Poems, et cetera
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Silk to Ashes Solar Graffiti
Changing the world

The Only Sermon

Just to believe

A friend

A Teacher in Disguise

Miscellaneous musings


Silk to Ashes

Irene D. Hays

A father stands in line to obtain passports
for his children to leave Japan in the aftermath
of the earthquake, tsunami, nuclear crisis.

How will you know when to leave?
the journalist asked the father –
whose young son stood by his side,
twin daughters in his arms.
When water no longer slips over stone?
When every breath burns?

I fear only this, said the father,
sifting for words: That this world of dew
may have dried to scales, gone to ashes,
before my decision to save them.

Even now the death knell tolls
against the ragged silk of the mountains.

Irene Hays of Richland is a published poet, a former classroom teacher, and director of education programs at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington.

Solar Graffiti

Sister Irene Zimmerman

The morning sun, peering through
my window, saw my peace lily, drew
its leaves across the wall
and moved on.

An amateur with pen and ink,
I fumbled, trying to recall
those perfect lines so quickly drawn,
so quickly gone.

If I could learn to see like sun
I too would move around the world,
drawing peace on every wall
till Earth was one.

Irene Zimmerman is a School Sister of St. Francis,
headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Changing the world

The Sufi Bayazid says this about himself:

“I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was ‘Lord, give me the energy to change the world.’

“As I approached middle age and realized that half my life was gone without my changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to ‘Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in contact with me. Just my family and friends, and I shall be satisfied.’

“Now that I am an old man and my days are numbered, my one prayer is, ‘Lord, give me the grace to change myself.’ If I had prayed for this right from the start, I should not have wasted my life.”

– from Anthony de Mello, Song of The Bird, 1984
Image Books, Doubleday, New York

The Only Sermon

Andrea Ayvazian

if we dug a huge grave miles wide, miles deep
and buried every rifle, pistol, knife, bullet, bomb, bayonet

if we jumped upon fleets of tanks and fighter jets
with tool boxes, torches
unwelded them dismantled them turned them into scrap metal

if every light-skinned man in a silk tie said
to every dark-skinned man in a turban
I vow not to kill your children
and heard the same vow in return

if every elected leader agreed to stop lying

if every child was fed as well as racehorses bred to win derbies

if every person with a second home gave it to a person with no home

if every mother buried her parents not her sons and daughters

if every person who has enough said out loud I have enough

if every person violent in the name of God were to find God

we would grow silent, still for a moment, a lifetime

we would hear infants nursing at the breast
hummingbirds hovering in flight

we would touch a canyon wall and feel the earth vibrate

we would hear two lovers sigh across the ocean

we would watch old wounds grow new flesh and jagged scars disappear

as time was layered upon time
we would slowly be ready
to begin

Andrea Ayvazian is dean of religious life at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.

Just to believe

Born just weeks before Hiroshima,
I was 17 when Cuban missiles
aimed toward Atlanta, my home.
Dad was on the road,
and my mother and I made plans
to live in the basement.
At that age, I could not imagine growing old,
not because of the invincible shield of youth
but because I thought
some fool would someday soon
let the big one fly,
and it would be all over
in a matter of minutes.

Imagine this:
After a life of thinking about death,
I was diagnosed with depression
in my mid-30s.
I survived
because others prayed me through it
and believed I could.
I tried to believe, too,
but it was dark for a long time.

When the Berlin Wall came down,
the stones around my heart had already collapsed,
and I had learned at last to love.
Then I thought just maybe
hope could fly
and raise this planet
from its path of self-destruction.

Still, I could not imagine
I would live to greet a new millennium.

I plan to stay home this New Year's Eve
and keep watch until sunrise
that first day.
I want to pray the earth forward,
not to deny its atrocities,
not to neglect its starving or its illness,
not to escape the violence,
but just to believe
through that long winter night,
just to believe.

- Flo Walsh, Atlanta

A friend

A friend is a person
to whom one may pour out
all the contents of one's heart,
chaff and grain together,
knowing that the gentlest of hands
will take and sift it,
keep what is worth keeping,
and, with a breath of kindness,
blow the rest away.

- Unknown

A Teacher in Disguise

Nancy Neal

Some of our greatest teachers are not found in educational institutions but present their lessons in the classroom of life. They are all around us, teachers in disguise. An important teacher in my life taught me a valuable lesson in, of all places, a laundromat!

When I was a young adult living in a small town in central Illinois, every week I routinely took my laundry to a laundromat near my home. One day a woman entered the laundromat with her daughter, who appeared to be nine or ten years old. I was not prepared for nor proud of my reaction to this little girl, for she was the homeliest child I had ever seen. Physically deformed, her legs were misshapen, resulting in an ungainly walk. Her arms were long spindles and flailed about as if constantly clearing away cobwebs. Her speech was badly impaired, and I assumed she was mentally retarded as well. On the outskirts of town, there was a state school for the physically deformed and mentally retarded; I couldn't understand why she wasn't in such a school.

Although I altered my schedule from time to time, it was uncanny how that mother and daughter usually arrived at the laundromat at the same time I did. I put my clothes in the washing machines, and then went outside and sat in my car so I wouldn't have to look at the girl more than necessary.

One day, as I was taking clothes out of the dryer, I turned around and there she was, right smack in front of me. She threw her spindly, grotesque arms around my waist, looked up at me with a twisted smile, and said in her own crude way, "I'm happy to see you."

I froze on the spot, closed my eyes, and silently cried, "Oh, God!" Then, to my surprise, I experienced a magical moment of truth — a moment of clarity, insight, and transformation. In a split second I realized that I was the one who was retarded spiritually retarded-and was being given the gift of the true meaning of unconditional love and compassion. God is in all and through all, and I finally saw the necessity of beholding God's presence in everyone, even the not-so-outwardly-beautiful of this world.

I opened my eyes and discovered my arms were around the girl. Smiling, I looked down at her and said, "I'm happy to see you, too." It was then that I understood why the mother had not put her child in the state school.

Strange as it seems, I never saw the girl or her mother again. I continued my weekly trek to the laundromat and looked for them in earnest, but to no avail. The homeliest child I had ever seen was a teacher in disguise. She came into my life and taught me a valuable lesson, and once I had learned the lesson, it seemed there was no longer any need for her presence.

I have found on my journey through life that my greatest teachers were teachers in disguise — my spouse, a coworker, a neighbor, a homeless person, a teenager, a handicapped person, a stranger, even the family pet. But, then, we are all teachers in disguise.

Nancy Neal is a freelance writer and Minister Emeritus of Unity Church of Christianity in Tulsa, OK. Her article appeared in Sacred Journey, the journal of Fellowship in Prayer.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

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