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lenten journal: first language


Sorry for my absence. I have been reading The Art of Noticinng: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover the Joy in the Everyday by Rob Walker. in a chapter called Discover the Big Within the Small” was this quote:

“Every household has a first language, a kind of language of the house.”–Alex Kalman

first language

I was almost twelve years old
before I met someone who had
lived in the same house his whole life
my family spoke the language
of motion, of doing, of next things
and though I have picked up
a few phrases of how to stay
unsettled is my vernacular
forty-five houses in sixty-four years

what I learned of home happened
around the dinner table
I was almost twelve years old
when I realized not everyone
ate breakfast and dinner together
the addresses changed but not
our daily breaking of bread
no matter where we lived
I felt at home at the table

to be human is to be a polyglot
life demands multilinguality
(we even make up words)
we stumble through sentences
whole paragraphs of existence
to do what we have to do
love is learning new languages
and saying what we know best
in ways others can hear



lenten journal: search image


I started last night by saying I had seen an article in The Atlantic titled “We Have To Grieve Our Lost Good Days” and the title sent me into poetry writing mode before I even read the article. I also said I was going to read the article when I finished, and I did. Twice. But it was not until someone made a comment on my blog that I saw what I had not seen” the title of the article was “We Have to Grieve Our Last Good Days,” not Lost Days.

search image

things hide in plain sight
or maybe they’re not hiding
we just don’t see them
because our mind has
a mental search image
that lets us see what we
were looking for rather
than what is there

she wrote the word last
it was all over the page
and all I saw was lost
she was pointed to
memories of last times
and I saw the days that
never got to happen
that can’t be remembered

mental search image
is a term I learned from
something else I read
it describes how we find
our car keys or spot
our friends in a crowd
we have an image of
what we are looking for

what are you looking for
beyond these days of
depression and distance
so much that your mind
switches letters to
let you see it
I’m just wondering
you don’t have to answer



lenten journal: we have to grieve our lost good days


I opened The Atlantic to see what was new and saw this title “We Have To Grieve Our Lost Good Days.” Before I could click the link I was writing a poem in my head, so I quit clicking and went to writing. Now I will go back and read the article.

we have to grieve our lost good days

was the headline of the article
by julie beck in the atlantic magazine
I want to make sure to give her credit
and I will go back and read it
but her first eight words
made me to write before I read
to think of what I have to grieve
before I read her list of losses

I lost seeing jason isbell live
lyle lovett and roseanne cash too
and john prine all together
I lost the chance to travel and talk
about the color of together
and a whole year of barn dinners
and trips back to durham
we lost our trip to ireland
some of that stuff will happen
but we have to grieve because
a lot of life has been lost
and will stay lost

I just read back through my losses
and was struck by the predominance of I
when julie beck said we
and all of a sudden all I can see
is over a half a million people
who have lost their lives
all their good days
for no good reason

we have to grieve our lost good days
alongside of grieving everything else
and what should we do
with the fear that we could forget
what this pain has taught us
and just be glad it’s over
our heartbreak makes us
capable of so much more
good grief has a long memory
we have to grieve


lenten journal: a shot in the arm


Ginger and I were vaccinated last Saturday. The site was the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, about forty-five minutes from Guilford. Which vaccine you get is quite random around here. Turns out we got the Johnson and Johnson one, which is a single dose. Along with feeling safer, I feel deeply grateful, and also profoundly aware of how my privilege plays into this process.

a shot in the arm

after playing online
reservation roulette
for several days
we won a slot for
a shot at mohegan sun
the luck of the draw
gave us the one-shot
version of the vaccine

we picked up a bag
of fun size candy
to give to those who
save lives for a living
(snickers should come
in thank you size)

this morning the cdc
said in a couple of weeks
gathering with others who
have rolled up their sleeves
is a gamble worth taking
which means the odds
of a barn dinner are
looking pretty good
I read the story twice

and then pictured
myself at the table
some time this summer
its a safe bet to say
every dish I serve
will come with a hug


lenten journal: word search


Between a recuperating pup who has left us a bit sleep deprived, a work load that has been unrelenting, and the ongoing wear and tear of the pandemic, I found myself looking for words to say tired.

word search

I’ve been told the Inuit
have fifty-something
words for snow
its actually more like ten
the words help mark the
difference between

snow falling
snow on the ground
crystalline snow on the ground
snow used to make water
ice in general
freshwater ice, for drinking
slushy ice by the sea

this season of unending
isolation and frustration
has me looking for ways
to say how tired we are
turns out we have our own
blizzard of vocabulary

exhausted fatigued
spent drained beat
distressed worn out
pooped enervated
done in dog tired
run down wrung out
drained done for

I heard a woman say
“I’m so tired that I feel
like I’ve been hit in the
back with a dead cat”
none of the sentence
made sense except
I know how she feels


lenten journal: spring training


Spring training games started this week. I turned on the Red Sox and saw a whole roster full of names I didn’t know. Most of my favorite players over the past few years are gone for one reason or another. Thank goodness baseball and poetry (and spring) all go well together.

spring training

the ground is still
frozen at Fenway
but they’re swinging
for the fences in Florida

I recognize the front
of the jerseys but
their shoulders carry
strange surnames

asking me to believe
once again that
anything is possible
chances are that

my heart will break
like a curveball
come autumn
but this is not then

it is hope season
uncertainty is in the air
anything can happen
nothing stays the same

the crack of the bat
creates possibilities
no matter who swings
it’s too much to say

they’re practicing
resurrection but
it is about new life
for as long as it lasts

about making errors
and going home
making room for
new names to love




lenten journal: pulling up the covers


My days have been full and my words have been hard to find, so tonight I’m borrowing from others. As I began looking for songs, I had in mind to play Bruce Cockburn’s “Pacing the Cage” and then remembered Jimmy Buffett’s amazing cover of the song, which seemed to be the one to share tonight. And that got me searching for covers of songs I love.

