Saturday, February 15, 2020


Mother Mary, full of grace, awaken 
All our homes are gone, our loved ones taken 
Taken by the sea

Mother Mary, calm our fears, have mercy
Drowning in a sea of tears, have mercy
Hear our mournful plea

Our world has been shaken
We wander our homelands forsaken

In the dark night of the soul
Bring some comfort to us all
Oh mother Mary come and carry us in your embrace
That our sorrows may be faced

Mary, fill the glass to overflowing
Illuminate the path where we are going
Have mercy on us all

In funeral fires burning
Each flame to your mystery returning

In the dark night of the soul
Your shattered dreamers, make them whole
Oh Mother Mary find us where we've fallen out of grace 
Lead us to a higher place

In the dark night of the soul
Our broken hearts you can make whole 
Oh Mother Mary come and carry us in your embrace
Let us see your gentle face, 

--Eliza Gilkyson (1950- ) American singer-songwriter, from the album Paradise Hotel, 2005. This song was written in response to the Asian tsunami in December 2004.

An interview with Eliza about the song as a vehicle for grieving was aired in NPR's All Things Considered, and can be heard here,

and you can watch her talking about it below:

The most notable chorale arrangement is by Craig Hella Johnson, performed here by Conspirare, from their 2009 album A Company of Voices:

Sunday, February 2, 2020

To have without holding

Learning to love differently is hard, 
love with the hands wide open, love 
with the doors banging on their hinges,
the cupboard unlocked, the wind 
roaring and whimpering in the rooms
rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds 
that thwack like rubber bands
in an open palm.

It hurts to love wide open 
stretching the muscles that feel
as if they are made of wet plaster,
then of blunt knives, then
of sharp knives. 

It hurts to thwart the reflexes 
of grab, of clutch ; to love and let 
go again and again. It pesters to remember 
the lover who is not in the bed, 
to hold back what is owed to the work 
that gutters like a candle in a cave 
without air, to love consciously, 
conscientiously, concretely, constructively. 

I can’t do it, you say it’s killing
me, but you thrive, you glow
on the street like a neon raspberry,
You float and sail, a helium balloon
bright bachelor’s button blue and bobbing 
on the cold and hot winds of our breath, 
as we make and unmake in passionate 
diastole and systole the rhythm
of our unbound bonding, to have
and not to hold, to love
with minimized malice, hunger
and anger moment by moment balanced.

--Marge Piercy (1936- ), American activist, poet, environmentalist, and feminist

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Much in Little

Amid the iris and the rose,
The honeysuckle and the bay,
The wild earth for a moment goes
In dust or weed another way.

Small though its corner be, the weed
Will yet intrude its creeping beard;
The harsh blade and the hairy seed
Recall the brutal earth we feared.

And if no water touch the dust
In some far corner, and one dare
To breathe upon it, one may trust
The spectre on the summer air:

The risen dust alive with fire,
The fire made visible, a blur
Interrate, the pervasive ire
Of foxtail and of hoarhound burr.

--Yvor Winters (1900-1968), poet and teacher, observer of life in California

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Snow Storm

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, 
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields, 
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air 
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven, 
And veils the farmhouse at the garden's end. 
The sled and traveler stopped, the courier's feet 
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit 
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed 
In a tumultuous privacy of storm. 

    Come see the north wind's masonry. 
Out of an unseen quarry evermore 
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer 
Curves his white bastions with projected roof 
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door. 
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work 
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he 
For number or proportion. Mockingly, 
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths; 
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn; 
Fills up the farmer's lane from wall to wall, 
Maugre the farmer's sighs; and, at the gate, 
A tapering turret overtops the work. 
And when his hours are numbered, and the world 
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not, 
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art 
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone, 
Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work, 
The frolic architecture of the snow.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), American Transcendentalist essayist, philosopher, and poet 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020


Peace between neighbors,
Peace between kindred,
Peace between lovers,
In love of the King of life.

Peace between person and person,
Peace between wife and husband,
Peace between woman and children,
The Peace of Christ above all peace.

Bless, O Christ, my face,
Let my face bless everything;
Bless, O Christ, mine eye,
Let mine eye bless all it sees.

--from the Carmina Gadelica III, collected by Alexander Carmichael and his family, among the people of the Outer Hebrides and Scots Highlands

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Love and Affection of the Angels

The love and affection of the angels be to you, 
The love and affection of the saints be to you, 
The love and affection of heaven be to you, 
To guard you and to cherish you.

-- From the Carmina Gadelica III, collected by Alexander Carmichael and his family from the Outer Hebrides and the Scots Highlands

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Sleeping Prayer

I am placing my soul and my body 
On Thy sanctuary this night, O God, 
On Thy sanctuary, O Jesus Christ, 
On Thy sanctuary, O Spirit of perfect truth, 
The Three who would defend my cause, 
Nor turn their backs upon me. 

Thou, Father, who art kind and just, 
Thou, Son, who didst overcome death,
Thou, Holy Spirit of power,
Be keeping me this night from harm;
The Three who would justify me
Keeping me this night and always.

--from the Carmina Gadelica, collected by Alexander Carmichael (1832-1912) from the Outer Hebrides in Scotland