July 4 — what is home in hard times? where ?

On US Independence Day,  I thought of a Warsan Shire poem.   She shares the US dream and ideal of immigrants everywhere; risking death or wounds to find a welcoming place to sleep,  to cook, to hold one another free from fear.

I am c. 2 weeks into post surgery re-hab at the Jesuit Colombiere Center;   readers of the “Work Day/Hard Times” list came to mind late this July 4 morning and whispered the title of this strong Warsan Shire poem in my ear.

Best to read the poem out loud,  with pauses

Have a blest day


john sj

Today’s Post: – Warsan Shire, “Home”

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark.
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well.

your neighbours running faster
than you, the boy you went to school with who kissed you dizzy behind
the old tin factory is
holding a gun bigger than his body,

you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one would leave home unless home chased you, fire under feet,
hot blood in your belly.

it’s not something you ever thought about doing, and so when you did –
you carried the anthem under your breath, waiting until the airport toilet

to tear up the passport and swallow,
each mouthful of paper making it clear that you would not be going back.

you have to understand,
no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.

who would choose to spend days
and nights in the stomach of a truck
unless the miles traveled
meant something more than journey.

no one would choose to crawl under fences,
be beaten until your shadow leaves you,
raped, then drowned, forced to the bottom of
the boat because you are darker, be sold,
starved, shot at the border like a sick animal,
be pitied, lose your name, lose your family,
make a refugee camp a home for a year or two or ten,
stripped and searched, find prison everywhere
and if you survive and you are greeted on the other side
with go home blacks, refugees

dirty immigrants, asylum seekers
sucking our country dry of milk,
dark, with their hands out
smell strange, savage –
look what they’ve done to their own countries,
what will they do to ours?

the dirty looks in the street
softer than a limb torn off,
the indignity of everyday life
more tender than fourteen men who
look like your father, between
your legs, easier to swallow
than rubble, than your child’s body
in pieces – for now, forget about pride
your survival is more important.

i want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home tells you to
leave what you could not behind, even if it was human.

no one leaves home until home
is a damp voice in your ear saying
leave, run now, i don’t know what
i’ve become.

Warsan Shire b. 1 August 1988


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June 25 – Five Days After Surgery

Monday, June 25 – “Be one word in this great love poem we are writing together”  Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Please see the update below on John Staudenmaier SJ from Beth Finster SSJ:

I went to see John on Saturday, and he looks really good. He’s walking a good amount per doctor’s orders (and standing up straight with a walker that fits him) and since that is most of his therapy, he hopes to be home next weekend. He thanks everyone for their prayers.


Today’s post: Oriah Mountain Dreamer
The Call I have Heard All My Life

I have heard it all my life

A voice calling a name I recognized as my own.
Sometimes it comes as a soft-bellied whisper.

Sometimes it holds an edge of urgency.
But always it says:  Wake up my love. You are walking asleep.

There’s no safety in that!
Remember what you are and let this knowing

take you home to the Beloved with every breath.
Hold tenderly who you are and let a deeper knowing

color the shape of your humanness.
There is no where to go. What you are looking for is right here.

Open the fist clenched in wanting

and see what you already hold in your hand.
There is no waiting for something to happen,

no point in the future to get to.

All you have ever longed for is here in this moment, right now.
You are wearing yourself out with all this searching.

Come home and rest.
How much longer can you live like this?

Your hungry spirit is gaunt, your heart stumbles.

All this trying. Give it up!
Let yourself be one of the God-mad,

faithful only to the Beauty you are.
Let the Lover pull you to your feet and hold you close,

dancing even when fear urges you to sit this one out.
Remember, there is one word

you are here to say with your whole being.
When it finds you, give your life to it.

Don’t be tight-lipped and stingy.
Spend yourself completely on the saying.

Be one word in this great love poem we are writing together.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

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June 21 – First Day of Summer + First Day After Surgery

Thursday, June 21 – “May the new sun’s rising grace us with gratitude”  J. Philip Newell

John Staudenmaier was released from the hospital today after two physical therapy sessions.  He is now continuing his recovery at Colombiere in Clarkston, Michigan.  Thank you for your prayers and support.


Today’s post: J. Philip Newell
May the Angels of Light

May the angels of light
glisten for us this day.
May the sparks of God’s beauty
dance in the eyes of those we love.
May the universe
be on fire with Presence for us this day.
May the new sun’s rising
grace us with gratitude.
Let earth’s greenness shine
and its waters breathe with Spirit.
Let heaven’s winds stir the soil of our soul
and fresh awakenings rise within us.
May the mighty angels of light
glisten in all things this day.
May they summon us to reverence,
may they call us to life.

