until “While in the Moon the Long Road Lies,” ending with a young woman about to go to college, desperate to escape her stifling Southern town. The people who inhabit these stories are lonely and naive, longing for connection, for something more, something other. They are also stalwart and resilient. Unafraid of the rawness of their emotions, reminiscent of Madeleine’s most loved heroines like Meg Murray in A Wrinkle in Time but most of all like Madeleine herself.

Read the rest at The Englewood Review of Books!

Got Hacked.

Welcome to my temporary writing home.

Seven of Nine. Badass and Beautiful.

a few months ago I noticed that links to my blog were ending up on a Kratom landing page. Kratom is an herbal extract that comes from the leaves of an evergreen tree (Mitragyna speciosa) grown in Southeast Asia. I have never used or recommended Kratom and was very indignant about my page getting redirected there.

While I am building my new page this will serve as my home page. I know it’s crude and archaic which hurts my heart, but I figured the more time I spend on making it perfect, the less time I would be writing.

I’m using this as a whimsical spiral notebook in which I record pithy quotes, prayers, memories, essays, book and music reviews, pop culture theories, lyrics, and poems. I’m hearkening back to a simpler time when writing was actually fun, wordsmithing frippery that brought me joy. The title came to me in the car while I was listening to “Killer Queen” on the radio. “Dynamite with a Laser Beam.” I’ve always loved that phrase.

I’m hoping that my words can reflect that dynamism again.

Now Refracted

For Melissa Hawks

We pay our bill and say goodbye
to the others, scouting out a place
to sit so I can tell you about that movie.
There is a bench outside the door
and the sun is shining full on it
so we sit, bathed in warm gold.
I mention the movie and the conversation
catapults back and forth in time
Last year, next month
this happened, that is going to happen
and all the life in between is hard to talk about.
There is hesitation and some halting starts,
deep sighs, closed eyes.
But you keep talking, looking up
and around, asking out loud,
"Why am I telling you this?"
as the story hurtles its way out of you
into the light between us.
The incidents and images piled up
like a tangle of dirty laundry at our feet
but I don't mind, I'll never mind.
We squint when we face forward
it's too bright not to,
but when we face each other
our eyes are open and we share
the fits and starts of healing, 
in hushed tones
for fear of scaring them away,
or maybe we are afraid of 
scaring each other away.
I ask questions to keep you talking
I know there is so much more in there
And when is a better time to strip down
than in the blinding sun
with someone next to you
who won't leave you alone
with the sadness and the loss,
but will say, "I know. I know."
We talk of poetry and writing
and right there on that bench
with the bad jazz straining
through the outdoor speaker
we read some spoken word
back and forth
the tentativeness gone,
replaced by syllable and syncopation.
We revel in the lines that tell whole histories
in a few spare verse
sand the filaments that
reach out, draw us together
and we are no longer separate,
apart, but we are one broken heart
struggling for the next beat
we inhale for the next stanza
like a bellows and when we let it out 
there is nothing frightening
not a thing that tears asunder
only tendrils of light
swirling around us
like refracted rays
and when they settle
we are reflecting fire
and all that is bright
and clean and so
very now.

Love Poem Deconstructed

For Mike

How do you write a love poem?

Do you begin with “How do I love thee?”

Or “My love is like a red, red rose?

Echoing hundreds of years of star-eyed sentiment

in iambic pentameter, odes, and sonnets?

Or do you write of love like a revolution,

sea tomb, or pilgrm soul?

What gift have I to offer my words

to history’s remembrance of romance?

My words are stilted,

and I hesitate, stammer, blink, I claw

for words to match these ageless verses.

How do I love thee?

I start with whole words,

like devotion, passion, smitten.

And even though a sonnet

will never stand on so small a foundation,

I can assemble these letters and words

to create a sentence complete

with the pronoun I,

verb am, and special

possessive adjective yours.

This poem was originally published in the eBook Love Poems Deconstructed, edited by Tammy Perlmutter, Timothy Gallen, and Jim Woods.

An Invitation to Flourish

All Shall Be Well: Awakening to God’s Presence in His Messy, Abundant World by Catherine McNiel

Originally published in The Englewood Review of Books.

