Oct 14 – David Whyte & ‘George Herbert”

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.       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 11 — “prayer for revolutionary love” – Denise Levertov

Friday, October 11, 2019

“That we endure absence, if need be,
without losing our love for each other.
without closing our doors to the unknown.”

A recent grad called me last night  (i.e., Oct 23, 2013 – less than one month since the poetry list’s 1st Post ever)  to talk about a close women friend who had called him a few days before after she was raped by someone she knew. She was the second close friend to open her experience of savage violence — in the world of promising and talented and generous young adults. The first had been his little sister two years before. We talked a while about powerlessness and violence, rage and shame. About grief.

Here was an invitation by Lori Glenn, faculty host for an evening about domestic violence that year.   “Please join us for to learn more about dating violence and healthy relationships. We will start with a presentation in Chemistry 114 at 5:30pm. Food will be served. At approximately 7:00pm we will convene in the Kassab Mall to honor victims of all types of domestic violence with a Candlelight Vigil.  Please come!   Bring a friend!   Better yet…bring a date!”

Convening this domestic violence education program years ago can remind our university community that education about attacks on women is not new, not at all.  Neither, though, is the timeless power of great poetry.   I have loved Denise Levertov’s poems for many years before beginning the poetry list 713 posts ago  (n.b. to browse all Denise Levertov poems in the archive blog go to https://sites.udmercy.edu/poetry & search on “Levertov”).  Years ago also, “Revolutionary Love,” became my most deeply loved poem about love between two people.  It still is.  Her strong, wise language can anoint this season of intense conflict about interpersonal sexual violence.


Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses.

Have a blest weekend.

john sj

p.s. Tomorrow, October 12 is the anniversary of my father’s dying in 1980. I sat with, and sometimes held, my father the night he lay dying of pancreatic cancer.   We told each other important things that long night that anoint this date for me year after year.   Two months later, I drove a U-Haul from Philly to Motown to begin my faculty contract at what was then “U of D.”


Today’s Post – “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
b. October 1923  d. December 1997


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Oct 9 – John Keats – – “to Autumn”

Wednesday, October 9, 2019     “Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness”

One of the list’s readers last year about this time responded to an all-time favorite autumn poem from Gerard Manley Hopkins – – who pretty regularly knocks me flat with wonder. The email contained John Keats’ early 19th century romantic poem without comment.  With Keats’ work, s/he reminded me as list readers often do, of a poet I had not noticed for a while. No scolding either, as in “how can you have overlooked Keats”!   Since then, Keats works on my imagination this time of year.  I’m in his debt for a near perfect read in times of mid-autumn blustering East/North East winds and rain.   Best to read “to autumn” out loud with pauses.

In Detroit, my home town, breezy sun laced with some handsome clouds all week long, a time to visit orchards and carry home fresh cider.   In Massachusetts,  my retreat days invite moments of stillness along with lots of bluster-winds enhanced by rain until Sunday, but stillness nonetheless.   Pine Ridge, which anointed me through September is cold this week.  John Keats writes of autumn from more than two centuries ago and from the other side of the Atlantic.  Worth reading outloud, with pauses.

Have a blest week.

john sj


Today’s Post:  “To Autumn” John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821


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”I ask for a moment . . . to sit by thy side” Rabindranath Tagore

October 8, 2019

From Monday, October 7 to Monday, October 14, I will be making my annual retreat in New England.  I will occasional check emails to catch important messages, but for the most part stillness wants my attention.

Time to breathe in and out slowly, almost like reading an 8 day long poem.

Have a blest 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.

Today the summer has come at my window with its sighs and murmurs; and
the bees are plying their minstrelsy at the court of the flowering grove.

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

Tagore,  Gitanjali # 5

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1913
Rabindranath Tagore


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Oct 4 – Dakota: a Spiritual Geography

Wednesday, October 4-  “To attach oneself to place is to surrender to it, and suffer with it.”

In October, lots of people in university worlds suck air, walk too fast, and try to manage big and little start-ups.  “Too fast,” though, applies to more than university campuses.  Fear and anxious anger may be the primary distraction of the current cluster of years, pretty much all over the world.   St. Ignatius, my mentor of 500 years ago, teaches that the main temptation of “the enemy of our human nature” (his term for the devil) is distraction  — to absorb my inner attention about something that isn’t so very important, to draw my inner eye away from my deepest graces, replacing joy with anxiety and to fuss about the wrong things.   Maybe that’s why Kathleen Norris came to mind today.   She writes words that open deep into ordinary living.   In 1974, after learning her way into New York City’s world of poetry with mentoring from the legendary Betty Kray at the Academy of American Poets (http://www.nytimes.com/1987/11/24/obituaries/elizabeth-kray-patron-and-friend-of-poets-and-their-art-dies-at-71.html) Kathleen and her husband shocked their East Coast peers by moving to Lemmon in northwestern South Dakota where Kathleen had inherited the family home of her grandmother.  They stayed a long time.

