Autumn Walk

Perhaps it is the autumn light
that makes the walk up
this familiar old dirt road feel
so lucky, so fortunate? This is how
I want to meet life—as if
there is no way to contain all
the beauty so it leaks out and floods
the world with gold. Simply strolling
up this gravel road, already I
am less whatever I thought I was
and more what an autumn evening
is, something at the edge
of impossible. I want to know
the beauty that comes from
release, the radiance of loving what
is, and with tenderness, letting it go.

Ten-Dollar Bouquet

The woman at the farmstand
with the smile in her eyes
sold me a vase with pink dahlias,
pink zinnias, white daisies
and two stems of mint.
Even with all that beauty
waiting for me in the car,
I cried in the grocery store
when the woman I hadn’t seen in years
asked how my son was doing.
When I told her he had chosen
to take his life, she cried, too.
And the stranger who overheard
our conversation cried, too,
and pulled us into her generous arms
and we hugged by the checkout,
laughing and crying in an unlikely
knot of compassion.
I don’t want or need
to be freed from grief—
don’t want to forget the loss
or pretend it didn’t happen.
I want to live in a world
where the broken heart
might meet other broken hearts,
a world where pink dahlias open
in extravagant loveliness,
a world where I, too,
might open, might know beauty,
despite the fact I have been cut.

Saving Grace

I didn’t even see
the slender red salamander
curled in the middle
of the country road,
but Brad stopped to kneel
beside it and told us
if you pick them up
by the tail, they will lose
their tail—an attempt
to distract a predator
while the rest
of the body escapes.
So tenderly, he brushed
the small amphibian
into his open palm,
then gently placed it intact
in the wet grass beside the road.
If this day were a novel,
I’d say the morning walk
was foreshadowing.
Everywhere we went
there were hands
that opened in kindness—
to greet, to serve cake,
to hug, to wave—
as if everyone agreed it matters,
the way we treat each other.
How quickly we can fall apart
when threatened.
How easily, sometimes,
we are saved.


In a quiet house
a woman can have
quiet thoughts,
can sit in the quiet
and let the quiet
inside. In a quiet house,
a woman can sit
on the couch
in a quiet room
and watch the leaves
out the window
as they do not move
in the wind
that is not there.
How quiet it is,
the kind of deep quiet
that makes a woman
slip into the quiet
as if it’s inevitable,
and the quiet seeps in
and fills her the way
water seeps quietly
into the sand,
and the house is quiet
and the air is quiet
and the woods are quiet
and the world is quiet
and the woman is quiet
until she rhymes
with quiet,
until she becomes
the attention
that meets the quiet
and the quiet
becomes her.

I have been stunned, humbled and opened with gratefulness for all the love that has flooded our family the last two years. I wrote this poem a while ago, exploring how sometimes our own darkness is a chance to be amazed by the light of others, and now it’s part of the new album, DARK PRAISE.

Featuring guitar by Steve Law, art by Marisa S. White, and the video skills of Tony Jeannette, I want to send this poemvideo very personally to every one of you who helped to carry me. I cry almost every time I try to read this poem aloud (I know, not too surprising) just thinking of how grateful I am.

THIS is for you. Please share it with others who have brought light to your darkest times. You can download this track and the whole album on Spotify or iTunes for free. You can also support the album by buying it on Bandcamp.


  for Brad and James
Around the old barnwood table,
we drink coffee and tea and talk
about fathers and hawk migrations,
holding hands and peacock feathers,
and if there is somewhere a clock
that ticks, I don’t hear it—as if
everything’s stopped—
the Monarchs ever winging
above the butterfly bush and
the mounds of rudbeckia
ever opening into exuberant gold
and the hydrangea forever blushing
into pale pink tips and the deep
green woods ever balanced
at the edge of fall.
I know they don’t last,
these honey-slow hours,
but somehow they do,
as if already it’s years from now
and we are still sitting
around the old barnwood table,
nowhere else to be,
our laughter still rising,
the flowers still blooming,
our mugs still warm in our hands.

One Incongruous

this tattered cloak of worry—
with my best silk thread
embroidering the holes

         (on the night before a difficult day)
Because I can’t be there now to hold him,
I will my brother’s pillow to be more soft,
will it to offer him the deep magic
no pillow actually owns—will it
to bring him dreams in which
the light is gold and the air
smells of dark violets and
white trillium like it did
when we were kids.
I want his dreams
to feel so real, so
full of love he
wakes with
a smile as
as today.

Learning to Be Soft

      for my father
He was a large man, but soft,
his body no longer chiseled
from football, from youth.
To be held by him
was to be enveloped,
to be cradled, to feel wrapped
in his presence. He was soft.
Except, of course, when he wasn’t.
I had seen his anger turn steel,
turn sword. I knew the full weight
of his no. Perhaps that is why
I knew the great value of how soft
he was with me. I was shaped
as much by his tenderness
as I was by the firmness of his rules,
shaped by the warmth in his voice,
shaped by his gentleness
when I confessed my darkest shame.
One night, when I came to him, broken,
scared of the ways I had hurt others
and myself, he did not rail,
did not blame, did not speak in claws
or spears. He spoke in gauze,
in salve, in velvet cushion,
and though it would be years
before the wounds were healed,
the healing began that night.
In softness.
I remember, even now,
how he held me—
how his softness invited my own.
How I still feel him, holding me—
his softness, my softness.
our strength


At the left hand turn
at the busy intersection,
my fifteen-year-old daughter
tenses in her body,
her fingers grip the wheel,
her breath comes fast.
What do I do? she asks,
voice tight with fear.
My hand wants to clutch at the door. 
I do not.
My chest clenches with alarm.
I will my body beside her to be soft.
I speak in hushed tones.
Drive forward. Now wait. Now go.
And the turn is made
and her shoulders relax.
My shoulders relax.
I praise her as again,
she picks up speed
and follows the yellow center line.
Later my friend tells me
that sometimes she fakes being soft
as a way to buy time
until a genuine softness arrives—
she says it’s a way to not do damage
while she regulates herself.
I marvel at all the ways
we learn to survive—
there is fight, flight and freeze,
and there is softening.
Softening, which allows
the next step to be light.
Softening, which leaves space
for goodness to arise.
Softening, which helps us
to meet the intersection
of the next moment
as if it’s an open road.

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