I co-founded Deeply Rooted, a women’s worship and arts gathering in Chicago. In May, Catherine McNiel kindly agreed to speak when someone else had to cancel. Thinking about how to introduce her, I asked if I could read a paragraph from her upcoming book, All Shall Be Well: Awakening to God’s Presence in His Messy, Abundant World, instead of reading a scripted bio. She had only one copy there and I had the honor of being the first person to read aloud from it. I skimmed through the book looking for a paragraph that would capture the audience. I barely skimmed Chapter 1 when I landed on it. 

“. . . do not mistake hope for safety. Hope breaks us open. Hope is never naive to suffering, is synonymous not with optimism but with courage. Hope knows with certainty that life overflows with both beauty and pain, and we cannot know which will rise to meet us. Trembling with possibility, hope sidles up boldly to despair, nestles close, and puts down roots. These two—hope and despair—stand always side by side, each determined to outlast the other. If we choose hope, we must join the standoff, with hearts and hands wide open, fighting the urge to fade into despair.”

That quote came at the perfect time for myself and many other women at Deeply Rooted. It had been raining for weeks, dark, wet, and depressing, then we’d have a day with a high of 84 and a low of 45. It was like meteorological whiplash. Chicagoans had lost all trust in Spring and we were battered by betrayal.

McNiel’s clarion call to hope broke us open, rescuing us from passive, mystical emotion to stalwart courage in the face of the unknown—and our own longings. An invitation to flourish, to join the standoff, which is exactly what her book encourages—bringing to mind Henry David Thoreau’s famous words In Walden, “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life . . .” 

In the first pages, the author introduces us to the Gardener, wearing overalls and mucking about in the dirt with loving intention as he creates the first living being. This sets the stage for her following sections, each based on a season and a season of life, focusing on God’s unchanging transcendence and immanence. She takes us into the very heart of Bible stories that have shaped us, employing striking metaphors and poignant homespun epiphanies help us see ourselves in those adventures and misadventures.

McNiel’s astute observances bring to the fore concepts and calling we easily overlook or subconsciously bury, sacrificing presence and intention on the altar of busy and clutter. The busyness we take on as a way to disengage in order to produce more and better, and the clutter that results in our hearts and minds as we feverishly stuff it all down until we have “time” and “space” to face it. 

For example, our natural human reaction to push back against mystery and unknowing instead of abiding in them with a sense of wonder and expectancy. Or our tendency to unsuccessfully attempt conquering the chaos in our lives—whether it be an uncontrollable toddler in the throes of a tantrum that could be measured on the Richter scale, or the constant enervating iron-sharpening-iron encounters with those God has given to us to love and care for. 

“It seems that God thrives and rejoices in the pandemonium of living things bumping constantly against each other—and believes that we do too. Anyone who has attempted living both alone and in a crowded household knows that much fulfillment comes out of relationships, but also a great deal of clamor and crazy. We flourish through jumping into the crazy, by surrounding ourselves with creation and burgeoning abundance.”

At the end of each chapter McNiel presents an opportunity to deeply and personally engage her ideas through Cultivating Intimacy, Wonder, Abundance, and Endurance, just a few of the section titles. She gives us suggestions about purposefully engaging your senses with nature along with looking inside and reflecting and developing new habits that inspire transformation. 

I found these spiritual exercises and disciplines, based on St Ignatius’s ancient Prayer of Examen, both grounding and dynamic. His own words about his reason for creating the Examen is to help us “develop a reflective habit of mind that is constantly attuned to God’s presence.” The author’s interpretation and execution of the Examen is powerful in its simplicity and depth. 

In the chapter on abundance and purpose the author writes about the theological and philosophical concept called telos, a Greek word meaning “end purpose, or goal,” and its connection to the purpose of summer, “all living things dash toward  becoming.” According to Mark McMinn, for ourselves, it speaks of “finding the natural and purposeful end of what it means to be fully human.” One of the questions McNiel poses for us to contemplate is, “What sort of telos are you heading towards?” while calling us to “sit in the cacophony that fills your life in this season. Acknowledge that God is in these places too. Ask him to reveal himself to you even in the chaos.”

