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Excerpts from Guardians

Dog Days

Summer loses its charm in humidity.
Moist breeze pants against wetter skin,
heat lolls in shade, whines in the sticky night,
howls at heavy moon drooling silver
over steamy earth.

Should I wake this last morning, witness
that heliacal rising, what would follow?
Drought we already have, and plagues, madness—
would there be flood, the coming of waters
to irrigate, fertilize, heal the land?
Would the Sparkling One scorch my mortal
eyes with splintered light, flickering all colors
in hot unsteady air, mingling
its rays with our sun?

The path to knowledge lies in darkness,
in the mechanical scream of my alarm clock
pulling me from bed the one morning
sleep is allowed past dawn, to seek some
high place, away from ambient light,
and see what Sirius can tell me.

Remembering the Jordan

for my sons

There is a river in Judea
that I heard of long ago,
and it’s a singing, ringing river
that my soul cries out to know.

Late afternoon in January, the water
stings when I plunge my hands in.
Silver drops fall on my cheeks
as I draw the sign on my brow,
the baptismal sign. Once by water,
next by. . . fire? Blood?
The banks are running in blood now,
but if there is a window of peace
before the end
I will take you there.
We will find our way to that river—
maybe not to the same place,
but water recycles itself,
evaporates, condenses,
rains down from heaven
to comfort God’s children
still waiting below.

The Second Thief

Inhale at the entrance, my chest tight
with frustration, thoughts a yammer
of questions, confusion. Exhale,
stoop to touch the chime. Its tone
carries me in, every stride a slackening,
till my pace slows to notes of a song.

Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.

Give me faith like the second thief,
enough to watch hope bleed and die,
yet believe in an indestructible kingdom
waiting beyond this dark curtain of pain.

Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.

One day the crushing Babel will hush
as someone speaks my name and I turn,
find him at my side, as he has always been,
waiting for my eyes to open,
waiting for me to remember who I am.


At the Masada
through the tour of Herod’s palace—
gatehouse, storerooms, baths,
guard towers, even a swimming pool—
I hear them.
Did others before me?
Those who came to build and fortify
these walls,
others who watered the top of the mountain,
tilled soil in the garden,
even Herod, grand and omnipotent over the earth,
looking down
at the world spread out as a feast
for his royal pleasure,
Macabees at worship in the synagogue,
Byzantine brothers at prayer,
or lately scholars
seeking secrets among these ancient stones—
did they hear
the tristramit singing
and raise their eyes
to an infinite crystal of blue?
Did they fall on their knees
humbled by the power,
the wonder, of a Creator
who sent small black birds
into this desert place
to cry in tiny voices
“the sky, the sky”
reminding us
to look up
and see?


A prayer to all angels who speak to us,
in whatever forms they take,
for we are imperfect instruments
for voices from beyond, waiting patiently
where the veil grows thin, knowing
only sometimes will we hear
echoes of faint music,
feel cool otherworld air,
sting of heat in our chest—
and allow our hearts to shift,
pulled toward a lit window of grace.