Oct 28 one day early

Thursday October 27

Today-Tomorrow our university Trustee’s quarterly meeting, we’ll be slamming tasks and talks and visiting.

So here, a day early, is a short poem I love to pieces and occasionally post.   Back Monday on regular schedule.  Have a blest weekend.

john sj

Today’s Post:     The Manoeuvre
I saw the two starlings
coming in toward the wires
But at the last,
just before alighting, they

turned in the air together
and landed backwards!
that’s what got me —
to face into the wind’s teeth.

William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams
(September 17, 1883 – March 4, 1963)

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Oct 26 deep human places — youth and aging

Wednesday October 26
A New Flower  “. . . I . . .  found myself
with a new flower . . . ”

Strong poems find language to bring readers close to some deep, human, inner experience.   Today’s post,  Denise Levertov’s “A New Flower,” reminds me of Richard Wilbur’s 1921 “The Writer”  (posted  October 10, 2016 — http://sites.udmercy.edu/mission-and-identity/?s=the+writer).  Wilbur writes of a young woman writing in her room, pausing to consider a next step in the process, risking youth with its brave, creative, uncertainties (“young as she is, the stuff of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy”).  Levertov brings the reader deep into a moment of sheer beauty in the autumn of the poet’s life.

To this reader, both poets lead me into wonder and stillness.  You too, perhaps.   Best to read this one softly, out loud but almost in a whisper.  Pauses help too, of course.

Have a blest day,


Most of the sunflower’s bright petals
had fallen, so I stripped the few
poised to go, and found myself
with a new flower: the center,
that round cushion of dark-roast
coffee brown, tipped with uncountable
minute florets of gold, more noticeable
now that the clear, shiny yellow was gone,
and around it a ring of green, the petals
from behind the petals, there all the time,
each having the form of a sacred flame
or bo-tree leaf, a playful, jubilant form
(taken for granted in Paisley patterns)
and the light coming through them, so that
where, in double or triple rank, like a bevy
of Renaissance angels, they overlapped,
there was shadow, a darker shade
of the same spring green – a new flower
on this fall day, revealed within
the autumn of its own brief bloom

Denise Levertov


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Oct 24 – “stooks” – “a number of sheaves set upright in a field to dry”

Monday, October 24,  “stooks arise

Hopkins often chooses words with long historical roots that wrinkle the foreheads of present-tense readers; hence the definition of “stocks”:  “. . . sheaves set upright in a field”   —  http://www.thefreedictionary.com/stooks

1st morning back on campus, savoring sun, gusty winds, and a high pressure atmosphere (+ 30.19 in.)    An excellent end-of-October day  to post “Hurrahing in the Harvest,”  an Autumn favorite of many people.  The only things I changed from Oct 26 last year, are the precise sunrise and sunset moments.

Enjoy the day,


john sj

Post from Monday, October 24, 2015

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Oct 14 — Work Day/Hard Time is on retreat

Friday, October 14  –  Work Day/Hard Time list takes a (Jesuit) retreat week

Packing for my annual Jesuit retreat, on Connecticut’s south shore of the Long Island Sound and on the banks of The Hammonasset River, a tidal estuary with sea birds and marsh grass.  Some breathing time.

Back Sunday October 23.

Have a blest mid-October week,


john st sj

Today’s post —   Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali # 5

I ask for a moment’s indulgence to sit by thy side,
The works that I have in hand
I will finish afterwards.

Away from the sight of thy face
my heart knows no rest nor respite,
and my work becomes an endless toil
in a shoreless sea of toil.

Now is the time to sit quiet,
face to face with thee
and to sing dedication of life
in this silent and overflowing leisure.

p.s.  Here’s a tidal estuary where I go each year to be still for a while.  I happened to be standing in this place in October 2005 when my sister called my cell phone to tell me that our 102 year old mom had just died.  For me, a place of wild beauty;  the Long Island Sound plays with its shore line c. 1000 yards behind where I stood when I took this pic.

a special place for me

john sj





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Detroit Mercy Alpha Sigma Nu Book Prize!

Friday October 14  – this news just out this morning

Congratulations to the 2016 Alpha Sigma Nu Book Award winners!

We are proud to announce the winners in this year’s Alpha Sigma Nu Book Awards competition.  Among the many outstanding entries, these four books stood out to judges as examples of scholarship at its best on our Jesuit campuses.

Katherine Moran and Rosanne Burson,   I am proud to know you.


john st, sj



Katherine Moran and Rosanne Burson,University of Detroit Mercy

Detroit Mercy previous winners


John Staudenmaier, S.J., Technology’s Storytellers, 1995
Carla F. Groh, Women’s Mental Health: A Clinical Guide for Primary Care Providers, 2012
Joan C. Urbancic, Women’s Mental Health: A Clinical Guide for Primary Care Providers, 2012

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Oct 12 “quick-eyed Love” George Herbert — but also David Whyte

Wednesday October 14 — “What you can plan is too small for you to live”

Opening a book of poetry.  Turning pages until a poem catches your attention, stopping to read out loud.   Pretty good way to start a day.  The David Whyte poem that caught my attention today speaks precisely about just such an experience, entering a day.

