Poetry

Watching

Because I lay on my back as a boy in the grass of the small yard behind our house watching clouds move and become faces, mostly,

I was able to sit for a long time holding my dying mother’s hand as her sleeping face changed like a field in the sun under moving clouds,
and to hold my newborn grandson now and watch his features changing moment to moment, propelled by some inner wind I suppose must be like dreaming,
and because this watching is above, after, and before words, I am unable to describe what I believe I understand and how it comforts and sustains me.
Richard Hoffman, author of Without Paradise and Gold Star Road, is writer-in-residence at Emerson College in Boston.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine February 2010
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Ode to St. Anthony of Egypt

Of all the saints, my Anthony,
I love you best. For you did
what I long to do: you walked away
from a life of comfort and ease,
walked away from the green Nile valley
out across the sand and into the
desert of the human heart.
Alone, you dug out a cell,
blew a kiss to the mad world,
and tucked yourself in for the long soul’s night.
And when the demons came,
as demons will, you fought them off
with the sign of the cross and the sweet
name of Our Lord—the name that
nourished you when there was no bread,
the name that moistened your lips
in a dry and barren land.
Anthony, I can count the ribs
just beneath your cracked skin,
the whiskers hang down like dried seaweed,
the dirt and dust cake your every wrinkle.
Come, let me guide you down to the river
where I may wash you, and oil your skin,
and trim your nails and tie back your hair.
Anthony, Anthony, sit on this rock with me
and tell me how it is to lose so much,
and then to give what’s left away,
and then to forget what’s been lost and given
in the good and strong arms of Our Lord.
Here, let me place some honey on your tongue.
Can you yet hear the water trickling
down the dim back wall of your cave?
This steady stream that kept you alive,
that overflowed your cupped hands,
the stream that ran beyond your humble cell,
filling first the desert within and then without,
the stream that still flows on and on,
my Anthony, even though you’re gone.
This stream of living water from which
I now sip and thirst no more, I offer to you,
dear reader, in memory of this beloved saint.

David Denny teaches English at De Anza College in Cupertino, California.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine January 2010
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

This the Morning

This is the Month, and this the happy morn
Wherein the Son of Heav’ns eternal King,
Of wedded Maid, and Virgin Mother born,
Our great redemption from above did bring …

—“On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”
by John Milton

The issue is, of course, to apprehend
how time’s allegéd passing fails to hold
sufficient grip on what does not depend
upon our moment. The timeless will not fold
quite so neatly into now and then,
but spans a space, vertiginous, and we
may of an instant become likewise drawn
into a mode of being where we see.

Which is to say, His coming now, this day
is likely to be figured best as prime
occasion to observe the truth that we
dwell likewise in a realm outside of time.
As we lean into prayer this year, let’s say
as one: Come Christ God, come this very day.

Scott Cairns is the director of the creative writing program at the University of Missouri. His newest book is The End of Suffering (Paraclete Press, 2009).

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine December 2009
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Keeping Promises

The ram’s horn bellowed.
Fused with snapped spears and hatchet heads
nicked shields covered the field,

recruits stacked dented helmets
and dirtied swords. Arms sprung
up and neck bared he stepped over men.

Weeks before he had quipped victory
to the senate elders and later whispered
bargains, eyes closed, nose-length from the floor:

to pyre some wildebeest or whatever he saw first.
He chuckled at the thought of gourds
or melons rolling down the hill,

while they piled the dead before sunset.
What blasphemy, his neighbors would cheek,
to offer fruits and vegetables.

Ram’s horn slung, he marched home,
sweating out the dying sounds of younger men,
musing, that old bull not fit to feed us grazes

in the closer pasture. He hoped.
His arms sprung up to embrace,
“Hello, my only daughter!” died in his mouth.

As victor Jeptha made no more vows.

John Gosslee attends Liberty University, where he is the poetry reader for The LAMP.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine September/October 2009
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Disciple, Tangiers

that light kept me a year in its grip first
my feet caught fire then my blood
we moved at the edge of endlessness
headless handless mouthless mind-

less sand (the face of god) figs
a night on the rug with the merciless
stars in our mouths drank
brackish water the camel milk

learned gradual as the sea of sand learned
to relinquish again again to cut
piety away and drift like ash like this
land that can stand to vanish to rise

Nancy White lives in Cambridge, New York, and has taught writing for more than 25 years. Her first book, Sun, Moon, Salt, won the Washington Prize.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine August 2009
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Alone

To you who are lost today
like a needle in a haystack, reading this poem alone.
Alone, brother island, sister moon. The ocean is big,
and the sky is bigger, but no one knows your measure—
no one can say where you stop
and the world starts.