J. Philip Newell


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June 20 – Update on John Staudenmaier SJ

Wednesday, June 20 – “May we be a blessing”  Rabbi Maralee Gordon

John Staudenmaier would like you all to know that his right hip replacement today was successful.  Please pray for his speedy recovery.


Today’s post: Rabbi Maralee Gordon
Be A Blessing

In this moment, mindful of our many blessings,
may we form an intent to carry gratitude with us continually.
May we leave fear and jealousy by the wayside,
making room in our hearts for contentment, satisfaction and compassion.
May we start each day counting our blessings:
the blessing of being alive,
the many miracles of the living world we are one with,
the ability we possess to love and to be loved,
the many gifts and talents we have been graced with,
the support we receive
and the support we are able to extend.
May our gratitude lead to action:
May we express our gratitude.
May we smile when we encounter each other on the path,
may we seek opportunities to share our talents with others,
may we express our love to one another,
may we give with no expectation of receiving.
May we seek to repair what is broken.
May we end each day counting the day’s blessings,
those we have received and those we have bestowed.
May we be a blessing.

Rabbi Maralee Gordon


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Summer break for the Work Day/Hard Time List

Thursday, May 31

Much of this May I have been learning how to prepare for hip surgery (on June 20); learning again since this Beaumont Hospital surgical team already replaced my left hip early in 2008.   This year that team will replace my right hip.   Lots of prep work; remembering how to manage a walker and get around my Jesuit house slowly and carefully.  One major difference between 2008 and 2018;  2008 the surgery happened Jan 14 and recovery had it’s time and disciplines play out well before May, when I try to spend time on Pine Ridge.

For this year’s pre-summer break post, I went back to May 27, 2016 when my contextual paragraphs talk about the sensual experience of Pine Ridge for me.  I won’t get to Pine Ridge this year so this post serves as a contemplative thanksgiving for what Pine Ridge has meant to me all these years.   Next May?  Days on the Rez and days with Lakota soul friends once again.  Who knows?  I might stand still in the badlands and let meadowlarks woo me with their spring songs until I am dizzy.

By the time August arrives this year I have a hunch I’ll be walking like a younger man.

Have a blest early summer,


john sj

Today’s post

Friday May 27, 2016  –  “Enough. These few words are enough.”  David Whyte

“Remember sunscreen” —   Pine Ridge, SD is about 3400 ft above sea level,  sun shines more directly here than in Motown at 300 ft elevation.   In most years, about a week after commencement and Eastern Market Flower days, I pack for a week on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation.  It sits in western South Dakota; you can see the profile of The Black Hills 70 miles off to the north and west;  you can stand still near wild Badland formations, created mostly by wind.  Improbably with desert-like terrain,  you can also stand still to listen to meadowlarks, and frogs, in marshy water holes 100 yards across.   It’s because I lived here a long time that this particular beauty melts my soul and refreshes my spirit.

So do conversations with soul friends of 40 years or more.  I come to Pine Ridge to renew the origins of my adulthood in this place of beauty and laughter and grief.  It slows my steps and my breathing.  And reminds me that the normal work year has ended and summer has begun.  There’s  still plenty of work time but the pace is different.   For you too, I hope.

I looked for a short poem that reminds me of why I come out to Pine Ridge each year.

David Whyte wrote the poem, “Enough.”  Readers of the list have heard it before.   Below the poem are 3 wisdom sayings learned on Pine Ridge over the years.

Have a blest weekend.


john st sj

Today’s Post

Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
until now.

David Whyte, Where Many Rivers Meet

a wisdom-saying born on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation
“Time spent baking bread follows the pace of yeast”

“Motorcycling alone; I move as a  tiny person in a vast world”

“If I pause long enough, I  hear the sound of grass growing,  and trees, each at its own pace.”


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May 23 – William Carlos Williams – a surprise close connection across decades

Wednesday May 23
“It turns out that Williams, despite fragile health in his later years, mentored younger poets at his home.
One of them was Denise Levertov, a favorite of yours.”

I met “George” (sun glasses . . .  the note just below) in early September 1973;  we were both finding our way around on the first day at U Penn’s PhD program in American Studies.  45 years later we remain good friends and sometimes trade stories of discovery, or grief, or beauty.   Yesterday, George surprised me.  From reading the Work Day/Hard Times poetry list he knew that the poets William Carlos Williams and Denise Levertov often find their way from my memory and imagination onto the pages of this list.  Until yesterday morning I had no notion that Carlos Williams and Levertov, though a long generation apart,  had a personal connection.   An aging poet-pediatrician mentoring a young poet just finding her way into her compelling public imagination.   Until yesterday, I had no notion that these two poets, both of whom I have come to cherish, shared a living room where William Carlos Williams listened to Denise Levertov’s young voice and told her what he heard.