Middle of the work week, have a blest Wednesday.

john sj


Today’s post  –   What to Remember When Waking


In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

— David Whyte (Dec 30, 2013)

– You can listen to the poem, though not read by the poet: http://www.awakin.org/read/view.php?tid=994#sthash.3K2qfP1I.dpuf

p.s.       A lot of time on the road and a lot of company here at home have given way to days with more quiet in them; time to sort out details that accumulate in hustle times.   This morning,  I remember someone asking me to send her/him a digital copy of George Herbert’s “Love Bade me Welcome” (1633).    Here’s the poem, it runs deep and creates a place of stillness if read out loud, as great poems do.   It makes such a difference in my life.   I like to post it now and then.


Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked anything.
‘A guest,’ I answer’d,’ worthy to be here’:
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful?  Ah, my dear
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste My meat.’
So I did sit and eat.

George Herbert  1633

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Oct 10 – “The Writer” — Richard Wilbur 1921

Monday, October 10,    “young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy”

Fall Break on our campus,  which means that administrative people come to work but students and faculty can sleep in —  the mid-October Fall Break.  Often, the greater your distance in time or space from the work of teaching and research (student research & faculty research and student-faculty research), particularly if  you’ve just read another dis-spiriting account of immature student behavior, plus a report on the high cost of higher education, the more likely you might be to mumble some at a 4 day weekend when most of the world is working this Monday morning.

As I ruminated about a poem for this particular Monday, I thought of sheer beauty & brilliant colors; Hopkins’  “Hurrahing in the Harvest” came to mind. Hopkins announces autumn to me each year, but it can wait a week or two until the season has matured some more.  But then I remembered why I am thrilled that our McNichols campus, for the second year, now offers this 4 day weekend for students and faculty.   I love it partly because October shows more awe within its beauty than any of the seasons (for me. not a universal I know).  But mostly because, here on our northwest Detroit campus, this 2 day break honors the fatigue of teaching and learning.   The ruminations  led me to Richard Wilbur’s unforgettable poem about a parent paying attention to his daughter’s sheer daring, as she writes her way toward an adulthood where strong winds will blow and sometimes even floods . . .  writes her way into lifelong courage.

So I’m posting it again, an homage to the quotidian courage of students and their demanding, hopeful, attentive teachers.

Not the peak of autumn yet; most of the leaves outside my window are late-summer, worn-down greens.  But there are already traces of frost to promise waves of brilliance on their way.  Yes, please read “The Writer” out loud, with pauses.

Note: Wilbur wrote this in 1921,  2 years into the rolling  shock waves at the horrors of chemical warfare twisting the faces and limbs of maimed soldiers returning from Europe and, way too often, not finding jobs waiting to honor their broken bodies: a half-decade of fear and rage, of  contempt for most immigrants, and for fellow citizens with whom one differed.  A year not unlike the years in which we live now.  I love it that  this poet recognized, in that precise moment of history, the wonder of young human beings risking so much to launch into their futures.

Have a blest day,


john sj

“The Writer”  Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.

     richard wilbur  March 1, 1921  –

About Wilbur’s poems, one reviewer for The Washington Post said, “Throughout his career Wilbur has shown, within the compass of his classicism, enviable variety. His poems describe fountains and fire trucks, grasshoppers and toads, European cities and country pleasures. All of them are easy to read, while being suffused with an astonishing verbal music and a compacted thoughtfulness that invite sustained reflection.”  {poets.org}

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Oct 5 – “Where the hell is Matt?” –> “Dancing all over the world”

Wednesday  October 5   Work-day mid-week — time for dancing

An hour or so ago I was still rubbing sleep around my eyes and looking out my window to the city’s morning traffic and early sunshine.  When I heard children chanting somewhere around the campus,  I poked my head out the window and, sure enough, a playful, imprecise column of grade school students were dancing along the sidewalk in front of the university’s McNichols front gate.  I’m guessing they were kids from the Gesu School across the street, part of the Jesuit parish that is a close neighbor to the university.   I kissed my hand to the kids and their teachers; they gave me a playful entrance to this month before the November election that is wearing me out,  wearing lots of us out, with anger and anxiety and moral fatigue.

