Poems -Chapter Four

A Chance Encounter

( Selected for inclusion in the WA 129+ collection by WA Poet laureate and Gonzaga University) Chapbook A#3 WA 129+ poetry


“A trouble shared is a trouble Halved”       Dorothy L. Sayers

A chance encounter

splits open the day.

Intent on my quiet musings,

interrupted by a friend’s pain,

I catch his eye and we smile.

I invite him to sit awhile.

Grief is pulsing through his veins

purple and throbbing.

He had worked forty years

to enjoy this time with her.

She puts her glasses in the freezer,

and her dinner in the closet.

She pours her coffee on her cereal

and cannot find the bathroom.

So many decisions to be made

instead of traveling the world.”

Weighed down, a fit man,

beaten to his knees.

Terrified and confused—

not up to the task,

I listen and watch the pain

subside as he hears

the sound of his own voice

telling the truth about himself.

He laughs at something he once said

and rises to leave.

He came stumbling in the dark

looking for God, and found only me.

I hug his neck and feel some

burden pass between us.



The First TED Talk

It clocked in at 19min ,30sec

Just within the allotted time.


They say he used all the right

hand gestures—stretching his arms

out vertically—inviting and warm,

then horizontally, as if beckoning

to an unseen energy.

But not too much hand use,

as to distract from the message.


His speech, measured carefully with varied tones,

carried his words forward with a delightful cadence.

His diction and syntax appropriate for

the occasion, perfectly understood by

foreigners, laborers, and officials alike.


His eye contact was superb, neither staring—

which we all know makes one uncomfortable,

nor fixed upon prepared notes.

Looking intently over the crowd,

he constantly adjusted his vision

to make each listener feel

he spoke directly to them.


His talk was well organized,

with beginning, middle, and conclusion.

Organized themes made retention easy

and left the listener wanting more—

eight simple principles for a happy life.


Some say there were more than three-thousand

souls spread out upon this Middle East knoll.

He would be praised for years to come

for speaking with such authority.



Paying Attention

“Attention is the beginning of Devotion” – Mary Oliver


Once more I watch

the plumb tree

outside my window


just as it does every spring

from a ghost of gnarled

misshapen twigs

into stages of moving shapes

and colors.

One solitary blossom spreads

its violet wings and waits

for thousands more to follow,

some barely more than a tiny ball

at the end of a branch–

others stretch out into cylinders,

purple and ready to unfold.

Many more pink buds

wait their turn for glory.

All this- this shimmering montage

before my eyes

gifting this spot of earth

with a story that tells

of a universe unending

needing only a witness.



Sitting silent at the table

surrounded with strangers I once knew

trying to recognize high school friends

behind faces drawn tight and wrinkled

by weather and cigarettes and care,

some puffed and mottled with spots.

Curly red hair once floated

across foreheads, now fallen, the roots

dislodged follicles onto the floor

swept up, discarded.

Voices changed- higher

in men, lower in women…

Ah, but the eyes

give them away

if I cared to look,

look, and look again.

Yes – there they were.

Life and care had worn the body, yet

the eyes were left alone

to smile

and assure me

we remain friends.



Playing Piano

The piano player plays softly upon the keys

Of the baby grand tucked away

In the shadowy corner of the pub.

No one is listening, no one marvels.


Each key tapped hammers a wire down below

Which in turn vibrates according to its properties?

Disturbing the molecules blanketing its surface.

We translate this disturbance in our inner ear as sound.

I was told this by a chemical engineer.


In that precise moment the magic of music was stolen from me.

Before that, it was God, and then – romance

and clouds and waterfalls and flowers opening at daybreak

and closing in at night, like all of us do.


What is there left to not know, to wonder about,

To rejoice in its mystery? Even death is explained away

As a simple returning and disappearing – leaving behind

A marble stone that no one will see but strangers.


Will someone please tell me if there is a single mystery

Left To frolic in that I can tell my grandchildren

Before it is spoiled for them too?

Will all the magic of this world be explained away

Until Wine no longer from water comes?


The last mystery cannot be destroyed because

It cannot be expressed. The mysteries that can only be felt

When one awakens and believes a surprise awaits.

