Poetry

Praise

Praise God for all things green

Lime jello, blades of grass, emeralds

Chameleons, the neon river frog

Heavy papayas begging to be picked

Lilies thrusting their tender shoots through dirt

Love when it knows nothing more than hope

Praise God for all things brown

Hot coffee, sloppy mud, chocolate

The warthog’s tail and Stephen’s hazel eyes

Crafty cinnamon biting with its bark

My mother’s face, as soft as baby skin

Love leaving its stain on colorless days

Praise God for all things red

Round bindi, rose petals, ladybugs

A cardinal, sweet Hannah’s dumpling cheeks

Angry dried chilies waiting to set fires

The line of blood that seals a healing wound

Love giving with no promise of return

Praise God for all things black

Umbrellas, peppercorns, ebony

The zebra’s stripe and Anna’s curly hair

Pungent fish tamarind seeping bitter truth

The thick unseeing darkness of the night

Love struggling when it cannot understand

Praise God for all things white

Shaving cream, smooth eggshells, buttermilk

Albino pigs, rabbits romping in snow

Steaming basmati rice humming a tune

A waterfall half-glimpsed through forest trees

Love reaching through darkness into light

Chandy C. John is a poet, essayist, fiction writer, and pediatrician living in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2008
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Picasso Used a Pigeon

I expect the whitest dove,

purity as the Spirit breaks apart

firm blue of our ceilinged sky,

a tapered shape, an elegance.

But Picasso was right.

True peace comes

with pretensions shed.

A waddling gait, a persistent

hunger, a messy trail leads us

to each other. Our feathers

are shifty of color, but we like

people and we gather

with our kind. No one sings

our praises as we soften the air

with our short sad songs. Only then

can true grace drift down.

Carol Hamilton lives in Midwest City, Oklahoma. Her forthcoming poetry collection is Shots On (Finishing Line Press).

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Sojourners Magazine August 2008
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Mrs. Logan's Garden Hose


She spoke softly, calmly recounting
her pain through a furnace of litanies
that helped her hold on to the unbelief
that the boy who hanged himself
in her basement was the same boy
silent in the glossy photograph
that she displayed in her hands,
whose memory snarled like
a wild dog at her ankle.
“A murderer,” he’d called himself,
remembering the two kneeling Iraqi
captives whose last sight was his AR-14.
“Joe had just wanted something to do,”
whispered the lady with the photo.
So, through the smoke that melted away
from extinguished Iraqi cities, Joe drove his truck.
Joe buried corpses. Joe obeyed orders.
He once stopped at an intersection where he
saw a child torn apart and tossed in bloody indignity.
Her lifeless hands clutched an American flag.
On that memorable day, he shot them.
Unarmed. Bound.
The fear in Iraqi eyes branded a horror
that beckoned his liquor, fueled his despair,­
and stretched Mrs. Logan’s garden hose.
In the photograph
there is a young girl’s blood-stained flag
furled atop the chest of
the young Marine.

Louis Templeman lives at the Baker Correctional Institution in Sanderson, Florida.

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Sojourners Magazine July 2008
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What I have Seen

I have seen that I must
Confess to ignorance

I do not know you, although
I have loved you twenty years

The lifting of your lashes
From your cheek

The drawing back by your hand
A lock of your hair

But fully you? I have not seen you
Except through those windows

The green shades surrounding them
The radiant darkness behind them

Press your fingers
Around my arm again

Let’s walk, far, long
Tracking through wilderness

You are world enough to explore
For another twenty hundred years

For an army of scientists
Whom I will not invite

But for me, your husband lover,
For all your friends

A clear night sky tells us
In small script your large mystery

You are a bright ground for play
Even a temple where God walks

I have glimpsed his immensities
There

Kevin Hadduck lives and works in
McPherson, Kansas.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2008
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Prayer

If, over this world, there’s a ruler
who holds in his hand bestowal and seizure,
I turn in prayer, asking him
to decree for the hour of my demise
that it be a morning on Lake Keowee,
in early spring when the bloodroot
and yellow violet are in bloom in the woods
beyond us, a ghost of fog moving slowly,
almost imperceptibly, across the grey water.
And I ask that it be after a long trip,
after I have seen my grandmother, my brother,
after I have looked upon the face of a niece
I’ve never seen, after I have said to my father
what I need to say to my father, whatever
that may be then, and on that morning on the lake,
may I be on the dock with my beloved,
tossing bits of biscuit to the fish, rising
from the green depths like memories—and
across the lake the sound of two geese
calling to one another