The children’s improbable marching song still makes me smile.  I had the children in mind when I went looking back to October posts two years ago for some autumn sounds and sights.  Look what I found from two years less 5 days ago?  Can’t imagine a better post to remind the “Work Day in a Hard Time” poetry list’s 2207 members (31 countries) of our various neighborhoods’ capacity for surprise and joy, no matter our burdens.    While you watch/listen to these 4:53 minutes of dancing, pay attention to the captions naming the places where people dance on the video.  I’ve never met “Matt,”  but watching him end the clip dancing alongside his partner and their very young child makes me think good thoughts about him.

I almost always end by encouraging readers to read a poem out loud, with pauses. No need for that today.  If you can listen and watch the video without dancing and laughing or bouncing in your desk chair,  and  . . . .  well behaving like that irregular column of children were doing in front of our campus about 90 minutes ago, maybe you will want to  play it again when you can take another 5 minutes.

Have a blest day,


john sj

Posted Friday, October 10, 2014

To match the two Matisse paintings 1909 & 1910, listen to this 4:53 YouTube  “Where the hell is Matt?”   Treat it like a poem.   Probably an ad you have to click through first.

Matisse 1909                                                         Matisse 1910
Matisse1909   Matisse1910

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Oct 3 – The Messenger – Mary Oliver

Monday October 3

“ . . .  my work
which is standing still and learning to be astonished.”

Today’s post I’m writing at the Maritime Institute just 15 minutes from Baltimore’s airport.   About 80 people have been gathered by the collective national presence of The Sisters of Mercy in the world of higher education.  What is the current state of the health of our culture of work among the 16 colleges and universities — students and faculty and support staff that treat their heritage of  “Mercy” as their soul.  Like conferences everywhere, people meet and talk and listen with each other, over coffee or wine or water.   Our last plenary speaker today, John Collins, C.Ss.R. invited us to listen while he read Mary Oliver’s “The Messenger.”   As many of Mary O’s poems as I’ve posted I had not met this one.

It’s lovely and evocative.  Try reading it out loud.

Back in Detroit Monday evening.

I hope your work week is beginning well.


john sj

Today’s Post    “The Messenger”

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth
and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all,
over and over, how it is that we live forever.


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Sept 30 – “Where Does it Hurt?” Warsan Shire

Friday,  last day in this September –

It’s the last day of the last work week in September, which is, in the United States, the first month of what is called the real election race, the time when many potential voters begin to think seriously about who they will support for the presidency and for other more local elections.   Judging from what I read in media and hear from friends these past weeks, the uncompromising venom in much of September’s public discourse, punctuated by unpredictable violent actions around this country and around the world, wear on people’s inner spirits.  Mine too.  Perhaps there are no better times to read a strong poem and  renew our imaginations.    For me and perhaps for you this is a good time to return to an exquisite  poem and allow the poet’s language to take the reader into intimate tenderness.  When we have eyes to see and ears,  kindness at close range can open ways into courage during a hard time in a hard world.

Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses, to let the cadence and word choices surprise you and restore realism and capacity for the world’s beauty.

I first posted this poem last December when many millions of people were reeling from the bombings in Paris.  I am posting it this morning because, in my own weariness of spirit,  I want to read it again.

Have a blest weekend,
john sj

p.s.  Today & tomorrow here at my university, we invite alums back, to hang out with each other, and check out the remarkable transformations a city and a university well along in a startling process of rebirth. With the many troubles in the country and the world, that encourages me.


Taken from Work Day Post December 4, 2015

Somali-British poet Warsan Shire’s poem evokes intimacy — a crying child lucky enough to have a mom or a dad hold her or him, whispering “where does it hurt?”  Shire enters that moment and opens it out into the wide world and a time marked by brutal absolute convictions that demonize those with whom one differs.  Columnist Omir Safi turned to Shire’s poem while reeling with shock after the Paris massacre in December 2015.

“I watched the outpouring of grief from all over the world, including most of my Muslim friends. I saw hundreds of Facebook profiles being changed to the French flag-themed profile pictures, and thousands of #prayerforParis and #Prayers4Paris tweets.  I also saw, as I knew would come, wounded cries of the heart from friends in Beirut wondering why their own atrocity (43 dead) just one day before — also at the hands of ISIS — had not received any such similar outpouring of grief; friends from Pakistan wondering why there was no option to “check in as safe” during their experiences with violent attacks; friends from Central African Republic wondering why their dead — in the thousands — are the subject of no one’s global solidarity.”


Today’s Post:  “what they did yesterday afternoon”
by warsan shire


they set my aunts house on fire
i cried the way women on tv do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.
i called the boy who use to love me
tried to ‘okay’ my voice
i said hello
he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?

i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
dear god
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.

later that night

i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered


Warsan Shire

posted November 16 2015  on Amber J Kaiser (http://amberjkeyser.com/2015/11/warsan-shire/)

(SomaliWarsan ShireArabic: ورسان شرى‎‎, born 1 August 1988)
is a London–based- Somali writer, poet, editor and teacher.[1]  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsan_Shire)

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