And why talk about the world, when you
are yourself the world that contains the world.
The world is alone in you, not you in it.
Can you be tender with the lonesome planet
cuddling it like an infant, enfolding it like an ocean?
It is the child that you were born to love. This creation
of all and everything alone in all and everything.
Only you can soothe it.

Brother island, sister moon,
the ocean is big, the sky is bigger. But love is vaster still
than what it loves—as the thinker is greater than his thoughts,
as the doer exceeds her deeds, as the dreamer is more
astounding than his wildest dreams, as the giver
is larger than her most prodigious gift.

Pour yourself out, therefore, as gift, the world’s
gift to itself, but do not tell the world what you are doing,
that’s the point—be anonymous, like the wind, like the rain,
swelling the boundless ocean, ripping the heart open.
Until nothing remains outside it.

The heart is not a needle
in a haystack. It is the haystack.
And it was never lost.

Richard Schiffman is a poet and writer who splits his time between New York City and New Mexico.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine July 2009
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Lucca

A grace of green, the underleaf
of olive, the birdsong’s
cradling. It’s as though

something in us already knows
these blossomed streets,
her plane trees’ dappling,

the unfolding light
as children play hide-and-seek
beyond the church.

We’ve found a place with
lanes that curve, with circling walls,
and a hidden piazza at the heart.

O mio babbino caro.
Ours is the window
of music that comes despite

death’s green cave.
In this fleeting paradise,
a shop door has opened

and Puccini soars
above baskets of artichokes
and blood oranges.

Annie Deppe, author of Sitting in the Sky, lives in Falmore, County Donegal, Ireland.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine June 2009
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Lent

How the earth now
struggles into spring.

How the cold hangs on,
each morning cracking to begin.

And in the evenings—to eat now
with no salt, no pepper or seasoning,

to give up any kind of leaven,
to drink only water, uncooled.

How we turn off the television.
How we teach our children best

by our practice.
How we grow thin with desire

for letting go. How nothing much
is as important as we thought.

How the less we speak,
the more valuable words become.

Nicholas Samaras’s first book, Hands of the Saddlemaker, won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine April 2009
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Unknown Country

Four cars or trucks were parked by the old dead tree
at Needle Rock … two other cars met us on the road …
that’s too many …

He searched for a more solitary place, a hermitage.

I dream every night of the west …

An interior landscape

All blue is precious … there is very much of it here.
A fortune in clear sky and the air …

and the utter poverty of God.

The monastery is thirteen miles by dirt road from the nearest highway.
In that distance, only one other house is passed—Skull Ranch …

Vast, moving clouds; the monastery diminuitive in the canyon.

… around the monastery, nothing. The whole canyon replete
with emptiness.

High cliff walls worn through, resisting the river’s work, then giving way.

Boulder broken by a tuft of grass growing toward the light.

A bleached skull skillfully hung against O’Keeffe’s adobe wall.

There is nothing to achieve but the original mind, movement of breath
through us, unobstructed, unresisted.

Everyone comes from unknown country.

Pamela Porter lives in Sidney, British Columbia. Her most recent collection of poetry is The Intelligence of Animals.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine March 2009
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Wisteria

Violet, whispered Eve, because
saying the names aloud

made the act too real. Pansy
and woodruff, the flowers so small

some of them, she was afraid
they’d be forgotten—though what did she know

about forgetting, when she had
no past at all? She took to her task

immediately, absorbed by the strange
courage to assign names to things. Adam

was on the other side of the garden, away
from her for the first time. Snapdragon

and Coral Bells; the sensuous sounds
rolled across her tongue, although

she didn’t know sensuous yet. The untrod
path curved to the right. She stopped. No, not

the apple tree: that will come soon
enough. Here a twisting vine knuckles

through the gate that separates them
from another world.

Wisteria, she says—aloud this time—the syllables
as liquid to her as the blooms

dribbling from the branches
like slow rain.

Heather Hallberg Yanda teaches in the English department at Alfred University in the hills of upstate New York.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine February 2009
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Pages

Subscribe