George.  I owe you.  Thanks a million.

john sj


Today’s Post:   George Danko to jstsj May 22

Dear John,

I recently read a children’s book, A River of Words, about William Carlos Williams, the pediatrician and poet who wrote and administered to families in my hometown of Rutherford, New Jersey. His son also followed his father in a medical career and was my pediatrician. It turns out that Williams, despite fragile health in his later years, mentored younger poets at his home. One of them was Denise Levertov, a favorite of yours.



William Carlos Williams:     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
September 17, 1883 – March 4, 1963


Denise Levertov:  The Poem Rising By Its Own Weight
The poet is at the disposal of his own night.
Jean Cocteau

The singing robes fly onto your body and cling there silkily,
You step out on the rope and move unfalteringly across it,

And seize the fiery knives unscathed and
Keep them spinning above you, a fountain
Of rhythmic rising, falling, rising

And proudly let the chains
Be wound about you, ready
To shed them, link by steel link,
padlock by padlock–

but when your graceful
confident shrug and twist drives the metal
into your flesh and the python grip of it tightens
and you see rust on the chains and blood in your pores
and you roll
over and down a steepness into a dark hole
and there is not even the sound of mockery in the distant air
somewhere above you where the sky was,
no sound but your own breath panting:
then it is that the miracle
walks in, on his swift feet,
down the precipice straight into the cave,
opens the locks,
knots of chain fall open,
twists of chain unwind themselves,
links fall asunder,
in seconds there is a heap of scrap-
metal at your ankles, you step free and at once
he turns to go —
but as you catch at him with a cry,
clasping his knees, sobbing your gratitude,
with what radiant joy he turns to you,
and raises you to your feet,
and strokes your disheveled hair,
and holds you,
holds you,
holds you
close and tenderly before he vanishes.

Denise Levertov
b. October 1923  d. December 1997

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May 14 — Commencement Week just ended

Monday May 14 — “A silence in which another voice may speak”   Mary Oliver

{a memory from 2014’s ceremonies}:   “In Dentistry many graduates are hooded by one or two or three of their kin who are already dentists; In Law three faculty have the hooding down to a rhythm. Even so, one tall grad knelt down as if to help the hooders reach over the top of his head, only to take an engagement ring out of his pocket and hold it out to one of those hooding;   he asked her to marry him. Saturday’s Baccalaureate Mass packed the Gesu Church. At the main campus commencement, the University first hooded Gerry Stockhausen, sj our immediate past president. His “Doctor of Humane Letters Honoris Causa” address was laced with wisdom and corny jokes. No one who had shared time with him at UDM was surprised. One UDM trustee, Brian Cloyd from Steelcase in Grand Rapids, told me how moved he was by the diversity of the main campus students as they walked to receive their diplomas. The whole human fabric, it seemed, showed itself; all of us were invited to pay attention to the beauty that we are.”

{Commencement days 2018}:  Lots of immediate work to dress campus at its best.  Lots of logistic work to get graduates dressed for the solemnity; get the music right, get hospitality ready for speakers and alums, plus this year managing lots of rain.  Also a masterpiece of family love as one of the graduates in the McAuley School of Nursing line was surprised by her brother in his Navy working uniform holding out a bouquet of flowers.  He had arranged a micro leave to give her the flowers and hold her in a long tender embrace before he hustled out of Caliban Hall to get back on duty.    Deep surprise and deep sibling love.

Today’s post has a name for this kind of paying attention; Mary Oliver calls it “Praying.”

Have a good day.

john sj



It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Mary Oliver


Something to catch my attention  – one flower undaunted by concrete
Front sidewalk of Lansing Reilly – July 20, 2008 – 8:31 am


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May 9 — Howard Gray died

Wednesday May 9   “it is more important to be grateful for your love . . . ”

Howard Gray’s unexpected death stunned many people.  Mutual friends wrote me and we reminded one another of the wisdom and kindness he brought to his listening.   These conversations brought to mind women and men who welcomed me and helped me welcome the world,  mentored me deep into my adulthood. Howard was surely one.

Once, many years ago we were talking about the demands of loving another adult and of letting her/his love take hold in my life.   I have never forgotten one Howard sentence, one of the wisest teachings about love ever.  I’ve tried to abide by this wisdom ever since.