Recurrent themes in the book center around our attempts to “wrestle God into a formula,” becoming at home in the unknowing, surrendering control for deeper faith, “sacramental beholding,” and wastelands and wildernesses that bring life out of death. Her words don’t come off preachy or pompous nor do they downplay tragedy and suffering, instead, they’re a precious invitation from a friend to dig hard, notice everything, and revel in our own humble creaturliness. 

Her imagery and descriptions bring to mind A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard and Mary Oliver’s poetry. The author draws on deep spiritual truths to spark us to action. reminding us that there is beauty waiting to be discovered in everything; lengthening nights, the long-awaited thaw, the daffodils that break through packed dirt to lead us into Spring. 

I began reading All Shall Be Well on my vacation to the East Coast. Both weeks in two different states were supposed to be lousy with rain. Amazingly it only barely rained two out of 18 days. I’m blowing through the beginning chapters about Spring so I can get to the heat and sun and light. 

McNiel does not disappoint with her captivating descriptions of summer lushness and pageantry, so much so that I began craving nature like a junkie jonesin’ for a chlorophyll fix. The sun’s rays warming up my skin felt like a healing elixir flowing in my veins. I wasn’t even put off when a blackbird attacked my head while I was reveling in the woods. It was enough just to be alive in it all. I’ve even sent her pictures of the various places and revealed beauty I’ve encountered as a result of responding to her prodding to get out and take it all in.

McNiel’s invitation has continued to capture my attention through each seasonal chapter whether she is writing about the autumn of midlife or the winter dormancy of older adulthood. Her title, taken from a prayer of Julian Norwich’s, promises that “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Whatever your “all manner of things” is, there is hope to be cultivated, rest to surrender to, and intimacy to awaken to. 

Find All Shall Be Well on Amazon!

Branded by Love

This kicks off a series of pieces in which I pray the Scripture through writing as a cast member of the story. These were assignments for a spiritual formation course called Transformation Intensive: An Adaptation of the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. TI was created by Valerie McIntyre, Pastor of Pastoral Care and Healing, Church of the Resurrection.

Based on Matthew 3:13-17

I’ve walked a long way to be here. I approach the Jordan and there are crowds of people lining the banks on both sides of the river. Some seem confused, some watching with a focused intensity. People are sliding down the banks to line up behind John. As I come closer the milling groups part slightly to let me through like they know John has been waiting for me. Like they know I am the one wearing the sandals he is not worthy to untie. I see the Sadducees and Pharisees above and to the left, whispering and pointing, making the people nervous and skittish.

I slide down the bank barefooted, feeling the reeds run sharply against my skin. The water is already muddy from the churning of feet. I watch a number of fish swim by, herding one another to safety downstream.

I wade over to John and he sees me. Goes still and quiet. He’s not wearing the camel-hair coat he is famous for, it’s discarded on the opposite bank. His skin is rough from the sun, his hair long and tangled and wild. John. My cousin who I haven’t seen for so long. He grabs the back of my neck and pulls my head to his. He greets me with a kiss, a rough embrace.

He lowers himself to a bow, telling me he needs to be baptized by me. I catch his elbow and lift him up to say, “This is the way it needs to be for now.” He clutches my shoulders, then turns me to put his arm behind my back, lowering me into the cold, rushing water. The current is strong, pulling at my feet, my fingers. My face goes under and I catch my breath, the water stinging with its chill. I can’t hear John’s prayer with the river crashing in my ears. He pulls me out of the water and I inhale quickly, deeply, and open my eyes.

I hear a thrashing of wings and feel a gust of wind like my Father’s breath on my face. A dove has landed on my shoulder. It feels heavier than it should, like gravity pressing down on me. The dove spreads its wings like the cherubim on the ark, shadowing my ear as it coos at me.

A ray of warm light spreads across me as I hear my Father’s voice. The dove seems to get even heavier, like a mantle, and my shoulder lowers with the weight. My father speaks aloud, in the hearing of all the people. Even the Sadducees and Pharisees are struck mute on their rock outcrop over the river. The clouds parted and even more sunlight draped on them. A breeze came upon them all, ruffling the surface of the water. I felt something like the crackling energy of lightning flow through my veins as of my father spoke: “You are my beloved Son.” I feel live sparks should be flying off me as my body trembles. This mantle, this call, heavy and weightless, as my father’s voice makes the air quiver with possibility. “With you I am well pleased.” My heart is racing, my body grows hot, and I feel the Spirit rushing through me like a river.

