They have always been like giants to me

eager to squash and munch and bellow


but as I hush the voices of NPR

and my eyes scan the hills and knobs

of this great winding mess called I-65


as I duck and dodge these monsters

I am struck with wonder:

What’s in all those semis?


I mean, where are they going?

Where is it all coming from?


Tearing through their metal sides

I see their wonderful secrets


one semi is full of piñatas

the shape of crosses

stuffed with expired Easter candy


the other has live monkeys

no cages and no rules


one contains a discothèque

pulsing with the sweat of teenagers

who fall as one at every pothole


another has piles of wax statues

crude, colorful imitations of the Greek masters

all falling short of their god’s glory


one hosts twenty-six princesses, all sitting in front of mirrors

putting on lipstick and wiping it off again

unable to screw their face just right


the other has a single pea under a pillow

blissful and still as he could be


there we all were

rushing off

going somewhere

showing something

hiding most of it


after all that dreaming

I felt so transparent and boring

with my non-tented windows

and my silver 2006 Corolla


I wondered what hidden things

these semis might find in me?

What dreams has the dreamer

failed to see? What dances

under my hood?

What lies asleep in my trunk

coughing and crying

hoping and waiting

even by these monsters

to be seen?



I’ve sat around all day, really.
I read a theological magazine.
I watched a kung-fu television show
all the way to its campy finale.
I took a walk with my dog.
And I even wrote a poem about God.
But it’s today that’s vexing me.
Did I do enough?
I’m sure I didn’t love anyone,
or even talk to anyone face to face
(except for my neighbor John
and he barely got a hello).
But I enjoyed the pink blooms
on a nearby cherry tree
and I also made and devoured a delicious turkey sandwich.
I even toasted the bread.

But the most important work I did today
was on my walk
when I stopped to enjoy the rare sunshine
cutting through the grey Spring clouds.

I heard God say to me
Isn’t this enough?
Is my earth not enough?
Am I not enough?

And I wonder now
as I sit in watch for the dark to come
if my lazy, wasted, fruitless day
can count as one long
heaving sigh of


Polynices: I. Icarus


This is the first part of a four part poem entitled “Polynices,” named after the brother of Antigone. It’s about an experience I had as an on-call chaplain, in my attempt as a young white man to minister to an African-American family whose 22 year old had been shot and killed.

I. Icarus

Last night
I dreamed about you again
kneeling outside the ER
squawking, flailing, moaning

your old mothers perch beside you
cooing and humming
their clay faces
lined with the contours of grief
hardened by years of this—
this terrible familiarity
with shotguns
and the cracked shells
they leave behind

the grandmothers in their wisdom
nest a home for your cries
beside you on the sidewalk
folding you in close
with sighs of oh child
and the deep, winged memory
of men and their guns

your aunts and sisters swoop in behind
to preen your moans, searching for answers
hatched in the silence that death brings

your lament breaks the starless night
with rushing, un-prescribed pain
your pain is an eagle of the river
bald and black and wild

escaping the cages
forged by the hospital and its managers of risk

was he your brother? your cousin?
your lover?

(I mean the dead black body
the police are keeping as evidence

or as Christ put it
where the vultures gather)

I don’t remember now
who he was to you

I just remember flying
away from you
up through the door
past the guard
and the nurses
to catch my breath
and stretch my tightened chest

and I’m still flying
up and up
away from you

because a man like me
too close to a pain like you

who knows
my wings might finally melt

A Question

This is one of many poems I wrote during my experience as a chaplain’s intern at Duke Hospital. I haven’t really known what to do with them–they just contain these little snapshots of the hopelessness, but also the grace, that is found in trying to minister to the sick and the dying.

the patient was eighty-nine years old
I bet on Sunday he is an usher in a big old church
with a grey suit and pocket square
but not tonight
tonight he was groaning, blind
ready to meet Jesus
a dying Ray Charles who’d lost his voice
and sunglasses

they phoned the chaplain
because the man might “hurt himself”