I’ll let Jimmy start us off.

sunset is an angel weeping
holding out a bloody sword
no matter how I squint I cannot
make out what it’s pointing toward
sometimes you feel like you live too long
days drip slowly on the page
you catch yourself
pacing the cage

I didn’t know who Kyle and Danielle were until YouTube showed me this version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City,” one of my favorite songs of redemption.

everything dies, baby, that’s a fact
but maybe everything that dies some day comes back
put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
and meet me tonight in Atlantic City

Grace Potter sang “I Shall Be Released” at a concert to honor Levon Helm, even though Bob Dylan wrote the song. And she sings it like she owns it.

they say everything can be replaced
they say every distance is not near
so I remember every face
of every one who put me here

I see my light come shining
from the west down to the east
any day now, any day now
I shall be released

Skinny Living is another band that is new to me, but their cover of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” made me wish I was sitting in the pub with them.

and I wanna rock your gypsy soul
just like way back in the days of old
then magnificently we will float
into the mystic

Justin Townes Earle died this past year. He wrote a lot of great songs himself, but knowing how he struggled with addictions and finding some sense of his own peace, his cover of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” makes the song reach even deeper inside me.

and I may be obliged to defend
every love, every ending
or maybe there’s no obligations now
maybe I’ve a reason to believe
we all will be received in Graceland

I had never heard Andrew Bird sing with Tift Merritt until I heard their cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You” from an old Letterman show.

if I needed you would you come to me?
would you come to me for to ease my pain?
if you needed me I would come to you
I would swim the sea for to ease your pain

I can remember buying my first Crosby, Stills, & Nash in ninth grade. I learned a lot about singing harmonies listening to them. I found this concert footage where they pay tribute to their favorite band–and they will close us out with “Blackbird.”

blackbird singing in the dead of night
take these broken wings and learn to fly
all your life
you were only waiting for this moment to arise

Pull up the covers and enjoy the songs as we wait for spring.


lenten journal: to be in the room


We’ve got tickets for an online concert and conversation between Lyle Lovett and Vince Gill tonight. We had seen him at least once every year of our marriage until the pandemic killed live music.

to be in the room

it was early February long ago
a first date in an ice storm
my Tercel rose to the occasion
and we made our way to
Good Eats for dinner and then
to downtown Fort Worth
and the Caravan of Dreams to
see Lyle Lovett for the first time

February is fading into March
as we settle into a room of our own
to listen to Lyle and Vince Gill
play and sing from their rooms
a long day meant I didn’t make
much of dinner but here we are
remembering all the rooms
Lyle filled to sing to us

I miss being in the room
to hear how the food sounds
and the songs taste
to look around at the tables
filled with stories being told
the host of humanity that has
showed up to help us tell ours
in quite a variety of venues

Good Eats burned down
the Caravan of Dreams gave
way to Sundance Square
and it’s not the same on screen
but when did we ever want
things to be the same
to be in the room with you
is what makes the memory


lenten journal: aftermath

Word AFTERMATH. Wooden small cubes with letters isolated on black background with copy space available. Concept image.

In my reading this week, I came across these words:

If we’re not to lose heart in the aftermath of failures, we must take care how we tell our stories. — (Lawrence Weinstein, Grammar for a Full Life: How the Ways We Shape a Sentence Can Limit or Enlarge Us)

His words helped me find these.


the oldest use of the word
has nothing to do with
tragedy or arithmetic

and all to do with agriculture
the aftermath grows after
the first crop has been cut

something grows after failure
and heartache in the wake
of absence after grief

the stories are the soil
we retell (re-toil) or perhaps
the seeds of second chances

that add up to more than
the sum of our catastrophes
inadequacies and mistakes

after math comes story time
where the words can add up
to more than what was lost


lenten journal: anger management


“. . . and I was persuaded, and remain confirmed, that the voice of honest indignation is the voice of God.” –William Blake

anger management

when it comes to indignation
I’ve mostly seen the righteous kind
–moral outrage–then today I heard
a new phrase, at least to me,
though Blake said it long ago . . .

honest indignation

and I realized that honest and
righteous are not always synonyms
neither are outrage and heartbreak
we are better than this is not
the same as I am better than you

outrage, moral or otherwise,
has to be a way station
not a permanent address
anger that offers alternatives
on beyond judgment

the arc of the moral universe
bends like a rainbow refracting
anger into the colors of compassion
so many tables need to be turned
and then reset for dinner

(This poem found its inspiration in this opinion piece by Alan Bean at Baptist News Global.