The voice receded, the heavens closed again, but brighter than before. My fingertips are on fire as the energy seems to flow up for my feet. I remember, suddenly, that there are others present and I look around at each face to see if they’ve heard it too. Their eyes are wide, mouths open, looking at me or looking away. I grabbed John and held him. I don’t even remember climbing up the bank to get my clothes. I’m still thrumming with power, my heart swelling enough to feel like it will burst out of my chest.

The hair on the back of my neck is still standing up, and the hair on my arms, heavy with water, is quivering upward. I am filled with deep, strong love, tripled in intensity, expanding my rib cage, prickling my eyes with tears as I absorb it. I am struck still by the weight of this love descending on me. My knees threaten to buckle as pure joy wells up within me, almost uncontainable. My breathing is labored as a permeates my body. My father loves me, approves of me, and is pleased with me. The truth of those words are emblazoned on my heart, I am branded by love.

Image: Flickr: by Waiting for the Word, Baptism of Christ 10Creative Commons License, some changes made

Girlchild

She walks away from the trailer park
The Nobility double wide,
turning into spark and smoke
roaring and crackling
lighting her way
casting shadows that hover and slink.

She passes the pond
that mixes county water with 
her grandma's ashes,
leaving behind the greenhouse 
with the windows as jagged and broken 
as her mama's teeth. 
The house no longer green
nor a house
but only a slanting steel skeleton 
obscured by vegetation
once cultivated
now consuming.

She is walking away
Girl-Scout style,
a compass on the 
inside kind of girl
who knows that true north 
is as elusive as luck,
as far away as her own heart.
But she walks anyway
away
past truck stops,
hardware stores,
dive bars.


This girlchild is 
going
going
already gone to the lowest bidder.
And when he is gone
her heart shakes loose a little
in her ribcage,
like shrapnel emerging,
sharp like memory,
rattling so loud
she wraps her arms around her knees
to keep the sound in 
and the eyes away.

Two more pieces rattle loose
and it is the third one
that brings her to,
The third one that sets her out
that bears her rescue.
The third in a line of women
Who wear scars like badges.

This girl is going places
suitcase full of letters 
tied up in string
like the twine that holds 
her heart in place.

Letters full of sentences 
that anchor her
to her lineage,
sentences full of words 
imploring her,
as only one woman 
to another woman can,
to cut anchor and go.

These are the words making 
her more than an 
address on an envelope,
more than recipient
but voyager, traveler,
brave pioneer 
leaving township,
county, state.

Getting out,
going forth,
she precedes the smoke
and keeps ahead of the sparks,
Leaving embers to wane
unseen and unsnuffed
like the girl, like the child, 
one spark escaped,
the one that got away.

"Girlchild" is a response to Tupelo Hassman's novel of the same name. 

New Jersey

We were standing on the shore
As the Atlantic tide hypnotized me
And I leaned forward and
Backward with the tide.

How long will the sea live?
I asked my sister, squinting
across the waves as
They crested over and over.

She peered down at me as I
Looked up and with no
furrowing of brow or
stuttering of tongue she answered,
As long as fish need a place to live.

A Writer’s Prayer

Jesus, I confess I often feel inadequate 
when I face the page. I compare myself 
and feel discouraged. I am jealous of others’ 
words and the attention that is given them. 
Forgive me for dreading smallness, 
for doubting and discounting 
the gift and calling you have given me. 
Empty my heart and mind of 
distractions and deceptions; 
fill them instead with gratitude, 
single- mindedness, and certainty. 
Lead me to the words, images, ideas, 
you want me to convey. 
Help me to listen for the whisper 
and not fear the shout. 
Reveal to me your voice in mine, 
so I know what to say, when to say it, 
and how to say it. May my words be 
full of grace, yet grounded in truth. 
Help me to remember that you are
a playful and creative Spirit,
and that I should be too.
Remind me that my words 
are an extension of your heart, 
and that they will not return void 
even if they only ever echo in my own heart. 
Show me that inspiration is your 
breath in me, and when I’m holding my breath, 
I’m holding yours, too. 
Help me to exhale with confidence and courage.