One of my favorite stories is about the interview I wanted most, but didn’t get.
It was 2005 and I had just signed a contract to write what would be my first book — a collection of profiles of mostly well-known people about their spiritual lives. Artists. Writers. Thinkers. Scientists. The odd rock star.
Sitting in my publisher’s office, she asked me to dream out loud: If I could interview anyone for the project, who was No. 1 on my wish list?
I answered without hesitation: Seamus Heaney.
From the midst of the nether
world I cried for help.
—from the Book of Jonah
A gray whale blows off Cardiff Beach,
just beyond the glamour homes,
boutiques, and drive-thru windows,
valet service and all-u-can-eat sushi.
I want to swim out and be swallowed.
Jonah’s whale wasn’t Ahab’s, all
tripey white and peg-toothed, but
a strainer of phosphorescent shrimp,
which lamped the reeking gut, like
fireflies we swallowed once, in jars.
Editor’s Note: The following poem by Trevor Scott Barton was written while he was living in Africa and reading The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi.
Holding you in the palm of my hand
I see your tiny feet and hope you'll live and walk these stony paths
To the pump to get water.
Blessing you in your meekness and gentleness,
You are Jesus to me today.
Yesterday Kay Stewart shared this at the cemetery as we laid to rest the ashes of her first-born daughter Katherine (“Katie”).
For Christ to have gone before us,
To have kept us from ultimate sadness,
To be our brother, our advocate,
The One who ushers in the Kingdom,
And the One to come,
Does not keep us from our digging today.
We still gather here and throw the dirt on our sacred dust,
We take the shovel like all those gone before us
And surrender to the Unknowable—
The place where
Love and Beauty and Kindness grow wild.
Where sorrow has no needs,
Where there is all beginning and
The crumpled woman pushes through the door
and sees your plump limp limbs
held tight in my buckled arms.
She remembers holding
such sweet eternity.
life's bright beating softens here.
Some say it holds the place of time,
watch springs wrapped tight
under the bone.
Waking, he is held by his father,
whose arms have newly borne
to breathe heavily
into our enemy chest.
Deep with one savior’s death, how many more?
In observance of which, the Dresden burghers
as usual held Shrove Tuesday circuses
around Our Lady’s Church, the Frauenkirche,
eating pancakes before their fast for Easter.
At midnight, Allies drew ash from their firestorm
on a hundred-thousand heads. Remember,
the Good War’s firesticks on Dresden’s timbers
in revenge for Coventry, where in embers
Ash Wednesday passion plays were once performed,
think that you don't
I will not
think that you don't
I can believe
I can lose you
I can thwart you
I can set you up
I can watch you fall
am here seeking
You wait a long time for Christmas morning
drifting asleep even as the ebony slate of sky
shatters in clarion silence
and shepherds in the hills cast down their rods
look up at angels and find themselves
no longer huddled in darkness
but lucent between the stars.
You, no longer a child but still drifting,
enter the mystery that is darkness
willing to open the gift inside your own singing
recognizing the song of songs from the first Eve—
We all live for the Light
What’s the first thing you think of when you think poetry readings by a Poet Laureate and a Pullitzer Prize winner? Well, whatever it is, I’m sure you weren’t thinking dogs.
Nonetheless, pet dogs were brought up more than anything else during poetry readings by Billy Collins and Mary Oliver at the Strathmore in Bethesda, Md. on Sunday. They managed to bring up their dogs in a beautifully poetic way, of course.
But perhaps the most important take away from the evening came from Oliver during a question and answer time after the readings. She said something like this: “Pay attention. Be astonished. And tell about it. We’re soaked in distractions. The world didn’t have to be beautiful. We can and should think about that beauty and be grateful.”
Those are words I have tried to live by for the last year.
Both poets demonstrated that attention in their work — even in poems about dogs.
He uproots teeth primordial in nature and that eat his soul
with appetite the size of mercenary forces plundering a city
whose inhabitants do not fight back because most of them
are women, children, and animals that creep on all fours.
He knows of a city not spared and is without name, unlike Nineveh,
whose repentant king decreed:
Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth,
and they shall cry mightily to God.
He thinks of what to do but knows that he is not the prophet