I could see why
his wrinkles tremored with the knowledge of pain
stretched across his crisscrossed
black skin, weathered by decades of memory
hardened by the near-misses and nearness of death

I sat and held his trembling hand
as he moaned like sandpaper:

I can’t keep on like this
I don’t want to keep on like this
I just I don’t I can’t      anymore
Prea—cher?                 he sang in a deep baritone
Prea—cher?                 What do I do?

my infant tongue flew up and stuck
to the roof of my mouth
the question shot within me
and bounded like an old-fashioned bullet
the kind that doesn’t go straight through

even as I write this now, the shrapnel
of his words cut and bounce under my thick skin
with a strange, piercing echo:

Prea—cher?                Prea—cher?
What       do     I       do?




Haiku: Mass

Cold rain, the blue noise

beats upon us weary men;

Father, Kyrie.


Green corn, opening,

your life breath moving, cooling;

the Spirit reigns, flies.


In dark terror, I

cling to firm cliffs, solid land,

your words affirming.


Holy holy Lord,

the forests sway, erupt, shout

this Sanctus solstice.


My great Messiah

soars through rushing waters, that

ferocious current.


The fallen oak stands

up: life gushes from God’s Lamb

a green, breathing world!

Ash Wednesday: A Prayer

These ashes feel silly, black strips of cracked grease
smeared on my forehead, like a child’s paint
Am I not a man with days ahead?
Am I not a god until I’m dead?

O Lord, these ashes are flung to the dusk
forgotten and hated specks of mud
hurled at the sun, in spite and scattered
and where are you? and does that matter?

if these ashes are winning, I am sunk in death
my breath damp-dry, my cough unending
weighed and buried in long black robes:
the rocks and bones my clothes

And yet I hope to turn again
from this dead soil to greener patch
still me now and at the ceasing of my breath
and resurrect these ashes from their death

The Redeemed

As Christians prepare to begin the season of Lent, I thought I would post this poem I wrote recently about the scramble all of us take to find the narrow road of faith and salvation, and how often we miss where our focus should really be:

Here we come, bursting from the desert
reds and browns, the sand-dunes to the skies
rushing to be counted on the highway
desperate for the road that leads to Zion.
I am one of them, and they of me
but we feel alone under the heat
bowed before relentless scorching winds
hands pushed forward, shouts of sinful men—
Who knew narrowness could feel so wide?
That holiness was thin yet vast inside?
We scrambled to be counted on the road
we counted, but forgot the sand and stars.
And yet who’s hanging off-road on that tree?
Who counts the Son of God? Or me?

Front Porch Poem: 6-25-16



Lawnmowers buzz and whir gently
underneath the calls of my neighbors
who laugh to one another
in the blue morning
cool before the blistering
summer sun breaks through

I hear a few children giggling
out of sight
a man sing-calling out
to his fellow-man
who he must love
as I love them both

what hopes stir in these men
sweating upon the earth this early
toward a more beautiful home?

what light reflects on their unseen faces
up on that half-finished roof
dreaming up the new day?

who am I to sit here in such peace,
among a people as fine
and as true as these

and what words of mine could ever match
their God-given voices
or the music of their swinging hammers?

Spring, A Porch Sonnet

I know that it’s not really spring yet, but it feels like it, and I am also still in the Valentine’s Day mood. So here’s a sonnet I wrote last spring for my wife. Enjoy:

Spring, A Porch Sonnet (8-26-16)

The strawberries are flush with red my love
and sunlight feeds them, soil homes their roots,
the air is light, speaks new words off-the-cuff
about the plants, their yellows, pinks, and blues.
I feel the whole earth swinging back and forth
a happy child kicking off his shoes.

I do not know which season moves you most
which passing stars or colors you find best,
but you are Spring in every shade and song,
you are the thrush’s swoop, the hammock’s rest,
the lazy rocking chair, the open window,
our front porch newly found, newly swept.

Who are you woman, by me like this fan
making me feel wonderful again?