“It is more important to be grateful for your love than to manage your behavior within that love”

In his one-on-one conversations as well as in countless talks with groups Howard counseled courage:  “Risk the loves that are given into your life, on good days and hard days; risk it and be grateful.”   Thank you, Howard,   I miss  you.


john sj

Today’s post:  Denise Levertov

Prayer for Revolutionary Love

That a woman not ask a man to leave meaningful work to follow her
That a man not ask a woman to leave meaningful work to follow him.
That no one try to put Eros in bondage
But that no one put a cudgel in the hands of Eros.
That our loyalty to one another and our loyalty to our work
not be set in false conflict.
That our love for each other give us love for each other’s work
That our love for each other’s work give us love for one another.
That our love for each other’s work give us love for one another.
That our love for each other give us love for each other’s work.
That our love for each other, if need be,
give way to absence.  And the unknown.
That we endure absence, if need be,
without losing our love for each other.
Without closing our doors to the unknown.

Denise Levertov         1923 – 1997

Howard Gray, SJ        1930 – 2018

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Commencement week – a shout out for graduates, families, and mentors

Monday, May 7  — Gerard Manly Hopkins, sj  —  beauty & courage

This week the university holds three commencements.  Graduates,  families and friends infuse fresh wonder and pride into these ancient rituals of achievement.  Moms and dads, relatives and friends come dressed to the nines as they watch “their graduate” walk, and shake the President’s hand, and receive their diploma from him.   Year after year it blows our minds.

St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, encouraged paying attention to the choices that led me to where I am now, and to  celebrate those choices.   Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, lived this same wisdom.  She and her sisters, risked ministering to the brutal poverty of Ireland in the 1800s.    Catherine often kept watch at a young sister’s death bed,  sharing her grief at dying so young, and recognizing that the one keeping her company was heartbroken too.  Catherine “celebrated” these terrible moments with playful jokes and strong tea.

Today’s poem — Hopkin’s morning falcon riding sharp wind currents — may help the reader come close to what commencement’s excitement is all about, —- that is to say, every daring risk students or their faculty take to dare excellence.

Best to read out loud, with pauses.

Have a blest week


john sj

Today’s Post  –  “The Windhover”  To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in
his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy!  then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl
and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,–the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valor and act, oh, air, pride, plume here
Buckle!  And the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it:  shéer plốd makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, a my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.


Gerard Manley Hopkins, sj

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May 4 – about early spring up North + a news note about hip surgery

Friday,  May 4  –  “I watch the spring come slow-ly”

Traveling north-south, south-north during season changing time lets trees and ground plants show their stuff to visitors.  Readers from where I live in Detroit will recognize in the poem how much farther north it is in mid-Maine today.  Poet Rhonda Neshama Waller offers readers to her south a taste of what down here was weeks ago — “warm sun, after a week of rain, hail, snow.”   In Detroit, we’ll touch 80º over the weekend, most of our leaves have spread to full size, tulips have already blown our minds.   Which part of spring is more beautiful?  “Yes.”

Have a great weekend.


john sj

Today’s Post  –  “Spring Comes to Maine”  

Sonnet May 10

Almost mid-May, I watch the spring come slow-
ly day by day, pale lime-green moving up
from Sheepscot Valley towards my mountaintop,
up here the leaves still furled. Two eagles flew,
late afternoon, just past the east window.
Today, wild violets everywhere I step,
bright golden dandelions on the slope,
warm sun, after a week of rain, hail, snow.
Remembering to match my pace to this,
to note the details of each day’s new turn,
the distant hills still patched with lavender,
deep green of fir, the changing moments pass.
For dinner I’ll have buttered fiddlehead fern,
The daffodils are opening in the grass.

Rhoda Neshama Waller

Art credit: “Two adults from the local Bald Eagle family,” photograph taken August 19, 2012, near Pembroke, Maine (USA), perhaps.

{first posted May 15, 2015}


p.s. People who live where I do have noticed my gait looking bad.  Sometimes strangers ask me some version of “can I help you?” and carry my stuff, humbling and touching.  Finally, yesterday I met a hip surgeon who looked at my x-rays & showed me the x-ray from ten years ago when we replaced my left hip  (at that time zero cartilage and growing bone spurs).  Surgery worked wonders.  He compared that 10 year x-ray with today’s.   Same thing,  zero cartilage bone-on-bone.   He asked “why did you wait so long?”   Good question.   At any rate, the first open date we found is June 20.  I’ll have to miss some travel which is important to me but imagining the absence of chronic pain smells good to me even at this distance.


p.p.s.  Leigh Star, a soul friend who died too young, wrote me this blessing the day after hip surgery # 1.  I miss her.

“I will think of your body gladly giving up this pain and accepting a stranger into its midst, learning to live with its new ways.”

January 9, 2008

Leigh Star  1954-2010

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