In 1993, her Dakota: A Spiritual Geography took the literary world by storm.  Took me by storm too.  If a book of micro essays, some only half a page, ever approaches the taut, lean focus of strong poetry, for me this is the book.  In those South Dakota years she became friends with vast horizons, and with the Benedictine monks at St. John’s Monastery in Minnesota.  She’s written more than one memoir about the intersection of her secularity with the roots of Benedictine prayer and wisdom.

Think of the following four quotes from Dakota as poems.   Best to read them out loud, with pauses in between.

Have a blest day.

john sj

p.s. coming home to Six Mile and Livernois after 4 weeks deep in the Pine Ridge Rez is having the effect of sharpening my taste for surprisingly deep joy right at the ends of my fingertips,  beauty all around me, in the Badlands 75 miles north and west of Pine Ridge, at Six Mile and along the Detroit River, surprises all around.   For you too, I hope, wherever you live.

Today’s Post:  Four texts from Dakota

“Once, when I was describing to a friend from Syracuse, New York, a place on the plains that I love, a ridge above a glacial moraine with a view of almost fifty miles, she asked, “But what is there to see?” The answer, of course, is nothing. Land, sky, and the ever-changing light.”

“Maybe the desert wisdom of the Dakotas can teach us to love anyway, to love what is dying, in the face of death, and not pretend that things are other than they are. The irony and wonder of all of this is that it is the desert’s grimness, its stillness and isolation, that brings us back to love.”

“To be an American is to move on, as if we could outrun change. To attach oneself to place is to surrender to it, and suffer with it.”

“For me, walking in a hard Dakota wind can be like staring at the ocean: humbled before its immensity, I also have a sense of being at home on this planet, my blood so like the sea in chemical composition, my every cell partaking of air. I live about as far from the sea as is possible in North America, yet I walk in a turbulent ocean. Maybe that child was right when he told me that the world is upside-down here, and this is where angels drown.”

meadowlark on a fence,   Fog Basin, SD  2008

Kathleen Norris (born in Washington, D.C. on July 27, 1947) is a best-selling poet and essayist. Her parents, John Norris and Lois Totten, took her as a child to Hawaii, where she graduated from Punahou Preparatory School in 1965. After graduating from Bennington College in Vermont in 1969, Norris became arts administrator of the Academy of American Poets, and published her first book of poetry two years later.[1] In 1974 she inherited her grandparents’ farm in Lemmon, South Dakota, moved there with her husband David Dwyer, joined Spencer Memorial Presbyterian church, and discovered the spirituality of the Great Plains.[2] She entered a new, non-fictional phase in her literary career after becoming a Benedictine oblate at Assumption Abbey   ND in 1986, and spending extended periods at Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota.[3] Since the death of her husband in 2003, Norris has transferred her place of residence to Hawaii, though continuing to do lecture tours on the mainland.

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October 3 – Crying out for a vision – Jim Janda

Wednesday, Oct 3

Coming home to Six Mile and Livernois after a month on Pine Ridge teaches me again about the energy of the university;  campus is alive with the works of vision and daily challenges that emerge when faculty pay attention to students and students pay attention to faculty, with challenges that stretch the soul, when faculty stretch their own souls also.  A strong university, any ordinary day, calls out hope and the courage hope requires.   On good days hope’s laughter seems to show up everywhere, shows up in the pace of women and men on their ways all over campus, fresh and playful with the joy of this culture of shared discovery.   On hard days the pace slows.  Standing tall and letting my shoulders straighten, being willing to expect surprises.

These are the inner rhythms of which poet Jim Janda writes, of the many great poets whose work appears on this list, one of the most willing to cry for a vision with the knowledge that this is the sacred task of human beings.

After a month on Pine Ridge to renew my imagination; life here on Six Mile, the pace of the mind’s courage and the signs of kinship among women and men who risk hoping for a vision and a voice just knocks me over and straightens my step.  Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses.  Have a blest Wednesday.

john sj


Today’s Post:   Jim Janda

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (Gospel)

Crying for a Vision

To cry for a
is a sacred

after hearing
a holyman

after taking
a sweat bath

with sage and
sweet grass

one must climb a
mountain alone—

here a song
may be heard

here a vision
may be given

here a dance
may be learned—

one must then
the mountain

to sing the
to live the
to begin the

Jim Janda   d. August, 2010

“Crying out for a vision”