Ed Madden, author of Signals (2008), is writer in residence
at the Riverbanks Botanical Gardens in Columbia, South Carolina.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2008
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Prayer of the Iris


Like the iris
in the side yard,
I have stopped blooming.
Dig me up, O Spirit,
and split me; where I have grown
calloused, break me open;
then drive me deeper
into darkness,
where I wait for you
to pull my yearning
to live fully
into the light;
then let me offer
my purple and gold freely
to all who pass by.

Carol Tyx teaches American literature at Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2008
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Judgment


I cannot tell you why
I taste death;
the cupboards

are reasonably
arranged,
the windows clean as rain.

Armies of women and their children
drift across borders in despair,
flies at the corners of their deep, round eyes.

I have tried, in my way,
with remnants of virtue,
to unearth God from the salvages.

Leave the wine and the oil untouched,
says the prophet.
Drought, famine, war

will mark the martyrs
from the thieves.
It is a subtle thing

for theologians to discern
who bears the holy,
who is winnowed
by death from death.

Kathleen Hirsch, author of A Sabbath Life: One Woman’s Search for Wholeness, teaches at Boston College.

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Sojourners Magazine February 2008
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After the Fall

The bough we clasped
while climbing towards
phantasmal blue
has broken—

we lie on concrete,
begging with a
shattered golden bowl.

A mere sieve to strain
mercy we cannot hold.

But hunger is ours.
We cradle insatiable want.
A taste we can barely conjure
from the stores of ash-coated tongue.

We long for the water struck
from rock—
flowing with memory of granite
and sleeping snows distilled.

Taste of the sweet flakes
floating
down through the soundless
universe—

Such beauty we pecked once,
as sparrows in a field—

unafraid, knowing the farmer
on whose land we alight
would crush the fox before
he could strike.

Jasmine Marshall Armstrong lives with her husband, Luke, in California’s Lompoc Valley. She is also an MFA candidate in poetry at California State University, Fresno.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2008
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Hiking The Hill That Overlooks The Trappist Abbey Prior To First Vespers Of Christmas, 1990


My breath pluming white into December
could, to God, be incense rising out
of the puffing thurible of my body.
Up here, it’s impossible to tell for the fog
where breathing ends and the divine begins,
or just what the larger picture is supposed to be
fifty feet beyond the farm’s broken fence
or the crow disappearing like ash
off the corbel of the smoking chimney.
Yes, I’m here, vowed to the landscape
and what I know is there, but can’t see
any more than the next person.
So what is Christmas, anyway, if not
this empty barn, the once carefully baled straw
of our lives scattered and waiting,
star-starved for a nativity?
Today, the feel of snow in the air
—here, but not yet—is also a matter of faith,
as is the spire-wick’d candle
of the monastery bell tower
hidden from view by a wreath of fir;
trees that, by Vespers, will all be Cistercian—
the white cowl of fresh snow pulled silently
over the evergreen vow of their stability.

Daniel Skach-Mills, a former Trappist monk, lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Sojourners Magazine December 2007
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October is the Deadliest Month

The eightieth soldier was blown up in Salahuddin Province.

The American military reported that Staff Sergeant Oahe Lightfoot
was killed in an enemy action over the weekend.

She was driving near an insurgent stronghold when her armored
vehicle struck a land mine.

At twenty-four she had steered through sandstorms with the same
sure hands that guided her oars when she rafted white water
down the Cheyenne River.

On this trip toward Baghdad, dust tracks from a convoy of medical
supplies vanished in seconds. Sand covered clefts in the road;
then the road melted to desert.

When she saw the first mounds, they were boulders up the Black Hills
where trails wind solitary in spring and tiny spruce brand her
palms as she pulls herself up, rock by rock.

One blast killed her. Its fire paled with the sun's explosion over
bluestem grass on prairie north of Buffalo Gap, exactly when
a caisson rolled her casket through the trees of Virginia.

Patricia Giragosian lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2007
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