Maybe the piano will always be magical for those

Who know more than they have been taught.



All Is Well


She softly moves alone at night

when the daytime cacophony

has ended and the turtle doves are singing,

when the children are in for the night

and the parents read to them by the Hearth–

She moves through the village streets

among the shadows and the whispers,

touching the adobe walls

of each home she passes,

with each step, she proclaims

a blessing reclaiming

divinity lost through day,

renewing the village

with every thought and breath and touch






I had a bird once

And took a thread.

I tied its leg to a tree

And left it there for dead.


I released the bird from the thread

And the bird joyfully flew away

How many threads are holding me

Until I look, I will never say


A piece of thread seems a little thing

How can it keep one stuck to earth?

Just ask the elephant who will not move

while tied by ropes he could burst.


To hold us down does not take much-

The smallest thing, a thread

Then we find we cannot go

Where our hearts are surely led.


So, strand by strand I free myself

from what I thought were treasures-

free now to soar the skies

finding joy without measure.




Blood -soaked children pulled

from concrete and wire rubble

spoiled my gentle morning.


I must learn to turn off the news

when drinking my mug of

pumpkin-spice latte,

skinny with whipped crème.




Stories I Told

Five children sit cross-legged

on the shag carpet,

leaning heads on their palms

looking into my face

and I feel the weight of it all.

How to I give them hope in this world?

A reason to try and find their place

in a universe too big for me?

Their eyes implore me

to give them the secret.

SO, I do the only thing I can.

I open a book,

and I read them stories;

stories of how a family

shipwrecked and alone

made a home more beautiful

than any could imagine,

and I read of a child lost

in the African jungle, only to be

raised and loved by apes,

to become a message of hope

and tolerance and courage.

And I read to them the story of a simple man

who came from nowhere special

and turned the world upside down

with one message—



Hidden Things


The beautiful people come and go

while the plain ones stay.


The Chief officer leaves the deck

while the seaman carries on.


The sun brings life to earth

even when blocked by clouds.


The trees’ roots drive underground

so it’s branches may touch the sky.


in the dark soil earthworms feed the earth

unseen to the world.


The moon at midnight moves the sea

and with it life to its citizens.


At 1000 mph the earth spins unnoticed

bringing night and day


Saints and mystics cloister in prayer

bringing charity into the world.



Waiting for the Bus


The suns first rays make him blink.

The curb is hard and cold.

He waits in the early fall breeze

as the corner bus stop fills up

with students, all waiting

for #154 to take them

to their first day of school.

He is nervous. He is excited.

He tells himself stories of what the day will be like.

He believes everything will be better.

He believes people will be kind, for the most part.

He tells himself the teacher will be

gentle, patient, pretty, funny and will smile a lot.

The teacher will not scold or shout

like his mom did as she shoved him off

to his first day of school.


Star Gazing

“He fixes the number of stars-He calls each one by name”. Ps 147:4

We lay back in plastic lounge chairs

in the cold desert hills,

scanning the clear night sky,

waiting for the last piece of day

to drop from the world–

counting the stars as one by one

they burst into view until we

lose count, the sky now speckled and splattered

with shimmering diamonds

as if Jackson Pollard

had flashed his brush at the sky

and declared it was good.

My friends talked and talked

of what they knew about—

how many light years away,

which constellations were which,

sometimes arguing and resorting

to Google to see who was right.

Was it Sagittarius, Orion, Andromeda

Pegasus, Aquarius—and was that a true star

or a lowly planet, or worse, what I call

a shooting star (now just a piece of rock

flying through the sky at 160,000 mph)?

They discussed the astronomical facts

of what was above us as if it

were a problem to solve.

In the quiet night I asked myself

“What do you think it is”?

The answer came from deep within



Orcas Island 2017

The Ferry approaches

to take me

from this tiny dreamscape,

this horseshoe of heaven,

this isle of stillness who

trained my body

to slow


be deliberate

in every movement

of every moment


It comes to take me back to that cacophony on the mainland where in the night my body quakes without reason.


Oh, for this

span of