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Sept 30 – The St Louis Jesuits – a sacred and hope-drenched concert

Monday, September 30 – Rabindranath Tagore  # 2

“Drunk with the joy of singing
I forget myself . . . ”

About 2700 women and men settled into St. Louis’ Powell Hall yesterday afternoon with the subtle play and excitement of a long-anticipated event, The Goodbye Concert of The St. Louis Jesuits.  5 immensely creative composers and performers of 50 years of sacred music have awakened and restored joy and hope, over and over. The sheer elegant wonder of fresh music that has touched the collective inner life of several generations of people hungry for compositions emerged from the disciplined listening of these five artists to scriptural language and to the hopes and wounds of women and men, just waiting. It seemed in Powell Hall yesterday, to pick up each song and carry it live even as each song carried the packed orchestra hall.   I found myself wishing that everyone I know could have been with us.

When I sought a poem for today’s post, it may be no surprise that Rabindranath Tagore caught my attention.  Best to read the poet out loud, with pauses.   When I finish this post, I will pack 4 weeks of sabbatical travel back in some luggage, and get ready to fly home to Motown for a few days before I head out to the second month of my sabbatical, this time to New England for some prayer time.

john st sj


Tagore # 2

When Thou commandest me to sing

it seems that my heart would break with pride

and I look to Thy face

and tears come to my eyes.


All that is harsh and dissonant in my life

melts into one sweet harmony

and my adoration spreads wings like a glad bird

on its flight across the sea.


I know Thou takest pleasure in my singing

I know that only as a singer I come before Thy presence

I touch by the edge of the far spreading wing of my song

Thy feet which I could never aspire to reach.


Drunk with the joy of singing

I forget myself

and call Thee friend

who art my lord.


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September 25 – – two long marriages with autumn anniversaries – – a Denise Levertov poem for the season

Wednesday, September 25  –
“. . . not because mind and memory
falter, but . . . ”

Yesterday’s  airport shuttle driver observed that Denver weather “has a touch of autumn today”:  a chilly, breath-taking mid-week during a board meeting that arrives just after I said my goodbye to Pine Ridge and 3 weeks with Lakota soul friends of a half century. Over and over, the three  3 weeks came alive with inner moments when what I have come to call, “sensual memories speaking to me”  reminded me of what St. Ignatius might call deep personal sounds, smells, tastes, and touches opening day-to-day events to past well springs of memory and present moments of stillness.   No wonder, when I drove away from Pine Ridge on Monday, I prayed from awe and sadness and wonder .

There is, though, more on offer than c 350 mile of  cross-prairie driving singing my Pine Ridge  good-byes .  Today one of Denise Levertov’s poems reminded me that late September & early October, includes two important marriages.   One I have known all my life and one from a friendship of two decades.  Mt parents chose their 1935 wedding day to complete the week of both their birthdays (Dad on September 21;  Mom on September 25, their anniversary on September 28).  Then too, Dad died October 12, 1970 and Mom died 25 years and one week later.    Barbara Shaffer, a more recent family friend, now grieves her husband of 58 years (Bill Shaffer, a Vet and a member of the UAW) who died one day before my dad’s anniversary.    Their daughter Sarah, a University of Detroit Mercy graduate is also a soul friend linked with Pine Ridge.   Now is a peer counselor in San Francisco for Vets who suffer from PTSD.     Here’s a poem for both marriages that warrants listening to and reading out loud with pauses, “In Love,” from Denise Levertov’s Evening Train.  

Some poems look out onto vast realities;  some open into intimate, enduring, resonant love.  That’s today’s “In Love.”  A university engages many sorts of reality.  That’s what we do here.

Yes, best to read this several times,  out loud with pauses.

Have a blest mid-week  Friday in this late September.    Crisp autumn sun and wind gusts;  the sun rides lower in the heavens each day all the way til December’s Solstice.

john sj

Today’s Post   “In Love”

Over gin and tonic (an unusual treat) the ancient poet
haltingly —            not because mind and memory
falter, but because language, now,
weary from so many years
of intense partnership,
comes stiffly to her summons,
with unsure footing —
recounts, for the first time in my hearing, each step
of that graceful sarabande, her husband’s
last days, last minutes, fifteen years ago.

She files her belongings freestyle, jumbled
in plastic bags — poems, old letters, ribbons,
old socks, an empty picture frame;
but keeps her fifty years of marriage wrapped, flawless,
in something we sense and almost see —
diaphanous as those saris one can pass through a wedding ring.

Denise Levertov  1923 – 1997
first Posted on October 19, 2015

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Sept 20, 2019 a prophet a pope a poet — three voices in this time of tension fear and anger

Friday,  September 20, 2019  

“If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech” . . . Isaiah 58

Pre-note: today’s post is longer than ordinary, and quotes 3 authors, the prophet Isaiah, Pope Francis, and the Muslim poet Warsan Shire. I think you will find them worth the time they require.

Weekend blessings from Pine Ridge,

John st sj

*****    ********    ********

When I first encountered these three texts, they seemed at first glance somewhat unrelated. The Warsan Shire poem, “Home,” was new to me, sent by a friend in our English Department. The second is familiar, Isaiah’s eloquent prophecy from Chapter 58.   “Unrelated”?  What was I thinking?  Unrelated only on the surface.  The tensions roiling the world  – –  fear of, and anger at,  the millions of women, men and child immigrants on the roads of the world today,  so like the little family of Mary, Joseph, and their child Jesus,  torn from their sleep to flee in terror from soldiers trying to find and kill them – –  fear and anger about “the stranger” confronts every reader of the “Work day in a Hard Time” poetry list.  Our fear wears on us all. It can remind us that violence toward immigrants has erupted in this country before, (e.g. 1844, 1877, 1920-24). Such troubles aren’t limited to the 2+ centuries of the U.S. either.  Isaiah addressed them centuries ago.

Text # 1: Isaiah 58:7-10

Thus says the LORD:
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!
If you remove from your midst
oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
if you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday.


Text # 2: Pope Francis:

In July, 2013, for his first trip as Pope, Francis chose the tiny island of Lampedusa, just off Sicily, a place home to the dangers and deaths of immigrants trying to enter Europe. That day Francis spoke to the whole world to “reawaken our consciences.”   Here is a short clip.   “Immigrants who died at sea, from a boat that, instead of being a way of hope was a way of death. . .   I felt that I ought to come here today to pray, to make a gesture of closeness, but also to reawaken our consciences so that what happened would not be repeated. Not repeated, please!”


Text # 3: – Warsan Shire, 
This Warsan Shire poem  reminds me of Isaiah 58.  As always, it’s best to read the poet out loud, with pauses.  However, I find it a lot harder than with most Work Day posts, to read these next words out loud.

Today’s Post  “Home”

no one leaves home
home is the mouth of a shark

you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
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 leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,

that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten

one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
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 told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

Warsan Shire

(SomaliWarsan ShireArabic: ورسان شرى‎‎, born 1 August 1988)

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Night skies, a long ago healing time

Wednesday, September 18

Thomas Cenatolla caught my attention today, during a morning awash in memories from 1968 and 1969 when I spent two summers living on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation. Carmel and Serena Two Elk, two sisters now in their sixties – – reminded me of when they were children during a second summer living in the Tios’paye of Luke and Rose Weasel Bear deep in The Rez. They all knew that some hard inner attention was eating at my spirit all that summer. It showed each night when it got dark when our kerosene lamps no longer offered light to read by, I walked c. a quarter mile away from our camp and up a hill that framed our horizon. I stood there on top of the hill into the dark sky, for perhaps an hour each night. I remember those darkening night skies as the gradual healing of a deep, year-long depression that would end some weeks later with the death of Steve Tobacco (Wanblee Ska – “White Eagle”).


This morning when Carmel and Serena told me their memories of those long nights, I took this picture of that hill; it happened that a soft rain storm came to rest where I used to stand.


These long memories remind me that “sabbatical” comes from “Sabbath” which for several thousand years has meant “a sacred time when stillness welcomes strategic planning while also revealing the sacred heart of human presence in the world.”


Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses.

Have a blessed mid-week,

john sj


Sacred Hill – Oglala, South Dakota – September 17, 2019


“In the Evening We Shall Be Examined on Love”
—St. John of the Cross

And it won’t be multiple choice,
though some of us would prefer it that way.
Neither will it be essay, which tempts us to run on
when we should be sticking to the point, if not together.
In the evening there shall be implications
our fear will change to complications. No cheating,
we’ll be told, and we’ll try to figure the cost of being true
to ourselves. In the evening when the sky has turned
that certain blue, blue of exam books, blue of no more
daily evasions, we shall climb the hill as the light empties
and park our tired bodies on a bench above the city
and try to fill in the blanks. And we won’t be tested
like defendants on trial, cross-examined
till one of us breaks down, guilty as charged. No,
in the evening, after the day has refused to testify,
we shall be examined on love like students
who don’t even recall signing up for the course
and now must take their orals, forced to speak for once
from the heart and not off the top of their heads.
And when the evening is over and it’s late,
the student body asleep, even the great teachers
retired for the night, we shall stay up
and run back over the questions, each in our own way:
what’s true, what’s false, what unknown quantity
will balance the equation, what it would mean years from now
to look back and know
we did not fail.

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